Why is strumming and singing so hard?

necessaryrooster

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I've noticed that finger picking and singing requires almost no thought, but the second I try to strum and sing, it's like my hand doesn't remember the directions of up and down, even though I can mindlessly strum all day without singing. What gives?
 

merlin666

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Most people find picking and singing difficult as you usually have different and complex syncopation in the picking pattern. For strumming it is easiest to start simple just with downstrums on every count and when that works add in upstrums and complexity.
 

Kenn2018

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Your strums have to be grooved in to be so automatic you don't think about it. The down up motion is unchanging, whether you play the strings each pass or not becomes second nature.

So, you move your hand up and down with the beat: one and, two and, three and, four and. And strike the strings as your fingers pass where appropriate. Keep it going for pauses & chunks.

Do 3/4 time the same way.

Once you get that down and it's second nature, you can add flourishes.

Strummed chords don't always follow the sung words. There can be extended drawn out words, pauses, that can throw you off if you don't keep that strum movement going.
 

rainbow21

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Let me toss a thought out...

There may be a difference between singing the song and trying to add strumming to it or strumming the song and adding singing to that. So if strumming and then adding singing, there are a few simplication strategies that may help. These include just humming the song first while strumming the chord pattern in rhythm or using your voice belting out notes that fit without even following the song. I don't know what to do if you start with the song in rhythm and try to add the strumming.
 

captain-janeway

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Strummed chords don't always follow the sung words. There can be extended drawn out words, pauses, that can throw you off if you don't keep that strum movement going.
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This guy had it. I was the same way the picking seemed easier than strumming for me too. It was having chord changes in the middle of strumming "patterns" that kept throwing me.
It's getting better just practicing. It's one of those "It will just happen" things. The strumming will get to be as mindless as the picking after awhile
 

clear

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I think you just need to practice more.

You can start with just a single down strum on each measure while tapping your foot to keep time. Go at a slow tempo at first. Don't sing the entire song just yet. Work on each phrase separately and bring it up to tempo. Then link up 2 phrases, 3 phrases, etc until the entire song.
 

Bluesy

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You've gotten solid advice, but consider using an app that includes a metronome.

Set the metronome with the right tempo and practice singing your song. Do it a few times. Tap the armchair, legs, feet, whatever as you do this to keep the time with the metronome. I want you to really feel the beat of the music and get that ingrained in your mind and muscle memory.

Then stop singing and strum the tune on the uke as the metronome keeps time. Don't use a complex strum pattern, keep it simple, nothing harder than an island strum. Do it a few times until keeping time with the metronome becomes second nature. The aim is to get your muscle memory to take over so you no longer need to think about your hand moving up and down.

Finally, slow the metronome down a bit and try to sing and play at the same time. Don't look for perfection. The goal is to feel the consistency of the music's beat with your voice and body.

The beat drives the music. Once your body embraces the beat, you should see improvement.

Relax and have fun with it.

Bluesy.
 

Jerryc41

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I've noticed that finger picking and singing requires almost no thought, but the second I try to strum and sing, it's like my hand doesn't remember the directions of up and down, even though I can mindlessly strum all day without singing. What gives?

It's funny that so many people say that. I'm not a singer, but I usually either mouth the words or sing very low. I don't have a conflict between my fingers and my lips.
 

emba

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“nothing harder than an island strum”. Ha ha ha ha. Am I the only one who had to work on the island strum nearly daily for at least a month before I could island strum and sing? That’s the most complicated strum I do!
 

captain-janeway

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“nothing harder than an island strum”. Ha ha ha ha. Am I the only one who had to work on the island strum nearly daily for at least a month before I could island strum and sing? That’s the most complicated strum I do!

YES!! I guess I overthought it for well over a year. I did try it slower and slower so it settled in. Now I don't even think when I strum. I can just concentrate on chords and lyrics.
 

Ukecaster

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Everyone is different. Strumming and singing comes so naturally to me, but not picking and singing, not at all. I think it's that picking and singing are often both melodies, which throws me off. In my guitar rock band days, I could happily play rhythm guitar and sing harmony all night, but playing lead guitar while singing? Fuggetaboutit. I'm always amazed by bassists like Sting, who can hold down the bottom and rhythm, while singing lead. Oh well, guess I'll stick with what works for me, sometimes.
 

TopDog

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Like Ukecaster, I was a 'rhythm guitarist' in many bands over many years, and could chug out the chords in a decent rythm, forever! But Picking and singing, was always beyond me.
 

mikelz777

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People hear and then process sound into motion or action differently so when adding an additional action to that (singing) it can be more difficult. For those to whom it comes naturally it's hard to understand the difficulty. It makes me think of how many people say it's very difficult to sing and play bass. Tom Petty said it was never difficult for him because he never knew it was supposed to be difficult! :D

I'm relatively new to the ukulele group thing and it always struck me how when we would play a song, people would always ask what strum pattern to use and then dutifully and mechanically strum that pattern throughout the song. It's kind of like they're making music but maybe not "feeling" the music. I didn't understand this because it's not something that ever occurred to me. I just start strumming and make it work without ever having to think about it. I suppose if you were to analyze it I'm probably using an island strum (or close variant) since it's kind of universal and works so well with so many songs. When I vary it, I just do it and can't really say why, it just happens. For me, the singing is what comes first because that is how I "visualize" a song and then my uke accompaniment comes 2nd. For those who find doing both is difficult perhaps they have a more compartmentalized way of thinking and processing music. Maybe strumming alone comes easy or singing alone is easy but when trying to combine the two, things start getting crossed. There's a lot going on at one time. Your right hand is making rhythm then on top of that you may be swinging it, skipping strums, switching up the strums for various effects, etc. Your left hand is making the various chord shapes and if you are like me, you're thinking ahead to those odd chords in the song that don't come automatically. Then on top of all that you add singing which may or may not follow in line with everything else you are doing. It's a wonder that anyone can do it! :D
 

merlin666

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Note sure why this happened now twice and the quote as well as response disappeared.

Anyway I wanted to ask emba if island strum is the one that mixes triples with eights using both index finger and thumb for up and down strokes?
 
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emba

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Note sure why this happened now twice and the quote as well as response disappeared.

Anyway I wanted to ask emba if island strum is the one that mixes triples with eights using both index finger and thumb for up and down strokes?

Maybe? I think it mixes a triple with eighths, for sure, but I usually use only my index finger, though I know I’ve done it using my thumb some as well. The pattern is D-DU-UDU
This one
 

mikelz777

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Island strum is D D U U D U. Now that I write it out and try it out, it's not what I do as I mentioned above. My general "go to" strum is D D U D U D U.
 

Rllink

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Often times people focus on playing the ukulele and try to sing as accompaniment. I think that approach is difficult to do. For me singing was never a problem because I was a singer before I was a ukulele player. I started playing the ukulele strictly for the purpose of accompaniment and I think that is the difference. I think that if someone is having trouble singing and playing they need to focus on the singing and let the ukulele playing come along for the ride.
 
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