October 01, 2017

The Relativity of Time

10 strings Chapman Stick
Chapman Stick is an instrument created by Emmett Chapman back in the 70s. A guitar-like that can have 8, 10 or 12 strings, half bass-like and half guitar-like strings. It is very popular among musicians who like to play bass and melody lines, or chords and textures - all together! You don't see much gigs using it, though.

Designed to act as a fully polyphonic chordal instrument, it looks like a wide version of an electric guitar's fretboard, but longer and wider. Unlike the guitar and the bass, it is played by tapping or fretting the strings, rather than plucking them.

My Chapman Stick is 10 strings. I bought it from the bass player of one of the bands I used to play, back in Brazil, but never had the opportunity nor the time to play it. Or should I say to tap it?

The tapping is not the only challenge

The "Free Hands Two-Handed Tapping" technique, a two-handed tapping with the fingers of both hands perpendicular to the strings, is harder than just tapping the guitar! Another challenge is the tuning. There are several different options, but the original 10-string Classic Stick tuning is still very popular, and it is my preferred.

An awkward tuning based on open fourths and fifths

The first 5 strings are called "Melody" strings, and are tuned as D, A, E, B and F#. Each string downs a 4th from the previous one. The next 5 strings, called "Bass" strings, starts with a deep C (a 2nd down the bass E) then G, D, A and E. They are upped a 5th from the previous one.

All together: D, A, E, B, F#, C, G, D, A, E. It is a pretty awkward tuning for those used to guitar/bass tuning.

Finding the time

All set! Now is just a matter of finding the time to learn it... but differently from that old Stones' song, time is not on my side, and if space and time are really relative and flexible as per Albert Einstein's theory - "the dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion", said the man himself - I shouldn't need to choose between learning the Chapman Stick or studying to my so long postponed EA Certification exam...

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