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How to Approach Playing and Singing pt2

In Part one of this post we looked at some of the different elements involved in building up the ability to sing and play. Now it's time to take a look at the really tricky bit. Building rhythm. Below you’ll see a strumming pattern which is a simplified version of the one used throughout the song. The four crotchets represent the four beats in each bar, with the arrows beneath them dictating whether you strum up or down. If you struggle with the timing try counting this aloud as “1, 2, 3 AND 4 AND, 1, 2, 3 AND 4 AND.” If you want to check you are doing it correctly, this metronome at is particularly helpful as it counts the beats in the bar as it goes along.

Notice how on every beat you are strumming downwards, but on the off beat strums after the 3rd and 4th beats you strum upwards. This is not a rule as such, but it is very common in strumming patterns. It means that when strumming quickly, as you will be in the last two beats of this bar, the final upward strum takes you back to a comfortable position to strum downwards again at the start of the next bar.

In order to get the strumming pattern to feel natural against the vocals we’ll need to build it up gradually. Strumming is much easier when you have an awareness of where each strum sits against the rhythm of the vocals.

Here you can see the strumming pattern lined up with the approximate position of each word of the vocals that it falls on. Pay particular attention to the fact that you should be strumming exactly in time with the words ‘I thought’ and then strumming both on and immediately after the words ‘love’ and ‘was.’ Because the strumming pattern and the vocal rhythm both conform fairly rigidly to the beat in a lot of songs you’ll find that things like this are a regular occurrence and make playing and singing much easier.

Try filling in the strumming pattern over the rest of the words yourself. Taking care on multisyllabic words to note which syllable of a word each strum is on. For instance in the third bar of the first line ‘Fairy’ is a two syllable word with a strum on each syllable. In the second line you’ll find that ‘someone’ is a two syllable word with four strums taking place over it. Print this out and write in the rest of the arrows to see if you can identify where the easiest and hardest parts to sing will be.

If strumming the whole pattern and singing the song still seems a little tricky to you, start by ignoring the off beat upward strums. This leaves you with only one downward strum for every beat in the bar. Build this up gradually until you can do it at something approaching the speed of the track, before slowing down again and trying to add the off beat strums.

Obviously this gradual method isn't the only way to learn to play and sing. But, if you try applying this method to every song you want to play and sing for the next few weeks, you should find that increasing your understanding of how the individual parts fit together will help you play and sing with more confidence. Found a different method that worked for you? tell me about it in the comments section below.

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