Ok.... the Chapman Stick is not exactly a vintage synth but it is a vintage instrument that's been around since the '70s and so, in our books, it qualifies! Besides, it's such a great instrument with such a great sound, it's good to be able offer some samples from it.

The Stick was invented in the late '60s by Emmet Chapman, a guitarist who developed a unique 'tapping' method of playing guitar - by 'drumming' on the strings on the neck of the guitar with his fingertips, he found could play melodies and chords. Furthermore, both hands could be used simultaneously providing bass and/or chords and/or melodies. The trick was not to hold and play the guitar horizontally as normal but vertically - the hands then approach the neck at right angles giving both sets of fingers full access to the strings.

Chapman developed his own 9-string guitar which, in turn, evolved into the Chapman Stick we know today.

The Stick is a truly unique and amazing instrument that can cover both bass and guitar duties. The left half of the instrument (called 'Bass') has the lower notes and the right half (called 'Melody') has the higher notes. Unusually, however, the strings don't go from lowest left to highest right as on a traditional stringed instrument - instead, the lowest string is right in the middle with the bass strings going higher in pitch from the middle to the outer left string. The Melody section also goes from right to left with the lowest 'melody' string on the far right.

There are 8-, 10- and 12-string versions of the Stick available.

The Stick appears to use various tunings for the strings and isn't subject to an absolute tuning reference such as you find on most other stringed instruments. Some players tune the strings to fifths, others to fourths - others use a combination of different intervals for the Bass and Melody sections. Some even use different 'split-points' with different combinations of Bass and Melody strings (the norm is a 50/50 split of Bass and Melody but this can be changed according to your requirements).

Each section of the Stick (i.e. Bass and Melody) has its own independent pickup so each section can have its own amplification and/or be separately processed through effects.

The Stick just has to be heard (and seen) to be believed. In the hands of a proficient player, it is literally a one-man band as the performer plays bass, chords and melody.... together!

But this is not an instrument you just pick up and start banging out tunes on (and Burt Weedon didn't write a 'Play In A Day' book for it!). Even if you're an excellent guitarist or bass player, the playing technique required on the Stick takes some adapting to and requires a serious investment in time and practice. The Stick is also a serious financial investment because these hand-crafted instruments don't come cheap!!

Arguably, one of the the best known exponents of the instrument is Tony Levin who has been bass and Stick player live and in the studio with Peter Gabriel for many years having contributed his unique playing style to most of Gabriel's albums and live performances.

Tony can be seen performing live in the photo to the right but I have had the privilege of being in the same room as him at Gabriel's Real World Studios as he put the Stick through its paces - quite an experience, believe me!

From the photo, you can get an idea of the two-handed technique required to play the Stick.

However, there are thousands of other equally talented Stick players across the world who champion the cause for this unique instrument.

The Stick is still very much in production with a wide variety of models to choose from. Stick Enterprises even make a special MIDI pickup to interface this unique instrument with the modern world. Stick Enterprises call this 'The Grid'.

Now... there is no way that even the most meticulously sampled Stick is ever going to do justice to the real thing because the essence of the instrument is not how it sounds but how it is played. You could sample every single note on every single string and every single nuance of the instrument and fill up an entire DVD with samples. You could then sit there for weeks programming the most detailed performance on your sequencer but it would still sound a bit crap compared with the real thing in the hands of even a mediocre performer!

That said, Nostalgia's Stick samples are great bass sounds in their own right and useful in any number of musical applications.

You can find out more about the amazing Chapman Stick at the company's website:

If you want to see and hear the Stick in action in the hands of a virtuoso (and assuming that you have broadband), you should check out Greg Howard's 'tutorial' videos at:

Chapman Stick and Stick are trademarks owned by Stick Enterprises, Inc.