Quick and Dirty Music Theory
Electrify Your Strumstick
How To Play Songs
Care and Feeding
Playing With Two Strumsticks
Learning Guitar With Strumstick
Using Dulcimer Music with Strumstick
Beginners Instructions (Quick Start)
The First Five Minutes
Second Five Minutes
Songlets (little songs)
Strumming and Rhythms
How To Use Rhythm Elements
Quick Start: The First Five minutes:
1. Use the Strap (over your head and put right arm through).
2. Squeeze the bottom string (the thin one, closest to the ground), keeping the tip of your finger just to the left of any one of the metal frets.
3. Strum all three strings with the pick.
4. Smile, and repeat.
1. Holding: Use the strap, it is much easier that way. The strap goes over your head, and your left arm goes through the strap. Don't hold the Strumstick up with your left hand; let it hang from the strap. You can slide the knot on the strap to obtain a comfortable length
• It really helps to have the big end of the Strumstick rest against the inside of your forearm (a few inches from your elbow). That will keep the Strumstick from slipping out to the right while you play it.
• Note: If you are left-handed, you have 3 choices:
A. You can play the strumstick as it is, neck pointed left.
B. You can play it as it is, neck pointed right, reaching across to fret the thin string.
C. You can play it pointed right with the string order reversed so the thin string is closest to the ground. Strumstick requires skills with both hands. The hand that does the fretting has the most challenging job, ultimately. You are going to have to learn demanding skills with one of your hands eventually, do you want your most skilled hand doing the easiest or the hardest job, in the long term. The great irony is that guitar, as most right-handed people play it, is really a left-hand oriented instrument.
My recommendation for all beginners is, point the neck left and learn that way. Both hands have to adapt anyway you look at it. But it is your choice.
2. Fretting: Squeeze only the 1st string to start with (yes, you can fret the other strings later).
• Keep your finger just to the left of a fret (frets are the silver pieces that go across the neck). Squeeze firmly with the tip of your finger upright (like using the eraser on the end of a pencil).
• Place your thumb behind the neck, just your finger tip and thumb should touch the neck. (Don't rest your whole palm up against the neck like you are holding on for dear life). Keep a little space between your palm and the neck (but be comfortable!) The object is to have your thumb behind the neck, opposite your finger, not up on top of the neck.
• Hold the pick between your thumb and first finger (right hand), pointy end towards the strings.
3. Strumming: Strum down across all the strings with the pick. Lift your arm, and use a sharp downward motion (and a twist of the wrist). Continue strumming for a while until it feels comfortable. Try to make the pick run smoothly and briskly across all three strings.
4. Moving to other frets: Move your finger to another fret on the first string, and strum a few more times. Remember to keep your finger just to the left of the fret, not halfway in between two frets. Strum several times for each note.You get a nice sound anywhere you fret on the first string, so experiment; move from fret to fret, strum a few times on each note so you can hear it, then move to another note and strum some more.
• Important! Do not move the left hand while you are strumming, that will muffle the notes. Squeeze the string while you are strumming, and move when you are not strumming.
5. Enjoy the sounds you are making. They are not exactly music, yet, but they sound OK, don't they? Play around with what you have just done for at least 5 minutes or longer. We have a saying for learning the Strumstick, which is "Enjoy The Noise!" If you like and appreciate the basic sounds you are making, you will have more fun, be more patient, and learn faster!
Solutions to Possible Problems
1. If you hear a buzz, or the note is muffled, be sure your fingertip is close to (but not on top of) the fret, and on the left side of it. You can have some distance between fret and finger, but the closer to the fret you are, the less hard you'll have to squeeze. You will feel some pressure on your fingertip, but you should not have to squeeze so hard that it hurts. Your fingertips will get tougher over a week or two and you will not even notice the pressure. Also be sure some other finger is not touching that string causing it to be muffled.
2. If the Strumstick is moving around as you strum or move your finger, review how to hold it in the previous section. (Big end tucked against the inside of your forearm, strap over your head right arm went through the strap, too).
3. Do not be moving your finger while you are strumming; squeeze, strum, relax and MOVE, then squeeze again before strumming again. You have to be squeezing when you strum to get a clear sound.
By now you should be able to strum down across the strings, while fretting a note with a finger on the left hand. Play any note for several strums, listen to it, enjoy it, then move on to another note. Do this for a while, until you become tired of doing this.
YOU MAY BE QUITE CONTENT TO JUST DO WHAT YOU HAVE DONE SO FAR FOR A WHILE, BEFORE YOU MOVE ON. THAT IS WHAT WE RECOMMEND, BUT IT IS OK TO GO ON NOW IF YOU WANT TO.
Lesson 2: Strumming different Rhythms.
We do recommend you work on what we just covered in lesson 1 for a while, to get comfortable with that. A good rule of thumb is, if you are not bored, keep doing what you just learned. If you are bored, move on a step. If you get frustrated or over challenged, go back a step or two.
By now you should be able to strum down across the strings, while fretting a note with a finger on the left hand.
The next step is to begin to strum up as well as down. If you count in a steady beat 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4, you could strum down at each of those numbers. Notice what your hand does after each downstrum...it comes back up. Try strumming across the strings as you come back up. You may have to pull a little harder as you come up now because the strings are catching your pick. You are making sounds twice as fast now; if you count the same beat as before, but add the word “and” in between each number, you have 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+1+ 2+ 3+ 4+. The “+” represents the upstrum 1 2 3 4 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+. Practice this until you can do the upstrums smoothly and comfortably. It may take a little while before they move as easily as the downstrum.
• Tips: If the upstrum seems too draggy or like the pick is being pulled from your hand, play around with how deeply you hold the pick in your hand, and how far into the strings you are placing the pick as you come up. It always takes a little more force to get a smooth upstrum compared to a downstrum, because of the different shape of thumb vs finger.
Once you can do the upstrum smoothly, try adding it into the downstrum just once in a while instead of every time
like 1 2 3 4 1 2+ 3 4
or 1 2 3+ 4+ 1 2 3+ 4+
If you miss the strings, or hit them by accident as you do the upstrum, it is not a problem, as long as you are staying in time with your downstrums.
More advanced instructions will cover more rhythm techniques; leaving out downstrums, accenting, syncopation, etc., but you can make a lot of music using just what you know now.
Lesson 3: Changing notes while strumming different rhythms.
Now we are going to try changing whatever note you are fretting while you do different rhythms with the left hand. Before trying this you should be able to:
A. Change notes with the left hand.
B. Make the rhythm change by adding in upstrums after every beat, or once in a while.
Finger the 2nd fret on the first string.
Squeeze, and hold that note while you strum 1 2 3+ 4+ 1 2 3+ 4+
(that would be: down, down, downup, downup; down, down, downup, downup)
Now stop strumming, move to the third fret ( you can move the finger you are using, or put a different finger down), squeeze, and strum 1 2 3+ 4+ 1 2 3+ 4+ again.
Go back to the 2nd fret. Strum 1 2 3+ 4+ 1 2 3+ 4+ again. It is starting to sound like a simple song, isn’t it? Simply bounce back and forth from 2nd fret to 3rd fret, strumming 1 2 3+ 4+ 1 2 3+ 4+ each time until you get tired of doing that. If that goes smoothly, you are ready for lesson 4.
Lesson 4: SONGLETS
Soon we will go on to playing regular songs. Before ten, it would help to be very comfortable with fingering and strumming the strumstick in general. You can get that experience playing random notes and strumming, but you can also get it with a fun and useful exercise we call Songlets. Songlets are little bitty song pieces (that you create!) that can even grow up into real songs. They are small enough to be easy, and interesting enough to be fun!
• Play any three different frets (notes), 1, 2, 3. You might strum one of them twice, to get four notes (like 1, 2, 2, 3), or just once each. Do not worry about doing this wrong. If you forget a note or play a different one, that is not a problem.
• Play the same notes again, the same way you just did them.
• Repeat again several more times. While you play them, listen to the little song they sing. You just made up a musical phrase.
• Now make up another phrase, three notes, any three, go up or down the neck, whatever. Feel free to play one of them twice to get four beats if you like.
• Repeat this second phrase a few times. Listen while you play. Enjoy how this phrase sounds.
• Now do the first phrase (A), followed by the second phrase (B) , and the first phrase (A) again. A Songlet is born!
• You could also play any or all of the phrases twice in a row if you want... A A B A, or A B B A, or AA BB AA,...you get the idea.
You just created this songlet, a little fragment of a song. You made it up yourself, you figured it out, you learned it (by repeating each phrase), and then you put it together. Do you like how it sounds?
We believe it is a lot easier to learn how to play an instrument by using it in a very relaxed manner, adding one thing at a time, and especially having fun as you go along. The phrases and songlets are a way to get you organizing what you are doing, just a little, while your strumming and fretting gets worked into shape.
TUNING YOUR STRUMSTICK
Lesson 5. Tuning
1. Tuning using the Strumstick Instruction CD
The instruction CD included with your Strumstick has notes to tune the Basic and Grand Strumsticks with. Listen to the notes on the CD, and adjust your corresponding string to match it ( instructions given on the CD).
2. Tuning without the CD. Tuning the Strumstick with itself is easy, it just requires a little patience, and learning what to do. In fact, reading about how to tune is more difficult than actually tuning.
If you have an outside reference like a guitar or piano, the notes that the strings should be tuned to are:
* Basic Strumstick (29 1/2"long) G, D, G' (' =one octave higher)
* Grand Strumstick (32 1/2" long) D, A,D' (' =one octave higher)
If you do not have an outside reference, tune it just as it is, it does not have to be exactly at "G" to be in tune with itself.
The strings are numbered, left to right, "3", "2", "1" , with "1" being the thinnest (the bottom one, closest to the ground) and "3" being the thickest (the top one). The frets (the metal pieces on the fingerboard) are numbered 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., with 0 being the fret at the top, which the strings rest on. To tune, follow these instructions.
Step one: Finger the 3rd string at the 4th fret, and pluck that string with the pick. That sound is the note the 2nd string should be.
Step two: Pluck the 2nd string open (open means no left hand fingers), and listen to it. If it sounds a different note than the 3rd string @ 4th fret, it is "out of tune" with the 3rd string. In that case, adjust its tuner until the 2nd string open sounds the same note as 3rd string @ 4th fret. Now the 2nd string is "in tune with" the 3rd string. It may take several tests, and several adjustments to get it right.
Step 3: Now finger the 2nd string @ the 3rd fret. That is the note the 1st string open should be.
Step 4: Adjust the 1st string tuner until 1st string open sounds like 2nd string @3rd fret. You are done!
Note: There is one real trick to tuning, and that is LISTENING! Pluck the note you are fretting; listen to it. Pluck the string you are adjusting; listen to it change. Tuning is not done by remembering notes, or thinking, it's done by LISTENING to what is happening. Always listen to the note change when you twist the tuner. If you will listen, you can tune. If you can hear a note is out of tune, you will be able to bring it back in tune. If you can't hear that a note is out of tune, it isn't!
3. Tuning with Electronic tuners
We recommend being able to tune without one, first, but by all means use one if you like, they are easy and fast. Electronic tuners come in two types, "chromatic" which will tune any notes, and "guitar" which are setup specifically for guitar or bass. Buy a chromatic if you are buying one, but most "guitar" types will work for Strumstick. They all work about the same way; you play a string, a light or display says what note it is, and a meter or lights show you if it is too high (sharp), too low (flat) or right on. As you adjust the string, the display changes to show you what is happening. We have a good chromatic tuner available in the catalog accessories section at strumstick.com.
4. Tuning to Other Instruments
You can get the notes you need ( G, D, G' for Basic; D, A, D' for the Grand) from a guitar, piano, keyboard, or some other instrument. If you are playing along with another instrument, you will HAVE to get a note from them, or give them a note from the Strumstick, so you are all in tune together.
Do the first and second five minute stuff for about a half hour, or several half hours, before going on to more things. If you are having fun doing what you have been doing, wait awhile before learning songs. If you want to press ahead, Click on How To Play Songs, or on Advanced Instructions. It would really help if you have done a few songlets from the The Second Five Minutes section above.
Rhythm simply means how your notes or strums are related in time. You have a few strums, you have some chunks of time in between them, those are our building blocks. You can create marvelously interesting music with some simple instructions on how to create rhythms, and that is what this section will address.
What you are going to learn to do is make up interesting rhythms as you go play. We call this "Free Strumming." Instead of learning one specific rhythm for this song, and another specific rhythm for that song, memorizing, memorizing, you will be able to make up changing rhythms as you go along. You will be improvising, and varying the rhythm within the song, eventually. That makes a rich, interesting sound, is easy to do, and develops your rhythm sense in a very useful way.
Note: COUNTING OUT LOUD IS VERY USEFUL WHILE LEARNING THIS. You have been using your voice for many years, but have only been strumming a Strumstick for a short time. Counting out loud gives you an audible reference for what you are trying to do. Counting in your thoughts does not help anywhere near as much as out loud. You want your ears involved, and your voice, so it is tangible. You DO NOT necessarily have to count while you strum; count BEFORE you strum to set the pace, and establish what you are trying to do.
1. The Steady Beat
2. Adding Offbeats
3. Random Offbeats
4. Leaving Out Beats
We are going to leave out a downstrum (producing an empty space). The beat for that "missing" downstrum will still be there, there will just not be any noise at that beat.
Try that until it's smooth. Now, count out loud "1, fake, 3, 4 " several times, then strum "down, fake, down, down". To add an empty space, just do a fake!
5. Altogether Now!
Now, count out loud "1 space 3 4 +" several times, then strum "down, fake, down, down-up". We added one offbeat (upstrum) at the very end.
When you get comfortable with a rhythm, try moving your left hand around while you strum. If you are playing a song, adding offbeats will make it more interesting, and add a background rhythm. The bottom line is, you can add any upstrums you want to, and leave out any downstrums you want to. Return to the steady beat from time to time, it "clears the air" for whatever you will do next.
There are some basic special effects that can add more interest to what you are playing. Here they are , briefly, so you can experiment with them:
The next several special effects are done with the left (fretting) hand. They involve getting two notes for one strum; they are both a rhythm effect and a melody effect.
2. Sliding: Finger any note on the first string, and strum down once; then, immediately, slide your finger up (or down) one fret. You have to keep squeezing while you slide, you will hear a second note for the price of one strum. Sliding up (toward the sound hole) is a little easier to do. Usually the new note is an "+", an offbeat. You can put this "+" into a steady beat, like 1, 2, 3 + 4.
3. Hammering on: With all the strings open, strum down once. After strumming slam the tip of a finger onto the string, just behind the first or second fret. You will hear a second note. You can also do this from one fret to another, if you use your first finger for the first note, and your second or third finger for the next note. The timing is "1 +", the hammered on note is on the offbeat (the åã+åä). This will work going up (toward the sound hole), but not going down. For going down, we have....
4. Pulling off: Fret any note, then, after strumming, remove that finger, plucking the string as it goes. Timing is " 1+". You will hear your fretted note, then the open string. If you are careful, you can pull off from one fretted note to another fretted note.
5. Cutting off: Finger a note, strum down once, and then, while the note is still ringing, ease up on your squeeze, stopping the note abruptly. This is most noticable if you ease up right after strumming, cutting the note off short. The other strings will still be ringing, but your melody will have a stacatto sound, with each note cut off.
6. Muffling (or muting). You can get some delightful plunky sounds by resting the side of your hand on the strings just in front of the bridge ( the sound hole side). This is best done with your hand stationary, resting on the strings just in front of the bridge as you pick individual strings or do small strums, or you can also try it " on the fly" as you are strumming more vigorously. A variation on this trick is to place a small piece of masking (or other non-residue) tape on the strings, right in front of the bridge, or even overlapping the bridge. Every note you play will have a muted, "pizzicatto" sound. Experiment!
How to use the Various Rhythm Elements
Each thing that you do that affects the rhythm is a rhythm Element...downstrums, upstrums, hammering on, sliding, all of these are things that create the rhythm that you ultimately hear. We have looked at quite a number of different rhythm elements; how do you use them in your Strumstick playing? Here is a typical sequence that you could apply to anything that you play, a song, a little melody that you make up just to fool around with, or even random melodies that you make up as you go along. This is not a rule, just a sequence to help you think about and practice how to use these things. I am assuming that you have practiced and worked with each of these elements by themselves to get them comfortable before you try putting them together here.
1. Play your melody, or phrase, or song repeatedly (left hand).
2. Strum a steady beat at first, and accent it a little bit on the 1 beat.
3. Add in a few upstrums; the more you add in the “busier” it will feel, you can decide whether you want it to feel relaxed or have more energy to it as you go along. The way the melody goes may dictate where you add upstrums somewhat...if the same note is repeated several times, that may be a good place to liven things up. If the melody has a bunch of different notes in a row, one beat for each note, it might be better to lay off the upstrums there, it will already feel busy with all the notes changing.
4. If it sounds good to do so, leave out a down strum now and then, perhaps at some dramatic point in the song.
5. Keep your accenting going as you do the various free strumming things, it is easy to drop that out as you start paying attention to other things. The accenting does not have to be dramatic; just a little emphasis on that 1 beat is enough to create a pulse, and some dimension to the rhythm. You can also do accenting and “super accenting;” (a really extra loud accent for a real “Boom” effect). If you do a super accent, you can also deliberately “roll” the pick across the strings for that 1 beat (slowing the picks motion so the sound is a little bumpier for that one strum). Think about the sound of rolling your tongue for 1 strum.
6. Try adding a cut, followed immediately a single note chop someplace, probably for several notes in a row. Do the cut by letting up on a string right after you strum it. Do the chop by just leaving that finger lightly touching that string for a strum or two.
Exercise: squeeze 1st string 2nd fret. Strum 1 2+ 3 4+ ( down downup down downup). Release pressure on the string right after “1” but keep touching it, and finish the strumming pattern with that note cut off (that makes a little chop, not too dramatic because only 1 string is being dampened). Then squeeze in time for the next “1” beat and repeat. If you get that going, it feel like that 2nd fret note appears at every 1 beat against the background rhythm. Very dimensional!
7. If you have a series of different notes in a row, try Cutting each of them. Even though the cut stops the note from sounding, the effect is to make that note stand out from the rest of what is happening. When you do a series of notes like that it has a real “shift” effect on the mood.
8. If you have muting working, try muting the strings with the side of your strumming hand as you keep strumming (this is tricky and takes practice..work on it by itself and be patient). You could play a whole section like this for a big mood shift, or just a few notes. Try playing the first phrase of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” regularly, and then muted to see what a change can happen.
9. If there are places in the melody where a note is followed by another 1 or 2 frets up from it, or from an open note to a 1st or 2nd fret note, try a hammer on at that spot. This usually shifts the second note earlier or later by a half beat, that’s OK, it makes a rhythmic variation in the tune. Ditto for sliding, or pulling off.
Exercise: If the first notes for Mary Had A Little Lamb go:
2 1 0 1 2 2 2
Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb .... you could change that to:
2 1 0 0~1 2 2 2
Ma-ry had a-a lit-tle lamb..... the 0~1 means do a hammer on there, and it gives an extra strum to the open (0) note and moves the 1st fret note a half beat later.
You also could have done:
2 1 0 1 1~2 2 2
Ma-ry had a li--i--ttle lamb.... This holds the 1st fret note on “a” an extra beat at the beginning of “little” and shifts the 2nd fret note a half beat later. Remember the hammer on, pull off, or slide is a half beat trick; it starts on the down strum, the extra note happens on the offbeat (+). You can sometimes get away with a 1 beat hammer on or pulloff, but it is usually a half beat .
We’ve just covered 9 ways to add these various rhythm elements into whatever you happen to be playing. This does not mean that you will always use all of them. Think of them like spices, you add them to create zest in your cooking, but you usually do not use all the spices in your spice rack at the same time. It is going to take some practice to get these ‘fluid” and right at your fingertips. I recommend using just one or two elements per song so you can practice them while you are learning.
A chord is a group of notes that sound good together. They are used to make a harmony background to singing, or to work in with a melody you are playing to give a richer sound. You have already been making chords when you finger different notes, and strum with the other strings open. Here we are concerned with playing specific chords at different times. You might have to finger more than one note with the left hand.You have to know where to put your fingers. The chord diagrams show the strings as vertical lines, the frets as horizontal lines, and fingertips as circles. You can decide for yourself which finger to use for which note, find the easiest way to do it. A given chord may have several different fingerings.VERY IMPORTANT: all the different notes look more or less alike. Take your time and be sure you have the exact combination the diagram shows; being off by one fret or one string will change the chord. Chords are more challenging than fingering one note at a time, you have to DO more with your hand, and KEEP TRACK of more with your brain. Don't get frustrated when you find this harder... it does not mean you can't do it, it means you are tackling a more difficult job, that takes longer to learn.Adjust your whole hand to the needs of the chord, shifting so that a finger doesn't lean over and muffle another string. The chord fingerings for the Grand Strumstick are the same as for the Basic Strumstick, but they result in different chords, since the Grand is tuned differently. The Grand names are given underneath the diagrams, the Basic names are at the top.
Strumsticks can be placed in various alternate tunings to facilitate playing in different keys, to adapt to the range of a singer, or to play with other instruments. This should be thought of as an advanced topic; some retunings result in completely different fingerings for songs or chords, some will be the same as you are used to, just higher or lower.
These Tunings assume the normal strings on the Strumstick. For tuning beyond the range of the normal strings, as in developing your own special tunings, see: STRINGS AND TUNING CHART
For the G (Standard)Strumstick,
Modified ( 5, 1, 5) tunings:
For the D (Grand) Strumstick,
Modified ( 5, 1, 5) tunings:
These are not all the possible tunings by any means. Tuning the 1st or third strings up or down by a whole tone, leaving the others alone, will give strange scale patterns and add notes that are out of the diatonic major scale.
A capo is a device that clamps across the strings at a given fret to raise them all by the same amount. On a chromatic (sharps and flats) instrument like Guitar, this merely raises the notes. On a diatonic instrument like the Strumstick, the scale pattern gets changed also, because of the diatonic fret spacing. Guitars capos can work on the Strumstick, although they are bulky, being meant for 6 strings. Banjo capos work great, we have one available (see Capo in the catalog accessories area). Combinations of capos and alternate tunings can get very divers very fast, but as a starting guide, tryFrom the standard tuning, try:1st fret (raises by a whole tone, gives minor scale) A minor scale on basic.
3rd fret (raises by a fourth, gives major scale) C major scale on basic.
4th fret (raises by a fifth, gives an eastern flavored minor scale) D minor scale on basic.
Good luck; if you come up with something interesting, let us know!
Quick and Dirty Basic Music Theory:
The Chromatic (all the notes) scale written twice: interval between adjacent notes is always a halftone (a12th of an octave)
A A# B C D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A
A#(sharp) means same as Bb (flat), D# means same as Eb, etc, we will be skipping the b names for convenience.
Note that there is no # between B and C, or E and F. That is because those names are already a half tone apart (clumsy system, but it's universal.)
Diatonic Major Scale, any key; start from the ROOT note (root gives it's name to the key) and count half tones, collecting notes as you go, 2,2,1,2,2,2,1 (alternatively you could say Òwhole whole half, whole, whole, whole halfÓ).
From G (Root) that would give G, A B C D E F# G
From D ( a new Root) it would give D,E F# G A B C# D. Check my counting yourself!
Chords are groups of notes that sound good together.
To make a major chord: Write the scale for a given Root, then select the first note, the third note, and the fifth note (called 1,3,5) from that major scale. Root names the chord.
G major; G, A B C D E F# G (1, 3, 5 equals G, B, D)
D major; D, F#, A
What would a C major chord be? how about a F# major chord?
To make a minor chord: 1, 3flat (lowered by a halftone from the normal 3), 5. That makes:
Gminor (Gm) G, Bflat ( or A#),
Dminor (Dm) 1, 3flat, 5
Seventh chord (easier to skip them and use major instead, but if you insist, 1,3,5,7flat... (should be called a flat seventh chord but it is not) G7 is G,B,D,F
Now, faster way to make chords, without writing major scale... just work from chromatic scale:
Major chord: Root, up 4 halftones, up 3 halftones (try it with G)
Minor Chord: Root, up 3 halftones, up 4 halftones (ahha!)
Seventh chord: Root, up 4, up 3, up 3 again.
Figure out the notes in the chord you need, look on the strumstick fingering chart, and do your best to finger it, if it is possible.
There are lots of chords you will never be able to get on a G strumstick, obviously, but if you can get two notes, you can IMPLY the chord.
As long as we have gone this far, lets add one more thing:
From any major scale (let's say G), give each note a roman numeral: G A B C D E F# G- I II III IV V VI VII Now, take:
the major chord built on I (G major),
the major chord built on IV (C major),
the minor chord built in VI ( Eminor), and,
the major (or seventh) chord built on V (Dmajor, or D7)
These are the most important chords in this key, the I, IV, V (orV7, to be really technical), and /or VI chords.......90% of songs use these chords in various combinations.
In key of C, they are C, F, G (or G7) and Am.....
these chords are in the same relationship to each other as G, C, D (or D7) and Em.
Note: we are not writing the word "major" anymore, but you should still say it.
A song that goes G, C, G, D (chords, remember) in key of "G" would also go C, F, C, G when transposed to key of "C" .
Care and Feeding
Your Strumstick is very durable as wooden instruments go, but it is still possible to break it. please avoid impacts: the soundboard is the most fragile area. Also avoid extremes of temperature (very hot/very cold) and humidity (very damp/very dry). Don't put your Strumstick anywhere you would not want to be for an extended period of time (like the trunk of a car on a hot day). Hanging it on the wall (not in the sun or over a heater) is fine, and convenient.
(Warning, string ends are sharp, it is easy to receive a puncture wound, especially when the the string is very short. BE CAREFUL!
Strings can break. You also might want to replace old strings if they are older than a year and beginning to be rusty or sound dull. You need loop end strings (like for banjo or mandolin); .023" wound, .014" plain, .010" plain for Standard, Alto, and Grand Strumsticks. The strings we provide have a chenille wrap to cushion where the string crosses over the end of the instrument. You can get strings from us by mail. $7/set ppd. If needed you can unwind the chenille from the old string or use yarn or a pipe cleaner if you get strings without chenille.
If necessary, you can use strings .001" larger or smaller (example: the first string, .010" plain, could be .009" or .011"). A light gauge 5-string banjo set will give you 1 of each string you need for the Strumstick™. If you are interested in Alternate tunings requiring different strings, see: Alternate Tunings , Strings and Tuning Chart
In a pinch, you can use guitar strings. The only difference is that they have metal balls instead of loops at the end. Lace the free end of the string through the ball, pull it tight to make a loop, and use it like a loop end string. You will want to provide some padding at the end where the string crosses the wood, like yarn or a pipe cleaner wrapped around the string.
To change the string, unwind any part of the old string that remains on the duner, and remove it from the tuner. (Warning, string ends are sharp, it is easy to receive a puncture wound, especially when the the string is very short. BE CAREFUL! Place the loop end of the new string on the appropriate pin at the big end of the instrument, and get someone to hold it there with their finger ( or put a bit of tape on it temporarily). Thread the other end of the string into a hole on the metal post of the tuner for that string (use the hole that best lines up with the string's position). pull all the slack through the hole, so the string is hand tight, and then pull back about 3 inches. Cut the free (excess)end of the string off about 1 inch from the tuner post. Tighten the string by turning the tuning button in such a way that the string goes over the tuner, not under the tuner. [Another way of saying that is: The metal post is turned by a circular gear, driven by a worm screw attached to the tuner button. As you face the circular gear, the string tightens by turning the button so that the gear turns counter clockwise. ] Tighten the string until it tunes to it's proper note. Be sure the string is in it's groove at the zero fret, in it's groove at the bridge, and also in the groove it may have made where it leaves the big hole in the peghead. You will have wound up several turns of string by the time it is tight. If there is still free end sticking out of the peghead, trim it off. (Warning, string ends are sharp, it is easy to receive a puncture wound, especially when the the string is very short. BE CAREFUL!
Note: it is normal for the strings to dig into the wood at the end a little bit. They will not saw your instrument in half.
If the bridge should get moved, the front edge should be lined up with the two marks on the top. It is supposed to be on a slight slant. The front edge of the bridge is sloped, the back edge is straight up and down.
If you lose your bridge we can send a replacement. If possible, let us know the exact height of your bridge. Perhaps you could measure it now and write it down. We use several sizes; 1/4 inch is most common, some are 7/32, or 9/32, or 5/16, so measure with 1/32 inch accuracy.
If your Strumstick becomes soiled from use, wipe it gently with a slightly damp (not dripping wet!) cloth; using a trace of detergent if necessary is fine. Wipe it dry with a soft cloth. The finish is lacquer, with a thin coat of paste wax. A few raindrops or a mist will not damage it for a little while, but avoid having it stay wet.
No polishes or other finishes are needed or recommended; you could renew the paste wax coat every year or two if you want to. To do that, remove the strings, clean the strumstick with a damp cloth, dry, rub on a thin coat, let dry, and buff with a soft cloth.
There are numerous accessories available for your Strumstick, including:
Padded Soft Case
Advanced Instruction Book
Capo ( changes key and scale)
For more information or to order, see the catalog page or call us at 800 397-6563.
Playing with A Second Strumstick
Whichever strumstick you now have, you may at some time want another. You may wish to play in keys that your Strumstick does not play in. The most common combination is a G Standard Strumsticks and a D Grand Strumstick. Between the two of them you can play in quite a number of keys. You may wish to play with a friend on another Strumstick. the same as yours...two Strumsticks together sound really great, and you do not have to be very accomplished to play with two together. The 4 drone notes of the two Strumsticks really make a great background for whatever two melodies are happening, as long as the two are strummed somewhat in rhythm. The advanced instructions address this in more detail There are Strumsticks with decorative woods that are very beautiful.
Amplifying your Strumstick.
Can I electrify my Strumstick? is a frequently asked question. Yes you can. There are many different acoustic instrument pickups (piezo pickups) that will work, but we especially recommend the Schaller Oyster which we carry. The pickup is the size of a quarter, about a half inch thick, and sticks to your Strumstick with a special putty (included). The pickup has an 8' cord which can plug directly into an amplifier, mixing board, or effects device. The great virtue of the stick-on type of pickup is that you get different tones, depending on where you put the pickup. We also carry a great small amp, the Roland Micro Cube; an ultra-compact package that even runs on batteries. Weighing in at just few pounds, the Micro Cube packs a big punch and comes with six DSP effects, Amp Modeling and a new Digital Tuning Fork 5-inch/2-watt low magnetic leakage speaker battery or AC power (adapter supplied) and includes carry strap 7 guitar amp models 6 DSP effects: chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo and separate Delay/Reverb. Width 9-5/8 inches, Depth 6-9/16 inches, Height 226 mm 8-15/16 inches, Weight 3.3 kg 7 lb.. 5 oz.
How To Play Songs
You should be reasonably comfortable holding, strumming, and fretting the Strumstick before you work on songs.
1. How to play notes on the first string:
The numbers above the song words tell you which fret to play. “1 “ means squeeze the first string at the 1 fret. Similarly, “ 2 “ means the 2 fret, etc. Remember that “ 0 “ means 0 fret, that is, no fingers.
2. How to play notes on the other strings:
For the other strings, we have to say which string as well as the fret. “2/1 “ means “Second string, 1 fret”; “2/0 “ means “second string, 0 fret ”; “3/5 “ means “third string, 5 fret”, etc. The format is “String/Fret”.
3. How to Fret: Squeeze with the tip of your finger, just to the left of the metal fret, not right on it, and definitely not halfway between two frets. The object is to hold the string securely against the fret without muffling the string, and without having to squeeze harder than necessary.
4. Play slowly: The melody of the song appears when you smoothly play one note after the other. Any one strum may sound odd to you, especially on the second and third strings. When you can play each note slowly but steadily in succession, then you will hear the melody.
A. Some of the songs have chord symbols (letters) above the words. If you finger the various chords, and strum a rhythm that fits the song, you can sing the melody or accompany another Strumstick playing the melody.
See the Chord Diagram pages.
B. For more sophisticated playing, you can finger some form of the indicated chord AND finger the melody note, too, to get a chord background that changes through the song, instead of a constant drone. Be flexible and experimental; most chords can be fingered several ways on the Strumstick. Find a fingering, or a partial fingering, that gives some sense of the chord, and lets you play the melody note, too.
6. Missing notes, and Blues notes:
A. The Strumstick does not play all the notes, that is why it is so easy. But you might need a missing note some time. Sometimes, we just play a substitute note.
B. Another solution is to muffle the string (touch it but don’t squeeze) and strum it anyway; that gives a percussive sound but no note; your ear “fills in the blank”. We can indicate that with an “x”.
C. You can stretch a string sideways to raise its pitch above the note you are fretting (“bending” the note). It won’t quite come up to a half tone higher, but it’s close enough, and the stretch up and back is a great blues effect. We indicate this by adding a “+ “ after the fret number. “4+ “ means stretch the 4 fret note (on the first string, of course). “2/4+ “ means “stretch second string, 4 fret.”
See the Instruction Book and CD, plus the Rhythm Part of this book for information on playing and making up rhythms. These songs assume you know how they go, already, and do not give any rhythm information. When in doubt start with a steady beat, just downstrums, and go from there.
These are familiar, and simple songs, for the most part. They are also beautiful. Play them slowly, savor them, listen to them, enjoy them. They are basic songs, but they are good songs. People have survived disasters and catastrophes, and staying up way too late singing, with these songs; they are tested and true. The only test you should give yourself with them is, “am I having fun?” Skill comes with time. Happy Strumming!
McNally Instruments Box 387 Hibernia NJ 07842 1 800 397-6563; (fax 973-625-7794)
email mcnallyinstruments@Strumstick.com å©2000-2005 All rights reserved