The question of how to accompany yourself on the guitar may have been sitting at the back of your mind ever since you started to play the guitar. You learn your chords, you learn your strumming or fingerpicking techniques, but putting it together with your singing is a whole other story. So let us have a look at the basic components that make up the process of how to accompany yourself on the guitar. There is the question of whether you can stay in time for the whole song and you need to check out how you are presenting yourself to your audience as you play and sing.
Whether or not you are playing the guitar while you sing, you should always be using a metronome while you practice your guitar playing. The sound of the metronome is not a source of tension, it is there to do the work of keeping the beat. You only need to get used to playing along with the metronome and you will see that you can do it without stressing. First try it without doing any singing. Play the song with the metronome ticking, until you can do it without losing the beat. Then do it a few more times. If you are using any right hand techniques that you cannot get right with the metronome going, try something more simple first, then keep going back to your original technique to see if you can do it.
One technique that works for a lot of people is humming the song instead of singing. It might even be a challenge for you to do that to begin with but it should help you identify what is interfering with your playing the guitar smoothly to the beat of the metronome. Do not be in a hurry to move past this step. Keep at it until you can hum and play at the same time. Remember that you will be concentrating on improving the quality of your singing and guitar playing later so the humming is only a small part of learning how to accompany yourself on the guitar.
The aim of analyzing the parts of the process of singing and guitar playing is so that you are comfortable enough to listen to your guitar playing or singing as separate elements and to have enough attention to spare to make slight changes your phrasing or how long you hold notes or when to add an instrumental break. One way of improving your performance as a singer-guitarist is to record yourself and listen to the playback to see where there is room for improvement. This way you can hear any spots where your voice fades or you muffle chord changes as you accompany yourself on the guitar.
When you accompany yourself on the guitar, you need to be aware of how you appear to your audience. Playing and singing in front of a mirror is one way to do it. The use of a video camera or a web cam will give you that extra freedom to relax and focus fully on how to improve your singing and guitar playing.
When you actually sit down to work on how to accompany yourself on the guitar, do not imagine that you will need to try all these ways of improving your performance at once. If you start with just playing the guitar against the beat of the metronome for a few practice sessions, that will begin to show you ways to improve your performing very quickly. You do not have to totally give up playing and singing together while you are working on how to do it, but if you are discovering any bad habits in the way you are singing or playing, it would be good to drop the way you play so as not to perpetuate those habits.