Once my guitar students get into strumming and having fun with their guitar, the next question I usually get is, “How do I play guitar and sing at the same time?”
By the time students get around to asking this question, we are usually on to some syncopated rhythm patterns. Meaning there isn’t a down strum on every beat. When they go to sing, their strumming falls apart. This is because the student hasn’t trained their strumming hand to be able do both yet.
When playing guitar, it’s easy to think that we have mastered something when he haven’t really taken things out into the real world and applied them. Most guitar students try to sing and play guitar way before they have actually mastered the art of strumming.
In this article, I’m going to give you some tips for how you can develop your strumming hand to the point where you can sing and play at the same time.
Step 1: Simplify The Pattern
Let’s say you are working on the strumming pattern below:
In this strumming pattern, there is no down strum on the 3rd beat and that can really throw students for a loop. What I recommend is simplifying the pattern so that you can sing it. Maybe something like the one below.
This will allow you to play along with the song and sing while you continue to develop your strumming hand. I removed the syncopation to allow your brain time to place the lyrics better without the hand skipping a beat.
Step 2: Practice Mastering Your Strumming Hand
While simplifying the pattern does offer us a temporary quick fix solution, it does not solve the problem, which is the fact that your strumming hand is not yet on auto pilot.
In order to do this, I want you to take a strumming pattern you know, maybe the first pattern we used in this article. It is a common one my students have trouble with and one that is used in many songs.
First, make sure you can play the pattern with your eyes closed. Once you can do that, I want you to stand up. Make sure you have a guitar strap for this next step.
Start playing the strumming pattern you ‘know so well’ and try to walk. Yes, don’t try to sing, try to walk and play that strumming pattern at the same time. When you do this, you might find it very hard to walk naturally. Maybe there are pauses in your steps, maybe there are pauses in your strumming.
Step 3: Slow Down
While practicing the above activity, go VERY slow. I mean slow. Almost like you are walking through wet cement. Focus on getting your strumming hand to work perfectly whether you are taking a step with your right or your left foot.
Once your steps smooth out, start trying to go faster and then try to run while strumming and even jumping around if you can.
Once you have that down pat you can add even more syncopation like in the strum below:
Here we have three up strums in a row and that can be quite difficult for someone to walk and play never mind sing over.
Step 4: Chat It Up
Once you have mastered walking around and strumming or at least feel like you can walk at a normal pace, try and have a conversation. You can have it with someone else or on your own. Pick your strumming pattern and try to answer these questions with more than one word answers:
When you can talk and play at the same time without thinking about your strumming hand, then you are ready to strum and sing at the same time.
For some of my students, this process can take a couple months and others it can take a couple weeks. It really depends on how much you practice and how coordinated you are.
When singing and playing guitar at the same time, the guitar has to be on autopilot. You cannot be thinking about it at all. Muscle memory takes over at that point which frees up your brain to think about the lyrics and singing.
Believe it or not, our brains were not made for multitasking. So, if you are thinking about your strumming at all, you can kiss good-bye to your singing.
Give these tips and tricks a try. They works wonders for my students and hopefully they will work wonders for you.
About The Author:
Lauren Bateman is a successful voice and guitar coach in the Boston area. She and her staff have helped thousands of student learn to have fun with music. Lauren specialized in acoustic and rhythm guitar and loves helping student strum and sing along to their favorite songs. Visit Lauren’s website to learn more: www.laurenbateman.com or her music school at www.lbmuscschool.com