Chapman Stick – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Musical Instruments Glossary

What is a Chapman Stick?

The Chapman Stick is a musical instrument that belongs to the family of tapping instruments. It is a unique and versatile instrument that allows the player to produce bass, melody, and chords simultaneously. The Stick consists of a long, narrow piece of wood with strings stretched along its length. It is played by tapping the strings with both hands, allowing the player to create a wide range of sounds and textures.

History of the Chapman Stick

The Chapman Stick was invented by Emmett Chapman in the early 1970s. Chapman, a musician and inventor, wanted to create an instrument that would allow him to play bass, melody, and chords at the same time. He developed the Stick as a way to combine the techniques of guitar and piano playing into a single instrument. The first Chapman Stick was completed in 1974, and Chapman began to promote it through demonstrations and performances.

The Stick gained popularity among musicians in the 1980s, particularly in the progressive rock and jazz fusion genres. It has since been used by a wide range of artists in various musical styles, from classical to electronic music. The Chapman Stick has also inspired the development of other tapping instruments, such as the Warr Guitar and the Touch Guitar.

How is the Chapman Stick played?

The Chapman Stick is played by tapping the strings with both hands. The player uses one hand to play the melody and chords on the treble strings, while the other hand plays the bass notes on the bass strings. This tapping technique allows the player to create complex and intricate patterns of sound, similar to a piano or keyboard.

The Stick can be played in a variety of ways, including fingerstyle, tapping, and slapping. The player can also use a variety of techniques, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, to create different sounds and effects. The Stick can be played in a seated or standing position, depending on the player’s preference.

Types of Chapman Sticks

There are several different types of Chapman Sticks available, each with its own unique features and characteristics. The most common type is the 10-string Stick, which has five bass strings and five melody strings. This configuration allows the player to create a wide range of sounds and textures, from deep bass notes to high-pitched melodies.

There are also 12-string Sticks, which have six bass strings and six melody strings, as well as 8-string Sticks, which have four bass strings and four melody strings. Some Sticks are equipped with MIDI capabilities, allowing the player to connect the instrument to a computer or synthesizer for additional sound options.

In addition to the standard Stick models, there are custom-made Sticks that are designed to meet the specific needs and preferences of individual players. These custom Sticks may have additional strings, different tunings, or unique features that enhance the player’s performance and creativity.

Notable Chapman Stick players

Over the years, the Chapman Stick has attracted a dedicated community of players who have explored its musical possibilities and pushed the boundaries of the instrument. Some notable Chapman Stick players include:

– Tony Levin: A renowned bass player who has worked with artists such as Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd. Levin is known for his innovative use of the Chapman Stick in rock and progressive music.
– Greg Howard: A Stick player and composer who has released several albums of original music featuring the instrument. Howard is known for his virtuosic playing and unique approach to composition.
– Nick Beggs: A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who has played the Chapman Stick in various bands and projects, including Kajagoogoo and Steven Wilson’s solo work. Beggs is known for his dynamic and expressive playing style.
– Bob Culbertson: A Stick player and educator who has released instructional materials and performed at Stick seminars and festivals. Culbertson is known for his technical proficiency and melodic improvisation on the instrument.

These are just a few examples of the many talented musicians who have embraced the Chapman Stick and made it an integral part of their musical expression. The instrument continues to inspire and challenge players to explore new sounds and techniques, making it a truly unique and innovative addition to the world of music.