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The Chapman Stick in the bass role

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by meshica7, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. meshica7


    Mar 7, 2009
    Hello folks!
    Just wanted to pick some brains here. I am a bassist of over 30 years now and in the last 6 years I have also been playing the Chapman Stick. The model I own is the 10 string version with the "classic" Stick tuning of inverted 5ths and straight 4ths:

    Melody 4ths: 1-high D, 2-A, 3-E, 4-B and 5-F#.
    Bass 5ths: 6-low C, 7-G, 8-D, 9-A and 10-E.

    For more on Stick tuning and all the variants go to Stick Tunings

    Anyway,how many bassists here have had experience playing with the Stick in primarily a bassist role? What are your feelings on the Stick's ability to fill the higher registers while still maintaining a solid low end groove?
    OK..let the flood gates open....
  2. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    At one point I was playing my Stick (#462 once owned by Dee Murray) in a band after the guitarist left. Our instrumentation was voice/violin, Stick and drum kit. I haven't done that in a while, but the key was two amps and effects on the top end.
    I use a different tuning that is 5 string bass in 4ths and 5 string piccolo E-C. The disadvantage is not being able to play the bass chords you can on inverted 5ths. The advantage is all my bass patterns translate.
    Besides Tony Levin my inspiration on Stick is Fergus Jameson Marsh with Bruce Cockburn in the late 80s and early 90s.
  3. meshica7


    Mar 7, 2009
    Fergus is amazing! I had the honor of interviewing him for a website I ran a few years ago. He,Trey Gunn,and Tony Levin are my biggest inspirations. I suppose it's their rhythmic,bass driven lines that speak to me.
    I just purchased a 2nd bass amp for rehearsing but I suspect that it will be my 2nd Stick amp live. I currently run my Stick through a Behringer 4 channel micro mix before it hits my rig.That way I can run separate efx and still only use one amp.Plus I have better control over levels since running a stereo to mono cable robs you of such control.
    Recently I have been in touch with Emmett about changing the tuning of my Stick to the Dual Bass tuning. I am also looking at trading up to the SB8 Stick Bass.
    Do you still own your Stick?
  4. My stick experience was with the ns stick. Its something I always wanted to try since the 70's when i first heard about the stick. I got the ns because I could use it as a bass also. For me it didn't really work. Tapping just isn't my thing and I didn't need all those strings if I was going to use it strictly as a bass. So it found a happy home and I went back to bass. I used it at church for awhile on some upbeat rock based Christian music mostly as a bass but also some tapping and it worked out pretty well for that. You need to find your voice and style on the stick and you can apply it to virtually anything. Thats the beauty of the sticks or any touch style instrument. It invites you to be a pioneer on a very different and unique instrument thats open to all kinds of possibility. Good luck and happy tapping!
  5. meshica7


    Mar 7, 2009
    My guitarist has an NS Stick...one of the 1st made..and I play it from time to time in the band we are in. I find that the low tension and action really require the player to play less aggressively. Having said that, I loved the growl that I get when I do play aggressively on it. It imparts a fretless like muah to the mid range.
    I agree that one really needs to find their voice on it..or any instrument really. I have been tapping on bass almost ince the 1st time I picked one up. But when I got my Stick it was a whole different ball game! The technique is different than,say,eddie Van Halen or Billy Shehann. It is an in and out motion that can be both easy and pleasant to execute and rather daunting mentally! I feind that filling the spaces between the bass lines with chords and/or staccato embellishments works for me.

    As I progress as a musician,the Stick always presents me with opportunities to create. It allows me to think in 3 ways:

    1.The relationship between both hands as it pertains to interactivity and interdependance.

    2. The dynamic role of each hand with regards to individual passages. Maintaining a conscience awareness for each side of the Stick with regards to the low tension's ability to be very expressive is a treat,and an albatross about one's neck as well!

    3. As a compositional tool I have been allowed a great freedom mostly manifested by accident! The Stick's technique really opens many doors which may sometimes be left locked by other stringed instruments. Of course the Stick will not make you a better musician,but a gifted artist can create truly amazing music on such an instrument.

    For me the Stick in the bass role has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that I have been able to expand my sonic role within the context of composing and in live situations. A curse because I still think like a bassist when I play Stick.That's neither a Stick or bass issue,simply a matter of breaking a mold in order to create a new one.The happy medium is longed for,but I am never unsatisfied!
  6. Never played a Stick... overwhelming to me!

    However, I've enjoyed Tony Levin's work with the Stick, although I find his use of that instrument a kind of 'special case' (i.e., really playing it as an extended range bass).

    The most impressive Stick performance I ever heard was a Bruce Cockburn concert I went to around 20 years ago. It was Bruce, a drummer, and a Stick player that covered the guitar and bass parts. TOTALLY legitimate bassist with a great tone, and a TOTALLY legitimate guitarist. Separate amps, effects on guitar, comping, soloing.. I still can't get that performance out of my head.
  7. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Fergus is a wonder.

    I think his solo album, Spirit Moves, may be out of print, but you can still get a listen to some of the tracks here:


    His stick playing is also featured prominently on a live concert CD/DVD with Steve Bell. Anything on the recording that sounds like a keyboard pad, is Fergus' treble strings.

    That one also features his brother Hugh on violin. Way too much talent to be contained in one family...
  8. :D I didn't see that Roy had posted about Fergus (I looked him up after I posted) before I put my post up. Seeing him totally burning on guitar and bass at the same time that night was just overwhelming for me. Really something!
  9. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Yes, I need to play it more often. Don Schiff has the NS Stick Bass which is really cool!:bassist:
  10. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    Back in the '80s and early '90s there was a great funk rock band in Dallas called Ten Hands. Their bass player, Gary Muller, played a stick in the bass role. Killed it.

    Their recordings are not going to be easy find - "Be My Guru" from 1991 and "Jazz for Jerks" from 1993.
  11. Yes the ns is a great instrument! Just not for me. Don Schiff is incredible! He makes it look so easy!
  12. Jazzstick

    Jazzstick Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    I use the stick as bass and melody all the time. The hardest part is fast repeated notes. Greg Howard's method really helps in this area.

    I love the stick!!!!!

  13. meshica7


    Mar 7, 2009
    Greg Howard is amazing! His hand independence is astounding to watch. Another Stickist who blows my mind is Bob Culbertson.His Acoustick is an amazing instrument. And let's not forget Steve Adelson, Chris Crain, Kevin Keith,and of course Emmett Chapman himself. There are so many talented Stickests out there right now!
  14. Kevin11


    Jan 24, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    bass08053 likes this.
  15. Looks like this is a bit of a resurrected thread, but, just FTR, John Myung performed some of the bass duty on Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity album on Chapman Stick as well.
  16. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Nice work, Kevin!
  17. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Haven't played mine in a good, long time - a couple years at least.

    Mine's a 10-string from around '85 and Levin was my primary inspiration. I tune it using baritone tuning - the treble side tuned a 4th down from "standard" stick tuning because the high strings always sounded a bit too much like a harpsichord for my tastes.

    When I was using it, I definitely performed a primarily bass roll with it - using the treble side only for fills and accents. I think the players that best utilize the full potential of the instrument come to it from keyboards rather than bass or guitar because they already think in terms of broad chord voicings that lay across the span of both hands.

    For me, it's just an awful lot to think about!
  18. Any feedback on the NS Stick? I find myself thinking about the NS Stick from time to time.

    How hard is it to work on hand independence? As a fret tapper, I seem to be fairly deficient in this area.
  19. Kevin11


    Jan 24, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks Roy,
    I love grooves so the Stick allows me to have the power of a bass guitar groove with the addition of chords, lead melodies, 2 hand syncopation and more. I'm still working on expanding the technique I used in the video.


    Kevin Keith
  20. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Finally got a chance to check out the vid, Kevin. Nice! You're tearing it up!