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Two Strumsticks Together

Playing with Two Strumsticks

Two Strumsticks of the same kind can play together really easily, even if the players are both beginners. Here are a few experiments to get you started!

• You can use two G Strumsticks, or two D Strumsticks.

• If you only have one Strumstick, we have recorded two minutes of one Strumstick doing Experiment # 1 (for both the D Strumstick and the G Strumstick) so you can try this out immediately.
See MP3 Example 6 & MP3 Example 7 below.

• If you have a D and a G, scroll down to Playing a D Strumstick and a G Strumstick Together below.   Alternatively, you could record yourself playing one part, and then listen to that while you play another.   

Two Strumsticks Together Experiment # 1

MP3 Example 1 (Two G Strumsticks Together):
SS 1 starts a steady beat,
SS 2 joins in.
SS 1 starts changing notes,
SS 2 just keeps going.
SS 2 starts to change notes too, both at random.
Keep that steady beat steady, though!

Strum all three strings while fingering any note, with one finger, on the first (highest pitched) string. Strum a steady beat, or a simple repeating rhythm, and change notes (randomly) every so often. It is a good idea to get several strums in on each note before you move to another. 
With two people you can do this same thing, just synchronize the beat you are strumming  It does not have to be the same rhythm exactly, as long as they are to the same beat.
The simplest rhythm to start with is simply a steady beat, 1 2 3 4. With both people strumming to a common beat, each person can start to change what note they are fingering (yes, at random). Change notes slowly, not too often. Give yourself a chance to hear what is happening. Even though you do not know what the other person is playing, some very interesting and fun sounds will be happening. Important: please don’t try to know what the other person is going to do, you can’t, because they don’t know what they are going to do either. Just stay with the rhythm, change notes every so often... 
If you hear a few changes in a row you like, it's OK to try to repeat them. By the way, you should have your Strumsticks tuned together for best results - match the strings on one with the strings on the other.

MP3 Example 2 (Two G Strumsticks Together, changing rhythms): 
SS 1 starts a steady beat,
SS 2 does some kind of rhythm to that beat.
Then SS 1 plays some kind of rhythm, too.
Both SS play simple rhythms (not necessarily the same) to the same beat.
Then both start changing notes at random as they strum.

 If you want help with strumming different rhythms, look at “Strumming and Rhythms,” Part 1 of this booklet (pg 6).

 

Two Strumsticks Together Experiment # 2

The second stage of playing together.
One person will be “Rhythm” Strumstick, the other “ Lead” Strumstick (take turns, no fighting!).
The Rhythm Strumstick will strum some kind of rhythm over and over, and finger some simple little melody pattern over and over. The melody pattern should just be 3 or 4 notes, a simple repeating phrase.
The Lead Strumstick will synchronize with the beat of the Rhythm Strumstick, and then play notes at random with the rhythm Strumstick as a background. Very cool, you are jamming!

MP3 Example 3 (Stage 2):

Rhythm Strumstick: strummed rhythm,
Then a repeating melody. 
Lead Strumstick joins in with random melody.
Then the Rhythm Strumstick changes their repeating melody by accident, and stays with that version.

Two Strumsticks Together, Experiment #3 (Dueling Strumsticks!)

MP3 Example 4 (Dueling Strumsticks):
Two Strumsticks play a beat (they play the beat the whole time)
SS 1 plays a melody and then just some beat
SS 2 repeats the melody and then just some beat
SS 1 plays a different melody, and then just some beat
SS 2 repeats that melody,
etc.

 Dueling Strumsticks is a “follow the leader” game. The object is to pass short musical phrases back and forth.
Both Strumsticks start with a steady beat, or a simple rhythm.
Strumstick 1 plays a simple phrase of a few notes while the other keeps the rhythm going. It helps if you give each note a few beats so they do not go by too fast. Then return to the rhythm.
Strumstick 2 then plays those same few notes, or as close as they can get.

Half the fun in this game is what happens when the second person does NOT get it exactly right. You can decide if you want to switch roles after every phrase, or stay in the same positions for a while. It really helps to have both people keep strumming the whole time, that holds it together. The object is to listen and have fun (perfection not required!).

When you get comfortable doing this, a nice variation is: SS 1 plays a phrase, SS 2 repeats it, and then changes one note; then SS 1 repeats this new pattern, and then changes one note, and so on as you pass it back and forth.

This may sound complicated, but if you give each note 2 or 4 beats, and keep the phrase simple, it is a lot of fun. 

MP3 Example 5: (More Dueling)
Both Strumsticks play a simple rhythm.
SS 1 plays a phrase.
SS 2 plays that phrase with a note changed.
SS 1 plays that new phrase, then changes a note, etc.

 

MP3 Examples 6 & 7: Recorded Partner for you to jam with!

G Strumstick (MP3 example 6)

D Strumstick (MP3 example 7)

Steady beat, random play on G Strumstick or D Strumstick. When two people play together, they are both listening and playing, and both are adjusting their beat to stay in step with the other. When playing with a recording, only one person (that would be you!) can adjust the timing to stay together, the recording is not listening! So a little extra attention to listening is necessary when playing with a recording.

 

Playing a G Strumstick and a D Strumstick Together

If you have one G Strumstick and one D Strumstick, there are several ways you can play together.

A. The first and weirdest is to just play them in their separate keys, but follow the instructions above. Strange and interesting sounds will occur, you decide if you like it (some do, some don’t).

B. The second is to tune the D Strumstick up to F (F C F), and the G Strumstick down to F (F C F), and play together in F.

Key of E (E B E) is a possibility, too (D Strumstick up , G Strumstick down).

C. The third way is to put a capo at the third fret of the D Strumstick. That will put it into key of “G” to play directly with the G Strumstick.

A variation on this is to capo the G Strumstick at the third fret (giving “C”) and tune the D Strumstick down to C (C G C) and play together that way.