Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1

Answer 1

We Get Lots of Questions...

Yes....it is designed to be very easy to play, even for people who have no musical experience or ability. At its simplest level, you finger just one string with your left hand while you strum all three with your right hand. Any fret you finger the string at is part of a major Scale (do re mi...), so it sounds good no matter where you finger it. Strumming all three gives you a full, interesting sound, and only fingering one string means you do not have to struggle with complex chord fingerings. Even if you play it completely at random (which I actually recommend at the start), it sounds musical and melodious.

Beginners will naturally be slower than more experienced players, but even playing slowly it sounds good, good enough so that people who try it usually feel "hey, I think I can do this, it sounds pretty Ok even though I know nothing about music or playing Strumstick." The whole point of the Strumstick is that it sounds good no matter what you do, so it is fun, not frustrating.

The Strumstick can take a lot of the frustration out of learning Guitar, and make it a lot more likely that you will succeed. The first months of guitar are spent learning to move and control your fingers, and not having a lot of fun. You can cover a lot of the same territory on Strumstick, having fun the whole time, and move to Guitar with finger control and experience. You will still have to learn the specific things to do on guitar, but you will have an easier time of it. See Learn Guitar with Strumstick for a lot of information.

The strings are banjo strings, readily available from music stores, or by mail or online from us. Changing them is a simple matter (see Changing strings) or get a friend who plays guitar to show you.

Yes it is handmade. We make the Strumstick in New Jersey, USA with several helpers.

Yes. I designed it to be easy to learn, inexpensive to make and sell, look good, sound good, and also to be versatile enough for experienced musicians to also really enjoy playing and creating with it. It turns out to be a remarkable blend of all those qualities, and I am very happy with its success as a design.

We have gotten hundreds of glowing testimonials by mail and email over 36 years, but did not have on-site reviews until Sept 15, 2020. See our Testimonial page, and if you have recently purchased  a Strumstick please leave us a review. 

Yes and no. You start the Strumstick by fingering just the first string, but strumming all three. As you progress, you can finger any of the strings, and can even finger several or all three to make various chords (a chord is a group of notes that sounds good together). When you finger one string only, the Strumstick automatically creates different chords from the notes the other two strings are playing. As a beginner, you only have to finger one string, which simplifies matters a lot, but you will progress onto the other strings as you wish.

Oh my goodness yes! We say, "It's so easy, even ADULTS can play it." It is easy to do, sounds good, is pretty durable, and is an ideal entry into music for anyone, especially kids. It is the musical equivalent of fingerpainting, and is designed so that it is really fun right from the start. The natural way we learn many things (like art, or dance, or writing, or playing sports, or swimming) is by having fun first, and then getting more serious. We mess around and have fun in the shallow end of the pool, splashing and jumping around and getting used to the water before we get gradually more serious about learning to swim. But the fun we are having is preparing us to swim. Kids know all about messing around first, and the Strumstick suits them just fine. The Strumstick brings the fun back into music, at the fingerpainting, splashing in the shallow end just for fun level, before you go onto more complex levels of music. This makes it ideal for kids (and for adults, who are much more frustrated by hard to learn things).

I have seen kids as young as 9 months that were able to hold and strum the Strumstick in a very basic way. That is not "playing it" in the full sense of the word, but it is great basic training. Kids are usually not ready to begin fretting notes with their left hand until around 5 (or 6 or even occasionally 7, these things vary greatly), but there is nothing wrong with a 3 year old (with parental supervision!!) just strumming the Strumstick and having a blast just using one hand. They love doing that until they are a bit older and ready to start making different notes with the other hand. Disclaimer: It is possible to use the Strumstick like a club, or be injured by the sharp end of a broken string (the strings can be snapped by random playing with the tuning keys.) Parents do need to supervise the use of instruments by small children, just as paints, baseball bats, scissors need to be supervised.

You are exactly who I designed this instrument for! Talent is important if you want to make a career of music, but is not necessary for having fun. Most of what people call talent is actually accumulated ability from lots of practicing, which is the result of desire, and passion, or plain enjoyment. The Strumstick is designed to be fun and enjoyable right from the start, so you play yourself into ability by having fun, not by struggling and being frustrated.

Well, the short answer is about two minutes because that is all it takes to be able to start to have fun and make simple musical sounds come out of it. The real question with the Strumstick should be "how long until I start to have fun?" The answer to that is right from the start, because it sounds good right from the start, even when you know nothing. You can play songs slowly in about five minutes (although I think you should just play it at random and leave songs for a bit later). You can impress your friends in about five minutes (if you don't tell them how easy it really is.) If you mean playing songs faster, doing some chords, playing different rhythms and all, that will take some weeks or months depending on how often you play, but you will be having fun, not frustration during that time, and progressing steadily.

The Standard (G) Strumstick is tuned G D G (key of G) but can also be retuned up or down a whole tone to play in keys of F or A. The Grand (D) Strumstick is tuned D A D (key of D) but can also be retuned up or down a whole tone to play in keys of C or E. These are the two most popular models

We provide a half dozen songs in the instruction book, and another 73 in the optional songbook ( see accessories in the catalog section). All of the songs are available for free on the website. See the Songs page for more information

No, not at all, and you do not have to learn that skill to play Strumstick. We provide a number notation that is very simple to use. About reading music: people played lots of music before anyone invented a way to write it down. Written music is a great invention, and has made it possible for very complex music to be created and communicated. It is not a necessary skill for learning to play folk music, and pop music, and rock and roll. Very handy for jazz, standards, and classical though.

If you do need a Strumstick with the strings in reverse order, yes, they are available. If you are left handed and do not presently play any stringed instrument, please read the following. It is a common misassumption that guitar (or Strumstick) is a right handed instrument as it is commonly played (neck pointing left). Guitar is, like the piano, a two-handed instrument. It requires complex skills with both hands, and the left hand ultimately does the most complex work. Some lefthanders feel more comfortable with playing a guitar with the strings reversed, so they can use their left hand to strum or pick with, but this does give the hardest job to their secondary hand. In the long run, guitar ( as commonly played) is actually a lefthanded instrument, so it is ironic when lefties turn it around, and play it the other way.

A disadvantage to the reversed strings approach is that only a tiny percentage of stringed instruments are made that way. If you prefer on playing it with reversed strings, we will gladly accomodate you, but you are probably better off feeling a little clumsy with your right hand strumming at first, knowing that your left hand will be doing the more challenging job in the future. Ultimately, the choice is yours..we are in favor of whatever gets you playing and having fun.

Having a tin ear is not a physical condition. It is something people learn to say about themselves to explain their lack of musical success. People are often told by other people (music teachers, or good musicians) that they have no musical ability (a "Tin Ear") and should leave music alone. This is a terrible mistake, and is as bad as if someone said "you have no ability to read or write, don't even bother." Reading and writing are much harder to learn than playing music at at simple but pleasing level; if you are reading this, you will be able to learn the Strumstick. Another thing that happens is that people start difficult instruments with poor teaching, become frustrated, and decide it must be something they lack that caused their failure ("I have a Tin Ear").The Strumstick is designed to be fun right from the start. You experience success, not failure, and you don't get frustrated and stop playing, and what metal your ear is made of does not even begin to be important. If you want, you could say the Strumstick gives you silver ears.

Be sure to see the question about tin ears and playing the Strumstick, above. We provide a CD with the Strumstick that has notes to tune to on it. We also describe how to tune the Strumstick to itself in the instruction book. Tuning is not a difficult thing, especially if you follow our instructions. There is a whole discussion about tuning on the website on Tuning page. In addition, there are electronic tuners available for $18 that work very well (see Tuner product page)

Tone deafness is a very rare physical condition, in which people cannot distinguish one note from another. If your doctor has not told you you are tone deaf, it is exteremely unlikely that you are. If you hear a difference between Mary had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you are not tone deaf. If you are unable to play any instruments, or to sing well, it has to do with lack of training, not tone deafness. The Strumstick is designed to sound good right from the start, and to be a very gentle teacher for people who may have failed at music in the past. If you really seriously think you are tone deaf, you should consult your physician. If "tone deaf" is just a figure of speach, you should consult your Strumstick!

No, it is not a Dulcimer, but Dulcimer and Strumstick have similarities. The musical design of the Strumstick was partly inspired by the Dulcimer.

Both use two basic principles ... a diatonic scale fretting, and a drone tuning. However, Dulcimers are much bigger, have very different shapes, have different numbers of strings, are held very differently, are played with different technique, and sound differently. Some Dulcimer music can be adapted to play on strumstick, see Dulcimer Music for Strumstick.

Short answer, yes. Tablature is a way (several ways) or showing notes with numbers. There are many dulcimer tunings, and a few styles of tablature, we explain what works with strumstick on the page: Dulcimer Music for Strumstick.

Yes. You can play many chords, complex melodies and rhythms, and compose good, interesting music with it. While it is simpler than guitar (only three strings, and frets for just a major scale plus a flatted seventh, not a full chromatic scale), and it only plays in one key at a time, you can still do a tremendous amount of music with it. And it is so small it is very easy to have around when a guitar (even a travel guitar) is too cumbersome to carry. You could say it is like a musical sketchpad, and an inspiring composing tool.

Yes. It is very easy for even complete non-players to play. Guitar players already have good control of their fingers, are experienced with rhythms and strumming and fretting. The Strumstick uses different fingerings than guitar, but is so easy that guitar players adapt to it very quickly. The most often heard comment from guitar players trying it for the first time is "hey, this is cool, and easy"

See Live Streaming Strumstick Lessons page for weekly Live stream, and videos of 20+ lessons

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