Inventor, The Chapman Stick
I first met Emmett Chapman, the man who developed the instrument, shortly after meeting Paul Edwards and purchasing my first Chapman Stick. Emmett came down to the store to do a demo and to talk more about his instrument, and that was an exciting day, as I would end up meet one of the most influential people in my musical life, and would make a lifelong friend.
In those early years, I think Emmett was off demoing and playing the instrument all over the country and World at many different music stores and various venues. It’s truly mind-boggling when you think about everything he had to do and be, all at the same time. He had to be a great player or people wouldn’t be interested in the instrument. He had to be a great craftsman to build and improve the instrument. He had to be a public relations person and act as the spokesperson and brand ambassador for an all-new approach to playing an all-new instrument. He did it all, and successfully introduced us all to a new and exciting way to play music.
Stick players like to talk about the instrument and the genius of Emmett, but let me tell you something – Emmett is a great player who has his own unique and creative playing style. I’ve always referred to Emmett as the John Coltrane of the Chapman Stick, and I have always loved to listen to him play. His tapping and rhythmic ideas are definitely something to be studied if you’re a Stick player. You have to remember in the beginning he didn’t have anybody to listen to he had to be his own innovator, and innovate he has. He uses a lot of extended arpeggio approaches in his right hand while simultaneously drowning in extending patterns on the left-hand, always changing up his approach to songs and songwriting.
Being a vocal instructor and singer for so many years, I have listened to and studied many a different unique singers. The thing about singers is that the great ones each have their own unique style and sound to their voice; it is a unique and different from anybody else. The same can be said about players of any instrument, including the many different Stick players. They all have their own unique styles and sounds. I feel that Emmett really deserves to be talked about as a player because he really has always had a very unique and wonderful approach to the instrument.
Sure, there are things inherent to the Chapman Stick that allow players to do things that are unique to the instrument, but I truly believe that Emmett’s sound would be just as interesting on a conventional guitar or any instrument he might choose to play.. His approach harmonically and rhythmically is truly unique and extremely unique.
Talking to Emmett recently, we talked about the fact that he has made – personally with his own hands – well over 7000 instruments as of the writing of this text. Who knows what the final number of handmade instruments will be? The manufacturing approach has evolved, fortunately for Emmett, and there’s a new version of the instrument called the ‘Railboard’. Clearly, Emmett is not slowing down, and the Worldwide Stick community is growing and expanding all the time.
Emmett has given me and my circle of friends an amazing gift, one that has changed my life and the course of my musical exploration, and I am eternally grateful. We are friends, and I love and respect him and his family very much. Thanks, Emmett. Truly.