20 Aug 13 - Dave Bottomley (Alberta), to Emmett
I'm the owner of Sticks 5628, 5370 and ironwood 1459, and having a fantastic time with these instruments. I have Dual Bass Reciprocal on 5628 and it is a wonder to behold. What a great idea.
28 July 12 - James Lord (Suffok, UK), to stickist.com:
Well I did it - and it turned out to be very straightforward thanks to your help and Emmett's very logical design. It is actually a lot easier to set the intonation on a stick than it is on a Strat!
First impressions are that a 10strGrand in DBR is 'exactly' what I wanted a Stick to be. :-)
26 March 09 - Jerry Swan (UK), to Stick Enterprises:
It's now one week since I received my Alto, and I thought I'd write to say how absolutely delighted I am with this wonderful thing. It is without doubt by far the most ergonomic instrument I have ever encountered (even those fingerings that are perhaps initially counter-intuitive to a guitarist soon easily become part of muscle memory).
The inverted fifths in the bass is a real innovation. I'm a mathematician in my day job and the (seemingly maximal) economy of this arrangement is as appealing to the logical part of my brain as the musical possibilities it offers are to the creative part. In your place, I would be extremely proud. Artefacts that have both form and function are sadly rare in this world and you have clearly labored long and hard to create something that is undoubtedly a quantum leap forward for human musicianship.
27 February 09 - Larry Tuttle (California), to Stickwire:
On the subject of tuning - to me the fifths bass tuning is a huge part of what makes the Stick the Stick. Not to mention the thin gauges of the strings as compared to a bass guitar. This opens up the whole world of left-hand chords, which sound so great because of the extra distance between the voices and the clarity of those ringing high bass strings. That's what makes the Stick so full and orchestral-sounding. You can easily reach distances that a piano player can only dream of with just one hand. Very cool. A whole world of harmonic language is at your feet.
Because of that tuning, your left hand is an entire accompaniment engine all by itself. You can arpeggiate chords, play bass lines, or create "motors" - those repeating rhythmic figures that Emmett is so fond of. That frees up your right hand for any number of useful chores melody, extra rhythm parts, harmony, solo, color, whatever.
Plus there's that whole thing where the fifths in the left hand are inverse from the fourths in the right pure genius, if you ask me. Geometry in action.
I always say steal from the best - listen to some great cello music sometime for a taste of what can be done with those low-register fifths. They're tuned just like us, only an octave up. Like maybe Yo Yo Ma playing the Bach cello suites. And he's only got four strings!!
Count me in as loving the standard Stick tuning.
28 February 08 - Jaap Kramer (Netherlands), to Stickwire:
The reason why the chords on the bass side sound so cool is that they are automatically "spread" because of the 5ths tuning. If you play C, E and G (low to high) somehwere around middle C of piano, it sounds nice, but play that same note two octaves lower and it sounds muddy. Now play C, G and E (low to high) and it sounds much better. These are the notes you get if you play the "standard" major chord shape on the bass side of a Stick. This same "trick" actually sounds great in a lot of situations, as with orchestras.
27 February 08 - Glenn Turner (Illinois), to Stickwire:
Well, in my opinion, putting the big strings in the middle makes them easier to reach than if they were at the far edges. In terms of note names alone, an ascending fourth is the same thing as a descending fifth, so, by arranging the strings with the reversed bass in fifths, the lettered notes are arranged the same as a standard bass, the difference being that they get lower, rather than higher, as you move from the 12th to the 7th string. Also, moving up, down, or across the strings on the bass side lands you on the same letter note as the same shift on the melody side. That may sound confusing, but it's pretty simple, and it opens up a new way of looking at the instrument and finding your way around.
I'd suggest learning your bass lines on the 5ths tuning, using two hands if necessary to make them happen. As you grow more comfortable with the layout, you'll find new and different possibilities that the reversed fifths tuning offers.
The Stick is a flexible instrument - you can tune it up in any way that makes sense, and good music, for you. Still, there's brilliance in the 4ths/5ths tuning that isn't always obvious to the beginner, so I recommend that you learn to play on the tuning you have before changing anything.
21 Sept 07 - John F. Cantrell (Florida), to Stickist.com:
My personal experience after trying a "two-guitar" tuning (one straight and one inverted) after I first got my Stick was, "Oh how boring!" I found myself playing the very same music I play on guitar, and though it sounded cool playing "all" the parts, I didn't learn anything new musically. After going back to Matched Reciprocal tuning, though my chops suffered considerably due to the unfamiliarity, new musical ideas began to flow like Niagara. It depends on one's individual purposes, of course, but inverted 5ths on the bass side surely lends itself to creative directions that may not have occurred to those of us who come from the guitar landscape.
11 Jun 07 - levisj125 (Australia), to Stickist.com:
The advantage of a 10 or 12-string over an SB8 is the inverted fifths tuning on the bass side. It is a little tricky to get used to, but awesome for mixed bass and melody playing and also for two-handed bass playing if you just want to play complex bass lines. An SB8 might be quick to adapt to for a bass player, but then you might find you really want more of a challenge.
26 April 07 - adde65, to Stickist.com:
A lot of us are initially drawn to The Stick because it can do "guitar and bass parts at the same time", only to discover that the instrument deserves much more credit than that. I think the players who are making names for themselves on Stick in recent times have all been able to play it as a unique solo instrument.
The 5ths tuning on bass allows for a more chordal approach, although it can make "familiar" bass lines more awkward to play (see the intro to chapter 7 in "Free Hands" for an excellent summary of this). The trade-off is that you can play chords and arpeggios with your left hand, without extending beyond what most people would call a "comfortable" range. You only have to learn a few basic chord shapes with your left hand on the Stick, and all of a sudden you will be playing along with yourself. There is nothing quite like it!
26 January 07 - Greg Howard (VA), to Stickwire:
It's interesting to think about how the increased scale and fret spacing affects the ergonomics of the tunings, with the relative shape being constant but the distances growing and growing. How similar are the two hands' movements when the fret spacing is twice as great? I've often wondered if this is why I see so many bass 4ths players playing at higher fret positions.
25 July 06 - Jaap Kramer (Netherlands), to Stickwire:
This weekend I recieved a set of DBR strings for my "old" Grand Stick. Here are my observations so far: Converting the Stick from standard gauge tu DBR took me about two hours. The "melody strings" probably have more tension than standard strings (not surprisingly), so the truss rod needed a tweak, all strings needed height adjustment at the bridge, and the melody strings needed intonation adjustment, obviously. It's well worth the time to do this thoroughly. My Stick plays just as lightly as before now. Tapping bass parts on the melody strings (+ lowest bass string) is fun!! It's cool to be able to do these Rob Martino-style bass lines. I see a real potential there for these gigs where I play bass and synth at the same time. The melody range is still quite OK at the high end. Playing chordal stuff on the melody side is trickier because the chords have to be played higher up the fretboard. The tone of the melody strings is as bright as you'd expect from the Stickup, but also fatter than normal, which I like. It's really fun that all strings have a consequent relationship: first you go down until the low B string, and suddenly you go up again. It's kind of an "Escher feeling". In fact, on a Grand Stick, the tuning exactly uses all chromatic notes. It's a "real life circle of fifths". All in all, it's fun to play around with, and for bassists it's cool to have a kind of crossover between Stick and Stick bass.
19 July 06 - David Parr (TN), to Stickist.com:
My main instrument before Stick was guitar so I was used to the 4ths tuning. The 5ths tuning on the Stick (bass side) was a bit of a struggle at first and then I found out how easy it was to play those "BIG" three note wide interval chords with the left hand. Soon I could play bass and rhythm with the left hand while the right hand played simple lead lines and chords. It was quite easy to play simple songs on Stick after just a few weeks of practice. I wrote several tunes within a few months of playing. Some of them I still play today.
09 July 05 - Glenn Turner (IL), to Stickist.com:
I am another player who has switched back from 12 strings to 10. I also chose MR tuning with medium gauge strings. One could play a lifetime on 10 strings and still learn something new - I never feel limited on the Stick!
07 July 05 - Rob Martino (VA), to Stickist.com:
What I was originally trying was a parallel fourths tuning (bass in fourths like a bass guitar, melody like it is normally). After a while (and a lesson with Greg Howard) I decided it was more comfortable to reverse the bass (thus mirrored, like a regular Stick), with the bass still in fourths. The left hand just naturally extends more and feels less cramped. Larger chords and close voiced triads are easier to play and it only took a few days to get used to the "upside down" bass.
The same idea might apply even more to bass in fifths. Greg showed me how the fingers naturally extend to reach the common scale and chord tones without having to awkwardly scrunch your fingers, part of the elegance of the reverse bass in fifths.
06 March 05 - Jaap Kramer (Netherlands), to Stickwire:
The bass is inverted 5ths for a very good reason: this way, the NAMES of the notes are on the places where you expect them, so, it's fast to learn, while the intervals are large to prevent chords from being muddy. Besides that, the chord shapes match with those of the melody side, except that the highest note becomes the lowest and vice versa. It's great to have 3 octaves in one position.
02 December 04 - David Barrett (Toronto), to Stickwire:
We all have pre-conceptions when we first approach Stick. I know I did. And I know how quickly and completely they were burst when I actually got my hands on an instrument.
You seem to be approaching the instrument with the idea that you'll need to spend a substantial amount of time tinkering with tuning. Trust me, 15 minutes after you start playing the instrument, you realize how far away you are from messing with tunings. A week or two later, you'll *know* how far away you are.
Any Stick that you can actually lay your hands on is going to keep you happy for quite some time. It doesn't matter if it has Flaps, Rails, Rods, Stickups, ACTV-2s, PASV-4s, fixed bridges, 10 strings, 12 strings or an extended scale. It doesn't matter if it's made out of ironwood, oak, graphite, polycarbonate, or even birch plywood!
You *might* decide after a few years of playing that you are happiest with an uncrossed Grand Stick in a 7-5 configuration with the melody side tuned in 3rds and the bass in augmented 5ths. But the chances are, if you're still playing Stick ten years from now, you'll have it tuned in one of Classic, MR or Baritone Melody. Meanwhile, you're wasting time! Go find a Stick and buy it!
01 December 04 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
If you're new to the Stick, let me give you my thoughts. I too fingerpicked my guitar, being influenced by Leo Kottke, John Fahey, etc. Alternate tunings gave new voicings and ideas but it was usually because I couldn't reach or finger certain chords. Well, on the Stick this is not the case. Having the ability to use two hands, many fingers and lotsa' strings, I have never encountered a voicing I could not reach or harness. After playing Stick for 20 years, I've never felt the need to change any tuning. All the creative needs just jump out and are fully accessible.
10 November 04 - Jerry Ballard (CA), to Stickwire:
(Tapping Stick bass fifths:)
1 - Don't fetishize playing "traditional bass lines" if that means sounding exactly like Ray Brown (with all due reverence to Ray, with whom I had classes at GIT). It's a Stick, not a bass, regardless of the provanence of many players. Embrace, don't eschew, that.
2 - Note for note "traditional bass" can always be played using two hands.
3 - Study to find out whats behind traditional bass lines - roots, leading tones (1/2 above and 1/2 below), arpeggios, muted notes for swing, etc.
4 - Get a book of cello scales. Make the mental switch to invert the strings and learn the fingering patterns. A couple hundred years of experience really does have some bearing here.
22 October 04 - Vance Gloster (CA), to Stickwire:
My recommendation is to do the 5ths tuning, but if you are playing a Grand Stick, do it with a "high bass 4th" (a 4th interval for the highest bass string). It is amazing how useful that tuning is for left-hand chords while playing bass.
21 October 04 - Pete Gonzales (AZ), to Stickwire:
I have rather small hands also, and I have to say I love the 5ths tuning on the bass side. I guess if you wanted to play traditional bass lines it would be easier to have 4ths tunings but as I've said (as well as many others on this list) the magic of the Stick is in the wonderful chord voicings you can get from the 5ths tuning on the Bass side. A great example of this is Greg Howards' tune "El Chicle" from the Sol CD. By moving your wrist and forearm you can easily cover a lot of ground and create some nice bass lines along with some chords as well. Your playing will take on a more vertical aproach. It's a very different world than traditional Bass guitar.
08 October 04 - Glenn Turner (IL), to StickNews:
I have played many tunings over the years and have settled on Matched Reciprocal. I think it's good for beginners too, because it's easy to remember the location of the notes on the fretboard (same on each side). The Stick is tuned in 4ths, and the inlays mark 4ths. So on the melody side, moving a dot marker up and a string down will provide a unison note. I've gone back to 10 strings and I'm happy. It's lighter, there's more room between strings, and there are fewer of them to tune and change. There's no limit to what can be done on a 10-string Stick, or at least I haven't run into it yet, and I've been playing a long time.
23 May 04 - Matt Rogers (TX), to Stickwire:
After using the Baritone Melody (10-string) tuning from day one, I decided to try Deep Baritone a few months back. I've been playing Stick for about seven years now, and this is the first tuning change I've tried. Now that I've had a good amount of time to explore the tuning and think about it, I know this is the one for me. It completely changed my approach and spawned a CDs worth of compositions.
The obvious benefit of the tuning is allowing more space between the hands. I think that in doing this you are able to grab notes in the "juicier" regions of the melody side. Another benefit is the "scale position #1" that manifests itself as Emmett explains. My favorite, though, are some of the "haunting" voicings you can get when you put the hands very close together. The Stick sounds very harp-like when playing in this manner. I'm just blown away by the fact every time you think you know this instrument, you don't even know the half of it. One little twist of the pegs brings not only new timbres and tonalities, but a new CHARACTER. All you have to do is figure out which one fits you the best.
18 June 03 - Ernie Jamison (NC), to Stickwire:
What I have heard is that the 5ths tuning is to facilitate easier chording in the bass as opposed to just single note bass lines only. At first I was putting a lot of effort into playing my walking jazz bass lines on my Stick. I realized immediately that my hand was going to be moving a lot and that it is doable but will take more time than I realized. So I'll work on it. But then I got into what everyone was saying about inverted 5ths and chords and then I started to think in terms of the Stick being it's own thing and not something that I would necessarily want to play guitar and bass with. When I realized that suddenly the pressure to deal with a new tuning vanished and I could just enjoy and explore.
18 June 03 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
There's no reason to think that bass lines must be played the same way as they are conceived on 4 string bass. If you reproduce the same lines with large fret jumps on the Stick, you haven't contributed anything new. Take advantage of this unique tuning and find inventive, musical lines. I think bass players would be envious of this opportunity. Personally, the whole string voicing change of the Stick opened up a universe of ideas that I wouldn't have found on guitar or bass. And contrary to first impressions, the bass lines are ergonomically very simple if you change your thinking. I've said it before, "This instrument is easy to play!" Really!
19 May 03 - Andrew Sisco (CA), to Stickwire:
When I was ordering my new Stick a while back, I went through the same questions you have regarding the fundamental setup of the string groups. I worried about hand collisions, crosstalk, and having the big string in the middle of the fretboard. So, when I ordered my new Stick with an uncrossed DMR tuning (against the advice of some, though Emmett certainly let me have what I wanted, or what I thought I wanted). Well, after receiving the instrument, the simple fact was that my hands didn't agree with what my head thought it had figured out. Just to be clear, this initial uncrossed tuning had the thicker strings at the outside of the board, a direct swap, not a flipping over of the string groups. Try this: splay out your hand flat, with fingers spread out. Now curl your fingers while keeping your fingers spread as much as they will go. You will notice that your fingertips are closer to each other than with your hand flat. This is the basic effect I have noticed when trying to play the strings nearer to your palm, that the fingertips don't have as much reach, especially when playing in the more widely spaced lower frets. Your hand naturally fans out when you play the opposite string group. Also, if you try to simply move your fanned hand to the closer string group, you lose your thumb anchor, and your hand floats, which you may or may not like, but also your wrist is at a more acute angle.
13 May 03 - Paul Frields (VA), to Stickwire:
It only seems counterintuitive until you pick up the Stick and play it (and maybe not even that long). Having your hands "wrap" around the Stick to play it results in more power and dexterity out of your fingers, by using your thumb as a pivot. I've also found that playing "crossed" yields a higher accuracy than the other way around. This is probably more a matter of practice than anything else.
There are people who play uncrossed Stick tunings, which I suppose works fine for them, so "to each his own," I say. But in my experience, achieving the incredible dynamic range (between "soft" and "blistering," i.e. the feathery touch or the rough smack) is much more difficult when playing that way, especially while trying to be accurate as well. If you hold the Stick uncrossed, you fingers end up "pinching" the notes and it seems like it would make for a roadblock to fluidity. Hopefully we'll hear from someone who plays uncrossed who can sport the exact opposite view. The great thing about the Stick is that it can be universally set up however you want with regard to tuning, crossing, string gauges and so on. It's a truly astonishing design that just keeps getting better as Emmett adds new innovations.
3 May 03 - Art Durkee (MN), to Stickwire:
As for fifths tuning, I always liked it. I was using a version of it on my fretless bass before I switched to Stick full-time, anyway: I liked the extended range it gave me, AND the fact that all the "bass player habits" I had developed in fourths tuning were no longer readily available. Anything that breaks set habits leads to growth.
17 April 03 - Mark Smart (IL), to Stickwire:
I've had a Stick with Standard Grand High Bass 4th tuning for quite a while, but I just started figuring out how to use the 12th string in the last few days. What a cool thing! You can put a 9th or 13th on top of almost any 3-note sixth or seventh chord. I've been figuring out "My Foolish Heart" with these chords underneath a Wes-octaves melody. Purdy. Nice idea, Emmett!
3 March 03 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
Ernie, make sure you take advantage of the inlays and the five-fret logic. On the melody side, for example, the placement of the notes is identical when you move up five frets and down one string. So a note, one fret in front of the inlay will repeat on the next string, one fret in front of the next dot. This not true on the guitar. Map out all the notes, then observe the symmetry and logic of he fretboard. It's amazing.
27 February 03 - Vance Gloster (CA), to Stickwire:
This same reversed-fifths-like-fourths-ignoring-octaves idea means that everything you learn on the melody side (which is also in fourths) applies to the bass side. For instance, a chord shape played on the melody side can be played on the bass side unaltered (on Matched Reciprocal tunings you can even play on the same fret). The same letter notes are played, but on the bass side it is a different inversion with the letter note that was highest on the melody side as the lowest note on the bass side (and vice versa). I know this sounds very confusing and counter-intuitive (sort of like quantum mechanics), but I have to say it really makes sense to your hands. You learn one set of chord shapes, and one diatonic scale pattern and apply them everywhere all the time. The same chord shapes you play with your right hand can be used for arpeggiated bass "motors", for instance. Once you have made peace with the fifths bass tuning, you can begin to appreciate its significant advantages. This tuning makes a variety of techniques easy that may be almost impossible in fourths.
27 February 03 - Julian Flaks (UK), to Stickwire:
The Stick is just so FUN for music theory, I love playing chord progressions on the bottom strings and just octaves on the top, or a 'reverse' where I use 3 finger power chords on the bottom and define them properly on top. Finally I feel like I can start tackling some jazz standards I began on, and have a chance of getting where I want to with them - hurrah for the Stick (and I'm glad I've stuck out 5ths bass tuning long enough to feel protective over it - was nearly a close thing).
9 February 03 - Jeb McIntyre (MI), to Stickwire:
I got my Stick precisely because it was not a guitar. I've played for decades, and one of my joys has been to try and unlock the music within each instrument. However, at the end of every day a guitar was still a guitar, and a bass was still a bass. I could change tunings, change styles, but there were some intrinsic limitations based upon the structure of the instrument. I'm sure the same applies to the Stick, but the mathematics just took an extreme turn or two. So many more notes. So many more rhythmic possibilities.
On a daily basis I try and force myself to not think of the Stick as simply a 10-string guitar only different. Nor is it an upside down weirdly tuned bass. I try and resist using my previous technique, and get into the technique demanded of this new friend. This is a radically different kind of instrument. I'm trying to learn to understand it for what it is, not make it adapt to what I am.
11 December 02 - Henrik Thygesen Poulsen (Denmark), to Stickwire;
I started (with the Free Hands book and Bob Culbertson's video) to find out chords and permutations on the melody side and started to add melody side chords and solo to simple bass lines, and by the time I felt comfortable with the different chord patterns it dawned on me that you can work with the same chord patterns on the bass side because inverted fifths are reciprocal to straight fours (this may sound confusing but it's not).
Of course the chords are inverted but that's exactly the beauty of the stick. What started out as the main obstacle became the simplest tool of all. And since all the fourths and fifths are straight they are actually easier to handle than a guitar. What takes time on the stick is the basic motor skills, so don't expect to sound like Greg Howard after the first month (no pun intended, to me GH's stick handling is beyond approach).
3 December 02 - Qua Veda (OR), to Stickwire:
Twelve strings give you the option of the high bass 4th (10th and 12th string an octave apart) which Emmett has found great ways to put to use.
8 September 02 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
Flipping those strings sure changed the game. Was this an experiment or full-blown idea? A little of both? Anyway, I think the tuning of the standard Grand Stick, is the greatest instrument discovery of the 20th century. (Not to mention the accompanying technique). Computers? Bah!!!
7 September 02 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
Tapping The Stick is the obvious phenomena. The tuning, to me, is just as revolutionary, if not more so. It's an amazing discovery. So how did Emmett invent this unique, user friendly, music inspiring tuning?
27 August 02 - Paul Potts (MI), to Stickwire:
There is a lot of room for individual preference, but I would say as far as tuning, you can't go wrong with Matched Reciprocal. It "feels" simpler to tune and seems to lay out some very simple chord shapes with your hands a few frets apart to avoid collisions. Also I'm now a member of the Aaron Wolf push-"MR"-as-standard-Stick-tuning club.
24 July 02 - Greg Howard (VA), to Stickwire:
There's a real magic in the way this tuning works. In part it comes from having the strings ascend from the middle (which makes two-handed bass especially easy), and in part from the way your hands naturally open up into the chord shapes.
24 July 02 - Paul Frields (VA), to Stickwire:
The inverted fifths tuning is incredibly powerful, expressive, logical, and unique, and you will probably find it makes much more sense to your hands after minimal practice than "normalized" fifths, IMVHO.
20 July 02 Art Durkee (MN), to Stickwire:
I recall having no difficulty whatsoever with the bass-in-fifths tuning when I first starting playing Stick over ten years ago. (1989, in fact, when I had a borrowed Stick for 6 months; then 1990, when I got my own used polycarb.) I can't recall any of this mental difficulty, even though I also played bass guitar beforehand. In fact, it all rather made a lot of sense to me, right off the bat. I could play a LOT more interesting bass lines and patterns than I was ever capable of playing on bass. (I am not now nor have I ever been a guitarist.) And they all made sense. Maybe what needs to change is one's own habits of thought, and/or (as has been suggested) stop thinking of the Stick like a bass, or a guitar, or a keyboard, or a potted plant. It's a Stick. Learn it as itself, not as a substitute for something else. View it as a completely blank canvas, to which no rules or habits yet apply. It's fresh territory, within which one may play freely, without prior constraints.
30 June 02 - Greg Howard (VA), to rec.music.makers.guitar.jazz:
I do understand the desire behind playing Stick uncrossed, but to me it just doesn't seem as effective a way to access the instrument. You have much greater reach with your hands "open" crossing the neighboring set of strings. And since playing The Stick isn't really about playing within "positions" increased reach is really an asset. Remember that you have to execute the pitch and attack of every note with only your fingertips, so if your hand is all bunched up, that's harder. Playing The Stick is very physical, involving a whole range of hand and arm motions, subtle though they may be.
10 May 02 - Jaap Kramer (Netherlands), to Stickwire:
I like the "normal" Stick because of it's orchestral possibilities (bass & chords on the left hand while doing lead lines on the right hand) and the nice overlap in bass and melody strings, so you can play nice "cluster chords" etc. Also, the fifths tuning in the bass strings has its unique possibilities for creating two-handed bass lines. The best description I can think of now is that it creates more room for my fingers :-).
6 May 02 - Jeff Pearce (IN), to Emmett:
Although it isn't much comfort to you when the musical muse is tugging at you and you're dealing with creating Sticks, guys like me are VERY happy that you made the decision that you did at your own personal crossroads. One of the things drew ME to wanting to explore on the Stick was the tuning: the combination of 4ths and 5ths. To my ears, the 4ths implies a jazz tuning - the whole harmelodic/Coltrane/Coleman arena. The 5ths in the bass implies classical music - cello tunings and all that. The 4ths almost demand improv. The 5ths almost demand structure. Which is why, musically, your performance on the Stick Night tape "reached" me - to my ears you somehow found that area where you weren't improvising, yet weren't playing from memory. There was a definite flow to the music, unlike anything I've heard for quite a while, which leads me to believe that your musical concepts and theories are every bit the genius that your instrument making is. Sorry if this comes off as blowing smoke, but it's the truth! :)
22 March 02 - Art Durkee (MN), to Stickwire:
I actually prefer the fifths tuning on the bass side. Advantages: wider range than available in a fourths tuning, allowing one to play more "open" or "loping" bass lines than fourths tuning allows, without having to reach for notes. This is especially useful, IMO, for dub, funk, and world music bass lines. Dub in particular is often built on fourth and fifth leaps in the bass, emphasizing the root and fourth and fifth of the scale. Fifths tuning opens up the space between notes. Face it, tone clusters in the lowest range of instruments such as Stick, piano, trombone, etc., usually just sound like mud. So, bass lines with faster rhythms, when they happen, have a little more space between intervals, opening them up and letting them breathe....
29 August 01 - Greg Brouelette (CA), to Stickwire:
Because the tuning of a Stick is in 4ths and 5ths (as opposed to the guitar which has that nasty Major 3rd in the middle of the neck) I find that it's much easier to "hear" where I'm going on Stick than on guitar. Because the intervals between the strings are the same on The Stick, intervals resolve themselves into shapes. And it's always the same shape on any string with either hand. That makes it much easier to learn than guitar or piano. A theory background from any instrument will help. You certainly find yourself thinking about scales, and intervals more on Stick than on guitar. But that's just because the tuning is so logical that you can more easily "see" the scale shapes on a Stick.
21 August 01 - Jonathan Pickles (NY), an essay on "The Geometry of Systems":
Playing one (The Stick) engenders new permutations of an old formula. The proverbial playing field widens, and new vistas of possibility open. Play Emmett's instrument - which is tuned in perfect fourths on one side and perfect fifths on the other (to facilitate a wide range of tones) - and you will see a striking geometry, with scales and modes occurring as fractal repetitions of self-similarity along and across the fretboard.
15 July 01 - Steve Adelson (NY), to Stickwire:
Thanks to the spectacular tuning of The Stick there is more than one place to play any tone. On a standard 10-string, any note on the third string is doubled on the same fret on the 10th string. Use your index and thumb and get some cool playing. Exploring The Stick is a never-ending journey of discovery. I feel like a beginner even after 16 years and there's so much to learn. Inspiring at every turn, The Stick's future is now.
10 May 01 - Art Durkee (MN), to Stickwire:
I prefer the standard 10-string tuning, haven't really been interested in anything else as for me at least it already contains enough possibilities so as to boggle the brain and how's that for a run-on sentence! Seriously though, for my needs it still contains everything I want and then some.
13 April 01 - Greg Howard (VA), to Stickwire:
There's another factor at work here, though, and that's the difference between your uniform 4ths tuning and the standard tuning. There could be endless arguments about which is "better" but I have no doubt that it is easier to read on an all 4ths tuning. To me, what you give up in range and harmonic possibilities is a high price to pay. I'm not yet convinced that it's worth it. To my ear, the sonic magic of the standard (5ths) bass tuning is as much a part of Stick-ness as the method.
25 January 01 - Steve Morgan (SD), to Stickwire:
I recently changed my tuning to straight 4ths. After a few gigs, I promptly changed it back to 5ths and 4ths. I missed the chord possibilities with 5ths. At first I thought that 5ths was the toughest thing ever, but now I kind of like it. Granted I would never change my bass to 5ths, but it feels very natural on The Stick. The way I had it tuned was BEADGC on both sides with an octave separating them. This was really nice for unison stuff, but my hands kept running into each other. I may end up getting the SB8 someday for strictly 4ths bass stuff, but for now the good old Matched Reciprocal is doing just fine.
20 November 00 - Brian McCully (WA), to Stickwire:
I'm using a Matched Reciprocal tuning to give my left hand more roaming room, and I've also tried the whole tone dropped 12th string from time to time for a richer left hand chord with jazzier voicing too. I use light strings because I veer towards the blues and jazz sides and like to bend a lot in the right hand.
10 November 00 - Christian Buechele (Germany), to Sticknews:
I had a chance to try a "mirrored 4ths" tuned Stick years ago. (An) advantage of this tuning is that sight reading is a lot easier with the bass in 4ths, as your hands will play in perfect position (less stretching and reaching out than with the bass side in 5ths). However, I'm not a good sight-reader anyway and I didn't want to lose the chordal possibilities of the bass in 5ths. Emmett made a good point here when he said that the bass in 5ths makes The Stick more like a keyboard. The mirrored 4ths tuning makes The Stick more like a bass plus a guitar on one fretboard, which is something that reduces the possibilities of the instrument. My 2 cents.
10 November 00 - Ron Baggerman (Holland), to Sticknews:
On my Grand Stick I'm using the standard Stick tuning but with the 12th string two semitones down as described by Greg (Howard). Emmett gave me this idea a few years ago and although I first couldn't see the advantages, I'm "converted" now. Very rich clusters can be created between the 12th bass string and the melody strings.
31 October 00 - Greg Howard (VA), to Sticknews:
I've been toying with the idea of getting an instrument in a slightly different tuning. I had read some things about using a "mirrored 4ths" tuning, and set up one of my Sticks that way. It was really inviting at first. All of the sudden left hand scales were really easy, but then I started to work out some chords, and that's where the tuning started to fail me. I couldn't find a way to have low root notes with a spread-out voicing above them, something I think is necessary to avoid having a muddy sound (a familiar experience to any piano player, playing chords in the bass range of the piano). If I sacrificed the lowest bass string I'd have a higher range to build the chords in, but I'd lose the lowest bass string.
But the place where I really lost interest was in the area of two handed bass playing. There's something perfect about the way the inverted 5ths tuning lays under two hands, with the right hand easily staying out of the left hand's way, an incredible range of notes available in an instant. I think Emmett's tuning is not the best for everything, but I wonder what tuning would be. What I do think Emmett's tuning is best for is making the most out of one set of strings: a wide range of notes allowing a great range of chords and bass parts. This is especially true if you use a 4th interval on top of a Grand Stick's bass strings.
6 September 00 - Glenn Poorman (MI), to Stickwire:
Playing with your hands crossed feels very natural and comfortable on a Stick. If your instrument is fully adjustable, you can always experiment with changing things around but I would recommend giving the standard setup some time. The position just feels "right" to me now and the 5ths tuning allows for some real nice bass side chords that would be difficult to do were it tuned in 4ths.
July 00 - Steve Adelson (NY), for 20th Century Guitar Magazine:
I demonstrate The Chapman Stick at many trade shows throughout the year. At these shows, particularly the vintage guitar shows, the most frequently asked question I get is, "How is that thing tuned?" I answer, "Same as a guitar. Just turn these little pegs on top." I actually only use this sarcastic answer once or twice a day to someone with a sense of humor. I'm usually asked about 1,000 times. I'd like to devote this month's column to really explain the tuning and illustrate the brilliance of this discovery by Emmett Chapman.
Spring/Summer 00 - Greg Howard (VA), for Progression Magazine:
Tuning the bass strings in ascending fifths and the melody strings in descending fourths also reinforces the instrument's duality. This results in the two sets of strings having a parallel geometric relationship, where chords are the same geometric shape on each set of strings, but are inversions of each other. Chapman had added three strings in inverted fifths to his guitar, and the tuning fit his new method so well that he extended it to five strings and removed one of the six "guitar" strings. He was even granted patent for his unique tuning. Having the bass in fifths allows the Stickist to play intervals in the bass that are spread out over a wide range - chords a traditional bass player can't achieve.
7 July 00 - Greg Howard (VA), to Stickwire:
This is just my opinion, but I think that uncrossing your hands limits the amount of motion and reach that you get. You have to play with your fingertips very close to your hand. What I love about Emmett's crossed tunings is that your hand is opened up and you can reach and move with great power and accuracy, not relying on hand "position" changes to get around, but on pivoting on your thumbs.
4 June 00 - Steve Adeleson (NY), to Stickwire:
Biggest suggestion --- just play and observe. Since you have a musical background, the extreme logic of the tuning and dot marker placement will leap out at you. As much as the tapping technique is revolutionary and challenging, the tuning is extremely user friendly. Combining these two concepts will give you a creative outlet you've yet to experience.
27 April 00 - Carl Chilley (England), to Stickwire:
As for tuning, I became a Matched Reciprocal fan big time on my Grand. This is the tuning that converted me from all fourths and frankly made me realise that maybe (just maybe :-) Emmett knew what he was about with the bass-in-fifths thing. And with Matched Reciprocal you only have to remember 6 names for tuning. :-P
29 February 00 - Richard Gunn (England), to Stickwire:
I started with a Grand Stick in Matched Reciprocal tuning. It works for me but others may and will differ as it is very much a matter of personal preference. The nice thing is that you can always change the tuning for the cost of a set of strings and a little time in setting up. Matched Reciprocal is good in that the notes for the melody and bass strings match (although in different octaves) so it is easier to know where a note is when you are learning.
28 February 00 - Rick Allen (CA), to Stickwire:
The tuning question is a Sticky one (pun intended). The Grand Stick is the best of both worlds allowing you good overlap between the hands for solo play, and also great range. If I had to start out again I still think I would start out with a 10 string in Baritone tuning. I switched from standard tuning to this one last year and it has worked for me. I find I use the lower melody notes much more than I used to use the higher notes in standard tuning. Ok forget all of this. Try, experiment, see what works for you. The beauty of this instrument is that it is extremely, extremely, very, very flexible. It is not hard to change tunings if you have one of the newer instruments. Speaking of the inverted fifths tuning: I was confused at first, but now would not have it any other way. To me this is one of the true "genius" things Emmett created with this instrument.
9 November 99 - Joe Mc Collam (CA), to Stickwire:
The answer to whether to use Baritone/Deep Baritone or standard/Matched Reciprocal is to listen to players and decide what sound you like best. For examples of what Baritone sounds like, listen to Greg Howard. (There's lots of others, but he probably has the most CDs available, each quite different from each other. "Stick Figures" is great.) For standard, you might want to try Larry Tuttle's newish CD, "Through the Gates". Actually he's using a Grand on this CD, but his use of the top string is an integral part of his "voice". If you choose the standard sound, I'd suggest trying Matched Reciprocal (MR). It still has that crystalline high-string sound, but it totally solves the bumping-hands problem, and a lot of Baritone stuff that's impossible on standard is possible on MR. Some people also like it because some of the strings are tuned more guitaristically, but the reason I like it is the hand separation.
2 November 99 - Stuart Mawler (MD), to Stick Enterprises:
Emmett's concept (on the 10 and 12 string versions) separates the fingerboard into what you might think of as "bass" and "guitar" or perhaps "bass" and "melody". Following this concept, the sides are mirrors of each other -- the low strings are all in the middle of the fingerboard, rising in pitch as you move to the outside of the fingerboard. From personal experience, I find the fifths tuning liberating; I approach the instrument with different expectations. My "bass lines" are different when written or performed on the Stick than they would be on my bass.
14 October 99 - Tom Griesgraber (CA), to Stickwire:
Baritone melody really just gives you a more "tightly knit" instrument. There is more overlap between sides so that your right hand melodies are more often intertwined around the upper notes of chords in the left hand. I prefer it this way. It has a tendancy to make the Stick sound more like one big instrument and not two different instruments. I also like the timbre of the lower melody strings a little better than that of the higher melody strings and a Baritone melody set up gives you one less high in exchange for one more low.
13 September 99 - Steve Adeleson (NY), to Stickwire:
Don't be concerned about the bass strings being "backwards". Actually all the notes end up being exactly where you know them, as far as letter-wise. Only the octaves change. I don't see this as an obstacle, but more as a refreshing concept to play lines. More importantly, with the higher strings on the outside, you can combine them in a fascinating way with the melody strings. Emmett's standard tuning opens countless avenues of harmonic interest. I play bass, melody and harmonic ideas on the Stick that would be impossible on any other instrument. As you play the Stick it will become evident how brillant the unorthodox tuning is. It encourages you to be creative and is very user friendly in that regard.
12 September 99 - Tom Griesgraber (CA), to Stickwire:
I take liberties with octaves all the time. Most of the time its more for the sake of overall sound than fingering though. Because of the overlapping ranges of the melody side and bass side, a Stick is capable of some arrangements nothing else can really handle (such as playing a melody in your right hand that is perhaps weaving right through the middle of a chord voicing your left is playing).
Minor thirds are a bit of a stretch in a bass side voicing. But for most of the bass side they would also sound rather muddy. In low ranges anything other than 5ths and octaves can sound a bit blurred... which is the real benefit (to me) of the 5ths tuning. The basic Stick chords are usually some variation of a root, 5th, 10th voicing (which most piano players are quite fond of... although for them it's much more of a stretch :)
19 August 99 - Casey Arrillaga (CA), to Stickwire:
With the Matched Reciprocal tuning, I've found that the simplest thing is to memorize notes on the bass side and then learn to relate them to notes on the melody side.
15 April 97 - David Crawford (CA), to Stickwire:
I love the bass in fifths and I think it has a lot to do with the appeal of The Stick. It inspires me to come up with unique bass patterns. The bass chords are easy to get to and sound great; I was never fond of bass chords until I got my first Stick.