Warning: This Article could get you out of a playing and writing rut!
In praise of Stick or.... quit whining and just play!
What if you approached the Stick with no preconceived notion of how to play a stringed instrument?
Common comments which are regularly espoused are: “well I can’t do this pentatonic as easy as I can on my guitar”
, or “I can do this Root- b3rd -5th on my bass
without thinking”, or “On my piano
I can play these chords without this “up /down hand positioning”!
What if you just played it! Love the Stick for all that it is and just play it. You go to a new wonderful country with boundless gardens of new fruits and vegetables, & meats and new flavors bursting with exotic spices that you’ve never tasted before… and you order up a Big Mac!
So you have a little more fret real estate to play a standard bass line. But why play a standard bass line when a root/fifth pattern, two fingers-one fret
, the meat and potatoes of all Pop, Jazz, Funk, R&B, Blues, Hip Hop, Metal, Folk, and usually one size fits all bass line* works just fine over all these styles plus giving you the ultra hip and cool 9th one more string over. Try flipping octaves around
. Who says the downbeat HAS to be the lowest note in the universe? It’s still the root no matter where you play it.
Aren’t you -the independent rebel
-being subconsciously dictated by the mindless masses in playing that low note root? If you a playing a Stick, you already are an open minded creative out of the box thinker
, so why settle and compromise for convention. Invent! Charles Mingus
never compromised. Just listen to “Tonight at Noon” and “Haitian Fight Song” to remind you that there is creativity in the world.
If you are letting “that doesn’t sell” dictate as to how you write or play, then by compliments of the house, have a gallon of mental paint to put yourself into a permanent corner.
Innovative artists do what is in their passion and in their soul and have enriched the world with sonics we never would have heard. Yes, and as an aside, sometimes also sold a lot of records! Thank you Mr. Cobain! Immortality is within your grasp!
Creativity is still being heard and appreciated over 100 years later- whether it is attributable to record sales (general populace acceptance) or word of mouth – “this is so cool you have to hear this” (cult status), (counting when Mr. Edison first recorded sound in 1887 and produced the first wax cylinder in 1889)
The Stick gives you a neutral fretboard
to be able to play chord progressions and their inversions up, down and across without learning infinite numbers of refingerings (see Ted Greene’s almost incomprehensible Chord Chemistry book- yeah, you remember that one).
You can play melody, chords, and bass lines on both sides (yes bass lines on the melody side down low- you mentally painted corner dwellers!)
The Stick provides the ability to overlap chords and arpeggios in real time without the need to loop or overdub for an instantaneous Culbertsonesque
Cross Hands, Uncrossed Hands, Hot Crossed Buns, grab a bass note with your thumb and reach over, fingerstick a little a la Lee Vatip on “Minor Thing”
Lock in a groove and soar into the atmosphere with distortion on your melody side Vis a Vis Greg
(There is Water on the Moon
Turn your bass side into a crazed percussive marching snare while your melody side makes the song a jumping off point to stellar excursions into the instant minds thinking of the moment and beyond as Emmett
does when he performed "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" at the First Annual Stickfest in Ann Arbor or sailed the "Titanic" at Interlochen.
Try this…..let your melody be the one leading the dance, and just start to put ANY chord against your melody note and see what happens.
Play a “c” note on your melody side. Now sure a C chord works great, but try an Bb, Am, Ab, F, Dm, E major, C#. They all work and the “c” note becomes an extension of the chord and not just a note from a major scale. Thomas Dolby
purposefully wrote “Airwaves” from Golden Age of Wireless using only 6 notes and put as many chords as he could behind those 6 notes. The result is a dense atmospheric texture not following conventional form and a sheer audio delight.
So, don’t worry be happy, and love and embrace your Stick for the incredible instrument that it is! “Be what you is, not what you is not. Folks who do this are the happiest lot” -Mr. Wizard to Tooter the Turtle.
The Stick is a blank canvass waiting to be painted with the limitless Sherman Williams creativity store of YOUR mind and your individual, soon to be immortal, voice and vision. I am thoroughly convinced you all have an individual voice and vision, so why not let it loose!
Start right now and let it loose on an unsuspecting public to change their minds and their ears forever. You can do this!
Hope this helps,
*Ed. Note- yes purists, I know it won’t work over a minor ii-V pattern, so use a b5 when you play Black Orpheus!
Yes, except over a harmonic ii-V progression with a flat 5 in there. You are only going to play Black Orpheus one time during the whole night “oh, we have a request to play it for 10th time…. right!