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 interlaced arrangements. 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 independence.
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 instrumental design.

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) to 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"

Emmett discussed the musical implications of his discovery in his video
Hands Across The Board: (1987)

Placeholder image
Emmett with Barney Kessel
at Donte's in North Hollywood, 1970
With Free Hands, the fingers of the hands
are parallel to the frets, and to each other.

Video of Dave Bunker using the
"Touch System" (1960).

In the Touch System, the right hand fingers

are parallel to the strings.