Chapman Stick – Extraordinary Instrument

I came across the Chapman Stick a couple of days ago for the first time and fell in love with it at once.  It is the most amazingly versatile and pleasing electronic instrument I have heard, one that is capable of being played in real time without any pre-programming of its various voices.

chapman stick

As you can see, it owes its form and to a lesser degree, its function to a simple electric guitar, but it is way more than that.   Unlike a guitar, which is essentially a plucked string instrument, this one is much more a sort of keyboard in which the strings are hit rather than being plucked, though you can of course, pluck the stings if that is the effect you desire.

I think probably it would be best to show you a video made by the guy who invented the instrument, in which he describes in fine detail exactly what and how it works and is played. And for those of you who prefer to get your information by reading it, here is how good old Wikipedia describes it.

A Chapman Stick looks like a wide version of the fretboard of an electric guitar, but with 8, 10 or 12 strings. It is, however, considerably longer and wider than a guitar fretboard. Unlike the electric guitar, it is usually played by tapping or fretting the strings, rather than plucking them. Instead of one hand fretting and the other hand plucking, both hands sound notes by striking the strings against the fingerboard just behind the appropriate frets for the desired notes.

For this reason, it can sound many more notes at once than some other stringed instruments, making it more comparable to a keyboard instrument than to other stringed instruments. This arrangement lends itself to playing many lines at once, and many Stick players have mastered performing bass, chords and melody lines simultaneously.

So now you know what it looks like and roughly how it works, here is a video in which Emmett Chapman (the guy who invented this wonderful instrument) describes it, tells us how it works and demonstrates it as well.

See what I mean?  Isn’t that the most amazing instrument you have ever heard?   Such a versatile and intuitive instrument, and capable of so many different tones, colours and styles.

As you will see in the following videos, it is an instrument that lends itself easily to just about any sort of music you can think of.

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