With the Strumstick you sound OK at the beginning, you have fun, and don't feel frustrated as a beginner. With the Strumstick, you find yourself saying, "hey, I can do this." Here is why that is true. Most musical instruments are not made to be learned by beginners, they are make to be performed on by experts. Most instruments have the notes needed for all 12 keys, but are therefore complicated. We decided to make the Strumstick play in just one key, to have no wrong notes, so that learning is easy.
The frets (the metal pieces that go across the fretboard and determine the notes you can play) are spaced to give you the notes of a major scale (plus an extra note that is really handy to have.) The other two strings make a background (a drone) which harmonizes with whatever you play on the fretted string. It makes chords automatically!
The Strumstick is tuned G D G'. You can fret any of the strings, and you can even fret several strings at once to make fuller chords. Usually people start with fretting the first string, and progress to the others after a while.
The Strumstick only plays in one key (or scale), instead of all 12 keys like guitar. That is why there are no "wrong" notes on the Strumstick. Wrong notes are notes outside the key you are playing in. All those wrong notes make guitar versatile, and hard. Having just "Right" notes makes Strumstick easy, (but more limited than guitar). Fortunately, you can play a whole lot of music with the notes the Strumstick has.
Many many songs can be played on the Strumstick, whether in a major or minor key. Blues and Jazz use notes from outside the major scale, and are trickier on the Strumstick for that reason, but not impossible. By retuning, or using a different Strumstick model, you can pitch a song in various keys if you need different keys to sing to.
The general idea with the Strumstick is "baby steps". One finger, one string, it doesn't matter where you put it, easy! Next step, you start to organize where you put your finger, but it's still one finger, one string. Later you get fancier with the rhythms that your strumming hand can do, you can finger more than one string, but only after you are comfortable with the earlier, easier things. Baby steps and soon you are running.
The included instruction book and CD really help you along; they tell you what to do to get started, discuss possible problems, and encourage you to relax and experiment and "Enjoy the Noise" (in fact, that is what we call the CD). Later the instructions explain (and demonstrate) the various things you can do to gradually increase the complexity of your playing, at your own pace. The CD gives you actual notes to tune to, and tells you how to tune the Strumstick just with itself. We have received many comments on how thorough and easy our instructions are.
Elsewhere on the Information page is an explanation of how the instructions and songs work (click for About Instructions and Songs)