Day #3: How to Sing and Play At the Same Time

Trusting that you are making some good progress with the “Iris” song lesson. Chances are you are to the point where you are starting to sing some verses or choruses along with your playing. I don’t know about you, but one of the most challenging parts to playing guitar for me was singing and playing at the same time.

The main challenge with playing and singing at the same time is that you have two different rhythms happening: 1) the rhythm of your strumming, and then 2) the rhythm of the melody.

What we need to do is develop an independency between our strumming rhythm and our singing rhythm.

In other words, we need to be so comfortable with our strumming that we don’t even have to think about it. This allows us to sing how we please and not have our strumming pattern dictated by the rhythm of our vocal melody.

Here are some ways we can practice this.

1.) Practice Strumming With a Metronome

When I was learning guitar, I would always hear, “If you want better timing and rhythm, practice with a metronome.” I dismissed this for so long because I thought a metronome felt “restrictive” and made me a worse player. The truth was that I wasn’t very good and the metronome wasn’t nice enough to lie to me!

At first, a metronome will feel a bit uncomfortable. Probably very uncomfortable. You will tend to want to ebb and flow with your timing, but the metronome won’t let you. It won’t let you take pauses between chord changes because it will keep on going. This is good because it makes you become consistent and steady in your timing. These are the most important aspects of rhythm.

If you spend 10 minutes of practice a day with a simple strumming pattern and a metronome, after a couple weeks, you will notice significant improvements in your timing. I was surprised and I think you will be too.

2.) Hum First, Then Sing

Once you’ve practiced strumming with a metronome, you should be at a point where you are sticking to a consistent strumming pattern no matter what. When you feel yourself getting to this point, it’s good to apply this to a song.

When it comes to singing the song, sometimes I like to “ghost hum” the melody. This means I will hum the parts of the melody over my strumming pattern, and then when I feel the melody line pull away from the rhythm of my strumming, I will stop humming so I can continue to keep good rhythm, or I will stop, slow the song down and practice humming through that passage.

This allows me to get used to any chord changes or weird parts of the melody. If I feel the rhythm of my strumming rub in a really bad way with my singing, I might sometimes stop strumming for a measure and just sing through the measure. However, I do this while trying to keep time.

3.) Play Guitar With Other People

A metronome doesn’t lie to you, and your friends won’t either (well, at least you hope so!). Whenever you play guitar with other people, you are forced to find a rhythm or a strumming pattern that fits with the other person’s strumming pattern. You have to work together.

This also allows you to take turns singing. You have another person who isn’t singing to hold you accountable to the rhythm and strumming pattern of a song, so if you get a little bit off that other person can help you stay on track.

Your Practice Goals for Day #3

I don’t want to give too many more practice objectives since I gave you quite a bit to work through the last couple days. So I will leave this lesson saying one more thing.

If you wish to become better at playing and singing at the same time, the best thing you can do is continue to practice your strumming and rhythm. The more comfortable and consistent you are with your strumming, the less you have to think about it, which means you can direct more attention to your singing. Sometimes these things don’t require a magic or secret technique–just more time and practice. If you put in the work and time, I promise it will pay off.

Tomorrow, I have another video lesson to throw your way. However, this time we’ll be looking at a fingerpicking song. Get ready! Talk to you then.