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How To Play Songs

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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.

5. Chords:
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 page.

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.”

7. Rhythm:
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!

Song Pages





Strumstick®: How To Play Songs


How To Play Songs On The Strumstick
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
This Land Is Your Land
Jingle Bells
Old Joe Clark
Oh When The Saints