I had never heard of the Chapman Stick or the Stickman before I was goofing around on Indi.com where they host all kinds of musical challenges (with cash prizes!). If you're especially good or unique, you might check that out.
Anyways, there was a contest going on for the best solo instrumentalist. Usually these end up going to someone playing the piano or the guitar, but there's no rules saying you have to play any specific instrument. You'll do the best if you can manage to play a melody, bass line, and some percussive aspect to help accentuate the rhythm.
This is why it was suprising that the winning submission this time was submitted by the Chapman Stick Stickman (say that five times fast)! He plays a very unique instrument indeed.
Check out the Stickman's prize earning performance below, which might also serve as your first introduction to the versatile chapman stick:
As he explains, his left hand plays the bass and chords while the right hand plays the melody and more chords. Add in some slapping and popping for your percussion and you're off to the races. It's an extremely sensitive electric instrument, allowing you to tap to create a lasting sustain more so than needing to pluck or pick like a guitar. It also doesn't hurt that this guy has essentially mastered the chapman stick as well as jazz in general.
I don't want to be presumptuous but my guess is most of us haven't heard of the Chapman Stick before. I hadn't, so I had to look it up and read about it so I could act like I know what I'm talking about here. Below is a clear picture of the thing, showing that it's not just some rare oddity but is being manufactured carefully and professionally.
Here's the skinny:
Emmett Chapman invented this beast in the early 1970's. It's in the "guitar family" of the instrument family tree, typically has 10 or 12 strings, and is designed to be fully polyphonic and chordal through tapping instead of strumming.
What that means is, as seen in the video above, you can be a one man band and rip chords, bass lines, and melodies all at once. You're not limited to that role though. You can easily be a member of a normal band, but the difference is that you could fill many roles using this instrument where most are confined to one or two roles tops. What this means to me is you could be one heck of a hired gun, filling empty slots all of the local bands and charging an arm and a leg while you're at it.
You can get the real deal at www.Stick.com and read about our list of 21 other unusual instruments to learn to play. Some of them are too whacky to be played in the context of a group but there's quite a few on there that would set you apart in your community, guaranteeing you spots in some nice local bands.