Something I’ve heard more than a few times is how difficult it can sometimes be to sing and play ukulele at the same time. I will say that it does become easier over time, as most things do, but there are some things you can practice to speed up the process so you’re singing and playing your favorite songs on ukulele.
The main challenge with playing and singing at the same time is that you have two different rhythms happening: 1) the rhythm of your strumming, and then 2) the rhythm of the melody.
What we need to do is develop an independency between our strumming rhythm and our singing rhythm.
In other words, we need to be so comfortable with our strumming that we don’t even have to think about it. This allows us to sing how we please and not have our strumming pattern dictated by the rhythm of our vocal melody.
Here are some ways we can practice this.
1.) Practice Strumming With a Metronome
Before I played ukulele, I played guitar, and when I was learning guitar, I would always hear, “If you want better timing and rhythm, practice with a metronome.” I dismissed this for so long because I thought a metronome felt “restrictive” and made me a worse player. The truth was that I wasn’t very good and the metronome wasn’t nice enough to lie to me!
At first, a metronome will feel a bit uncomfortable. Probably very uncomfortable. You will probably want to ebb and flow with your timing, but the metronome won’t let you. It won’t let you take pauses between chord changes because it will keep on going. This is good because it makes you become consistent and steady in your timing. These are the most important aspects of rhythm.
If you spend 10 minutes of practice a day with a simple strumming pattern and a metronome, after a couple weeks, you will notice significant improvements in your timing. I was surprised and I think you will be too.
2.) Hum First, Then Sing
Once you’ve practiced strumming with a metronome, you should be at a point where you are sticking to a consistent strumming pattern no matter what. When you feel yourself getting to this point, it’s good to apply this to a song.
When it comes to singing the song, sometimes I like to “ghost hum” the melody. This means I will hum the parts of the melody over my strumming pattern, and then when I feel the melody line pull away from the rhythm of my strumming, I will stop humming so I can continue to keep good rhythm, or I will stop, slow the song down and practice humming through that passage.
This allows me to get used to any chord changes or weird parts of the melody. If I feel the rhythm of my strumming rub in a really bad way with my singing, I might sometimes stop strumming for a measure and just sing through the measure. However, I do this while trying to keep time.
The idea is as you get used to humming different parts of the melodies you’ll gradually become comfortable with singing the song loud and strong.
3.) Play Ukulele With Other People
A metronome doesn’t lie to you, and your friends won’t either (well, at least you hope so!). Whenever you play ukulele with other people, you are forced to find a rhythm or a strumming pattern that fits with the other person’s strumming pattern. You have to work together.
This also allows you to take turns singing. You have another person who isn’t singing to hold you accountable to the rhythm and strumming pattern of a song, so if you get a little bit off that other person can help you stay on track.
If you wish to become better at playing and singing at the same time, the best thing you can do is continue to practice your strumming and rhythm. The more comfortable and consistent you are with your strumming, the less you have to think about it, which means you can direct more attention to your singing.
What tips do you have for singing and playing ukulele at the same time? I’d love to hear your ideas!
If you want more lessons on strumming, be sure to check out my video “Ukulele Strumming Patterns for Beginners.”