And here I am again, to share with you this quick, and I hope interesting, overview of the musical instruments designed for two-handed tapping technique. I am pretty sure that you wondered why I created a dichotomy that would be artificial… I’m even sure you thought that I was just too lazy to give you the whole overview in one article!! Well, indeed I’ve been quite lazy but the dichotomy reflects real facts!! In the part #1, all the instruments shared a common feature which is the position of the hands over the fretboard i.e. a standard guitar or bass position…
In the following part #2, you might say that the inventors used their imagination to go further, exploring new ways to play touch style , a piano-like way, actually. And to do that, there is no other solution than playing horizontally, just like a keyboard.
What I do like about the Planck is its simplicity, the very nice tones and the DIY state of mind of Seven, the creator of the Planck. This instrument is clearly similar to the Chapman Stick but with a noticeable difference. Indeed, most of tap guitars designers build instruments with the lowest strings action to keep the strings close to the fretboard (which allows you to tap easily). Well, instead of doing that, Seven designed an instrument that features huge frets glued to the fretboard. Doing that, he opens the road to a more expressive tapping playing. For example, he can bend the strings individually by pressing down.
Here is a video demo of what he can play with the Planck, and I sure like the tune and the tone of this instrument…
Cherry on top, Seven provides instructions to build your own Planck and the pickup that suits best (bottom of the page on his website sevensthings.com)… Ain’t that cool?
I don’t exactly remember how I ran into the Kelstone but this machine created by Jan Van Kelst seems to be like the perfect hybrid between a guitar, a bass and a piano. As you can see it on Jan’s demos, most of the guitar and bass techniques seems to be easy to perform on the Kelstone, but the instrument itself is optimized for the two-handed tapping technique. On the Kelstone Youtube Channel you will find many videos that show you the extended possibilites of the instrument.
Here is an awesome one… Funky as hell, just how I like music to be!
And here is a hilarious one… Mattias IA Eklundh first encounter with the Kelstone…
What was supposed to happen just happened. It was obvious that someone will invent a touch style instrument targeting keyboardists instead of guitarists or bassists. That’s the purpose of Tim Meeks’ Harpejji that is a slightly different from other two-handed tapping instruments. The way strings are laid down, the position of the musician aligned with the strings, the visual matrix on the board: well, everything reminds a keyboard instead of a guitar. The playing technique is also quite similar to a piano technique. Indeed, on most tapping guitars, most of the players use 8 fingers, while the Harpejji favors a 10 fingers approach just as a keyboard does.
Well, to sum up the way I see this instrument, I would say that it looks like a keyboard trying to reach the expression possibilities of a guitar, instead of a guitar trying to reach the harmonic possibilities of a piano. Here are two videos of Tim Meeks showing the tone and harmonic possibilities of the Harpejji …
I don’t know if you’re just like me, but I love this kind of experiments and these people that always try to push the limits, even if the resulting object could be a little complex or could disturb their potential users. In this overview, I’ve found guitars or basses designed to imitate the techniques and harmonic complexity of a piano. I’ve also found a keyboard without keys designed as an attempt to imitate the expressive possibilities of a guitar.
To close this overview, the last instrument I want to show you is still a project, so I won’t have much to say about it. Apparently, the purpose of the inventor is to create a synthesizer with strings: the String Station. The concept is quite fun and it seems like he already has a prototype. The String Station features 5 necks, 40 strings, a trem bar, string benders, a synth module, and I don’t know what else…
On this page of his website, you’ll find 3 videos telling more about the story and the content of this project… To be followed!
Why not, after all… Synthesizers attempted (and succeeded) to make keyboards sound like a bunch of instruments including guitar (just remember the yummy solos of Jan Hammer)…
So why not complete the circle? And you? What do you think about all this?