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.
Left or Right Handed:
Strumstick is a two-handed instrument and requires skills with both hands. Whichever your dominant hand, you have 3 choices:
A. You can play the Strumstick conventionally, neck pointed left.
B. You can play it with the neck pointed right, reaching across to fret the first string which is now on top.
C. You can play it with the neck 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 (that's the left hand in conventional position). The great irony is that guitar, as most right-handed people play it, is really a left-hand oriented instrument.
My recommendation for 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. If you are already developed playing in a neck right position, go with the flow.
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 feel quite comfortable doing this, maybe even a little bored.
Strumstick®: The First 5 Minutes