Free Hands Method

29 June 09 - Eric knapp (WI), to
The Chapman Stick and Free Hands system that were developed by Emmett Chapman in the '60s and '70s, and then refined into the incredible instruments that are being manufactured today, are the first fully realized new way to make music that has come along in a very long time. I'm having the most fun and most musical satisfaction of my life using this instrument. Music is infinite, there's enough for everyone.

25 April 07 - Greg Howard (VA), to
One thing people who haven't played a Stick before don't realize is that the ease of tapping on it as compared with a bass or guitar makes the tuning difference superficial. Emmett has dedicated his years of refinement towards one primary goal - making an instrument that facilitates his method as much as possible, since the method is the real magic here.

That physical ease of playing The Stick changes the whole relationship of the player's hands to music-making, IF the player is open to the fact that this is not an extension of their experience as a bassist or guitarist, but is in fact a whole new way of making music.

The Stick is a truly "keyless" instrument. This is wonderful! Transpose to any key any time, on the fly, and all of the mechanics of the music remain the same. Yes, there are boundaries at the ends of string and frets, but within the grid there is such ease of translation that you only have to learn two sets of interval structures, and they are intensely related to each other (4ths and inverted 5ths).

30 January 07 - Rob Martino (VA), to
I've come to appreciate that the Stick and method behind it are a monumental step in the evolution of electric string instruments and I'm optimistic to see what comes of it in the next several years. Maybe the new avenues for videos/music online and more players performing in local communities will grow and people will recognize it more easily. But I don't want it to catch on TOO quick, the "cool" aspect of playing something unfamiliar goes a long way in making up for deficiencies in my ability!

30 January 07 - Rob Martino (VA), to
One thing I'll add to what Greg already eloquently stated (since my videos were mentioned in the beginning). For melodic lines I always use three fingers only on the right hand. There is a certain freedom that comes from this, always knowing how to get from one note to another in a consistent way, so that you hardly have to think about it when playing a melody or improvisation. For arpeggiated chordal patterns however, I use my pinky a lot to get particular voicings/intervals.

26 January 07 - Micah Ball (CA), to Stickwire:
I've been playing a double-neck tapping instrument a lot lately, and I can tell you that one more advantage to one wide neck with crossed-over playing is the hand mechanics. I find stretching my hand across the fingerboard to be much more comfortable than the "pinching" feeling from tapping on one skinny neck. I find that I tend to un-anchor my right thumb when I play the lower strings, which doesn't feel as stable as that nice leverage you get when playing crossed.

10 March 06 - Rob Martino (VA), to
Welcome to the group! There are some players who play "uncrossed" in the way you describe. I thought about doing it that way for a bit but found it somewhat uncomfortable, especially with your right hand (which either requires you to really scrunch up your hand or have your thumb floating without being anchored to the instrument). When the hands cross over, as twizzle mentioned, your fingers fall naturally across the fretboard. The thing about the Stick is that it's a different enough instrument that there's still a "starting from scratch" element to it. Some techniques from guitar, bass and keyboards apply in some degree but overall it's got a whole new technique of it's own.

22 September 05 - Jeff Pearce (IN), to Emmett:
"Interlocking hands" is as good of a description as I've heard. Part of my attraction to that leads back to Celtic music - specifically harp music. I love the sounds of open strings ringing, and I would re-tune my guitar numerous times so I could use ringing open strings playing against notes that I was fretting higher up on the neck. After spending about five minutes with the Stick, I realized that since there were technically no open strings, that meant that EVERY string was an open string (a zen approach, quite probably). I immediately gravitated to the two highest pitched strings on the bass side of my 10-string, realizing that they would be the strings where I could get some very interesting overlap with the melody side. One of the things I loved about the guitar was the overlap and repeating notes. Ask a piano player where middle C is, and he or she will point to one note - only one choice. Ask a guitar player where middle C is, and it becomes a matter of picking the middle C that "sings" best to you - you have about four choices. There's even more on the Stick. Ask a Stick player where middle C is and it's basically a philosophical question.

28 August 05 - David Rigby (CA), to StickWire:
I've only had my Stick for a week and I'm doing things that I could never do on a guitar, which I'd played for about 3 years before picking up the Stick. I think the reason progress seems so substantial is because both hands are working together and you have so much more sound coming out of one fluid movement of the hands (two-handed chording, for instance), rather than just a few notes from a guitar chord. My parents have commented on how rich the Stick sounds compared to the guitar. I agree, but on the more techinical level that almost the entire bass-high midrange spectrum can be covered if you play a chord on both sides of the instrument, which is something you just couldn't do on a guitar even if you tried really hard. :-)

27 August 04 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
Let's see.... 25 years is silver and 50 is gold? I think 35 is Graphite. Happy TDD* Big time congrats!!! (Exactly 35 years ago at the same moment, I was at Woodstock rolling around in mud. Coincidence? I think not.) *Technique Discovery Day

27 August 04 - David Parr (TN), to Stickwire:
The 35th anniversary of Emmett's discovery got me thinking about what a impact his discovery has made in my life. I have no way of knowing how my life would have turned out without the Stick, but I do know that its much richer with it. The Stick has taking me places no other instrument could. In Nashville there are a "lot" of musicians, mostly guitarists. The Stick separates me from the pack. I've played with some great songwriters and have gotten enough paying gigs and demo work to purchase a new Stick. The Stick has allowed me to create music that I never could have conceived on any other instrument. It is truly magical. I would like to thank Emmett for turning his discovery into an amazing instrument and taking the time to share it with others.

26 August 04 - Thomas Simon (Germany), to Stickwire:
It was thirtyfive years ago today
Sgt. Chapman taught the band to play
They've been going in and out of style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you've known for all these years
Sgt. Chapman's Lonely Hearts Stick Band
With all due apologies and congratulations!

25 June 04 - Mark Smart (IL), to
I've done some more recent tapping experiments on the guitar, mainly as a substitute for the top half of the Stick when my Stick was sent off for repairs and mods. I turned the guitar upright like a cello. Turning the instrument upright (which was one of Emmett Chapman's pivotal ideas) makes it much easier to use all the fingers of the right hand. It also makes you want to have more than six strings so the two parts don't interfere with each other.

2 June 04 - Matt Rogers (TX), to Stickwire:
Hey, Brett, give it a little more time and you'll discover that the Stick needs less of a warmup period than other instruments. When you use Emmett's 3 finger melody technique, you'll quickly develop lots of speed and fluidity that doesn't take much energy to summon. When I play guitar, I feel like I need to warm up and do stretching exercises for at least an hour before I'm playing at the peak of ability, but when I play the Stick, the "motor" is already warm and ready to go. You'll see what I mean.

13 May 03 - Barry Silverman (PA), to Stickwire:
True story - earlier this evening I brought my 8 year-old son Kelly over to the local music store for his drum lesson. There were a lot of people milling around and chairs in rows. A clinic. Turns out a super-shred guitarist named Michael Angelo is in town promoting Dean Guitars and would be performing shortly. Now I'd never heard of him, maybe you have, but he is most famous for playing a double neck guitar (angled necks on opposite sides of his body). So, my son comes down from his lesson and the clinic is about to begin. He sees the strange double neck guitar and asks me about it. I tell him that the guy will be playing both necks at the same time. He gets this quizzical look on his face and asks me how can he do that? Well, I tell him, he won't actually strum or pick the strings, he will tap them on both necks at the same time. Then it was like a light came on and he says "Oh, I get it. Like a Stick." Double-necked guitar: $5,000. Having your 8-year old son perceive guitar tapping as derivative of Stick playing... priceless.

23 January 03 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
Concerning perception of The Stick as an instrument, why should it be considered harder to play than any other instrument. I think the guitar is much harder to play. When you first learn an F chord or a barre chord, you want to scream in pain. The Stick is so easy to play it's unbelievable. But like other instruments, it takes dedication to get the most out of it. By comparison, my Stick students are playing more advanced tunes than my guitar students in a fraction of the time. And their hands don't hurt. I think the truer attitude shouldn't be that The Stick is sophisticated to public perception, but should be that it's such a complete and easy instrument to play. People who aren't intimidated and try The Stick will play music immediately, and then progress rapidly. The perception that The Stick is hard to play is so off base. Is guitar hard to play? You gotta practice. I don't think a new genre has to be found to highlight The Stick. TL's been doing a fine job integrating it into mainstream music. I think the mystique of The Stick makes it fascinating (like the blonde), but that in turn keeps it from getting asked to go out on Saturday night.

22 December 02 - Daniel Peroine (France), to
Then I met T.J Helmerich, who taught me how to phrase with the tapping. Its technique consists in playing in prolongation of the left hand. The only defect of this technique that I have practiced for several years is that we can only make use of it in the context of a solo (or of a theme), from where the term: "monophonic tapping". One day, I discover Bob Culbertson (famous Stick Player) then Pierre Driesmans (guitarist who uses the polyphonic tapping with an incredible feeling)... I started to work with a fourth/fourth tuning. After one week, I took my reference marks on the instrument. But I found that the chords played by the left hand were "insipid," that they missed clearness. I went to search on Internet (in particular sites of Bob Culbertson and Thierry Carpentier) and decide to tune in fifth/fourth (standard tuning). The work of the left hand is more delicate but the chords sound much better (see table of chords on the T. Carpentier web site). Now remains to work the independence of the two hands (right hand, left hand separately: no problems; the two hands together: problems). I think The Stick will be able to bring me a lot to the musical level (the fact of hearing bass, chords and melody), and for the guitar also (especially for my technique of tapping).

18 December 02 - Jim Reilly (Canada), to Stickwire:
On Monday I was doing a demo for a high school music class. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, use lots of distortion, on both sides. I played a bit, then went through the history of Emmett finding his two handed tapping method. The kids all had guitars so I had then had them pick them up and recreate Emmett's discovery: tapping first with the left hand, then right, then turning their guitars so the hands lined up at right angles to the fretboard and the fingers lined up along the frets. It went great. I can't tell you how many experiences, how many doors have been opened for me because of The Stick. I literally can't, there are too many. As I've reflected on the afternoon with the high school kids I keep thinking how thankful I am to Emmett for all he has done and all he has added, quite unintentionally, to my life. It would have been so easy for EC to have kept The Stick to himself. Fame and fortune awaited him, I have no doubt, if he had pursued the music business head on and assaulted the world as a musician, showman and performer. But he chose to focus his attention, his time and share his technique and his instrument with us and I am truly grateful.

15 May 02 - Pete Gonzales (AZ, to Stickwire:
I bought my instrument not to "tap" but to play The Stick. The method goes with the instrument. I tried tapping two instruments (bass and guitar) at once for several months before getting my Stick, but once I got my Stick there was no comparison!

27 February 02 - Greg Howard (VA), to Stickwire:
Crossing your hands is actually really helpful in tapping, providing that the instrument you have doesn't have such a wide fingerboard that your hands can't reach. It's much easier to play a note on the opposite side of the fretboard, with your hand "open" than it is to play the string adjacent to the palm of your hand, where your hand is closed. This is especially true when trying to play repeated notes. Just try it on the one you have now and you'll see what I mean (I think). This is one area where The Stick is really different than its conventional bass and guitar cousins. Greater reach=easier playing. Keep your hands "open."

26 November 01 - Greg Howard (VA), to Stickwire:
It's also possible to play many more bass lines that a conventional bass player can't come close to executing, no matter what they try to do. You'll learn a whole new language of making music that no conventional bass player has ever encountered. Emmett's method is extremely powerful, no matter what instrument you use. But his skill as a musician, designer and builder makes his instruments ideal for the method.

21 August 01 - Jonathan Pickles (NY), on
Consider the life work of Emmett Chapman, the inventor of the Chapman Stick and pioneer of a tapping technique for fretted, stringed instruments. He is one such solitary wanderer whose sole concern is the development of a unique musical system. Consider the instrument itself. The Stick is a perfectly flat playing surface with frets running perpendicular to the strings. The strings are fretted and tapped by the fingers of both hands. The instrument's innovations facilitate its role within a pre-existing system of music. But now, the context has changed.