Singing and playing

Hey people. I have been improving quite fast in the beginner course but have noticed that when i try to sing and play a strumming pattern at the same time either i have to stop singing to focus on my strumming pattern or if i sing my strumming pattern breaks down. Anyone else had/have issues with this? How long did it take to become easier?


It’s pretty tricky, you need to automate your playing and then automate your singing separately, then bring them together

Justin has a lesson on it in grade 3


It seems like it is still a bit early for you although don’t let me be the one stopping you.

I’ve seen people starting singing early with success but also people developing major and minor rhythm issues because of this.

If it breaks down, you might want to simplify it to a very basic level.
Don’t be ashamed, building this kind of auto-pilot requires simple beginning but you must build upon a SOLID base in order to progress and solidify that autopilot.

Brilliance on the basics
Make sure you play that single “strum per count/beat” well and do some humming, lalala or the same line all over again. Do it so much you cn’t do it wrong any more.
THESE are the foundations so you must make sure that your rhythm is SOLID before you think about making it faster or more complex

Record yourself
This takes courages because hearing yourself sing can cause massive cringes :smiley:
Get over that and be really critical for yourself. NOT for your singing. this will grow but your RHYTHM schould be SOLID now!

And of course, search the forum for useful posts like this!

Good luck!

btw I only had the courage to try singing and playing when I was fluent with playing songs with E and A shape barres and with a real solid “open chords” routine under my belt, being able to play without looking. No looking = less brainpower needed = more to allocate to timing and singing :wink:


I’ve been playing for over six years now. Still can’t do it. Most people can eventually do it I guess, but some people never can.

No matter how well I know a song on guitar, it’s never on “autopilot.”

I think just above everyone struggles with that, at first.

I’d say it probably takes weeks to months for it to become easier. But everyone is different, and there are multiple variables involved. I remember that it seemed almost impossible when I first started trying it. I also remember that improvement seemed very sudden, rather than gradual. I don’t know if that is common, or even if it was really the case. That’s just the impression I remember: “hey…I’m doing it…what happened?” And that once that point had been achieved, it seemed easier across the board (e.g., learning new songs, and so on).

While that’s a popular approach that works for many, I found that learning both together worked better for me. I’d break the song down into sections and work on playing and singing it section by section. At first I had to slow down new songs a lot. Slowing it down as much as is necessary to get the timing right, then building that up to performance tempo helped a lot.

To me, the trickiest part is “doing two different things at once and having both be in time, on pitch, etc.” I think it’s similar to what drummers routinely do, training their limbs to be independent. I guess that’s why playing and singing “suddenly” got easier for me: I must have reached a point where I’d developed enough vocal/guitar independence to matter. To me, it makes sense that if you’re trying to develop limb independence or vocal/guitar independence you should “train” both together. You mind and body has to build those connections that allow everything to happen (“correctly”) at the same time.

With that said, I don’t think there’s one true approach. Try different approaches and see what works best for you. If you are inclined to work on playing and singing together (without separating the two) and you’re having trouble, my biggest piece of advice is “slow it down.” Focus on a few bars. Find a tempo where you can play and sing at the same time. Do that for a while. Then try it faster.


When I first started playing I didn’t expect to sing, others had said it’s a fair bit harder. The first song I learned my wife would sing while I’d play it. I must have played it with her singing probably 60 times when I started singing along in the chorus quite by accident. From that moment on I’ve been singing non-stop.

Justin’s lesson on singing and playing is quite good. I’m slightly concerned that the detail he goes into might put people off as it seems a significant task. It was a lot easier than that for me, yet many of the points he makes in that lesson I believe I did subconsciously.

Singing and playing is so very good so stick with it. It’s also good to choose to sing on a song where the lyrics / phrasing aligns with the chord changes. Some songs are quite syncopated and that’s harder to do. On an easy song you start singing the song at the same time as the first chord after your intro. On one of the syncopated songs I sing, the singing starts on the up stroke after the 2nd beat on the 3rd measure of the song. That one took me a lot longer to figure out.


That sounds like what I am trying do, just that I am making artificial voice with real guitar tracks. And I do love synchopation in my songs. (Thanks for letting me know the proper term for it!)

Correct me if I am wrong, I found the in detail approaches to make the synchopation works are different compared with real voice singing with a guitar. Instead of trying to keep up with the voice like real life gigs do, I am thinking of keeping up with the guitar track by fine tuning the tempo of the artificial voice after recording.


Not 100% sure what you mean with what you are doing, if it sounds good, it’s fine.

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@markr31 It is not true! If you can play the guitar, and you can sing, you can sing while playing!

I was like you, thinking I’d never be able to do it, about 2.5 years in. I took the traditional “learn to play the song, sing the song, then bring together” approach, but it never worked for me (not saying it is not good advice).

Then one day, I decided I was going to do it.

I sat down and picked a seemingly easy song. Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

I learned the chords only for the first verse: Fm, Ab, Eb, Gb.

And figured out a strumming pattern: one … two … and a three … four and a:

1   e   and a   2   e   and a   3   e   and a   4   e   and a
X               X       X   X   X               X       X   X

I practised playing this really, really well, and with a metronome.

Then I learned the first sentence: “I walk a lonely road”

My goal was to sing and play this only … For the life of me, I tried, I tried, and I could not.

Then I lowered my goal. I was only going to sing and play the first word: “I”. I know it sounds stupidly simple, but I even could not do that at the start.

Then I figured the “I” falls exactly on the off-beat. Then I thought, I should probably learn were each of these words fall exactly, and I did that:

1   e   and a   2   e   and a   3   e   and a   4   e   and a
X               X       X   X   X               X       X   X
        I       walk    a       lone    ly      road

So this shows me, I hit the first F chord (downbeat), then when my hand is going up (upbeat), I play nothing but say “I”. I practised doing this over and over again. Hit the F chord, then say “I” without playing anything.

Once I got confident with it, next was to add “walk”. Now that is more complex. Because you hit and sing at the same time. I would hit F, I would say “I” on the way up, then I would hit “F” again, and say “walk” at the same time.

After many tries, I could do it. I think this was the biggest breakthrough for me in being able to play and sing at the same time.

After practising this many, many times (like at least 100 times), I added the next word “a”.

And I kept adding words one by one. After a point, it becomes easier to add new words. And some sentences (or verses) will be exactly the same as the previous one so they will start coming automatic.

I finished learning the entire song this way, adding one strum and one word at a time. It took ages, but in the end, I could do it!

Then I started learning new songs with the same method, but each new song became easier to learn than the previous one.

Of course, I’m still having challenges with some songs, some strumming patterns etc. It is a skill that one can develop and be able to sing & play increasingly complex things their entire life.

But starting stupidly simple and adding strums and words one by one, and practising that one word tens (sometimes hundreds) of times worked for me.

I think it would work for you too!


I just wanted to endorse JK’s link to Justin’s lesson on singing and playing. In my own learning journey, I watched it, took notes of the steps Justin recommended, and applied it. I was able to learn to play and sing a relatively simple song using this method, and I’m still a Grade 1 Beginner myself.

The various steps are all beneficial to the final product, but the step in that process where it really “clicked” for me was when I played and sang along with the original recording. I had been trying to learn to sing and play the song, basically, via sheer force of will and my memory of the song. Playing along with the recording was a game-changer.

This is a very sensible approach. It took me decades to sing and play but it finally clicked. But it took a song I had known for over half a century and a progression that I’d been playing off and on for 20 years. Roll forward to me seeking out more challenging songs on my To Sing list and many of them were very difficult to align the chord structure and when the slotted in.
Taking the first few words or as you first word made this a lot easier and it solved many subsequent “problems” It took me 4 weeks trying to sing and play the first line of Broken by Seether even using this method but thankfully after that first attempt, other more complicated (IMHO) have been easier to synchronise.


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I admire your dedication to getting things absolutely correct. At my stage if I get the chord change just about at the right point I am happy if I had to get it spot on every time it would feel like an exam and it would put me off. For me it is a bit like what Justin says about Strumming if you add in an extra strum people will probably not notice. I am sure as I get better I will become more pedantic.

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You need to find out which approach works better for you. Justin says in one video that one of the two (singing/strumming) should be automated and that for him it would be the strumming, we are all different and for me it’s easier to start from the singing/humming and have the strumming going along. As if one says “I accompany my singing with a guitar or another instrument”. What I think it’s very important to keep in mind is that there’s one thing that both strumming and singing have in common and that is THE BEAT, if you have that very solid, it will be just a matter of practice. In many respects my approach is similar to @J.W.C ’ s.

That makes perfect sense to me.

Can you sing without the guitar? If you can you should definitely try to start singing a song that you love and know as your “Ave Maria”, as we say over here, and make it kind of “autopilot”…then add the pattern that comes easier to you (when you play it on its own) - muted strings - no chords…just try to see how it feels…I suspect this approach works better for many :thinking: I can say it worked with me, I always need to start singing (even if only in my mind) and tap my foot along, then I add the strumming based on that same foot tapping.

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From my perspective you just need this eureka moment when learning a song, once it clicked with me it suddenly became a whole lot simpler to learn most songs to sing along.

What I feel I was missing most when originally trying and failing to sing along was a solid rhythm foundation. Without solid automated rhythm you won’t be able to sing along as you will focus on it too much, so playing to a song and being able to drift away in your mind to think about other stuff while playing is a good indication if your rhythm is solid - once it is you slow down a song you learn to as low as you need, you get tour rhythm and strumming/picking sorted out and try to sing along.

That’s what helped me and makes it possible to learn new stuff :wink:

Adrian has nailed it with this point! My sense of rhythm was terrible when I started out but once I got my rhythm down the singing just seemed to follow.

B.B. King couldn’t.

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good point! i am gonna focus on automating the songs rhythm first before trying to sing it at the same time while still learning the rhythm… too much going on from different streams of focus lol …thanks!

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It takes a bit of time, and there’s a few points in my journey that I’ll share that may help you or others out.

One is confidence. I personally am not always confident in my singing ability, even for songs that I’ve played many a times and sometimes can play well. The days I feel more confident I perform much better.

Second one is understanding the syncopation of the lyrics, i.e. really getting how the syllables sorta “lock-in” with your strumming/picking. I’ve noticed that for myself there’s usually a point where it sorta just clicks after a while of feeling hopeless. Its been helpful for me to just practice the first verse over and over, allowing more focus on how the words rhythmically align with the guitar without needing to delegate any brain power to remembering lyrics.

What works for one person won’t always work for everyone else, but maybe give it a shot. Good luck!


I presume you’re talking about synchronizing the lyrics (syncopation is stressing the weak- or off-beat)?
That’s a useful step in learning how to sing and play simultaneously :smiley:
I find the difficulty is trying to ‘uncouple’ the accented lyric from the played notes, singing across bars and keys… That’s where you need to be able to do at least one of them automatically without thought. Sigh :roll_eyes:

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