Please help me with singing and strumming and timing - plus updates on my success and progress

Taking the SOS strumming course, I’m in a sense going back to basics as I’ve been playing for a few years - just me and acoustic doing covers.

The course has been a reminder about timing, humbling to use the metronome

Do I have the first three patterns down, can play in time at 120 bpm

The I try to sing a song I have memorized and it starts to fall apart. Phrasing of words gets me off time.

This course is fantastic

Suggestions on how to play and sing in time?

These, by the way, are not hard songs

Playing by myself with no metronome I can pull singing and strumming off

I believed.

With metronome — I’m lost

Thanks fellow players

And thank you, Justin

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Play the song on guitar until it’s automated.

Sing the song until it’s mostly automated (harder, IMHO singing needs more brain focus).

Tap your foot while doing it.


Appreciate the tip, Jkahn

The strumming SOS courses are great :slightly_smiling_face:

I agree with JK. It’s all about automatizing the strumming and then adding the (automated) singing. Practice a song so long with a chosen strumming pattern that you are more or less sick and tired of playing it and listening to what you are playing. Then, when you don’t have to think about the strumming anymore, add the singing. It helps playing songs you know very well, when you know the lyrics, the melody, the phrasing… When there is more or less a soundtrack in your mind, guiding you.

What I do with the song I’m currently practicing is this. I start just playing the song, then I only sing in my mind. Then I do random technical exercises. Then… back to the song. This time with metronome - no singing, because I focus too much on the metronome. Then again random technical exercises. At the end of a practice session - as a reward for myself - I may play and sing the song with the chosen strumming pattern(s).

It’s surely not a one fits all method, but proceeding like this works surprisingly well for me :slightly_smiling_face:


I can only second JK’s comments here Tom, and just have faith that one day it’ll click. Even with solid rhythm any new strumming pattern is a challenge to sing on top of at first, because you’re trying to concentrate on too much at once.
You’ve got the benefit of knowing you can and have played and sung this is about perfecting it really. Good luck and continue to enjoy the course!! :+1::guitar:


It’s amazing — because of Justin and this site — I get solid advice and encouragement from strangers who are not truly strangers because we are all on the shared journey.

Bound by the love of guitar, music and learning,



Have you seen this ?


Tom @Thallman
Plenty of advice above from those more knowledgeable than me all I would say is be patient and keep at it you will crack it.

This is the key thing to do Tom, I would only add, decrease the Bpm, that will help you a lot.

Oh no…for me it’s the strumming that requires more focus! This proves how different we all are.

I’m working at the moment on the Strumming Dynamics (I found Grade 1 really helpful and valuable). I’m one of those who used to practice singing and strumming at the same time (but keeping time), as it’s not advised to do…ooops…only if you are patient with your only downstrums on the beat, you tap your foot and move your hand consistently strumming patterns will come naturally - strumming patterns are overated, IMHO.

I’m doing now a step back and practice the strumming on its own, without singing, to enhance my Rhythm game and I must admit that on one hand my Rhythm is really improving while on the other hand incorporating the singing is hard!

I believe with practice things will fall into place.


For me, I think the challenge is the timing and phrasing. When the words of a line start on beat 1 and have the right number of syllables (whatever that may be), I am generally ok. But mostly words don’t start exactly on the beat, eg sometimes the first word of the line starts between the previous up strum and the down strum.

My observation is that some people seem (I must stress ‘seem’) to naturally be able to sing over their playing (not saying eitehr is perfect, but seems to flow). Others, like me, seem to struggle.

And of course, all the pointers above are in play

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David @DavidP
I think as a beginner like me you can get too hung up on matching chords and lyrics precisely and in a way that makes combining the two difficult. Yes when I learn a song I try to do this, but I would expect some of the limited songs I can play and sing from memory if I analysed them now they are probably not perfect in this regard. However I take the view I am making music not sitting an exam and I use Justin’s maxim, as an excuse, “if it sounds good it is good”


I’me with you, Michael. I seldom worry about how I sound relative to the original. Hence I’ve received comments about how ‘well I made the song my own’. Needless to say, if I sing a song and it sounds good, regardless of how it matches the original, there is a fair degree of good fortune involved. That said, I have improved over the years, most significantly after the Chris Liepe course. As expected the quality of my singing improved in general. What I didn’t expect to improve as much as it seemed to was the ability to play and sing in a way that sounded less mechanical.


Agree. I think how well you really know the song comes in to play. That’s where I think Justin’s feel good strumming exercise can also help where you mute the strings and strum along with the original really getting the feel of it and then when you’re feel you’ve got the strumming pattern automated start singing along.

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One of my favourite artists is Willie Nelson and for me a big aspect of that is how he sings a song. Willie is known for not singing on the beat. An example of this is a quote from Waylon Jennings:

Typically, Willie is so off the beat when he starts off that Waylon thinks there will be no way for Willie to snap back into the groove. But, he “always comes out of it,” Waylon says. What is it about Willie Nelson’s singing? | (

So worrying about the “exact” phrasing isn’t the biggest thing we need worry about, Let’s just make it sound good.



A bunch of good suggestions so for. If I’m struggling with singing at the same time, humming the melody (or singing la) over the guitar part helps me as a bridge to adding lyrics. I can focus about how things line up without worrying about remembering or reading words, and if I need to, I can also slow the song way down and still hum along without having to hold words way too long

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Yeah, me too.

My solution was to do my own chord and lyric sheets with chord changes exactly aligned with the lyrics - down to individual syllables, and aligned with the downbeats and upbeats in each bar for the really tricky bits.

Very tedious, but I find I can then “sight read” the sheets, practice perfectly, and get the phrasing and strumming down fairly quickly.

It also helps you recognize patterns. For example, in Wish You Were Here, both the riff and most (but not all!) vocal lines start on the “and of 3”. And this pattern repeats throughout the whole song.

And by going through this process with multiple songs, I find - more and more - I can wing it with new songs and get things right with far less effort then previously. It’s a form of transcribing.

Other things that have helped:

  • progress from single strums per bar to 4 strums per bar to strumming pattern while singing
  • use the Moises app to slow down songs, and mute all tracks except vocals and drums. Also has a very useful Smart Metronome feature that will add a click to any song.

I know this works for many people, but for me it just messes me up if I try to do it too soon. But often my foot starts tapping - spontaneously, magically- once I start to get a grip on the song!


Well said! That’s the secret sauce right there. Out of that automation and foot tapping comes your own sense of time and expression. Play on playa!

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For me, it’s easier to automatise separate pieces of a song. But when I try to play the whole song from start to finish, it is often easier to do with singing because singing helps me know where I am in the song structure.


Have you checked this “article” I wrote already?

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Hi Tom @Thallman

In addition to the many good points already mentioned, here are two additional points that were important for me:

Same as Tom @Tbushell , I find it very helpful to have a sheet with chord changes aligned with the individual syllables. Now, if you use prewritten material, it’s worth noting that Justin’s material is reliable, however the quality of other sources can vary. It’s better to double check than getting confused.

Second, singing to the original recording helped me to double check and to find out what I need to do differently.

Totally! I’m still blown away by this community! Rock’n’Roll! :smiley: