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So, I'm still working on this.

I started singing with my playing using hey ya as my first song. (In fact that was the first song I ever played)

Ironically I always lose it at the verse that goes

you think you've got it, oh you think you've got it
but got it just don't get it
till there's nothing at aaaaaaalllll-

The hardest part to get was the words and the strums together. In particular the words of hey ya seemed off-beat (the words of each verse start AFTER the first downstroke).

Any tips for putting song and words together, particularly easy songs to sing and play?

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4 Answers

I think there is only one answer: you must get the strumming down so solid, that your brain would have no need to focus on it. Then you can be free to focus on singing. You cannot focus on two things at one time.

Practice you strumming until it becomes fully automatic - then it will become possible to sing over it.

edit:

About easy songs: try Nothing else matters by Metallica using easy strumming, as explained at the beginning of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4ajO43l2sw

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How about easy songs to sing and play? –  bobobobo Jan 21 '11 at 18:28
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@bobobobo, yes, sorry, added one :) –  Silver Light Jan 21 '11 at 18:35
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I've had some pretty intense lines to run whilst singing. Personally I've found that it is best to have the lines (strumming, picking, slapping) down as solid as possible.

What works when that bit is in the muscle memory, is to practice sections of the song, start bits and pieces, or lines, and layer them over piece by piece.

If this doesn't work for you. Record yourself playing the piece, then get the vocal time right over your playing and possibly repeat the previous step.

With regards to strumming specifically, see if you can get a songbook of oldies that you love. Work through them.

Metronomes help! When practicing I consider that law. :)

A good alternative to a metronome - if you don't like the consistency or repetitive tone of it - get the Hydrogen drum machine software. It's free. Very easy to setup loops or even songs (loop collections). There is a linux and Windows version available. Hydrogen Screenshot

I find this ideal. Enjoy!

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I've found that playing and singing along with a recording helps, especially if you can slow down the recording. Start by just playing along, and then add simple singing (humming, or singing just the first word of each phrase, for example).

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In my experience you just have to get comfortable enough that you can do other things while you play: talking to your friend, watch tv w/o missing a beat etc. It's a bit of a stretch when you first start but once you really get your muscle memory in place and master playing a song you should notice that you can carry conversations, sing etc while playing.

One practice technique i've used is to take advantage of my time in the car. While driving i'll turn on some music and either slap my my knew or steering wheel with the strumming pattern of the guitar and sing along while trying to keep in band with the guitar's strumming pattern.

Things like that go a long way - you can practice certain things w/o your guitar; Keeping a strumming pattern and vocal pattern separate in your head is one of those things... well, for me.

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