Chapman Stick

The Chapman Stick is a stringed instrument, that belongs to he family of electric guitars. The principle idea of this instrument is, that it will be mainly used for tapping technique.

The American Jimmy Webster is one of the first discoverer of tapping ,iniated by Harry deArmont. He published his “Tapping Method for the 6-string-guitar“ in 1952 and produced a record for the first time too.

“Tapping” means, that the strings are beaten with the fingers on the fingerboard. The strings are held after they were beaten down. So a new possibility of guitar-playing which is confessed in the guitar world.

The Chapman Stick is a special tap-guitar , connected with an own concept of the string-tuning, developed by Emmett Chapman (Los Angeles/California), “the Stick Standard Tuning”. In 1974 Emmett Chapman from the U.S.A. has given a very guiding influence to the tapping technique with the invention of the Stick and his idea to put the fingers in a perpendicular position to the strings, parallel to the frets. He has created this two-handed tapping technique with perpendicular hands on a 9-sring guitar in 1969. He oriented the fingers of his right hand perpendicular to the neck and strings, where as the left hand was already perpendicular as per the guitarist´s fingering hand. His hands approached the fretboard from opposit sides, the hands thus being oriented parallel to each other.

With this position it became better, to get a relaxed posture and a free mind for the tapping. This technique allows fingering in each hand independently, where the line of attack of all fingertips is across successive frets on any single string. Chapman was the first,who played this way. He brought it to completion as a dedicated playing method and started teaching it to guitarists an bass-players. This idea don´t depends only to the stick, it is the principal idea to get a good tapping-technique and musical success anyway. He published this idea in his method-book: Emmett Chapman “Free Hands – A New Discipline of Fingers on Strings”, Los Angeles, 1974


Mathias Sorof developed, influenced by Chapman´s approach, very early a method of its own for the Tap guitar, with the Stick as a well-suitable instrument. The decision for an own concept and the method to be developed from this was certain already at the acquisition of the instrument, a 10 string Stick in 1980. So the consideration gave the rash to play “uncrossed” with the hands, not over cross, around at this for the crossed, therefore “crossed” to exclude a typical mutual restriction of the freedom of movement of both hands for it.

The “uncrossed” way of playing is therefore the first typical attribute of the Sorof tuning.

– A further quality is the division of the string groups in 2 regions which are assigned to one hand each. In principle, the both hands, said strongly in simplified, terms pursue one task area each:

– the left hand leads 5 strings the basses and chords in arbitrary rhythms and structures the right hand leads 5 strings melody and chords in arbitrary rhythms and structures. 

The division of the strings in “two regions” is therefore the second typical attribute of the Sorof tuning

The third attribute concerns the tuning of the strings .

The game direction of both hands laid out in Sorof’s method is “parallel” , not mirrored as in the case stick standard tuning. The tuning is orientated at traditionally approved tunings.

– the strings for the left hand are tuned into fifths as in the case of a cello
strings: strings 5 – 1 = ,C – ,G – D – A – e

– the strings for the right hand have the classical guitar tuning tuned in fourth with the characteristically third: strings 10 – 6 = G – c – f – a – d

The fourth attribute is the possibility of “Cross-Tapping”
i.e. the model of thought of “Two region Tapping” can be varied in “One region Tapping” or “Cross region Tapping” so that other intersections are the result.
- both hands tap on the strings of the left hand
- both hands tap on the strings of the right hand
- the left hand taps on the strings of the left & right hand
- the right hand taps on the strings of the left & right hand.

About the variability and the advantages and disadvantages of the one or others atmosphere can be argued, but this is of benefit to only the complete development.
But this rare condition of new possibilities is present still something special, before it becomes
dogmatically sometime, too.


The previous results and successes don’t speak against this method.

Many things are anyway compatible under each other, so that after latest experiences and knowledge won from it between for example ” stick-standard-tuning “or “baritone-tuning” and this” Sorof tuning ” an exchange works well. 2003/2004 could this be discussed for the first time and tried out practically at different Chapman-Stick seminars .

There are except for it many parameters of Tap guitar technique which are not bound to the tuning and concern all tappers in principle similarly.

The instrument is produced and sold under the Trademark “The Stick” of Stick Enterprises, (Los Angeles/California) for a small production enterprise in the USA.

The Stick is produced in different models and tunings in the meantime.
The main model has 10 strings to this day by which 5 strings each with the right one and 5 strings with the left hand are tapped.

Sorof has choosed the Stick as his instrument, because it is designed perfectly. But for the approach to play on this instrument he early preferred a way of his own to develop an own tuning-method. But both tunings are compatible in many ways.

The Stick opened a new world both for composition and for interpretation.
 A pianistic intellect merges with the string feeling of the guitar.