Sometimes progress is achieved through reverse engineering, by the stripping down of the burliest thing to its leanest bones. The good folks at McNally Instruments’ Strumstick have done just that with their innovative, three-stringed instrument of the same name. Strumstick ensures that, fumble as you may across its fretboard, you simply cannot produce a wrong note. Daunted by the challenge of learning to play a traditional guitar? Wish there was an easy way to make cool-sounding music even if you have no particular musical ability? Enter Strumstick.
We stopped by their booth at the 2016 NAMM show this month out of curiosity. The streamlining of multi-stringed instruments into lean, reedy minimalist and easily digestible musical models geared to first-timers and novices is a musical movement that seems to be trending. Slaperoo, we passed you on our way and yes–we are looking at you, too.
We play traditional 6-string guitar here at ADT, which we learned through years of good ole’ practice. Why would one interested in guitar not want to start with the real thing? The friendly booth representative walked us skeptics through all our burning questions.
Strumstick comprises a slight wood body that supports three strings: The top and bottom strings are tuned an octave apart; the middle string is tuned to the fifth step in between. Don’t worry if you don’t know a thing about music: If you can press a guitar string you can play Strumstick. Its tonal alignment ensures you’ll always strike the right musical chord–literally–no matter where you place your fingers on the frets. You can clunk your way all over the fretboard and never not create a pleasantly straightforward melody.
Strumsticks are available in two tunings, D and G. A variety of models and species of wood tops are available. The lineup includes a three-string ukelele and a smaller children’s model. Prices range from $169 for the base model to $259 for the top-of-the-line. An instruction book and companion CD are available to aid learning.
Our conclusion, in short: If you thought you could never play guitar but always wanted to, if you want to ease yourself or a child into the world of music starting with something simple and always rewarding, this could be a good place to start. If you have more lofty aspirations, we recommend you skip this and start with the traditional stringed instrument of your dreams. Wrong notes and overcoming challenges are critical to productive musical development. We also took note of Strumstick’s price points: A decent student guitar can be had at similar prices; something to consider.
But we won’t deny the Strumstick is a nifty idea for the right audience.