A Brief History of the Stick


Emmett and Yuta Chapman
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.

Emmett Chapman, President,
Stick Enterprises, Inc.



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