View Full Version : Singing while playing

02-04-2009, 07:01 PM
Singing while playing, seems simple enough right? Well is it just me or anyone else out there that can't seem to hold two separate rhythms with two separate "instruments".
I'll sing and i'll get the words, then I try to add in the Uke, and , and... I just can't do both at the same time.
Do I have to live with this curse or anyone got tips on how to improve?


02-04-2009, 07:18 PM
....and you always want to match the beat of the words to the beat of the music, right? But that's not how it goes? I get it all the time. You can try to mix up the strumming pattern a bit, to match the words better, but it doesn't always work out. (Red and Silky was a tough one)

As in many questions, the big answer, and most effective answer, is...............practice practice practice!

It may take 6 billion years, but it's always worth it

02-04-2009, 07:28 PM
Start with simple rhythms. Four strums to the bar (assuming we're in 4/4 time). If that still trips you up, two strums to the bar. Still having problems, one strum!

Pick songs without many chord changes. When I was first learning, I chose blues, country, rock ... anything that had two or three chords. Some songs even have one chord!

Another thing you can do is slow down. Practice the tune slowly, not up to performance tempo. Often, in performance, we tend to play just a bit faster than we do while practicing. So practice with that in mind. Keep your tempo steady and slow.

02-04-2009, 09:13 PM
Yup, practice, practice, practice. Or with an s. I think it looks better with a c. That's beside the point.

Starting simple can certainly be helpful. Straightforward strumming patterns, simple melodies and gentle chord changes are a great place to start and then you can build on the basics as you master them.

Hopefully the following might help when it comes to tackling a particular song:

Make sure you've gone over the uke part and the vocal part separately until you know them both so well you hardly have to think about what you're doing when either playing or singing. If you're unsure of either part, when you put them together, a problem area is likely to trip you up pretty quickly. So get to know each part well.

When going through the song singing and playing at the same time, stop any time you find yourself stuffing it up. Take that line, or bar (cut it down into chunks as small as you need). Go over it, very slowly. Uke. Voice. Then together. Speed it up gradually as you get the hang of coordinating the two parts. Once each section is up to speed, resume going through the song. Finally, you might need to practice any transitions between particularly tricky bits and the lines that follow, so that you don't end up stuck on those after all your hard work.

Good luck!

02-04-2009, 09:18 PM
im also trying to sing aswell.

my voice is terrible. =[

oRRin rB
02-04-2009, 10:40 PM
ya man. its rough especially cus im a new uke player too. but im tryin lol. i wanna try to get a cover up but im no where near ready for that haha. and great advice!

02-05-2009, 03:05 AM
Works best for me if I
1) know the lyrics - usually I think I know them, but when I divert a few brain cells to strum the uke, I discover gaping holes.
2) play and sing from the very start of working on the song. I can work up a lovely accompaniment for a song, but if I work it up without singing along at the same time its usually pretty hard for me to then add words.

I have a couple of songs that I sang with from the start of learning to play them that, amusingly enough, now fall completely to pieces if I DON'T sing.

02-05-2009, 05:12 AM
Kudos for the excellent advice given by FiPfft and Stack. Far too many players try to emulate the original and that really is not gonna happen.

02-05-2009, 08:13 AM
Apart from all the excellent advice already posted, if you just want to get something up on YouTube there's no reason that you have to sing and play at the same time...just zoom in on the uke and record the song then record the vocals separately and overdub them. If you're handy with video editing software you can do a PIP with your vocals and the end result (big ukulele, little head) will look like you're just trying to help other players learn the song.

02-05-2009, 09:06 AM
very nice for online cpatch, but when you finally get the guts to bring the uke into the living room, haha not so much.

*Baby steps,
*learn both parts well and together

*:oThanks mucho!:o

02-05-2009, 12:07 PM
very nice for online cpatch, but when you finally get the guts to bring the uke into the living room, haha not so much.
That's when you pull out the loop pedal:


Technically he's still singing while playing but he could have laid down an entire backing track into the looper first. Still doesn't make up for practice, but something fun to do in the meantime!

02-06-2009, 05:04 PM
Ooo yeah! I didn't even think of it like that. Like K.T Tunstall does.
Awesome possum!

02-08-2009, 12:37 PM
for me it was kinda easy. Sorry to sound big headed. I think it was because when I decide to learn a song, I listen to it a decent amount of time, and then it all seems to come quite naturally after that. I think its just getting it into your head how it should sound and practicing with both parts. This instead of getting both parts perfect individually and then putting them together.

Sorry to sound so embliazon about it all but i think its all down to practice and actually learning. Its like maths, you dont expect to be super quick at a problem straight of but after a little practice at the method, it starts to come out of the unconscious side of your brain. So like song learning you need to get it into that side of your brain by making connections between the parts that your brain knows what's coming
As people have said, just comes with practice

Harold O.
02-09-2009, 05:56 AM
Also, try starting out with a song you are already familiar with. That way you can always rescue the uke melody with lyrics or vice versa. Singing while playing is harder for some folks than others, but it's not something impossible or it wouldn't happen at all.

"Amateurs practice to get it right. Professionals practice so they won't get it wrong."

And yes, don't bother with singing like someone else. I sing in the key of U(ke).

These guys aren't exactly ready for the stage, but they sure are having a good time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2ENLg5_d_g

Harold O.
02-10-2009, 11:35 AM
Another trick is to sing along to a recording with the volume low. Then you can hear the melody and your own voice.

02-13-2009, 10:09 AM
I used to strum the same pattern over and over while watching tv. I would strum with a tennis racket so as to not make noise. Then eventually the pattern would be second nature.

02-13-2009, 02:53 PM
Not sure if you still need help, since a lot of good advice was covered, but sometimes it helps me -- while i'm still learning the song -- to take one part i'm messing up, and just play (and sing) that small part over and over really slowly. Then I just speed it up gradually until i'm up to par.

If you do that make sure you keep practising the part you're messing up until you can do it flawlessly, while having the tempo FASTER than your preformance tempo. If you can play it evenly and rhythmically while you're singing all while you're playing at a faster than 100% of the performance speed, no doubt you'll be able to play the song which greater ease. it really gives you much more time to think about adding dynamics and contrast, rather than worrying about getting a chord or riff right.

another piece of advice that is really commonsense is to really concentrate while you're learning. Often what happens is people think they're practising when they're really just goofing around (lol) doing a [mind the language] half-assed job. Don't allow any TV shows to distract you, or people to talk to you while you are practising a piece. If you do, what happens is you won't remember a lot of the things you are practising. You'll be using muscle memory the next time you play it (your fingers will know where to go even if you're not thinking), and that is NOT GOOD!! Sure its great for showing off to your friends when you can multitask because you can think about something else while your fingers do all the work, but when you make a mistake its quite possible you'll find yourself with a mental blank!!! SO in order to avoid that you'll need to commit the entire song to your real memory. That means you'll be able to start from anywhere in the song and finish anywhere in the song because you'll know EVERYTHING about where your fingers need to be, what the lyrics are, how to strum etc.

In short(er), Take away distractions and try finding a silent room or something, making sure . start sloow (and I mean mind numbingly slow! don't do it half tempo, do it quarter tempo and work your way up. Even though you'll be bored out of your mind for something like 10 minutes, you'll thank yourself for it.)
When you can do that, speed it up and repeat. Don't do erratic speed jumps - do small increments. Work up to 100% of the song's original speed and EXCEED that by a mile, making sure the only difference is that its faster. You want it to be just as evenly played and sung. Then you can perform with ease.

Lastly, if you do find yourself with mental blanks, Go back to doing the piece slowly. Doing it really slowly makes your brain think about what needs to be played next. In doing this, you'll be able to figure out what needs to be improved, what areas you haven't truly commited to memory, and so you'll be able to patch them up. Always make sure you practise enough to be sure you won'tEVER get it wrong (or close to)!

Holy cow that was a long post. Hope it helps :)

02-14-2009, 05:08 AM
Fortunately for my family I usually only sing when I have the house to myself. When I first started playing & singing together I experience the same lack of syncronization. I keep a songbook of songs that I've collected from chordie.com that I go thru a few times a week so basically doing the same songs over and over. It seems to work well to practice the same songs & same or different strums. New songs are even getting easier. I have come to the realization that my singing sucks & have gotten into more picking. My family thanks me.:o

02-15-2009, 11:23 AM
I don't know if this makes sense to some people, but think of the ukulele almost as if it were a percussion instrument and strum like you are just clapping your hands to the beat of the music. Once you work out the cadence, then try strumming more like the original artist if you want. There are some very tough songs to do, like the Beatles, "We Can Work It Out", but there are some very simple tunes out there, too, even Beatles, like "Hey Jude".

The rhythm should have a steady meter... just like tapping your foot to keep time. Once you have a solid foundation, you can build on it.

uke puke
03-14-2009, 01:01 PM
I have the same problem with synchronizing. I am new to the uke and singing. I have been trying to put together "under the bridge" , "island in the sun" , and "banana pancakes" all three of these songs seem fairly simple, but im still not quite there yet. Im getting a bit bored of these songs, even though i dont have them down yet.

could you guys recomend some other songs to learn that are "easy" to sing and play together?:shaka:

03-16-2009, 09:47 AM
Hi. I'm new to this site and to ukulele playing (got started a week ago). I've been playing guitar for about 4 months now and can barely sing and play the guitar. Transitioning from guitar to ukulele was pretty easy. So now I can barely sing and play the ukulele at the same time too.

But anyways, for me, I started humming the song while I played and slowly transitioned from humming to actually singing the lyrics.

The first song I actually did the entire thing was a song called Hazy by Rosi Golan. It's a SUPER easy song and the rhythm is SUPER good for a beginner like me.

So just thought I'd share that :)

03-16-2009, 10:05 AM
I'm having the same problem too. But just practicing is the only road. Now I just have grind it out in an pleasurable way.

But the next challenge I have is the singing quality itself! oh boy~~ I'm actually putting a menu together to put up on craigslist for barter "Will teach you how to cook Korean and some Afgah dishes...teach me out to sing v_V"

03-16-2009, 05:02 PM
Well some advice i was once told by my guitar teacher a long time ago when trying to play that old giant thing was to not worry about the chords at first. What happens is if your new and trying to put the strum pattern singing and changing of the chords all together at once your head explodes into a million pieces from being in overload. If you cant nail it at first, leave out the chords. Do like Aldrine does when teaching strum patterns and just mute all the strings and pratice just strumming and singing the song. Wont sound cool at first but hey you want something work for it. Then once u can easily strum the whole song and sing it then add the chords in. It should make it a lot easier.

Some easy songs to sing and play with i found were
Hallelujah-jeff buckley
Stand by me- temptations i believe (aldrine has a lesson for this)

uh those are two quick ones i just thought of off the top of my head

03-16-2009, 05:45 PM
step 1:find a room that no one will hear you
step 2:wail and strum, don't worry about the right chords at first

03-16-2009, 11:41 PM
Why care what everyone thinks? Is it not most important that you have fun yourself?
I dont sing that good and I dont care. I sing because I like to sing and thats that. :)

About singing and playing its just a matter or practice, practice and more practice.
I been playing for about 2 weeks and just took up singing for real again. And even after just 2 weeks I feel better then ever. Because you usally dont sing that focused.

One thing I have found out is that it helps to try and get a feeling about what the song is about. Not just sing it right up and down. And ones you get a hang of it the uke will help the singing and the singing will help you keep in rythm with the song. :)

I put up my first tests on youtube just so people and I can follow the progress that I hope will be for the better as I learn more. :D

03-17-2009, 03:07 AM
You can sing and clap along, right?
Clap out a simple rhythm and sing along with a song in common time. Now pick up your uke and sing, but strum the chords in a pattern.
Once you have this down, try it with cut-common or waltz time. It'll come.

Guy pulls up in a car and asks a pedestrian, "How do you get to The Hollywood Bowl?"
Pedestrian replies, "Practice"

Small steps
Master each step before moving on
When you get better, keep going back to practice the simple stuff.
When you have practiced enough, practice some more.

03-18-2009, 12:49 AM
I found this site and its awesome, especially for beginners (like myself)


It has the song "Hes got the whole world in his hands", which is all of two chords. I think it would be easy to start for you. Other songs are easy too.

here is the World in his hands tab, he also sings along to so its easier.


Hope this helps!


03-18-2009, 10:25 AM
I'm very new too and have only got a couple of songs under my belt but I do something similar to what Stackabones was describing. I've found that if I start learning a song by singing it and doing a single strum at the chord changes, then working up to two strums, three strums... then start using a simple strumming pattern... it's like taking it in phases.

It's slow and sounds really bad at times because of the completely simple strumming pattern in the beginning phases but it's the only way I've found to train my brain to hold two patterns.

I'll probably be experimenting with some of the other things people have mentioned in this thread though. There are lot of good suggestions here. :D

03-31-2009, 04:47 AM
Singing and playing together is one of the hardest things for me.

Partly the coordination thing, and partly because I sing pretty badly anyway!

What the heck... I'm gonna go for it! :rock:

03-31-2009, 07:53 AM
I've just started singing and playing at the same time and I had the problem of strumming to my singing, which was really screwing everything up. I finally just picked a song that had a strum pattern that wasn't consistent with the singing pattern, and practiced over and over until I got it. It got to the point where I could strum the song from muscle memory without even thinking about it, and then I could sing all over it and even do some improv. After I got that song down, others came easier.

Don't try to play down practice with shortcuts!

04-04-2009, 12:30 AM
... I had the problem of strumming to my singing...

Therein lies the problem with most beginners and novice players. Don't strum to your singing. Sing to your strumming.

The lyrics are the focal point of the music, it's true, but the vocals should sit on a foundation of great rhythm.

In the professional world, good rhythm starts with a solid drum and bass combination. Everything else is built on that "meter".

04-25-2009, 11:28 PM
I can't sing worth a D__m so I do it when no one is around. It took me years to be able to sing and play at the same time and I still don't do it well. You need to be able to do one or the other or both w/o having to think about it. I also think you can't play a tune w/o being able to whistle it.

04-26-2009, 03:17 PM
Ive been playing guitar and singing for 5 years, but it was rough at first. I finally just learned the strumming part while thinking the words, then I would hum the words very gently, stopping the humming when it distracted me too much and humming louder when I felt I was on a roll. With practice it doesnt take too long before it starts to click and I can start singing along. Now it is second nature and I dont have much trouble.

Then I started adding harmonica to the mix, and that really threw me back for a bit. Its still a bit rough but thats why I'm an amateur. But I can do it well enough to have fun and annoy the dog.

I also started fingerpicking and singing and later, playing harmonica. I can do some of the former, but fingerpicking with harmonica is still very challenging! IOW I suck.


05-06-2009, 04:15 AM
so i go to you tobe right then i look up what? pice out

05-11-2009, 03:26 PM
hey guys :D
uhhh im new to the UU so yeahh XD

anyways, i just recorded myself and i want some honest feedback >_>
my friends think i sing real good, but the sound i hear from my voice is really cheesey if you know what i mean.....

heres the link:

05-12-2009, 11:13 AM
anyways, i just recorded myself and i want some honest feedback >_>
my friends think i sing real good, but the sound i hear from my voice is really cheesey if you know what i mean.....

you can sing dude. you can tell its kinda natural, i bet you would sound good with songs like i'm yours. ever take any lessons? i'm thinking of taking them but I really cant sing at all

05-12-2009, 12:31 PM
you can sing dude. you can tell its kinda natural, i bet you would sound good with songs like i'm yours. ever take any lessons? i'm thinking of taking them but I really cant sing at all

lols thnx for the feedback :D i never took lessons though.....i never really liked my voice because it sounds so plain you know??? :confused: and i dont come from a family of singers either (they really can't sing XD just mediocre karaoke) i guess i just have that feeling of detecting good pitch ya know??
Anyways.....i think anyone can sing :) i mean nowadays even the worst singers are the most popular XD haha

05-18-2009, 06:14 PM
it is not easy for me to do .

06-17-2009, 05:20 AM
i've got this problem too.

i'm now learning to do it by playing song with few and easy chords. i'm also triyng to learn songs in my native language, because when i sing in english i have to concentrate also on the right pronunciation (this is another big problem!) and i find it harder.

if i'm learning, everyone else in the world can.