Touch Guitars at Voyager Music Festival 2016

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The 2016 Voyager Music Festival will include an array of musicians playing unusual stringed instruments that are generally known as “touch guitars.”  A musician plays one of these devices by tapping and holding strings against the fretboard most of the time.  Electric guitarists often use tapping as an effect; in fact, jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan plays with two-handed tapping exclusively.  However, touch guitars are quite different from standard electric guitars and therefore played quite differently. The best known tapping instrument is the Chapman Stick that was used widely by Tony Levin with Peter Gabriel and with King Crimson in the 1980s and 90s.

Thirteen of Everything and the Chapman Stick
Saturday at 7:50 PM on the Ballroom Stage

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Thirteen of Everything’s Mick Peters

The Stick dates back to an experiment that Emmett Chapman, a California guitarist, tried back in 1969.  Most versions of the instrument include bass and guitar strings so it is possible for one player to cover two or even three parts.

Local melodic progressive rock band Thirteen of Everything includes Mick Peters on Stick, bass guitar, and acoustic guitar.  While he mostly plays a standard 10-string Chapman Stick (5 bass strings, 5 treble strings), Mick sometimes uses an 8-string Stick Bass model.

 

Herd of Instinct and the Warr Guitar
Saturday at 6:30 PM on the Ballroom Stage

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Mark Cook of Herd of Instinct (photo credit: Angel Stephens)

Another touch instrument that has been around a while is the Warr Guitar.  The Warr dates back to the early 1990s and the best known player is Trey Gunn from King Crimson in the 1990s and 2000s.  The design is more guitar-like in that strumming is possible plus most players hold the instrument horizontally.

New to Voyager this year is Herd of Instinct from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  This band includes both Rick Read on Chapman Stick and Mark Cook on Warr Guitar.  In fact, Mark uses a 14-string model! Herd of Instinct played a show in Austin a few weeks before the festival and the combination of Warr and Stick was amazing. Mark and Rick freely traded between covering the bass parts, tapping chords, and playing leads.

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Cédric Theys of DiM13NSiON

 

DiM13NSiON and the Touch Guitar
Sunday at 6:30 PM on the Chapel Stage

At Voyager, Austin locals DiM13NSiON will perform introspective and improvised music.  In this duo, Cédric Theys plays a U8 Touch Guitar using both tapping and strumming techniques. Their work has a film soundtrack feeling, with Thomas McGregor adding an organic touch with his violin.

 

Learn more about Touch Guitar
Saturday 1:10 PM on the Ballroom Stage

New at Voyager in 2016 are workshops. There will be so many unique stringed instruments at the festival that it’s only logical that one of the workshops is for touch guitars. On Saturday afternoon at 1:10 PM (get there early folks!) Cédric Theys of DiM13NSiON will lead a discussion of and play examples using Chapman Stick, Warr Guitar, and the U8 Deluxe Touch Guitar.

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Touch Guitar through the Years and the Austin Connection

Markus Reuter, a German musician who studied with Robert Fripp in Guitar Craft, became known for his Chapman Stick and Warr Guitar playing.  He preferred to play a continuous instrument, not one with separate bass and guitar string groupings.  He designed a new instrument with Ed Reynolds (here in Austin!) and set up Touch Guitars to produce 8- and 10-string models.  Markus is the best known player of his instruments including tours with the Stick Men trio that includes Tony Levin on Chapman Stick:

Markus Reuter also performs ambient soundscapes:

This Trey Gunn Band performance of “Kuma” has some great video of his Warr Guitar playing:

In recent years the most visible Stick player has been Nick Beggs with Steven Wilson (watch this video of “Home Invasion” starting about 3:15:

 

 

About Author

Walter Daniel

Walter Daniel lives in Austin, Texas and is a long-time fan of fusion and progressive rock.

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