Are you struggling to sing and strum at the same time? Don’t worry, James Hill says, everyone has trouble at first. Remember, you’re trying to do three things at once: You’re trying to sing the melody, say the words, and strum the chords. In your practice, try leaving out one or more of these elements.

Ukulele Sessions Presents James Hill & Anne Janelle

“Practicing this way is fun,” Hill says. “These exercises can sound pretty great on their own and may even be part of one of your arrangements someday. Try these exercises every day for a week, then try singing and strumming again. I guarantee you’ll feel—and hear—an improvement!” Here are three examples:

1. SPEAK (don’t sing) the words while strumming the chords. This eliminates the melody, allowing you to focus on words and rhythm.

2. HUM the melody while strumming the chords. This takes your mind off the words and allows you to focus on the chords and the melody. For a variation, sing the melody to the syllables “lah,” “loo,” or “lay.

3. SING the melody and words while strumming a muted chord (the so-called “Z chord”). This takes your mind off the chord changes, allowing you to focus on melody, lyrics and keeping the beat.

James Hill has Evolved from Being a Soloist to Being a Father, Singer, and Collaborator