Chapman Stick

Chapman Stick

Tony Levin performing on the Chapman Stick.

A Chapman Stick is a large instrument with a wide fretboard and eight, 10, or 12 strings. It is played by tapping (or 'hammering-on') a string at the desired fret with the finger and holding it down with the sustain of the note. Since only a single finger of one hand is needed to sound each note, the accomplished player can, using three or four fingers of both hands simultaneously, produce complex passages of music comprising bass, harmony, and lead lines all at once.


Chapman's vision

The Chapman Stick was the unique vision of guitarist Emmett Chapman. In 1969, his discovery of a novel two-handed tapping method on his guitar enabled him to play multiple, independent lines, each hand perpendicular to the fretboard and approaching the board from opposite sides. Chapman's search for an instrument that was large enough to accommodate this technique led him to design the Chapman Stick, first distributed in 1974.


There are currently six models of Chapman Stick available:


  • Class 10-string
  • Grand 12-string
  • Bass 8-string
  • NS/Stick 8-string (codesigned by Ned Steinberger)
  • Stick XG 8-, 10-, or 12-string with graphite-carbon-fiber body
  • Alto Stick 10-string tuned to the range of a guitar


    The Chapman Stick in performance

    The seminal 1987 album Parallel Galaxy by Emmett Chapman serves as a showcase for the instrument. Among other players who've embraced the Chapman Stick are Tony Levin, noted for his work with King Crimson.