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 The role of the Stick in music 
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Post The role of the Stick in music
The Stick is a fine instrument. I think I can say this, and everybody in this forum will agree. Anyway I recently thought about a question I would like to talk about:

What is the role of the Stick in music?

The Stick is a very young instrument, and you can try to answer this question very easy with "It is what you make it." But I don't think that this answer meets the profoundness of the question. A guitar has it's role in music, no matter what style you play, you know what to do. The same for bass, piano and drums. But the Stick is different. You can play a kind of guitar with it, and you can try to add something like bass. But it is different to a real guitar and a real bass. Besides the fact, that a guitar line on the Stick sounds different, you will never be able to play the two parts - bass and guitar - as two sklilled musicians will. It took years for a Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page or B.B. King to develop their individual tone. And all the Jacos, Victors, and Tonys on bass also work hard every day to get this bassline right. I will never be able to play on the same high level as a Steve Vai with my right hand, and simultaneously play a Billy Sheehan bassline with my left. With a lot of practicing I might get close, but the final frontier is Steve and Billy improvising. A single person can not handle this on one instrument.
I can focus on a great guitar like solo while playing a reflex based bass line. I can play a groovy bass line with lots of syncopes and dead notes, but then there will be no more brain power left to add the guitar solo I just played before.

So for me, the Stick is definitely NOT two instruments. Maybe the Stick is, but I am not two players. ;-)

So is the Stick more a piano? You can play nice chordal accompaniments in the left hand while soloing with the right, like a jazz piano player. You can play a reflex based walking bass and improvise over it, or add chords with the right, just as on a piano. So yes, here we might be close to the role of the Stick. Jazz Piano. Hmmm. How about classic tunes? The Stick allows polyphonic, multi voiced arrangements to be played, which enables you to play Bach on it, or any other classic tunes. I am not a classic trained player on an other instrument, but I think with a lot of practicing, you can get satisfying results with the Stick.

When I take the Stick to a session, most people say "oh, a guitar", or "oh, a bass". And this is their expectation. They expect this instrument to be a bass, a guitar, or both at the same time. But when you say, hey, this is more a piano as the both instruments you think of, they get confused, because it looks more like a guitar or bass.

So where do we go? For me the Stick will never be a satisfying replacement for a guitar and a bass player. But is it a replacement for a piano or keyboards (yes, we can trigger midi devices). Or is there something I missed? Or do we need to invent a new role for the Stick in music? Is this instrument so unique and different that there needs to be a completely new role for it?

I am so curious about your point of view, because everything above is highly subjective...

Best,
TheMM

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Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:08 pm
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
MM

i have came to this conclusion with owning my 10 string Poly carb since March 09...as much as i thought it was more of a bass players instrument.. and other saying it's more of a guitarists instrument... the Stick is it's own instrument.. different fundamentals, different techniques, different tones, and other things i have yet to discover...

since playing the stick i have become a better bassist, and a better guitarist... my understanding of music and how it pertains to the stick..

what other instrument can u do what the stick can do... there isnt one... what instrument can do what a guitar does.. same answer..

Yes i maybe a lover of progressive rock and metal...where the stick is used alot... also in jazz again the stick used alot.. i have yet to see a blues band with a stick player or even dare i say a country band with a stick player....the stick would work with anystyle..

darren


Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:09 pm
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
TheMM wrote:
Besides the fact, that a guitar line on the Stick sounds different, you will never be able to play the two parts - bass and guitar - as two sklilled musicians will. It took years for a Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page or B.B. King to develop their individual tone. And all the Jacos, Victors, and Tonys on bass also work hard every day to get this bassline right. I will never be able to play on the same high level as a Steve Vai with my right hand, and simultaneously play a Billy Sheehan bassline with my left.


I'm not trying to be critical, but I've heard this type of sentiment expressed before, and all I can think of is "Who wants to hear a bass player and a guitar player each solo at the same time?"

I've heard plenty of stuff from Greg Howard, Steve Adelson, etc that can easily be compared to two very talented musicians playing simultaneously, but I realize that's not the point of your question.

I really think you answered the question in your opening paragraph: The role of the Stick is whatever you make it.

Do you feel like it has to have some kind of defined role, or can you just make the music that you like to hear with it and enjoy playing? I see no point in trying to establish labels to anything when it comes to creativity and art, which is what music means to me. If I could make good sounding music playing all lead bass and forcing my guitar player to do nothing but play rhythm, so be it! Who cares what the "roles" are for each instrument? And, by the way, who defines what a "role" is for any instrument?

Again, I'm not trying to be critical or snarky, it just seems like your question is coming from someone who doesn't play the Stick, which is obviously not the case. What I mean by that, is: I would think that someone who plays the Stick already has shed any preconceptions about "instruments" and "roles"

Randy


Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:16 pm
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
Randy wrote:
Again, I'm not trying to be critical or snarky, it just seems like your question is coming from someone who doesn't play the Stick, which is obviously not the case. What I mean by that, is: I would think that someone who plays the Stick already has shed any preconceptions about "instruments" and "roles"


Randy,

thanks for pointing this out. You are absolutely correct, this is also a question that a beginner of our loved instrument might ask. But I am currently at the beginning again. I begin to see the Stick as my main instrument. And I am willing to work hard on developing my skills to become a serious player. Anyway this leads me to the question how to define myself - the role I want to play. Of course you can ask: Why do you want to play a role? Why not just do it? Good point, but for each and every role that is derived from a classic instrument role (bass, guitar, piano) you have to spent a lot of time practicing, to do it right. I am not talking about playing something like a guitar solo, I'm talking about playing a real good guitar solo. It takes time to learn this. Just like it takes time to learn how to play a great walking bass over any chord progression at any tempo.
I currently need to decide where to start first, and on what fields to invest my time.
This is why the question of the Stick's role appears again.

Best,
TheMM

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Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:46 pm
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
Gnat wrote:
since playing the stick i have become a better bassist, and a better guitarist... my understanding of music and how it pertains to the stick..


Darren,

this is very interesting - I also noticed that playing the Stick also affects my piano and bass playing. The Stick adds another point of view to the music theory, just like you can visualize some things very nicely on the keys of the piano, the Stick seems to provide another way of visualizing and realizing relations between notes, that you can then reuse on other instruments.

TheMM

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Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:53 pm
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
Just some idling thoughts interspersed between the MM's propelling line of questions:

"...you will never be able to play the two parts - bass and guitar - as two skilled musicians will."

But you can play two simpler parts together in solo, then try to make them "tighter" than any duo could possibly play. The result is the core conception of the song, minus the frills, but full sounding, polished and complete on one instrument.

"I can focus on a great guitar like solo while playing a reflex based bass line."

Not to underestimate those reflexes, they can have an intelligence too. The fingers may be "on automatic" but you can still direct them, up, down, and both ways along the board. Think of Steve Adelson's "compass bass" system (it's alive). Some of my own bass "motors" have automatic fingering, always "walking" the fingers and never using the same finger in succession, but I think of the string registers and directions as a tuneful drum set - kick drum, toms, and all the high frequency metal objects.

"I can play a groovy bass line with lots of syncopes and dead notes, but then there will be no more brain power left to add the guitar solo I just played before."

There are brains and then there are brains (not to get too personal), and some seem more centered and focused while others seem more oriented toward duality, even multiplicity. In a nutshell, it's the trumpeter versus the pianist (no value judgements here as it takes all kinds).

"So yes, here we might be close to the role of the Stick. Jazz Piano. Hmmm."

Yes, it's a carry-on "piano" with all the "forte", plus finger expression and a driving bass.

"For me the Stick will never be a satisfying replacement for a guitar and a bass player. But is it a replacement for a piano or keyboards..."

I think so. Now if we could just replace the Boesendorfer.

"Or is there something I missed? Or do we need to invent a new role for the Stick in music? Is this instrument so unique and different that there needs to be a completely new role for it?"

I like to be the soloist, play the complete musical concept, then take it out into the jungle of musical beasts, some of which pound their hooves, others howling and trumpeting. My favorite duo combo is with drums, also woodwinds, or with both in trio. I don't do so well with bass, keyboards or another Stick player, although there have been some great exceptions, like my duo with Vance Gloster (of Stickwire) on his grand piano last Saturday night, and some duos with Don Schiff on his NS/Stick.

Best, Emmett.

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Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:58 pm
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
It's strange, but I never think of the stick as anything but one unique instrument. Never do I feel that I am playing a guitar and bass role. Never. Even though some might put much of my playing squarely in the guitar/bass realm, I don't.
I CHOOSE to often play music which roughly mimics what to some listeners might be guitar/bass functions, but that is NOT what I do. I always try to create a "whole" while playing.

I guess the instrument "my" playing most closely resembles is a jazz organ.

I suppose the "bass role" for me is where I live. I need to fulfill the bass to be comfortable.
So I guess in my playing that would be the traditional role I would fill but in a nontraditional way.

Brett


Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:21 pm
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
TheMM wrote:
The Stick is a fine instrument. I think I can say this, and everybody in this forum will agree. Anyway I recently thought about a question I would like to talk about:

What is the role of the Stick in music?

I will never be able to play on the same high level as a Steve Vai with my right hand, and simultaneously play a Billy Sheehan bassline with my left. With a lot of practicing I might get close, but the final frontier is Steve and Billy improvising. A single person can not handle this on one instrument.

So for me, the Stick is definitely NOT two instruments. Maybe the Stick is, but I am not two players. ;-)

So is the Stick more a piano? You can play nice chordal accompaniments in the left hand while soloing with the right, like a jazz piano player. You can play a reflex based walking bass and improvise over it, or add chords with the right, just as on a piano. So yes, here we might be close to the role of the Stick. Jazz Piano. Hmmm. How about classic tunes? The Stick allows polyphonic, multi voiced arrangements to be played, which enables you to play Bach on it, or any other classic tunes. I am not a classic trained player on an other instrument, but I think with a lot of practicing, you can get satisfying results with the Stick.

So where do we go? For me the Stick will never be a satisfying replacement for a guitar and a bass player. But is it a replacement for a piano or keyboards (yes, we can trigger midi devices). Or is there something I missed? Or do we need to invent a new role for the Stick in music? Is this instrument so unique and different that there needs to be a completely new role for it?

I am so curious about your point of view, because everything above is highly subjective...

Best,
TheMM

Hi Marc,

(Great comments so far folks)

I think your question is really two questions.

1. How does the Stick fit into the cultural expectations of how music is made?

2. What can The Stick do in the hands of a skilled player?

The answer to the first question is somewhat what you described. You walk into a situation where people are familiar with the instrument, and they have some preconceptions based on seeing Tony grooving along with Peter Gabriel, or seeing Bob at a big art fair tearing up some more familiar sounds.

When I went into the studio with Dave Matthews, Steve Lillywhite (who had produced Gabriel's music) said, "I don't know what you're going to do on this track, there's already a bass part". So I just started laying down a few lines, and then he did something really cool. He was able to catch the essence of how the instrument worked (in my hands) very quickly, and comped all of the tracks I had laid down into just two tracks, as if I had played them in real time.

Your example of Billy Sheehan and Steve Vai at once is pretty extreme. Most of us would never achieve that level of skill on any instrument.

so step back a bit...

If you consider how simple most bass parts are in traditional musical forms (except for jazz), it's not that hard to tap those out while being more complex and "intent" in your right hand, adding a little variety to the left when your attention can be put there.

There are many things you can do on The Stick that Billy Sheehan and Steve Vai would never come up with together because you can change direction of both hands in an instant, and can create a forever evolving alternating interdependent groove.

So you're right, in that one person cannot simultaneously be two people. But I would say you are wrong about The Stick not being two instruments. It can be two instruments (independent), or one instrument (interdependent) and can flow between these two things any time you desire.

The incredible variety of styles and approaches you will find in Stick player's music is the answer to question #2. The Stick can fit any role, many as yet not even imagined. Listen to Japhlet's "Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove" and you'll hear all manner of sounds, including percussion sounds, all coming from The Stick. Listen to Alex Nahas's Bright Brown and you'll hear the traditional roles of guitar and bass in a rock context, not just in terms of the playing, but sonically as well.

Listen to Emmett or Steve and you'll hear the bass, piano and guitar roles of jazz players. Listen to Bob and Matt and there's acoustic guitar, harp, harpsichord, etc... Cides takes it a step beyond, amplifying the capabilities of the tapped string through electronics, exploring the "orchestra in a two-by-four".

Much to my fans' annoyance, with me it changes from moment, because The Stick flows so nicely with my creative impulses.

All of the traditional instruments we see (and electric guitar and bass are certainly traditional instruments as they are viewed these days) are capable of very creative non-traditional uses as well, but because The Stick is not tied conceptually to specific genres of music, we are much freer to explore it's capabilities from the beginning.

In the studio, preconceptions about what instruments can do can break down wonderfully. I recommend that everyone sit down and just start exploring the instrument without a context for a while and see where it takes you. I try to do this in every performance, to find something truly new, instead of just playing what I've prepared. If you're not comfortable truly improvising in front of an audience, doing it in private is a great way to discover new ideas.

Perhaps if you think about the sonic function of what you're playing rather than it's specific tonal or timbral character, the picture will become clearer. How can the Stick help you communicate the music that's in your head? That's the question whose answer we should constantly be discovering.

If you want to occupy traditional roles in music, you can.
If you want to create something that's completely new, you can.

The Stick is a true tabula rasa.

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Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:00 am
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
Really well put, Greg!

There was one other aspect sort of asked which was 'how does the Stick fit into a typical guitar,bass,drums band?' That part of this thread shares a lot in common with the 'reactions to the Stick' thread about both guitarists and bassists feeling like the Stick steps on their toes.

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Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:35 am
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Post Re: The role of the Stick in music
I always think of the Stick, or what I'm trying to do with it right now, as a percussion instrument with a wide array of notes and chords to choose from. lol. :P

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Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:21 pm
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