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View Full Version : Ever played a strumstick?



Ukeffect
08-14-2009, 09:01 AM
Hi ya'll, well another project I had built was this strum stick not one of the McNally $140++ ones but from this guy in North Carolina that sells them on Ebay for around $55-65 It's sort of a cross between an ukulele, a dulcimer, held like a guitar, and sounds kind of like a banjo! I got one just to have something different to play when I finally get the cajones to do a video! I really like the sound of Ben's (AKA tranzar) strumsticks...the sound when tuned up is surprisingly loud and full with a lot of sustain...and it has a tiny sound board!
http://i653.photobucket.com/albums/uu257/bruce_2009_01/strumstickfront.jpghttp://i653.photobucket.com/albums/uu257/bruce_2009_01/strumstickrear.jpg

DaveVisi
08-14-2009, 09:11 AM
I have two McNally Strumsticks, one standard and one Grand.

Just so you know, the term "Strumstick" is copyrighted by Bob McNally. All others should rightly be called something else.

ukulelearp
08-14-2009, 10:28 AM
Are those the instrumentes with "no wrong notes"? I'd heard about them, apparently every not is part of a certain scale?

gp-ak
08-14-2009, 10:35 AM
Yeah they are fretted diatonically so you can only play in one key. They're pretty fun little things.

ihavenotea
08-14-2009, 10:39 AM
Are those the instrumentes with "no wrong notes"? I'd heard about them, apparently every not is part of a certain scale?

We call those Diatonic Harmonicas. *laughs*

'Course I have been working for months to get more wrong notes out of my Harmonicas… I will play the Legend Of Zelda Overworld theme on my harp* if it is the second to last thing I do (The last being playing Debussy's Clair de Lune on the Piano).

Hmm… I need more ukulele related goals.

Diatonic / Fixed Key instruments are really cool. They will greatly develop your ear for melodies. Learning to play Harmonica by ear (by tablature at first, then truly by ear) greatly enhanced my ability to pick out melodies on the Piano (from not-at-all to most-of-the-time-if-it-isn-t-too-complicated). I can also pick out melodies on the ukulele to some effect (I need to practice that more).

* to properly play that on the Harmonica one must play the six hole overblow

CoffeeMate
08-14-2009, 11:51 AM
We have a strumstick. It's really cool, we don't play it, but it is really cool. CJ had to have one an early B-day present. We've played it 3 maybe 4 times. Been thinking about selling it, but it's not hurting anything just sitting there and we might play it someday. It's kind of hard to hold. Anyone have a trick for holding this thing?

Nonayourbeeswax
08-14-2009, 01:06 PM
Apparently if you want to make and sell them, you can't call them Strumsticks. McNally has a copyright on the name. There was this user on youtube that had one not made by McNally, so he had to email this user telling him that he couldn't call it a strum stick anymore.

I personally think is kinda silly to copy right the name of an instrument (especially if it's one as simple as Strum Stick). It seems kinda monopolizing. It would make more sense to just copyright a brand name such as "Fender Guitars" or "Kala Ukulele". He could have "McNally Strumsticks".

Ukulele JJ
08-14-2009, 01:12 PM
Apparently if you want to make and sell them, you can't call them Strumsticks. McNally has a copyright on the name. I personaly think is kinda silly to copy right the name of an instrument (expesially if it's one as simple as Strum Stick). It seems kinda monopolizing. It would make more sense to just copyright a brand name such as "Fender Guitars" or "Kala Ukulele". He could have "McNally Strumsticks".

IANAL, but I think he actually is trademarking a brand name. Problem is, he's not defining the generic name.

But legally, it would probably be viewed as a "Strumstick brand diatonically-fretted stringed instrument".

For an example, check out the Chapman Stick website (http://www.stick.com/). Note how it's really a "Stick fretboard tapping instrument". Others are free to make their own "fretboard tapping instrument" (and they have (http://www.warrguitars.com/)), but they can't call it a "Stick".

(Incidentally, this is why the singular of "Pop-Tarts" is still "Pop-Tarts". :D)

JJ

Hosh
08-14-2009, 01:15 PM
'Course I have been working for months to get more wrong notes out of my Harmonicas…

Can't play the blues without those wrong notes.

dave alexander
08-14-2009, 02:12 PM
I own a grand strumstick -- and I love it. Mine is tuned DAd -- with the last "d" an octave higher than the first "D". Fret anywhere on the bottom (geographically lowest, highest sounding) string and strum. The other two strings create a pretty drone like a dulcimer or bagpipes.

For the musically clumsy like me, finding a note by "ear" is easy. The open "d" is doe, first fret is "re" third is "re" and so on. Somewhere in there you need to skip a fret, but you get the idea. It's a pretty easy major scale. If you know someone who can poke out a melody on a piano, they'd take to the strumstick easily.

http://www.strumstick.com/

I consider it a long necked mountain dulcimer -- strung kinda backwards and played like a guitar or uke.

McNally strumsticks are well made and sound excellent. I noticed the other guy on ebay. His look good, but not quite as nice as McNally. A third guy, Blaine Horlocker makes the strum stick (two words) and sells them in a slightly different shape for the body. Blane's a good guy.

http://www.smokeymountaindulcimer.com/

The best part about the Strumstick or strum stick is that it always sounds like music... That's why they call it no wrong notes. Mess up a chord on a uke and it can be a train wreck, but these things usually sound good even if you don't know what you're doing. Which is good, cause I don't. It sounds like a cross between a banjo, sitar and dulcimer.

By the way, if anything above is musically technically inaccurate, let me know. Considering my vast inexperience, I could easily sound like Cliff Claven. :o

DeG
08-14-2009, 02:18 PM
I saw a banjo version in the store last week for 150.00 USD (I think) I was very tempted.:)

Ukeffect
08-14-2009, 04:14 PM
I have two McNally Strumsticks, one standard and one Grand.

Just so you know, the term "Strumstick" is copyrighted by Bob McNally. All others should rightly be called something else.

Well , to be honest this guy calls them Stick Dulcimers just for that reason...but a rose by any other name and all that! :rolleyes: I just wanted a reasonable one to try out, and his version certainly is reasonable. He also makes a "paddle" version, with a larger soundboard and shaped like...yep, you guessed it... a canoe paddle. some of his work is very intricate, and hey it sounds good!:p

ukulelearp
08-14-2009, 05:55 PM
We call those Diatonic Harmonicas. *laughs*

'Course I have been working for months to get more wrong notes out of my Harmonicas… I will play the Legend Of Zelda Overworld theme on my harp* if it is the second to last thing I do (The last being playing Debussy's Clair de Lune on the Piano).

Hmm… I need more ukulele related goals.

Diatonic / Fixed Key instruments are really cool. They will greatly develop your ear for melodies. Learning to play Harmonica by ear (by tablature at first, then truly by ear) greatly enhanced my ability to pick out melodies on the Piano (from not-at-all to most-of-the-time-if-it-isn-t-too-complicated). I can also pick out melodies on the ukulele to some effect (I need to practice that more).

* to properly play that on the Harmonica one must play the six hole overblow


Oddly enough, I can play harmonica. Not extremely well, but I can play some simple things.

ihavenotea
08-14-2009, 06:51 PM
Oddly enough, I can play harmonica. Not extremely well, but I can play some simple things.

Harmonicas Rock.

You can keep one it your pocket and carry it everywhere. The only reason I can play anything on it at all is the portability. Any time I am out and have a free moment I will start playing. I wish my Ukulele was that portable.

ukulelearp
08-14-2009, 07:28 PM
Harmonicas Rock.

You can keep one it your pocket and carry it everywhere. The only reason I can play anything on it at all is the portability. Any time I am out and have a free moment I will start playing. I wish my Ukulele was that portable.

Exactly. It's just very convenient, small enough to have just about anywhere.

cornfedgroove
08-14-2009, 07:31 PM
I own one...and I'm gonna give it to my kid when he's about 5. In all fairness, its great for someone who cant play anything, but I'm not a huge fan. All it is is a generic mountain dulcimer in guitar format. I would probably like it still, if I didnt realize I could make something better on my own $35 in a few hours.

cigar box instruments rule

ricdoug
08-14-2009, 07:45 PM
Don't forget another McNally instrument:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/navigation?q=backpacker

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/8/1/1/427811.jpg

dave alexander
08-15-2009, 03:50 AM
I own one...and I'm gonna give it to my kid when he's about 5. In all fairness, its great for someone who cant play anything, but I'm not a huge fan. All it is is a generic mountain dulcimer in guitar format. I would probably like it still, if I didnt realize I could make something better on my own $35 in a few hours.

cigar box instruments rule

Actually, I'm trying to build Cigar Box Guitars/strumsticks and that budget is about right. The McNally I have is really well built, sounds a lot louder than I figured it would and has opened my eyes up on the subject of alternate tunings.

dave alexander
08-16-2009, 08:52 AM
The long neck dulcimer on ebay was very tempting. Then I counted the frets. There's some controversy (or freedom of choice) about the 6+ fret, but my McNally has 12 frets. The one on ebay only has 8 if I'm seeing the picture correctly.

I could be wrong -- these old eyes fail me sometimes, but that one looks like a problem.

DaveVisi
08-16-2009, 09:35 AM
Looks like your eyes are fine to me. I think that first one is a "zero" fret so technically it only has seven usable frets.

I think I'll stick with my original.

moweilian
05-27-2010, 12:32 AM
The long neck dulcimer on ebay was very tempting. Then I counted the frets. There's some controversy (or freedom of choice) about the 6+ fret, but my McNally has 12 frets. The one on ebay only has 8 if I'm seeing the picture correctly.

I could be wrong -- these old eyes fail me sometimes, but that one looks like a problem.

The fret known as "6+", "6.5" or "6˝" on the mountain dulcimer and stick dulcimers (okay, "duatonically fretted lutes" or "strum sticks", call 'em what you will) is the same as fret 7 on a McNally Strumstick. This also means that the remaining frets on the McNally Strumsticks are all numbered one higher than the corresponding fret on mountain dulcimers or stick dulcimers which use the 6˝ fret naming scheme. Also note that not all dulcimers have a 6˝ fret. This was added as a later enhancement, I suppose. My McNally Strumstick is tuned to DAD or the "Key of D", meaning the notes on the melody string should correspond to:

Fret Position: Note:
Fret 0 (Open): D
Fret 1: E
Fret 2: F#
Fret 3: G
Fret 4: A
Fret 5: B
Fret 6: C <== Note: This is not a member note in the set of notes we call the "Key of D".
Fret 7: C# (aka fret 6+ or 6˝)
Fret 8: D
Fret 9: E
Fret 10: F#
Fret 11: G

Since the "C" note is not part of the "Key of D" and "C#" is, I believe that the added fret position (a later modification of the mountain dulcimer) was not fret 6˝, but rather fret 6, and that the mountain dulcimer community have just overlooked this inconsistency in fret nomenclature. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this problem. The added note wasn't "C#", but was "C" (fret 6).

ichadwick
05-27-2010, 12:39 AM
Yeah they are fretted diatonically so you can only play in one key. They're pretty fun little things.
McNally has two different fretting systems, one with the full 12 frets per octave, the other with the "in-between" notes removed.
I had the full set - the "grand" Strumstick.
It sounded great and was fun to play, but was a bit limited for my use. It can be tuned ain a variety of ways - mine came tuned like a dulcimer and I kept it that way. With its twangy sound it gave it a Middle-East sort of sound. You could use it in a band but it doesn't have a lot of projection.

ichadwick
05-27-2010, 12:44 AM
Harmonicas Rock.

You can keep one it your pocket and carry it everywhere.
Yes, but it's tough to carry one in every key that might be playing at any time you come across a band... I took a couple with me on vacation in Mexico in February just in case there was a jamming opportunity. On the last night we were in Zihua, we came across a band doing some rocking blues at a street festival. I reached into my pocket for my Suzuki Promaster A harp and.... damn! I left it back in our room when I changed pants!

Skottoman
05-27-2010, 04:12 AM
My wife got me the standard McNally Strumstick for xmas last year. It does have a unique sound, and I really only play strumming with my thumb.
While I have gotten better at using it, It sits around more than gets used, as I enjoy playing my ukes a lot more.

It is fun to pick up and play like I'm in the mountains of virginia or something down home twangy sometimes...
Cheers,
Skottoman

Skitzic
05-27-2010, 06:11 AM
I don't know if I would splurge for the McNally right off the bat but they have intrigued me for awhile now.

DaveVisi
05-27-2010, 06:52 AM
They are fun, but truthfully since buying my first Uke, they've been sitting in a corner of a shelf gathering dust. I'd like to keep the Grand as I've done some modifying to it (new soundboard, added frets) but if you're interested in a reasonably priced standard strumstick, let's talk.

CountryMouse
05-27-2010, 12:41 PM
I have a standard McNally Strumstick. It bugs the heck out of me that it has that 6-1/2 fret in it, plus it's upside-down to a dulcimer player. I'm having a dulcimer built for me by Keith Young without the 6-1/2 fret. It'll be done in July. So I don't use my Strumstick much. It's interesting, but I'll be glad when I have a dulcimer again. :)

CountryMouse

DaveVisi
05-27-2010, 03:01 PM
I'm just the opposite. I couldn't live without a 6-1/2 fret. It's easy to skip over it if I don't need it. It's darn near impossible to hit that note without it. Yes, it's sort of "upside down" but I started on guitar, so I'm used to it.

UkeNukem
05-27-2010, 05:26 PM
My first thought was this thing

http://www.idesigninspiration.com/canjo_ws.html

which I recently saw at our county fair. This and the strum stick are dulcimers w/o the DULL !

Ukulele Jim
05-27-2010, 07:11 PM
I have a Strumstick ukulele. In fact, it's the first one they ever made in koa. I love it. It's nice and loud and sounds like a cross between a banjo and an I don't know what.

BarbaryBill
05-28-2010, 12:11 PM
Apparently if you want to make and sell them, you can't call them Strumsticks. McNally has a copyright on the name. There was this user on youtube that had one not made by McNally, so he had to email this user telling him that he couldn't call it a strum stick anymore.

I personally think is kinda silly to copy right the name of an instrument (especially if it's one as simple as Strum Stick). It seems kinda monopolizing. It would make more sense to just copyright a brand name such as "Fender Guitars" or "Kala Ukulele". He could have "McNally Strumsticks".

Yes agree. One always thinks it's big corporates that take the copywrite route to killing fun. But sometimes small fry do the same thing in the misguided belief that they are going to make a killing and establish an empire to rival Rome.

Hell I clean my carpet with a Hoover = not a vacuum cleaner. If we want to play strumsticks then it's upto McNally to make them so widly available that they exploit the genric benefit of the name. Hell 3 strings on a bit of wood? It's a strumstick. 4 Strings on a bit of wood? It's a uke

We live in a crazyy , stupid world driven by greed.

Have a nice day folks!

the52blues
05-28-2010, 12:59 PM
Here's the version I found in my travels. The guy called it a canjo (but more rightly a panjo) Same idea though the neck is fretted like a dulcimer and tuned DAD. This one is a little quiet acoustically but I put a stick on pick up on it and it sounds really good!

http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae232/the52blues/Instruments/canjo1.jpg