I just got in from E-Tap 2000. It was a real blast! The instruction was great and the atmosphere was exiting.
After spending a few days in Utrecht, NL (which is at the cultural heart of the Netherlands and is a great side trip for any traveller there), I made my way to Brussels for the Tap Night at the Traverserie Jazz club.
I got a little lost in downtown Brussles, and I must have looked silly walking round the Arab quarter with a suitcase and guitar. Fortunately I bumped into Spaniard Javier Perez, with Stick(r)* slung over his shoulder, and we were able to collectively backtrack our way to the jazz club. At the club, I played a set, as did Teed Rockwell, Markus Reuter, Daniel Schell, and several of his Stick students who live in the Brussels area.
After spending the night at Daniel's country house, we headed out to Neufchateau for the seminar. This used to be called the European Stick Seminar, but with all the wide variety of tapping instruments in use today, that would be an innacurate description. Though Daniel is a staunch advocate of tapping, and the Stick in particular, we had a good mix of tapping instruments which included guitars of every description.
And what a menagerie it was, all playing in perfect harmony...
We had such a wide range of instruments from Stick to Warr(r), to ADG, to 6-strings, to "everything else". This included the wonderful Warr-type guitars built under licence by the luthier Krempel in Germany from 1996 to 1998 (he is not doing this anymore) which had their own special features. I saw a guitar with infinite sustain module, guitars with scalloped frets, whammy bar, push-pull knobs on the guitar to change the pickups from single to double coil, every type of MIDI imaginable; then also Stick instruments with home-made pickups, reworked pickups, piezo pickups, pickups wired for mono, scalloped frets, you name it. The Europeans have a knack for tinkering with those things that they import from the USA!
In addition to that, we had every tuning configuration imaginable in our group. Hands crossed, hands uncrossed, 4ths and 4ths, 5ths and 5ths, 4ths and 5ths, low string in the middle, low string on the edge, string sets running in the same direction... I can't list them all.
Of special note was Jesus Auñon from Spain who played a very nice PRS 6 string guitar with the regular tuning (but tuned down a second). His playing blew us mega-stringers away. He was doing bass, chords, melody, all at once, seamlessly throwing in some strumming or slapping as he went along. The Paul Reed Smith tone was also really great and gave his sound that extra sizzle. Jesus gave us a master class where he showed us how he mixed traditional technique with tapping to create his huge sound. There was also a fellow named Pierre who only stayed a few days, but he played in a similar stlye to Jesus, also on a standard 6 string guitar.
Among Stick players, France's Youenn Landreau was phenominal. He played a light colored (oak??) 5+7 12 string model that sounded fantastic and looked very worn for an instrument that was made in the 90's. I say this to emphasize that this guy must play the thing about 12 hours a day and it shows. He brought down the house with his performance in the theater. He may be the best Stick player I have seen in recent years, and he had a sound and playing style especially suited to the Stick (as opposed to the touch guitars).
Sylvain Dollet was another Frenchman who played a Polycarb. His compositional style I was somewhat familiar with from the TQ. In our student concert we were treated to a performance of Sylvain's "Tristesse", a song reminiscent of the Bob Culbertson ballad sound. He played his polycarb Stick along with Teed on Warr and Jesus's PRS - the trio's blend of timbres really brought out the best in this poingnantly sad piece of music.
Among the "Warr style" instruments there was also a lot of variance. Wolfgang Daiss's "Surfboard" - Krempel 14 string that could be considered a prototype of the Phalanx Warr Guitars now being sold - had an awesome sound that complimented Wolfgang's tremendous talent. The Surfboard was a truly massive instrument, probably about twice as heavy as my ADG. Wolfgang had a playing position where he balanced it between his legs while seated. This took all the weight off of his torso. He was also able to play standing up, but the heavy mass of the instrument made this more difficult.
Wolfgang may be the most accomplished 2 handed tapping guitarist I have seen perform. He played uncrosed hands, 4ths tuning on the whole thing. This enables him to play walking bass lines very smoothly, and his bebop solo style is also the best I have heard. I know that there are guys with the 5ths tuning who play very good walking bass lines, but Wolfgang is even smoother. His classical chops are also unbeatable. Both he (with 14 strings) and Jesus (with 6) were tackling the Bach 2 part inventions with ease all week long.
Kuno Wagner, another associate instructor, taught us some crafty pieces like "All or Nothing" and "Eye of the Needle". He demonstrated some cutting edge digital technology with his band which conssited of Kuno (Stick, Warr) a digital drummer and a digital sax player. They ran all of their signals through a single Roland Cube amp and had a huge sound. Kuno was using the latest Roland VG-88 virtual guitar technology.
Teed Rockwell is a player I have known for a few years. I first became familair with his sound through soundfiles on the official Stickwire web page. Later, I trekekd out to San Francisco to see him playing ragas on the Stick in an Indian restaurant. These days, sporting a Warr Raptor 12 (all 4ths, 7 bass strings, 5 guitar, pickup configured 9+3) he taught us some of his techniques such as two finger rolls.
Daniel Schell made us do reading exercises until we all realized how much work we need to do on our reading. If there is one thing that impresses me the most about European players, in addition to their general virtuosity, it is that they are much better music readers than us Americans.
The E-Tap seminar was part of a larger music institute, L'Academie d'Ete de Wallonie (Waloonian Summer Institute). The other 300 students, mostly Belgian, were very talneted in music and dance, and were great people to hang out with. Every night we had these great traditional music concerts including a spellbinding performance by Cuban, African, and Iranian percussionists, and European folk music played on concertina, violin, and percussion. After the concerts the music continued in the pub, with beer and dancing, until 3 am. Needless to say, we did not get much sleep all week!
The atmosphere in Neufchateau (a ville celebrating its 800th aniversary this year) would have been great even without all of the musicians around. It is a beautiful village nestled in the Ardennes. This region of Belgium consists of rolling hills, farms and forests. This is the area in which the Battle of the Bulge was fought in 1945. It was nice to be in a part of Europe that was as far removed from American influence (McDonalds, Pizza Hut, the internet) as possible. The area is known for its fantastic beer and cheese. In the dining hall at the institute, we also savored fine French wine with our meals.
I am looking forward to returning next year!
*STICK is a registered trademark of STICK ENTERPRISES INCORPORATED, with whom I have no affiliation.