Emmett Chapman's unique two-handed tapping method connects the musician
more powerfully and more intimately to a stringed instrument than ever
before. With both hands as equal partners on the fretboard, each hand can
play independent lines, or the two hands can work in concert to form
The Stick method enables live execution of complete musical concepts, from
the bass on through chords and melody, to the effects, ambients and
sweeteners, greatly enlarging the musical scope.
Guitarists can now play lead lines backed by their own rhythm and
counterpoint from all registers.
Bassists can support a group with driving low frequencies while
filling in the spaces with chordal upbeats and melodic patterns.
Keyboardists will discover a hundred subtle elements of expression,
fingers directly engaging the vibrating strings, and will excel at two-handed
Drummers can apply familiar rhythmic techniques and reflexes to the
world of harmony, simply by measuring distances between the hands and between
the fingers on each hand.
Even novice musicians discover the ease of making fully realized song
arrangements and harmonically meaningful improvs on this minimalistic
The success of Emmett's tap-and-hold method can be attributed to a basic
advance, that of equal access by all fingers of both hands to the strings in
a line of fingertip attack running along successive frets on any given
string. This "line of attack" parallel to the strings allows independent (as
well as interdependent) two-handed "drumming" of the fingers in the execution
of scalar and melodic lines. The right hand engages the fretboard from the
opposite side, but takes on the same rewarding role as a guitarist's left
hand, that is, if the guitarist were to just finger the notes without picking
or plucking with the other hand.
The three guitar string tapping pioneers who came before Emmett, Harry
DeArmond, Jimmie Webster (who was taught by DeArmond) and Dave Bunker, all
held their guitars horizontally with their right hands in conventional
guitar-playing position, fingers extending parallel to the strings from the
body onto the fretboard. Any "drumming" of the right hand in this position
simply plays the guitar's tuning intervals across a single fret space. To
achieve scalar and melodic lines across successive frets, these tapping
guitarists had to move the entire right arm at the shoulder joint, and mostly
tapped out their melody lines with one or two fingers.
Since 1969 when Emmett created the specific Stick method on his home built
9-string electric guitar, he has continually refined The Chapman Stick (see Timeline of Stick Advancements
facilitate the basic method and its precision low-action setup. From the
patented dual-action rear truss to radical new fret designs, nut design, the
angled belt hook and strap suspension system, as well as the family of Stick
tunings, Emmett's innovations enable the player to explore the myriad
possibilities inherent in the Stick method, and to tweak and maintain setup
and playability of this dedicated Stick fretboard tapping instrument.
More about Free Hands
For more on Emmett's moment of discovery, please see Jim Reilly's 2003 article:
"The Birth of Two-Handed Tapping"
and also Emmett's own 1987 article Electronic Musician Magazine:
"The Evolution of a Musical Art"