Stick Theory: The Continuing Adventure Of The Chapman Stick Guitar & Me

My wife suggested that I move the material I have on my Chapman Stick Guitar page to a post on my Home page so it gets seen by more people. I agreed but felt this was a good opportunity to update and elaborate on the topic.

The Chapman Stick was developed by Emmett Chapman in the early 70’s. I think it can best be described as a hybrid guitar/bass instrument. Instead of using one hand to fret the note and the other hand to pluck the string, you play the note by tapping the string at the fret, requiring only one hand. This means that you now can use both hands to play independent part, like a piano.
I remembered reading about the Chapman Stick in Downbeat magazine when they first came out and even seeing someone play one at Sam Ash Guitars at 48th Street, NYC but the thought of actually playing one was well outside my ambitions at the time. However, sometime around 2010, I read an article by Stickist Steve Adelson about the instrument and immediately saw the possibilities it offered for my own music. After experimenting with different configurations, I am now playing a Chapman Stick Guitar in what is referred to as Dual Guitar tuning. It makes the Stick Guitar the equivalent to a double neck guitar played on one wide fretboard. Playing it is like being a one man guitar duet. Cool!

cropped-sg-12-chapman-stick2.jpg

The biggest challenge by far is developing hand independence. I always envied how a keyboard player can improvise freely with the right hand over a accompaniment part in the left. That’s what drew me to the Stick. I have to say that my attempts to develop this skill has given me a lot of respect for the keyboard players who pull it off. It’s hard! My goal is to be able to play improvised lines with the right hand while doing things like playing a walking basslines with the left. For now, I find that my left hand parts tend to be bass note-chord, bass note-chord. It’s something that transferred naturally from my guitar playing except now I tap the the pattern with my left hand instead of plucking the strings with my right hand thumb and fingers.

To demonstrate, here (again) is a video of me playing a couple of choruses of Stormy Monday on the Chapman Stick Guitar:

It’s a start but every time I practice (I try to get in an hour or more a day) I am reminded of how far I have to go. But my continuing adventures with the Chapman stick guitar have reminded me of two of the most important things required to master an instrument (or nearly anything else) : persistence and patience.

If you want to learn more about the Chapman Stick, go to http://www.stick.com/.

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Posted in Chapman Stick, Music Appreciation and Analysis

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