Greg Howard
Chapman Stick Artist

Old Cabell Hall, Charlottesville
The Stick®
The Stick, or Chapman Stick® as it is also known, is one of the few truly American musical instruments. It has a fretboard like a guitar except that, instead of plucking the strings with a pick or with your fingers, the notes are sounded simply by tapping or fretting the desired note. This leaves both hands open to play simultaneously on the fretboard. With this playing technique in mind, the fretboard of a Stick is much wider than that of a guitar (making room for both hands to work) and the Stick has up to twelve strings covering almost the full range of a piano.

The Stick is an electric instrument with a magnetic pickup. It has frets just like a guitar except that the frets are much larger and the string action is generally lower. When a string is tapped at a fret, the string itself hits the large fret at the point where the tap occurred causing the string to vibrate. The low string action along with the sensitivity of the Stick pickup causes the tapping action to produce a nice solid and sustained tone. The playing position for a Stick is to hold the instrument in a near vertical position. The two hands then play in a position where the fingers are parallel to the frets and each hand crosses over to play the strings on the opposite side of the instrument.

Emmett Chapman invented this playing technique in the late 1960s on a home made guitar and over the years the method has come to be referred to as Free Hands. While other players experimented with tapping a guitar fretboard prior to (and since) that time, it was Chapman who realized that turning the neck to a near vertical position and playing with the fingers parallel to the frets yielded a much more natural playing position. Once this technique for playing was discovered, Chapman began working to design an instrument that was actually made for this method of play. During the early 70s, he continued to refine his instrument adding strings, experimenting with different tunings, and adding a stereo pickup allowing separate processing of bass and melody strings. After building several prototypes, he arrived at the design we see today and, in 1974, built his first production Chapman Stick. Since that time, Chapman has taught his technique to many musicians and today, players of the Stick Method number in the thousands.

Since the 1980s Greg has been a leading voice on the instrument, bringing his keyboard mentality to its amplified strings in search of new sounds, musical arrangements and pure expression. He has released fourteen recordings in a wide variety of genres, including jazz, Latin, progressive rock and free improvised music. Greg has written three books on the instrument; The Stick Book, Volume 1™ (1996), The Greg Howard Songbook(2009), and Tapping Into Bach (2021).

To find out more about this amazing instrument, please visit Stick Enterprises on the web at

Stick and Chapman Stick are federally registered trademarks of Stick Enterprises, Inc.