After you’ve learnt a few chords and started to get comfortable with strumming, the first thing you want to do is practice how to sing and play the ukulele at the same time.
You’ll soon find yourself watching a random ukulele youtuber playing your favorite song. The person on the video makes it look easy and you get so excited and tell yourself, “Hey, that song seems pretty easy to play. Let’s give it a go...”
And then, reality hits you.
You can’t seem to hit the right chord as you sing the song. It’s frustrating but don’t panic, I’m here to help.
Today, I’m going to walk you through learning to sing a song while playing the ukulele.
START WITH A SONG THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW.
Alright, don’t confuse yourself. When I say you choose a song you already know, it should be a song that you know by heart. You shouldn’t have to think about. It would be easier for you to practice if you are already familiar with the melody and lyrics of a particular song.
Let’s go ahead and try these 4 easy steps:
1. Listen to the song carefully.
You may think that you already know the song pretty well but seriously, you have to listen to it again and again. This is to embed the pattern of the song into your subconscious mind. Take note of the chord changes and the transition of the chord in relation to the lyrics.
While listening, imagine how you would move your fingers through each chord change. Make a mental image of how you would press the chords on each fret.
2. Simplify everything while you sing the song.
Singing and playing the instrument at the same time is like juggling. If you’re a beginner, this can be a daunting task. You don’t want to get caught in a chaotic situation where you're confused between singing and playing the ukulele.
So, in order for you to adapt quickly, you must first simplify how you play the song.
How do you do that?
Start with the strumming pattern. I suggest you begin with a single down strum per chord. And to make it simpler, break it down into small chunks. Just hold down the first chord and sing while doing a single down strum.
If the next line of the song requires you to change the chord, just follow through with another down strum pattern. Rinse and repeat until you get acquainted with the flow of the song.
3. Develop your rhythm.
The biggest challenge with singing and playing the instrument at the same time is getting into the rhythm.
While you sing and play the instrument, there are two rhythms that you need to consider. That is, the rhythm of the strumming and the rhythm of the melody.
Your goal here is to be comfortable with each rhythm to such point wherein you don’t even have to think about it while you play the song. You need to learn how to make your strumming rhythm become independent from the singing rhythm.
This will allow you to sing how you please while playing the instrument and will not have your strumming pattern interfere with the rhythm of your singing.
If you want to improve your strumming rhythm, you can try to use a metronome. It will help you develop discipline on how to keep with the right timing. With this method, you can become consistent and steady with the beat of the song.
Using the metronome can be somewhat uncomfortable from the beginning but in due time, if you religiously practice with a simple strumming pattern with it, you will soon notice a significant improvement. I used to hate this method but I found it helped me a lot.
Another trick that can help you get into the rhythm is to hum the melody while you strum. This will allow you to remove the hassle of remembering the lyrics while you strum. Just having a plain melody while strumming the instrument will help you get used to any chord changes.
There are instances that the rhythm of your strumming may pull away from the rhythm of the melody. In that case, you may need to stop strumming and just continue humming through the beat.
The idea here is for you to get the feel of the melody together with the beat, especially on the parts where there are chord changes. Gradually, you’ll become more comfortable with the rhythm and play the song with ease.
4. Play Ukulele with another person.
How fun is that? You get to enjoy playing with your friends and family while practicing your skills.
When you play your ukulele with another person, you are compelled to find a rhythm that will fit with the other person’s strumming pattern. This will force you to be more disciplined when playing.
If it happens that you get a little bit off track, the other person will help guide you with the rhythm.
If you are serious at becoming a better ukulele player, you have to be consistent with your practice schedule until you become comfortable with each song that you want to learn.
It takes time to learn a new song but you have to stick with it and have patience.
There you go! You just learned how to sing and play the ukulele all at the same time. Now it’s time to sing your favourite song.
What to try next...
Learn about chord progression. Check out how to use the Circle of Fifths.