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Picking up Chapman Stick?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by devnulljp, Mar 6, 2021.


  1. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    Who has picked up playing the Chapman Stick? I've got an itch to learn another instrument, and I love the way Tony Levin plays the stick.
    Wondering what the learning curve is like. How do you integrate into the rest of your playing?
    I see there are a bunch of different models now, including a bass-only stick. As well as a bunch of different pickup options.
    Would love to hear your thoughts
     
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I'm a wannabe beginner Stickist. Been at it intermittently for over a year, making slow progress. I got an old 12 string Grand Stick just like the one Tony used to play. I don't sound much like him so far, though....

     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
    B-Mac, gzarruk, logdrum and 9 others like this.
  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Oh - the learning curve is steep. It's a different instrument, only a bit carries over. Need to develop independence between the hands like on piano. It's hard.
     
    gzarruk, Bob_Ross, bassfran and 7 others like this.
  4. M Sharp

    M Sharp

    May 24, 2013
    NJ
    I had a stick forever ago as I liked tapping on the bass. I wasn’t into the left/right hand piano style playing. Created only bass lines.
    Sold it with the intention of trying a bass stick, but that didn’t happen.....yet?
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
    bholder likes this.
  5. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    Ha! I play Sheebeg and Sheemore in my old-timey fiddle band as part of an Irish set we do on St. Patrick's day. I'd def get the stinkeye if I showed up to that gig with anything an untraditional as a stick.
    Thanks, gives me food for thought. I found a 10 string grand locally. Seems kinda pricey, but we'll see.
    How are you learning? Just fiddling around on it? IT's tuned in fourths right?
     
    bholder likes this.
  6. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I use the standard tuning, which is 4ths on the treble side and 5ths on the bass side (with the low strings in the middle, going higher as you go out either direction). So the bass side is in 5ths and upside down. Turns my bassline-generating brain inside out, which is a good thing for creativity. Forces completely different patterns and approaches. The treble side is relatively easier, like a guitar without the major third weirdness between the G and B strings. I think of playing the Stick as being not entirely dissimilar to learning matrix algebra in college. ;)
     
    kesslari, oldfretless and The Owl like this.
  7. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    The curve is very steep.
    It takes quite a long time to master.
    Right hand doing what your left hand already does.
    Inverted fifths on the bass side.

    You must learn tapping hand independence.
    Emmett Chapman once said that it would be better to start out NOT knowing guitar or bass.
    Because you have to unlearn certain things.

    I once had an "touchstyle" instrument.
    Not a "Stick"
    Yes.

    But it was a lot cheaper to experiment and fail with than a $3000.00 Chapman Stick.
    touch66.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  8. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I have to admit - most of my recordings, the ones that sound better, were recorded in 2 or 3 passes, right and left hands separate, multi-tracked together. My intent was to use that as a crutch towards playing both hands concurrently, I do practice that, but it's slow in coming. The "piano hands" thing again. Was never very good at piano (working on that, too).
     
  9. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I have a 10 string "teflon" (non-Stick) too, but it needs a PLEKing to be playable. Worth spending the extra $ on the Chapman Grand Stick (for me, at least). Much better playability / responsiveness, especially on higher notes.
     
  10. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Australia
    Was that a cheapo AliExpress unit?

    I've wanted an NS Stick since I first saw one and when I move I'll have the money so I just might buy one.
     
  11. In my younger days, (mid 70’s?) I called Emmett Chapman. His wife answered the phone, I asked for Emmett, she said, “oh!, I gotta hear this!”, as she put Emmett on the phone. True story.

    I also called the 411 operator in California and asked for the phone number of Frank Zappa. The operator said, “your kidding, right?”
     
  12. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    A Krappy.
    The "Faux'Lembic"
     
  13. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Australia
    Sorry, but I'm missing something here.
     
  14. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    Krappyguitars
    Go to "Touchstyle"
     
    staurosjohn likes this.
  15. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2008
    Did you ever learn to play piano? Playing stick is a lot closer to piano than to guitar or bass. I have a really early one, serial number 1231 (3-over 4 polyrhythm, which fits). I read about them, thought it was a cool concept, and then come across one at Leo's Music in Oakland, CA. I remember reaching out and touching it on the wall, tapping a couple of strings against the frets, and I really felt no contact with the instrument. Decided it wasn't for me without even taking it down or plugging it in. Then, a bit later, I saw King Crimson touring the Discipline album, and when they went into Elephant Talk, it was a "holy puritanically replaced word!" moment when I realized that the intro wasn't a bass track and a guitar track, but one guy (Levin) on a stick. That totally changed my opinion.

    Having established that they sound cool, I bought one largely because I play both bass and keys/electronics and I figured being able to keep a bass line going with one hand would allow me to do more/better live electronics. It didn't work out that way. I found that it was best for two-handed playing, and the independence of hands that I'd learned for piano was highly applicable to the stick. I still have #1231, and get it out every once in a while, but in the end I don't like the ergonomics of the belt hook and neck strap system. I'm thinking of having a part 3D printed that would let me set it the tripod for my NS Designs EUB. Your mileage will vary.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
    RyanKinBK, JES and LBS-bass like this.
  16. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Australia
    Thank you. Are they worth shelling out for as the 8 they sell is just over 1/4 the price of the NS?
     
  17. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    That's for the buyer to determine.
    It was(back in 2008) worth it for me to test the waters for $800.00 than $3000.00 for a Stick.
     
  18. Matty Koff

    Matty Koff

    Aug 21, 2014
    Tennessee
    Chapman sticks are really cool. I would sound terrible with one. Currently my attempts at 8 finger tapping on a bass or guitar sound like a cat having a fight with a piano.

    Maybe one day.
     
    PsyDocHill and bholder like this.
  19. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Australia
    OK, rephrase. Are they decently made? So long as the structure is fine I could tweak the rest of need be.
     
  20. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2008
    As per my previous post, I've had an original Chapman Stick since the early 1980s, love the sound and the concept, but disliked the ergnomics. The NS Stick tempted me from the time I first heard about it - two of my favorite instrument designers teaming up, after all - and I broke down and bought one last year. I haven't given up on it yet, but I am a bit disappointed. 4 strings for each register ends up not feeling like enough. I like over-the-shoulder better than on-the-belt in general, but it's true that the angle of the NS Stick fretboard relative to the hands is less comfortable for both wrists. And even though mine has the bamboo neck, which is the lightest option, it's pretty heavy and tires my back to play. It has a lot of cool attributes though - the movable mute, the combined output jack, the electronics that actually sound OK whether tapping or plucking.
     
    Bob_Ross and gebass6 like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Apr 21, 2021

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