Chapman Stick player Jim Lampi
The film "The Saddest Music in the World", whose original screenplay was written by the famed author Kazuo Ishiguro, premiered last night in London.
After the screening, life imitated art, when there was a competition featuring seven musical acts performing their saddest music. Jim Lampi was one of them, playing a modern instrument called a Chapman Stick.
So what exactly is a Chapman Stick? It is a ten or twelve-stringed instrument that combines the range of notes available on a bass guitar with those on a lead guitar. In fact, it looks rather like an ordinary guitar neck without its usual attached body.
It was invented about thirty years ago in Los Angeles by Emmett Chapman. Electric versions of the instrument, such as the one that Lampi brought into the Today programme studio, are played through a guitar amplifier. As with an electric guitar, the instrument's sound can by modified by introducing electronic effects pedals between the instrument and the amplifier.
Instead of fretting notes and plucking the strings as you would on a guitar, the player taps the strings down in between the frets using the ends of his fingers. This lets him use both hands to sound bass and treble notes at the same time, much as a piano player would do.
Jim Lampi says the fret-tapping technique needed to playing the Chapman Stick inspired the blazing guitar solos of rock bands such as Van Halen during the 1980s.
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