Friday, June 15, 2007

The Stick & Emmett Chapman

A Brief History of the Stick
I created a new stringed instrument to embody all the advantages of the tapping method I had been playing on guitar. I needed an all-fingerboard instrument, an expanded playing surface of strings and frets with the room and the range to explore two-handed playing to its full extent. At the same time I reduced the design to the essentials, solely for this basic method.

A member of the guitar and bass family, The Stick introduced a full two-handed piano technique applied directly onto the strings. It has a longer natural sustain than guitar, and yet is extremely percussive, the "drumming" of fingers executing sharp, staccato rhythms. It also has a strong and distinctive bass voice. And so, the techniques of four major instruments - guitar, piano, bass and drums - are all brought together on this single Touchboard® instrument.

The technique came before the instrument, a sudden discovery while playing my guitar in 1969. No known guitarist, bassist, or fingerboard player had ever before used a basic three and four fingered technique in each hand simultaneously to play independent lines, scales and chords. It was unique, yet basic and logical - both hands aligned parallel to the frets and perpendicular to the strings, the fingers of each hand fitting sequentially into selected fret spaces at any point along the board.

This is the common orientation of a fingering hand, more or less at right angles to the neck, and has from antiquity been the manner in which pickers, pluckers and strummers of stringed instruments finger-stopped their notes, usually with the left hand. I dedicated this fingering role to both hands, each addressing the board from opposite sides, and I began to perform, teach, and demonstrate this new method, as well as inventing and manufacturing a new instrument to fully realize its potential.

By 1970 I was playing L.A. clubs with jazz guitarist Barney Kessel, using this light-touch method of independent hands to play simultaneous bass, chords and melody on my modified guitar. Later that year I built a bodiless version out of an ebony board and called it "The Electric Stick". Refinements of the instrument and the method then evolved together, with my first production run of Sticks in 1974, as well as my first nationally televised Stick performance on "What's My Line" that year.

Stick Enterprises was founded in 1974 to manufacture and distribute the Stick. Since then we have added many new features and created a variety of related tapping instruments, including 8, 10, and 12 string models, an 8-string NS/Stick bass guitar, and related accessories. =>>>>>>>>>>>

============ prog-rockers ============

The Evolution Of A Musical Art
by Emmett Chapman
Originally published in Electronic Musician Magazine, May 1987

In 1969 in a Laurel Canyon Studio, a new playing method was born that bridged the guitar and keyboard.

In addition to running Stick Enterprises, Inc. with his wife Yuta, and regularly performing in concerts and lectures (especially in the Los Angeles area where he lives), Emmett Chapman is an active tennis player, a seasoned astrologer and enjoys reading scientific and humanistic literature. His second album will feature The Stick in an all solo Latin-jazz format, with MIDI interface to his TX-7 synth.

Contrary to what seems to be prevailing popular opinion, two-handed tapping of the guitar didn't begin with Stanley Jordan or Eddie Van Halen. In fact, when you see a guitarist using this technique, you're seeing the influence of Emmett Chapman, who started popularizing this method of guitar playing in the late '60s. But he didn't stop with the guitar, choosing instead to optimize an instrument with the two-handed playing technique in mind. The result was The Stick(TM) which is being used by an increasing number of musicians. What makes a person design a new instrument? What design problems are involved? What are the economic considerations? How long does it take to turn an idea into reality, and at what point is the evolution complete? Since The Stick is almost exclusively the product of one person, we thought we would go directly to the inventor to find out exactly what is involved in the evolution of a musical art. --Craig Anderton

How It All Started
As a musician, my goal has been to create a new musical language. Improvisation has always been a key element, drawing upon all mainstreams of music, past and present, with the intention to be to communicate in a new way with the audience and the musicians on stage. I began playing guitar in 1959 to back my vocals while I sang in a trio to work my way through college. After listening to Barney Kessel's guitar trio albums I began the long road as an instrumentalist.

From 1959 to 1969 my instrument, the guitar, evolved with my music. To make the kind of instrument I wanted, it was necessary to become an instrument builder and customizer. I made the neck wider, then longer--I added strings, springs, levers, and other novel mechanisms. The purpose of these changes was to allow greater expressiveness; they all worked rather well and I enjoyed using them for about four years, up until I discovered the two-handed playing technique.

I then built a rectangular fingerboard with no arch and no taper (a precursor to the fingerboard design on The Stick). I even reversed the three lowest bass strings from fourths going down in pitch to fifths going up in pitch, without changing the letter-named notes.

By the late '60s I had taken my guitars, techniques, and music through some 40 major changes. The final guitar had nine strings, including a gear shift for a "wild string." This was a companion to the high E; by pushing on the gear shift lever, it was possible to obtain various intervals, from an octave lower than high E (the string's normal pitch) up to unison high E. Also, instead of using a regular pick. I used a baby comb shaped like a pick. The fine comb teeth, when held at a slight angle, sounded more bow-like than the regular old "slap against the string." (I think this idea might still be worth pursuing for guitarists.)

Then, one evening in August, 1969, while practicing guitar in my Laurel Canyon Hills studio, a sudden impulse struck from "out of the blue," and I started to play the full two-handed technique. Realizing the implications this would have for my music sent me leaping around the house in sheer delight.

The Playing Technique
At that time I was under the spell of Jimi Hendrix and the new language of melodic expression he created for guitarists. I was always trying to play expressive free melody lines like what I was hearing from Hendrix and John Coltrane, and at the same time play harmonically and orchestrally (like pianists Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner). Trying to combine both elements on a guitar was not easy, yet I didn't want to give up all the chordal techniques and contrapuntal guitar techniques that I'd assimilated from jazz pianists in exchange for the melodic freedom of Hendrix.

However, with only one hand (the left one at that) doing all the fingering, the choice had always been "either-or," never the full musical statement for which I was searching. But when I placed my right hand over the fingerboard, tapped the strings, and turned my amplifiers up, I could immediately play some fast and fluid lead lines. Then with my left hand in its normal position, but tapping the strings independently, it was possible to play the chords and bass lines familiar to that hand, thus giving harmonic and rhythmic depth to my new-found right-hand voice. Not only that, the right-hand fingerings exactly matched those for the left hand with the index finger on each hand closer to the tuning pegs than their respective pinky (these hand positions are illustrated in the photo of Tony Levin). I knew immediately that in spite of my previous ten years of research it was going to be like starting from scratch. From one minute to the next I had resolved the melodic versus harmonic limitations in the one-handed guitar fingering techniques, which completely changed my character as a musician.

At that time, I had never before heard of anyone playing a two-handed fingering technique on guitar. I later learned that back in the late-'40s when electric guitar was just developing, there were two or three guitarists who recognized a connection between electrical amplification and independent two- handed playing. But they played with the right hand addressing strings in the orthodox guitarist's position with the right arm, hand, and fingers parallel to the strings (see Fig. 1). Among them was Jimmy Webster who wrote an instructional pamphlet and recorded an album featuring this form of the "touch system," as he referred to it.

However, this position severely limited the right-hand techniques of these players. They used one or two fingers to poke or punch individual notes, and compensated for the lack of finger alignment with successive frets by moving the entire right arm back and forth to find the notes. Their discoveries remained virtually unknown to guitarists and teachers, and were not passed on.

From the outset of using the full-fingered technique of both hands, even back in 1969, I brought my right hand onto the strings from the side of the fingerboard opposite to that of the left hand. My right arm and fingers were now perpendicular to the strings, so that the fingers were overlying adjacent fret spaces. All fingers of both hands were now locked in and matched the frets anywhere on the board; this step is essential for a true sequential fingering technique on a stringed instrument. The musical result is that you can play two, three, or even four notes on a single string with only finger manipulation and no arm movement. If you hold your fingers parallel to the strings, to play chromatic scales on a single string you have to move your whole arm at the shoulder joint. Although Eddie Van Halen does this very elegantly and plays some highly exciting parts, paradoxically it's difficult to play regular old scales and melody lines. Note that the full two-handed approach offers a pianistic technique to the fretboard player (the keyboard player's hands must also be perpendicular to the row of keys in order to sequentially play a succession of adjacent notes).

Now that the playing technique had been discovered it was time to adjust the instrument to make it more suited to this style of playing. At the moment of first discovery I brought my guitar to a more vertical position. Had I continued to hold the guitar in the traditional horizontal guitar position, my right hand would have accessed the strings from over the board, and the left hand from under. Both wrists would have been somewhat contorted, and the right shoulder hunched upward. The basic playing method is the same, regardless of the fretboard angle, but my new position felt more natural. I could still "wear" The Stick like a guitar, but with both hands hovering over the board and coming down upon the strings, as if I were playing patterns on my chest.

This change felt very natural and simplified everything. As the days went by, my guitar began to shed some of its sophisticated accessories. I found a more straightforward tuning of uniform intervals for two groupings of strings (nine strings in total at that time), and I dropped the whammy bar, the "sliding capo" (a way to do quick and easy transpositions), and the odd-shaped picks.

Developing The Instrument
It took several days to set up my solid body electric guitar to accommodate the new playing style. For the first year, I played on a guitar I built myself set up with very low string action, somewhat looser strings than a regular electric guitar, precision fret work, close pickup adjustment, and a string damper by the nut.

In 1970 I built a much abbreviated version of the current Stick out of an ebony board and named it "The Electric Stick." With the two-handed percussive playing method everything became simple in the design--a uniform, logical tuning, and no more gadgets. In the following two years I added extra bass strings, divided the strings into two groups of melody and bass, made the pickups stereo for these two groups, and designed a belt hook and neck strap for the more vertical playing position. I now had an instrument with a greatly extended range more like piano, and with the double tuning concept of uniform fifths reciprocally matching uniform fourths.

By placing two groups of strings on the same fingerboard, I reconciled another dilemma having to do with basic techniques. It was now possible to play with full independence of hands, each on its own group of strings, as if The Stick were a double-necked instrument. But I could also play the ten-fingered "interwoven" patterns possible only on a single neck, with all ten fingers selecting notes from any of the ten strings--something one certainly can't do with a double-neck.

Between 1970 and 1974 I made five prototypes, each looking more like the present sculptured design and representing an advance over the previous model (see Figs. 2 and 3). Tuners, fretwork, and the overall shape improved with each model. In 1973 I went from nine strings to ten. In 1974, I built the first production models--six of them, all with hand tools. I built up quite a physique during the production process, and might as well have been building the instruments with my teeth! Although The Stick itself could have been conceived in any shape, I designed a minimal one. Also, I could have chosen from a wide variety of tunings, but settled on the double grouping of ten strings--five melody strings tuned in descending fourths, and five bass and chord strings tuned in ascending fifths, which I found would optimize the two- handed possibilities.

While I refined the instrument to meet my own musical needs and instincts, I also began to emerge as a performer, doing West Coast concerts with guitarist Barney Kessel and singer Tim Buckley. In 1974 I began manufacturing The Stick for other musicians and teaching the two-handed technique at large. Since then I've been about equally active in playing concerts, recording, teaching and touring, as well as manufacturing, marketing, and running the business. Although many artists seem to dislike the business aspects of their art, somehow it all seems to fit together for me, with each endeavor giving depth to the other.

The Stick Today
Originally The Stick was manufactured from Brazilian Iron Wood, a dense and stable material of unusual variety in grain color and texture. I embedded two non-adjustable, spring tempered steel rods buried in black epoxy into the rear of the fretted area to prevent warping.

I still make the Iron Wood Stick, and last year I introduced a new model made of injection molded polycarbonate resin reinforced with spring steel bars. The sustain is almost exactly equivalent to the wood version, but the tone is a little brighter. This thermoplastic, a material much like stone and metal combined, is injected in a molten state into the cavities of the mold, producing the 3 1/2-foot long by 3 1/4-inch wide neck and body. The fingerboard is flat, with no arch and no taper; although the fingerboard could have been curved, as stated earlier I prefer a minimal approach, and a curved fingerboard is not necessary for the two-handed playing technique. A flat fingerboard is also easier to make, and provides a uniformity of tactile cues that a curved fingerboard does not provide.

Regarding overall range of the instrument, the 25 frets and ten strings cover 5 1/4 octaves. Like a bass guitar, the overall range from the bridge to the nut is 34 inches. Although custom round wound Stick string sets are available, it is possible to use equivalent guitar and bass stings except for bass strings six and seven (which are O.095 inches and O.065 inches in diameter respectively).

While the wood Stick uses jumbo guitar type frets, the frets on the polycarbonate Stick are even larger, and consist of stainless steel rods anchored firmly into the molded grooves of the fingerboard. My patented Fret- RodTM design is exceptionally smooth to the fingers and these frets won't wear down. While the traditional fret metals, brass and aluminum, would work, there's no advantage to using them. The reason why soft metals are used is that when the frets are hammered in to the neck, you don't want one side to rock out when you bang the other in; soft metal, which has a certain amount of "give," allows for easy fret hammering. Since the polycarbonate Stick frets are glued and locked in rather than hammered, a harder metal can be used.

Considering that The Stick owes its heritage to the guitar, some people wonder why The Stick has a unique tone above and beyond that caused by using ten strings and a two-hand playing technique. The answer is that much of the Stick's distinctive, clav-type sound is due to metal strings tapping against metal frets; this creates a somewhat "dry," precisely articulated sound that is nonetheless rich in harmonics. Most guitarists use a plastic pick, which is of a softer material and therefore gives a softer kind of sound. Of course. I'm not saying that one method is better than the other--just that it's nice to have options. Some guitarists, in fact, use metal picks for a harder sound, or their fingers for an even softer attack.

The stereo pickups (one for each set of five strings) use standard, double- coil humbucking technology. There's no fancy electronics--just a volume pot for each pickup. Considering the need to amplify these relatively small string vibrations, shielding is important. For some reason, it seems that all-metal housings cause a loss of highs, so for the past four years, the pickups have used a metallized plastic housing. Since these housings are injection-molded, during the molding process conductive carbon graphite fibers are injected into the housing. The high level of shielding this provides means that the strings need not be grounded, which makes for a safer instrument. The one problem I have encountered is some minor crosstalk between the bass and treble strings. Possibly in the future some kind of optical pickup could solve that problem.

Enter Midi
The Stick, like any other instrument, continues to evolve. One recent addition is MIDI. I've done two MIDI Sticks for myself based on IVL's guitar-to-MIDI technology (essentially a Pitchrider 7000, labeled as Touch Board MIDI, with some software changes to best accommodate The Stick's characteristics) with the top five strings going to MIDI. This adds $900 to the cost of The Stick; retrofits are also $900. Interestingly, The Stick seems to provide a signal that's easier to "MIDIfy" than a guitar, possibly because a pick isn't involved, The next step is to try out a modified version of the IVL Steelrider, a ten string device designed for steel guitar, to see if all ten strings can be used with MIDI.

I manufacture The Stick from the raw Brazilian Iron Wood from start to finish at my workshop in production runs of 70 instruments at a time. I have a second ongoing production of injection molded polycarbonate Sticks which began in l986. Customization is also a part of production; I have done customized tunings in my production for musicians who have their own preferences. These have included double guitar tunings, guitar and violin, guitar and standard bass, bass in fourths plus bass in fifths, single sequences of strings, left- handed (reversed) models, fretless ones, and others that are exotic (such as a double-bass model recently completed for an album project I played on for Ryuichi Sakamoto).

So Is It A Guitar?
I was a guitarist for ten years until 1969 when my guitar became the vehicle for this radically new method. Guitarists have provided the main inspirations for my music, especially John McLaughlin. That I chose to name this instrument "The Stick" does not detract from its guitar-like qualities. It's a stringed instrument in the family of fretted guitar-like instruments. I could have chosen any shape or tuning for my new "guitar" but settled on a minimalist design. What I'm saying is, this method and approach applies to all electric instruments that have strings and frets, not just The Stick.

The Stick was created more by my fingers and my music than by any plan to invent something. The core ingredient of the instrument then is the playing method itself, which is what I've been telling students and audiences since 1974. I could have called my instrument a guitar. "The Stick" is simply my brand name for a musical instrument in the guitar family. The two-handed playing technique that I developed works best on The Stick but is still available to guitarists. In fact, I enjoy a lot of the music produced by the two-handed touch guitarists today, including the novel approach taken by Michael Hedges.

Most of the currently publicized guitarists who are playing the two-handed touch technique remain committed to holding the right arm horizontally and parallel to the strings, so that they can still pick and pluck the strings at will. These guitarists are currently playing double-handed melody lines with the notes interwoven between the hands, or else they play right-hand embellishments to their left-hand fingerings. Some of these musicians, Eddie Van Halen most prominent among them but also musicians like David Torn, are playing some unique, energetic, and expressive lead lines with this "combined hands" technique. However, while certainly valid, this should not be confused with the same method that I've been playing and teaching.

The Spread Of A Musical Language
There's no use in inventing a new musical language without making it available to those who might also find it useful. Over the past 12 years, upon requests from individuals and institutions, Stick Enterprises has provided over 250,000 Stick brochures that describe the two-handed tapping method in detail. These brochures, along with many thousands of accompanying recorded and printed materials, have been given to individual musicians, music stores, and have been available at most of the US music trade shows since 1975.

Before 1969, no one I know was using my two-handed technique. Now there are close to 2,000 musicians in the world who play The Stick, mostly in the US, who are using this method on the instruments that I've built for them. Some of them have been on world tours using The Stick to support major recording groups. Many of them I've personally taught. All of them have my lesson book Free Hands, first published in 1974. I've referred many new players to Stick teachers all over the world. Many have learned to play without a teacher, strictly on their own, or after seeing The Stick live or on television (l first played The Stick on national television in 1974). The ease with which one can learn to play the Stick is largely due to the natural finger positions and the instrument's ergonomic design, which complements the two-handed, fingers-perpendicular-to-the-strings technique.

It is good to look back over the past 17 years of work and know that it has proven fruitful and productive for many musicians--not just myself. Considering how many artists don't have the chance to see their work accepted, I consider myself fortunate to have accomplished the goal of creating a new musical language. =>>>>>>>>>>>

============ prog-rockers ============

The Birth of Two-Handed Tapping
By Jim Reilly
Originally published in the UK publication, Bass Guitar Magazine, issue 6/2003

House lights dim. A musician starts up, fighting for attention over a boisterous crowd in a small coffee shop. A street busker drops his hat and plays for passing tourists. But something is different. There's too much sound coming from just one musician. Bass lines merge with melodies. Chords play off each other. It would be all right if this were a piano but it sounds like a guitar, or maybe a bass, maybe even both at the same time. The musician is holding an odd looking instrument. It looks like a big guitar neck-but just the neck, no body. While listening to the instrument's inventor performing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 14 year-old Morag Musk leaned over to her father and whispered, "It looks like what's left over after you hit somebody over the head with a guitar". Quickly she added, "But I like the way it sounds".

It looks like an odd guitar but the musician isn't playing it like a guitar. The instrument is hanging almost vertically, right in front of the player. He's not strumming or plucking the strings like he would on a guitar. Both hands are reaching up from either side of the instrument and tapping the strings. Both hands create all the sounds coming from the instrument. Each hand, each finger, determines pitch, volume, expression and tone. One hand chases the other, one steers, the other follows, both drive unhurriedly ahead together.

This story began on a typically hot Southern California evening, back in the late 60s. A 32-year-old guitar player was woodshedding in his Yucca Trail home near Los Angeles. He was inspired by the times: his ears full of the revolutionary sounds of McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson, his heart full of the electricity of Jimi Hendrix. He'd been tinkering with his guitar. He added strings, changed the tuning and oiled the fretboard so his fingers could fly up and down the neck. He had started standing up: before he had always played sitting down. That night, around 6:30 p.m., after already playing for a while, something happened. In an instant, without knowing why or stopping to think, this soon to be ex-guitar player brought his right hand up from above the pickup and began tapping the strings. In the next instant he shifted the angle of his guitar from its traditional horizontal position to a more vertical one so both hands lined up at right angles to the guitar neck and reached around from opposite sides. The night was August 26, 1969. The player was Emmett Chapman. History had been made.

Other guitar players had tapped on their guitars before, but none had approached the neck in the way Emmett did that August evening in 1969. By approaching the strings at right angles, the notes lined up as a sequence along the frets. Harry DeArmond, Dave Bunker, Jimmie Webster and others tapped while holding the guitar in its traditional manner, with the right hand's fingers parallel to the strings. In order to play scales, or runs of single notes, these other guitarists had to move their entire right arm at the shoulder. The old technique was used successfully but lacked practicality. It was cumbersome. With Emmett's technique, the right and left hands could stay in a single position along the neck and access a full range of notes and chords. The technique was a synthesis of guitar, bass, piano, even percussion.

Between 1969 and 1974, Emmett created the Chapman Stick - a ten-stringed fretboard, tuned in a uniform tuning, with the strings arranged in two groups of five to enable one hand to play the lower bass strings and the other hand to play the higher melody strings. Gigs with Barney Kessel and Tim Buckley brought Emmett's new instrument and technique to the attention of musicians on the West Coast. Gigs in New York at the Five Spot and at the Museum of Modern Art led to articles in Downbeat and Guitar Player magazines and an appearance on the television show What's My Line?.

The Chapman Stick found enthusiastic players since its first production run in 1974. One night in New York at the 5-Spot, Joe Zawinul, who had already made a name for himself with Miles Davis and Weather Report, picked up Emmett's Stick, climbed up on a table and with much gusto and showmanship tapped away, playing the instrument quite well. The rest of Emmett's band joined in and off they went on an impromptu concert. Zawinul was so impressed, he bought one of the first five Sticks ever made. Later Emmett would see a young bass player named Alphonso Johnson playing with Zawinul in Weather Report. Bass legend Tony Levin bought a Stick from Emmett in 1976 and was using it live and in the studio with Peter Gabriel as early as 1977. The Stick is now a main part of Levin's arsenal. He has tapped his Stick on albums by Laurie Anderson, The California Guitar Trio, Paula Cole, Al DiMeola, Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes, to name a few.

Through the 70s and into the 80s, The Stick made its way from Emmett's workshop out into the world. Tony Levin was only one of several thousand players using Emmett's technique on the Stick. Fergus Marsh toured with Bruce Cockburn and recorded his Stealing Fire album with him. Nick Beggs made a name for himself first with the 80s pop band Kajagoogoo, then with a host of other projects including Belinda Carlisle, Warren Cuccurullo and Gary Numan. Pino Paladino played Stick with Paul Young. Alphonso Johnson continued tapping and playing Stick on various projects. Emmett himself recorded a solo album titled Parallel Galaxy.

The 90s saw many Stick players come into their own and create some outstanding music. Greg Howard of Charlottesville, Virginia shows off the polyphonic potential of The Stick and two-handed tapping. He has several solo recordings and a touring band, and made a guest appearance on the Dave Matthews Band CD Before These Crowded Streets. New York's Steve Adelson recently released a straight ahead jazz album featuring performances with himself and Larry Coryell on guitar and Tony Levin on Stick. Guillermo Cides from Argentina recorded a stunning CD of Bach concertos. San Jose's Bob Culbertson explored the classical music repertoire on a pair of discs called Romantica Vols. 1 and 2. Nick Beggs released his solo Stick debut, Stick Insect, to rave reviews. Tony Levin, Alphonso Johnson and Fergus Marsh are reported to be working on solo Stick projects.

The number of Stick players and others using Emmett's technique continues to grow. Recent estimates place the number of active Stick players at over 5,000. Countless others are tapping on guitars and basses and other stringed instruments. Emmett is still busily working away playing and building Sticks. Sticks are now available in 8, 10 and 12-string versions with a hybrid guitar/Stick instrument, the NS Stick, co-designed with Ned Steinberger also available.

New musical innovations are rare. Howard Goodall chose five for his book Big Bangs: The Story of Five Discoveries That Changed Musical History. He prefaced his five choices with the following stipulation: "Changes to music that happened in one place at one time: one day the invention wasn't there, the next it was." This ruled out things like the symphony or the violin, both of which evolved slowly over centuries.

Following Goodall's edict, we have to go back to Adolph Sax in the late nineteenth century to find the previous inventor who successfully created a new musical instrument with a lasting social impact. Beyond that we need to go back, with smaller stops along the way, to Bartolomeo Cristofori and his 'amazing loud and soft machine', the pianoforte. The saxophone, the piano and now the Chapman Stick all involved a shift. A shift that may have seemed radical, but with hindsight proved an inevitable reflection of the musical times. These shifts altered people's perceptions of how sound can be created, manipulated and maintained. Rather than merely offering a new tonal palette for the musician to explore, as with the modern day synthesizer, Emmett's realization in 1969 brought forth a new way for the musician to interact with, to control, to converse with his instrument.

The fact that The Stick is, in itself, the physical embodiment of a technique puts Emmett's work in a category above the common instrument maker. The fact that the technique predates the instrument is at the core of why the instrument works. The shift in perception Emmett experienced in 1969 makes the story extraordinary. The fact that he had the character to fulfill the potential presented to him that day makes this whole thing revolutionary. =>>>>>>>>>>>

============ prog-rockers ============

Parallel Hands
By Jim Reilly

It was 35 years ago, August 26, 1969, that Emmett Chapman first aligned both hands in fingering positions parallel to each other on his guitar neck, reached each hand around from opposite sides and tapped. An innocuous beginning. Merely a musician woodshedding by himself. Lost in the moment. Struck by a flash of creative energy. The moment could have been lost. Emmett could have said, "Hey that was cool," and gone back to picking and strumming, but he didn't.

It really happened just that fast. In an instant and without knowing why, Emmett brought his right hand up from its normal position picking the strings and began to tap. In the next instant he shifted the nine-string guitar, which he built himself and continually modified, from horizontal to almost vertical. Perhaps if he hadn't done that, if he hadn't brought his guitar upright, more in line with the player, he wouldn't have realized the full potential of his surprise discovery.

"It felt like an old, familiar sensation of encountering something extra in the equation," Emmett says. "Something I wasn't looking for, an extra finger or toe, a conceptually new approach that transforms the game."

You see, when one taps on guitar strings holding the guitar the way you normally hold it, the left hand is in the guitarist's normal fingering position but the right hand lines up parallel to the strings, not the frets. The guitar is oriented perpendicular to the left hand. You can roll your fingers quickly from string to string or hunt and peck individual notes by moving the whole arm at the shoulder, but the technique Emmett discovered 35 years ago offers much more.

While he didn't now it at the time, Emmett wasn't the first to tap guitar strings. Harry DeArmond, Jimmy Webster, Dave Bunker and others tapped before Emmett, but they all held their guitars the way you're supposed to hold your guitar - horizontally. When Emmett changed the angle, moved his hands parallel to the neck and came around from opposite sides, his fingers fell very naturally in a straight line, a straight line of attack along the strings. Suddenly scales, chord shapes, melodies fell quickly and easily right under all of his fingers. "It felt like flying," he says.

Today string tapping has become a required tool in the modern guitar and bassist's toolbox. Better and better technologies both in instrument manufacturing and sound reproduction allows for even the most inexpensive of instruments and the most novice of players to experiment with tapping on strings. While many musicians tap with no knowledge of The Stick or of Emmett directly, the influence of both the instrument and the man are undeniable. Many guitarists and bassists even use Emmett's method of parallel hands on their own instruments. Stanley Jordan perhaps best demonstrates what can be achieved with a dedicated two-handed tapping technique on a guitar. Clinics and concerts Emmett gave across the U.S. exposed countless musicians to two-handed tapping. One clinic at the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood inspired G.I.T. grads Steve Lynch and Jennifer Batten to incorporate, adapt and integrate parallel two-handed tapping into their arsenals.

First for Emmett-then for anyone else so inclined-this 35-year-old method of parallel hand string tapping has proven that tapping is an all encompassing, complete technique: rhythm, harmony and melody all falling under the fingers. The two hands combine to open a universe of music, a world of polyphony, harmony and counterpoint previously only available to keyboardists.

Now, only 35 years later, a short time in the world of musical instruments, I think were just beginning to see the potential of Emmett's technique. It's like we've just looked up and noticed the midnight stars, never mind even comprehending that one day we may actually travel there. As audiences begin to understand just what it is we're doing, as more players tap and the music keeps getting better and better, the road this technique can take us down will prove to be one of endless creativity.

Congratulations Emmett on 35 years of string tapping. Thank you for taking your original discovery to the next level and creating The Stick, the perfect instrument to realize your technique. Thank you to Yuta and Grace and the rest at Stick Enterprises for getting these instruments into our hands. I can't wait to hear what's going to come out from under fingers of all the great Stick players playing now and those to come over the next 35 years. =>>>>>>>>>>>

============ prog-rockers ============

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