James Blennerhassett

Top class Irish recording & performing Bassist

NS Stick, the story .

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I thought it might be a good idea to explain this wonderfully versatile instrument that I play and am using for my compositions, particularly the current multimedia project with my sister & her husband that is nearing completion.

So, here it is!Image

The NS Stick is a result of a collaboration between Emmet Chapman, the inventor of the Chapman Stick              Image

and Ned Steinberger, a pioneer in instruments made from composites and being mainly headless.            Image

Here is the original article by Emmet Chapman describing the instrument.

by Emmett Chapman
January 2000 (revised October 2006)

The 8-string stereo/mono NS/Stick™ guitar-bass is an instrument intended for guitarists and bass guitarists who like to tap, or who also play The Stick.

This instrument is unusual in design and accommodates several brand new innovations by Ned Steinberger and myself. The small, distinctively shaped body is bottom heavy for balance, and together with the headless neck allows this guitar-bass to be comfortably held more vertically for two handed tapping. A conventional bass guitar strap enables easy sliding of the instrument to a more horizontal picking and plucking position, or to an approximate 45 degree angle for a combination of techniques.

The setup is uniformly low as on all other Stick models, however, Ned’s novel side saddle set screws at bridge and nut allow easy adjustment for higher action if need be. This can be done in infinite gradations with an accompanying hex wrench. The tapping action is set up as on The Stick, but with wider spaced strings on a tapered board. Normal right hand picking and plucking techniques should be done with a somewhat lighter touch unless the strings are set a half or whole turn higher at the bridge, in which case the instrument feels more like a guitar or bass guitar.

I’m routinely setting up this first run for The Stick’s very low tapping action, with the straight and uncontoured fretboard typical of all Stick models, and with precision fret work to create a flat plain of rounded frets as a playing surface.

By picking and plucking with less energy, or by placing your right hand closer to the bridge, you can avoid string buzz without compromising the low tapping action. In the process, a second advantage presents itself here, and you’ll find that you can make easy transition from tapping to all the standard bass and guitar techniques without change in volume or dynamic control.

The graphite neck is by Moses, Inc, with our distinctive Stick rear bevel. For the body we offer a choice of beautiful hardwoods with staining options and a “soft finish” so the player can really feel the wood.

The eight strings are tuned in fourths from low bass B at the normal bass guitar position. About half the instruments of this run are tuned with a guitar relationship at the high end (the guitar’s major third interval falling between 2nd and 3rd strings). The rest are tuned in uniform fourths from the low B, up to a high Bb. Since all components are adjustable on this instrument, any tuning can be set up with no extra custom work or charges.

The hardware is in matching flat black, with black anodized bridge, nut, truss rod, knee rest, tuners and strap attachment bar. Pickups, knobs and strap are also black. The innovative combination of components include the following:

  • Four active EMG “Front Tele” stacked double-coil pickups that provide pure single coil timbres at all frequencies without hum and buzz. These are height adjustable and because of their low magnetism are set close to the strings.
  • Three switches for all possible pickup combinations. Across the strings you can select stereo (2 groups of 4 strings) or mono (all 8 strings through the “bass” output or tip of the stereo or mono cable). Along each set of 4 strings you can select 3 positions for the pickup pairs underlying each string group, bridge pickup, neck pickup or both. Each pair has bass and treble boosts and cuts, as well as volume controls.
  • A flush rear truss rod (Pat. No. 4,953,435) as on The Stick, exposed at the rear neck surface for quick and convenient adjustment and for reliable counter-tension to the pull of the strings.
  • Caliper like tuners on the bridge at the tail end.
  • Sliding saddle blocks that provide quick adjustment of individual string intonation without removing strings from their bridge saddles.
  • Large bass guitar type frets.
  • White pearl inlayed dots in the normal guitar pattern.
  • A damper (Pat. no. 6,452,077 B1) at the first fret space that can be retracted for open string play.
  • A knee rest for seated play.
  • A set of hex wrenches for adjustments of bridge, nut and truss rod.
  • A bass guitar scale length of 34 inches.

The string spacing at the bridge adds an interesting concept to the grouping of strings. Although there are only 8 strings, the lowest 5 are spaced uniformly wider as on bass guitar, including the 2 middle strings (4th and 5th strings) which cross from bass to melody pickups. In mono mode, this arrangement provides consistent right hand spacing and play, as on a 5-string bass guitar.

With the guitar tuning there is another concept at work. The highest 6 strings are tuned in the guitar relationship, but down a perfect fifth in pitch (a highest melody A instead of the guitar’s high E). Also, the lowest 6 strings are tuned as on a 6-string bass guitar, from the very low B up to C.

All the Best,
STICK ENTERPRISES, INC.

Emmett Chapman

The NS Stick has been developed quite a bit since this article and is now available with a choice of necks, including laminated bamboo and wenge and features mini rails instead of bass frets.

The NS Stick has been championed by Don Schiff                 Image

and Gary Jibilian            Image  both virtuoso players and has become the preferred Bass instrument in many Progressive rock bands owing to it’s versatility and distinctive strong bass tone.

I love the NS Stick as it gives me the freedom to compose without many of the preconceptions of what I as a Bassist would normally do.

It takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to play and write very differently than I would otherwise do on a Bass instrument.

You can check out some of the recent pieces on my audio page or on www.https://soundcloud.com/jamesblennerhassett/sets

Inspiration!

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Author: James Blennerhassett

I am a session bassist and contemporary composer based in Ireland, most of my studio work these days is done from my own place via Dropbox etc. I am also a member of Derek Ryan's touring band. I play Double bass and Bass guitar and most recently a derivative of the Chapman Stick, the NS Stick and several other instruments when I must :-) I have two solo instrumental albums on release called "End of a longer day" and "A small shadow" and I am currently writing and recording a series of Pictorial Audio projects comprising Text, Audio & Illustrations in collaboration with my sister Susan & her husband Vitya, inspired by special people, the unseen little folk, and other fantastic creatures that inhabit the woods, streams and lakes on this island .

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