Ever wondered how to sing and play ukulele at the same time?
Learning to sing and play ukulele at the same time takes some practice, but you’ll find that once you learn, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling!
Singing while playing is a whole other experience to express yourself.
Did you know that the ukulele descended from an instrument called the machete brought to Hawaii from the Portuguese sailors. The last queen of Hawaii, “Liliuokalani,” translated ukulele as, “Gift from afar”.
This gift is fun to play, but singing while playing it makes it an even more fun and exciting experience!
So we will go over 5 steps you can take to start singing and playing the ukulele at the same time.
But first things first…
Get ready to use your metronome while practicing
Before you get started with the steps you want to get your metronome out and ready to go.
Every good ukulele teacher will tell you that if you want to learn good timing and rhythm with the ukulele, you should practice using a metronome. To make the best use of one, you could start the song out at a slower tempo, which is especially helpful for the songs that have a faster rhythm. You’ll usually start at a pace of 65-70 beats per minute and continue to raise the speed from there as you get more comfortable.
The advantage of a metronome is that it will keep your timing in check. You will know right away if you’re strumming is on time or not.
When you start practicing with a metronome, you should know that the longer you play with it, the more you start to appreciate how it improves your playing over time.
The more you use it, not only will your timing improve, but you will quickly be able to tell where your strengths are and identify areas that can use more work.
The good news is that this sets your timing and pace at a much better level. Another great thing about the metronome is how it gives the beginner a sense of progress as they play, which is incredibly important for motivation.
To make the best use of the metronome in this case, take one specific part of the song and practice it up to the right tempo.
So hopefully you have your metronome ready. Learning how to keep time while singing on the ukulele is one of the most important habits of a great ukulele player.
How to Sing and Play Ukulele at the Same Time
1. Pick a Song You’re Excited to Learn
When you’re beginning to learn how to sing and play at the same time, picking a song you feel a passion for will keep you motivated to finish what you started.
The thrill of being able to sing and play that song will keep your interest. It helps if you choose a song that inspires you to keep practicing until you can sing and play it.
There are a couple of things to consider when picking your song:
- What type of song do you want to learn?
- What style will you play?
- How difficult is the song?
- What’s the tempo of the song?
- How common is the song?
Before you pick a song, there are a couple of things to consider such as the level of difficulty. In general, the songs with the faster tempo will be harder to sing and play. Try to pick a song that sounds relatively easy. For example, there are sometimes more advanced techniques used in a song that you might not know how to do. Some of the ukulele techniques include: Arm Wah Bending, Harmonics, Palm Mute, and Tapping.
You can, however, learn about the techniques used in the song and then focus on learning those specific techniques. This would be a good idea to do once you can strum and sing at the same time. Once you learn how to play the song on the ukulele, it’s much easier to add your voice to the mix and start singing.
Here are 3 easy songs to sing and play on ukulele: Happy Birthday, London Bridge, I’ve been working on the Railroad
2. Learn the Chords and Get Comfortable with Changing between Chords
Learning to make smooth chord changes take times. In particular, it takes time to know how to switch between the chords with accuracy at a faster tempo. A lot of beginners struggle with chord changes, but changing chords is a lot like learning how to drive a car.
The first couple times you try it, you might hesitate or feel uneasy. You have to keep focus on a multitude of things like changing from the G chord over to the D chord. After you have practiced long enough, switching between chords becomes second nature.
When you first start to switch between the chords, take it slowly. Remember it’s really all about muscle memory. Look at where you made mistakes and refine your technique so that you get better over time. You might start with four strums per chord, then three strums, then two strums and finally one strum. After a while of practicing, up the challenge.
Learning how to switch between the chords will also depend on the pace. For example, a faster pace can be harder to maintain, which is why in the beginning, you want to learn some of the slower songs with switching chords.
You can also work on each chord separately to build up your mastery of it. A lot of practice will come down to training your muscle memory. For example, you must learn how to keep the shape of the chord. You might practice one chord for two minutes before moving on to the next. A lot of the challenge in music becomes about slowly moving forward with your practice.
3. Play the Song While Humming the Lyrics
A beginner will often have enough on his plate with learning how to play the ukulele without the need for remembering the lyrics at the same time. A workaround to this is to simply hum the lyrics as you play.
This starts out as a type of primer for bringing yourself into singing the lyrics. The biggest challenge with singing and playing is how you have to deal with two separate rhythms. For example, you have the strumming and the melody.
You must learn an independence from the strumming rhythm and the singing rhythm, which can be done through humming. Basically, you must reach a point where you feel comfortable enough with the strumming that you don’t even think about it.
4. Play the Song While Singing the Words
In the final step, you play the song and sing the words naturally. However, you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you don’t get to this right away because it takes practice. To begin, you may even want to start with a simpler song and slowly work your way up to the harder music. While it’s not impossible to learn the ukulele by yourself, it can help to have a teacher. A teacher will point out the more subtle things that you may otherwise miss. In addition, she can set you up with the right level of challenge for each song because she has probably taught many other students. Some of the other benefits of having a ukulele teacher include:
Boosts self esteem
Greater motivation to continue
Gives you a starting point
A teacher can also help you with learning how to sing and play the ukulele at the same time. Many times music teachers are also performers of music for wedding venues and other events, which means they’ve probably sang at a few of the events. In addition, a teacher often understands the next step a student needs to take to continue to improve and grow. Once you’ve established how to play music while singing, the process becomes easy enough that you simply repeat it.
As a beginner, try to have fun. That’s one of the most important lessons you can learn about music. To appreciate the sound of your singing and playing, sometimes all it takes is a little relaxation to improve. The ukulele only has four strings unlike the guitar, which has six. Also, depending on the quality of instrument you want, you can often get started with the ukulele for a cheaper price than a guitar or bass guitar. However, the price depends on the brand, size and quality you want. Another one of the advantages of the ukulele is how it’s fairly easy to learn how to play and sing. The biggest thing is consistent practice over time.
5. Record Yourself Playing
By now, you should have picked your favorite song to learn, learned the chords and got comfortable changing between the chords, you got comfortable humming, then next singing while playing. The next step is for you to see how well you are doing.
If you record yourself whether its on video or an audio recording, you’ll be able to evaluate if you are sounding the way you want. Recording yourself has a more positive effect than just sharing it with others. When you record yourself, you can use it as a practice tool. For example, you can listen for inconsistencies in the melody and the rhythm. Learning how to sing along with the ukulele mostly takes practice. No one should ever say, “I can’t sing and play ukulele at the same time” Anyone who puts their mind to learning something with enough effort can come to learn how to do it.
Recording yourself also helps you to grow better at finding your mistakes because when you’re playing in the moment, a lot of the time you don’t pay as much attention to your mistakes.
When you can roll back the recorder and listen to where you did well and where you need improvement, you know where to spend your future efforts in getting better at the ukulele. Also, like the metronome, a recording isn’t going to lie for you. If you don’t sound good, you will hear it in the recording. The intention of the recording, however, shouldn’t discourage you. Instead, it should let you know where to focus your future efforts. You can also learn how to sing a song better through the recording. For example, you might hear a higher pitch where you should sing lower. In conjunction with a teacher, this becomes a powerful motivator in how you learn.
Another advantage of recording your practice is how you can also track your progress better. For example, you have started playing slowly, but over time, the sound gets smoother and more complex. After you reach a certain point, don’t be afraid to jump in with singing. With some songs, it’ll feel natural on how to sing them while others will require more practice.
Take it a step further – Play with Other People
You’d be surprised how much fun you can have in a jam session with a couple friends. Playing ukulele with others can inspire you to keep learning the different techniques of the uke. Let’s say you want to learn how to play the popular ukulele song, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” by Israel IZ, which is a fairly easy song that you can learn in two days with the right tutorial. With friends, you can all bounce ideas off each other about how to play it better, which will further motivate the group to keep learning how to play.
What’s the best way to learn it? Learning to play with others also teaches you great team building skills. You never know, you might even decide to start a band. Also, this exposes you to different songs, and you can play with people of varying abilities.
Outside those benefits, playing with other people can make you feel good. Playing music release endorphins, which help with a higher pain tolerance and even help you experience a mild opiate high. In fact, researchers from Oxford University conducted a study that learned this. Robin Dunbar, a psychology professor, measured endorphin release through pain tolerance. In one group test, he chose people who had returned from a church service with plenty of clapping and communal singing. He discovered how the people from the more lively musical session often had a much higher pain tolerance than those who may have attended a calmer Anglican church meeting.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.