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When playing and instrument and singing, I find it quite hard to separate the rhythm in the vocal line from that in whatever instrument I'm playing (guitar, drums). Is there a good way to approach remedying this?

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marked as duplicate by Ulf Åkerstedt, Dan Hulme, Jason W, guidot, Dr Mayhem Aug 21 '13 at 17:58

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Actually I think the wording of this current question is more general and therefore possibly better, but I suppose the duplicate indication mostly serves as a reference pointer why it doesn't matter if this is the one to be marked as duplicate. – Ulf Åkerstedt Jul 20 '13 at 18:26
Like the old question of how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. :-) . So I guess I'm saying the posted answers are good answers. – Carl Witthoft Jul 23 '13 at 12:05
@CarlWitthoft: yeah, I guess I assumed practice was implied. I probably should have asked for specific exercises or something... – naught101 Jul 24 '13 at 0:00

The same challenge can be found with musicians learning keyboards as they have to learn how to coordinate both left and right hands playing together.

To accomplish this, students are given pieces that progress from easy to hard and they advance as they are ready. The key here is to break down each part to beats whether you are singing one part and playing guitar or drums or keys on the other.

Learn both parts then when you feel comfortable with each part, you can begin to combine them. Start with a very slow tempo until you have it and then pick it up until you are ready for the desired tempo. This all boils down to practice. If you get stuck, remember if you can learn one part, you can learn both, if you learn both parts, you can learn to play them together. Like rubbing your tummy counter clockwise with your right hand while circling your head clockwise with your left hand at the same time.

Another strategy to get really good at this is to swap parts, try playing the drum part with making sounds with your mouth, and play the melodic beats with your drums. Of course this will be way easier to swap parts when both instruments can play melodic content.

Yet another strategy is to practice poly rhythms with two hands. One hand plays three beat pattern say accent plus two more beats while the other plays a five note pattern say accent plus one beat then accent again followed by two more beats (3 against 5). You can make up as many combinations as you like to make it more challenging. This will help teach your hands to move more independently.

Here is an example of a poly rhythm exercise from a pianist eager to get better:

One last thing, since you mentioned voice, make sure you take a breath before each phrase and this may help to keep time as well.

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One technique I was taught to facilitate limb independence on the drumkit may help you here as well: play only the instrumental part and try conversing with someone. Have them ask you simple questions infrequently at first and try to answer without disturbing the rhythm in your playing, and progress once you're comfortable with that to more complicated questions, even up to solving math problems etc. Once you can do all that you will probably find you can play the instrumental part in your sleep so singing along with it should be no problem and you could even improvise without affecting your accompaniment.

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Sounds like an interesting exercise. I'll give it a go :) – naught101 Jul 27 '13 at 4:42

Practice using a metronome. Play and sing very slowly like a robot on each count until you get it down, then you can loosen off or put more emotion into the singing. Some songs will come easier than others. As you get better you will learn to control your motor controls for hand timing and vocal cord timing independently. Get the basic 12-bar blues and some rock and roll rhythm ingrained into your fingers.

Early on, and still for some songs or learning new songs, I start very slowly to teach my hands and vocal cords how the timing is going to work, and they kind of "learn" after a few repeats when to come in / when to synchronize, etc.

Sometimes it helps to first figure out the strumming, and then listen very closely to the song and where the singer puts the words in relation to the beats.

For difficult songs or odd vocal stylings that don't follow the rhythm try first learning the song using a very slow simple 1-2-3-4 beat or a sort of "country-fied arrangement." Then once you have the basic structure of the song down, it's usually easier to make small adjustments to the vocal timings.

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