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Strumming and singing

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Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 7
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Why are there always problems? At last I am able to change chords without losing rhythm, I am playing blowing in the wind with a D/D/Du/D strum, but then I tried singing with it. BANG! all strum pattern disappeared, I am playing the right chords but don't know what pattern if any I am playing. I know it needs to become automatic but how long does it take and are there any good practise routines? any help will be appreciated Rick

Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4472

Most of the problem is that singing doesn't always fall into nice, neat rhythmic patterns and it's way too easy to start following the singing instead of keeping the beat steady. And if you're thinking of your strumming in terms of "down and up" instead how that relates to the counting of the beats, you're making it a lot easier to lose your place and derail the rhythm.

One thing some people do is to listen to a song and then mark out where the first beat of a measure falls, which syllable of a word. So, Blowin' in the Wind, for instance, might look like this:
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1
How many roads must a man

This is hardly infallible. Singers often play around with timing, getting some notes to fall before or after the beat. That's part of a singing style.

Your best bet as a beginner is to get the strumming timing down as perfect as possible and then work in the singing. At first it might well be very robotic, just so that you can get the "landmarks" of where the melody falls in terms of the beat. But as you get more comfortable with it, you'll also be able to start taking liberties with the singing while still keeping the rhythm nice and even.

Nick has got some good articles on this in the "Singing" section of the lessons page:

that you might want to check out.

Hope this helps. Keep at it and try not to get discouraged. The fact that you're aware of the situation puts you on the right track to deal with it and to improve. And count! Counting out the rhythm makes things tons easier.


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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454

+1 to David's comments.

When you try and sing and play you are effectively now playing two instruments at once - your voice and your guitar. The basic mistake is forgetting that this is not a simple task. In my experience, most of us have done little or no work on the voice side of things, and expect to just be able to sing in time. This usually turns out not to be true! :wink:

The lesson was brought home to me when I first tried to record a song on two tracks. I played the guitar part and then tried to sing the vocals on track 2. Now, I'd just played the music PLUS it was one I'd written myself. Yet I got lost almost immediately. The solution was to work on the singing separately until my timing, control, and appreciation of exactly where I was in relation to each beat, each bar, and the song as a whole, was up to a better standard (It's still got a way to go... :) ).

With piano it's common to practice each hand separately until they are solid, before putting them together. Something similar works for singing and playing as well. You can use a metronome, click track, drum track etc or you can record them as two halves and use each one to practice alongside the other. The idea is just to split up the tasks to work on them individually so that the various demands aren't derailing each other.

Others may have different ideas, but that seems to work for me. :) One possible way is to use recording software that allows you to record a backing track (or even use midi) and also write the lyrics in the appropriate matching places. You can then watch the line move along, bar by bar, and practice singing along. Initially it does seem to help when you can see where you are as well as hear it. It shouldn't take long to drop the visual support.

Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2717

At first it might well be very robotic,
That . . . describes it perfectly.
I grew up watching Star Trek . . .
so when I try to add the lyrics while strumming (for some songs) it comes across clumsy and awkward . . . something that I would expect Data (the cyber-positronic android) would look like while attempting to play and sing.
But strangely enough, some songs I have no trouble with.
Country Roads by John Denver just fell right into place . . . I was astonished.
Some songs must be easier than others.
Knockin' on Heaven's Door . . . I had to struggle with . . . but finally got.

Something else that David has said . . . that helped me . . . when you can start strumming without thinking about it . . . kind of detach yourself from it . . . and think about what kind of sandwich you want for lunch . . . or (as David said) carry on a conversation with someone . . . then you can start humming the song to get an idea of where the words fit in . . . and then eventually add the words.

It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.