The Chapman Stick - interesting instrument?

Over in this thread OncCentStamp mentions and links to an instrument, the Stick.

Watching some of their videos, it looks interesting. Has anyone here played one? What did you think? The playing style looks like guitar playing invented by a keyboardist. I’ve got no history playing guitars, but I do play the piano.

There is a resort in the Poconos that my wife and I have been to several times. At least once during our stay there will be a Stick player walking around entertaining the dinner crowd.

The guy is good with it, but he readily admits that it has its limitations. It’s basically designed for what he does with it…an easy-listening, background music kinda thing. Still, I enjoy the sound it puts out, and it seems quite versatile in the right hands.

He let me tinker with it a couple of times, and damn…it’s seriously difficult to wrap your head around one hand playing the background and one hand playing the lead (although I suppose this is something a pianist would be quite used to).

I like the concept but the sound leaves something to be desired. Tapping strings doesn’t seem to generate the range and quality of tone that plucking provides. Besides being adept at tapping, you really need to have skill with effects and tone shaping in order to get a serviceable sound out of one. This is all strictly MO, of course. I want to like it, but the sound just doesn’t do it for me (long story short). I guess it’s an acquired taste.

I also heard they’re a bitch to keep in tune but maybe that’s been addressed since then.

On a more personal note, I barely have time to play the instruments I already have, and I simply don’t have the time to learn how to play a Stick. If I’m going to shell out several grand for a Stick and all it’s accoutrements, I’d want to be a Stick monk and live, sleep, and eat Stick, but I’m just not at that point in my life.

If you’re already a piano player and have good independance then a Stick might be something worth exploring. Then again, so would a guitar. :slight_smile:

Tony Levin made great use of it with King Crimson. He plays a mean fender, too.

Here is a link to YouTube, where you can watch Emmett Chapman play his own instrument. I hadn’t seen any of these clips before; he demonstrates a mastery of The Stick that he didn’t have the first time he played it on television (To Tell The Truth), when he played a tentative, out-of-tune sappy rendition of “Yesterday.” I have that on videotape. If you watch the later clips, he’s really got it down.

The Stick wasn’t that popular until Tony Levin amazed everyone with his playing on it. It’s gotta be some kinda difficult to play at all, never mind well enough to amaze.

Tony Levin is my favorite bass player and the reason I know about the Stick at all.

To answer the OP, I’ve personally known one guy who spent the time to master the Stick. Like many Stick players, he started as a bassist. He could create jaw-droppingly complex and beautiful music on his instrument. I think the instrument combines some of the strengths of the piano (ten note polyphony, widely spaced intervals) with those of the guitar (vibrato, the timbral possibilities of amplification and the dynamic “touch” that comes from fingers on strings).

If you haven’t scoped out YouTube yet, just search under “Chapman Stick.” There are at least two dozen great videos on there.

Damn! The invisble cream - it really works!

Huh? :confused: :slight_smile: