n the â€˜70s, a guitarist named Emmett Chapman discovered a two-handed tapping technique, when one day he realized that if he raised the tuners high, so that the fretboard was nearly vertical, then both hands could more easily approach the fretboard with fingers reaching across the strings. This minor-sounding change makes playing more fluent, and this playing position has become popular.
Chapman made a specialty instrument for himself, with five melody and four bass strings. Musicians were intrigued with the unusual-looking instrument and the method of play. Chapman began manufacturing and selling his instrument, now called The StickÂ®, and bearing ten strings.
In the 1970’s, Chapman filed patents for: (a) the method of play [two-handed tapping on the strings]; (b) his instrument construction including the split-pickup design; and (c) his system of tuning the strings [melody in fourths, & bass strings tuned in inverted fifths]. The Patent and Trademark Office granted the patents, and Chapman “owned” not only his particular instrument and his particular tuning, but two-handed tapping in general!
However, a few years later the Patent Office threw out Chapman’s claim to have invented two-handed tapping as invalid, because they became aware of the similarity to the two-handed tapping method shown in Dave Bunker’s earlier patent (June 1961), which reveals a stringed musical instrument in which the “frets are essentially horizontal and the fingers of each of the performer’s hands are disposed essentially parallel to the individual frets during tapping” [Stanley J. Witkowski, Primary Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office]; and also because the Patent Office became aware of Jimmy Webster’s method book ‘Illustrated Touch System for Electric and Amplified Spanish Guitar.’ [Copyright in 1952 by the William J. Smith Music Company in New York].
Chapman appealed, but lost the battle. But even though Chapman wasnâ€™t the first in the world to invent a method of â€˜two-handed tappingâ€™, there is no question that the unique tapping method which he devised has been popular ever since, and the result is that Chapman has probably done more to popularize the two-handed method of play than any other individual.
Chapmanâ€™s Stick instrument was a unique synthesis and a creative re-thinking of the guitar. His instrument made unusual use of the belt-hook, along with new fret-markings, minimalist design, two string-groupings on one fretboard, and a new design of upper strap to maintain correct vertical positioning. All were radical departures from standard guitar practice, producing an instrument with great playability, and unique visual appeal. Further, many tappers world-wide have discovered that his unusual â€˜inverted fifthsâ€™ tuning of the bass strings provides access to a new set of chording possibilities and ways of thinking about string relationships.
His method book (â€˜Free Handsâ€™) is quite good. It grew from typed pages with penciled graphs to a compact encyclopedia of two-handed tapping technique. This book was normally included with instruments that he sold, and as he steadily sold instruments all over the world, this excellent book has helped propagate Chapmanâ€™s two-handed tapping techniques to the world of music.
Chapmanâ€™s contributions — often overlooked in arguments about â€˜who was first to tapâ€™ — are extensive, and he has surely earned a unique position of respect in the Touch-Style Hall of Fame.
In the early 80’s, Charles (“Churchman”) Soupios in New York designed a dual instrument called the “Biaxe,” on which he obtained patent #5,315,910. The instrument was a combination of a normal guitar and a stick-like instrument joined together, designed so that the musician could play upon one or the other, or both, using a two-handed tapping technique which Soupios called “String Percussion.”
However, the Biaxe is no longer in commercial production.
Sergio Santucci was a musician working on cruise ships. In this job, the musician must often double on different musical instruments, which for Santucci meant guitar and bass. In order to make the transition easier, he developed an instrument called the “TrebleBass,” which combined the strings of a 4-string bass and a 6-string guitar on one neck, with separate pickups for each set of strings. The TrebleBass was awarded U.S. Patent # 4,377,101 in 1983.
The TrebleBass was sold from Santucci’s offices in New York and Rome, and has been endorsed by internationally famous tapper Stanley Jordan (who can be seen demonstrating his tapping technique in the MGM movie “Blind Date,” starring Bruce Willis).
Although the TrebleBass was originally intended as a ‘do-all’ instrument to be played with traditional fingerstyle and picking methods, it has since been popularized as a tapping instrument by political street-musician Robert Turley. Turley, known as R.O.B. (Robb on Bass) has demonstrated his amazing two-handed funk tapping technique in New York and in Japan, and on television shows such as Donahue.