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I finally have become a lot better maintaining a rhythm while strumming guitar. But as soon as I try to sing,I lose my count. Example, with a standard DDUUDU pattern I find I'm actually thinking the pattern in my head. So as I try to sing words, the pattern simply falls apart. I'm not sure how to correct this, or does it mean I haven't got control of the strum rhythm yet?

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3 Answers 3

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I would say you simply haven't "internalized" the pattern yet. If you want to play and sing at the same time, at least for me, I have to be able to play the pattern without thinking (much) about it. You have to get so comfortable playing it, that you don't have to actively think about it. You simply can not concentrate on two separate things (or at least I can't), if I know the pattern by heart, then I can start to learn to sing to it.

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A trick for this is to simplify the strumming pattern on beats that don't align with the vocals. Very often strumming patterns will land at the same time as the vocals. (Songs are written that way). On those beats it's easy to do both, because you're only holding one rhythm.

So take a verse and figure out all the places where the vocals land at the same time as strumming pattern. If you can strum, and you can sing, you can do these beats.

Then all the other beats, play a simpler strumming pattern. Just play a D on the 1s and 3s, for example. Or to make it sound a touch more complex, do a UD, where the U is a 16/th before the 1, and the D is on the 1.

To build more intuition to be able to just play and sing will require more practise (Yada yada, start slow, get fast, internalise, blah). But at least with this method you can enjoy your practise more, and learn more songs, rather than spending weeks/months on one.

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  • There are so many players who do the last 16th U, followed by the first beat D. Most of them cannot change chords in that very short time that's left, so it ends up as a naff 'open strings chord'. Great when both chords are the same, a mess when a change is needed. Heard it too often! Anywhere else in the bar, please.
    – Tim
    May 24, 2022 at 13:47
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Not familiar with DDUUDU as a 'standard' strum pattern - it makes no sense without timings.

My guess is that your strumming hand/arm isn't regular. By that I mean going up and down in a smooth, not jerky, pattern. Whatever the strum pattern is, it can be played with a very simple DUDUDUDU where each is a quaver strum. Catching the strings on some D and/or U, missing on others.

There are multiple strum patterns that can be produced using this and because the hand/arm is going down and up like a soldier marches LRLR, that action will be easier. All that needs to be done then is to decide when the strings are strummed, D or U. And that pattern can be changed very easily, without changing the direction of any of the strums. That will keep the guitar part in time far more easily.

And - leaving out the last U as a sounded strum will stop the amateur 'open string strum' that so many guitarists seem to do. It'll give you twice as much time to change chord shape!

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  • I'm not sure if you're familiar with guitar-based pop music, but generally strumming patterns are read as if the hand is moving consistently and some strums are left out. This pattern would be read as 1/8 note (D), 1/16 (D followed by U), 1/8 (U), 1/16 (U followed by D), 1/16 (D), 1/16 (U). Try it!
    – ojs
    May 24, 2022 at 8:29
  • @ojs - now it's explained... I've been guitar-based strummin' for around 64 yrs so far, so I know a bit ! Students, though, have come up with various different versions of this strum - none work as well as keeping that hand moving consistently, as in my answer.
    – Tim
    May 24, 2022 at 8:50

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