Global Bass Online February 2002
by Andy Long
Baggerman began his musical training as a child, playing the cornet in the
Salvation Army Band in Gouda. He credits his band leader, Jo Van Dam as a great
teacher and influence. At the age
of fourteen he moved to organ, spending spend hours practising each day,
ploughing all his pocket money and paper-round wages into sheet music and method
he progressed he began to listen to other organists and Hammond players like
Jimmy Smith, Rhoda Scott and Keith Emerson. Ron picks up the story of his youth.
'The mini moog synth of Keith Emerson made me want to check out other keyboard players such as George Duke and Rick Wakeman. I even assembled an imitation Mini-Moog when I was 19. I think I was 15 when the local Salvation Army decided they wanted to attract more young people and wanted to create a sort of rock group. There was a small budget to buy some gear which included an electric bass.
Although I played organ in this group I was very intrigued by this bass, and would come an hour before the sermon where started to experiment with it in the back of the church.'
Ron began to listen to
bass players like Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham and, of course, Jaco. The Dutch
progressive band Focus also became a big influence for him.
At sixteen Ron left
the Salvation Army and soon found himself juggling between organ, bass and
guitar in a local rock band. He also had a couple of day jobs in the music
industry, firstly in the 'Eminent' organ factory and later in a music shop.
Before moving into working as a musician full-time, he first busked and then
later moving into teaching.
was at that point in his early twenties, that Ron discovered a new challenge -
the Chapman Stick.
'I was 22 years and read in the Dutch music magazine MusicMaker an article about this peculiar instrument. There was even a flexidisc included. I heard the demo and was blown away! I heard all the sounds I love in music and more. After a while I bought a new one for a give away price from a shop near Rotterdam who couldn't get rid of it. It was the only model around at the time. It was was a Pau-Ferro (Iron Wood) Stick with 10 strings, with light to medium strings. Emmett had been over to Europe, did all these demo's in music shops where they sold the Stick,which was great. But when he went back to California, there was nobody any more to show how it worked. When I bought it it had the instruction method book with it Free Hands written by Emmett which, to me, is the bible of tapping in general and unlocks all fingering problems.'
That was in 1981 and
since then Ron has progressed tremendously as a Stick player and the Stick
itself has also progressed as an instrument.
Ron tells us about the instruments he currently plays.
'Right now I've got two Grand Sticks - an older one with one midi pick-up under the melody strings , the wood is sheduah; Heavy strings, regular tuning except for the highest bass string which is tuned a whole tone down: Emmett gave me this idea.
I've also got a new one with Rails (triangular frets) and Flaps (two metal plates under the bridge so one can fountain the action on both string groups independently). On this new Stick I've got two midi pick-ups installed.
I'm mainly using the midi pick-up under the melody strings hooked up to a Roland GR1, which I also bought straight from Stick Enterprises, since they're also a Roland Dealer. The midi pick-up is almost the same as used on guitar, it's the GK2A, customised for the Stick by Roland.
'What I love about this system is that there is no audible delay between the note you hit and the note which comes out of the synth. When you play this system on a guitar it tracks quite well, but the playing method of the Stick leads to an easier signal to digitally recognise.
On the lowest bass strings it tracks less, of course, that's why I often switch the midi on these strings off, or set them to a higher octave. Using midi allows and also forces one into rethinking the orchestration. I love this hybrid form of using midi. When you play with a synth sound which has got a longer decay then the natural string sound, the string sound fades and the synth sustains the note: This allows me to play slow melody lines in a more coherent way.
You can play with velocity crossfading, playing with a soft touch triggers for example, a flute and tapping hard marimba. You can go as crazy as you like.'
Ron also makes
extensive use of another of Emmett Chapman's inventions, the 'Patch Of Shades'.
A pressure sensitive pedal which cross fades from one effect loop to another and
works as a wah filter amongst other things.
Ron's is linked into every metal guitarist's favourite stomp box the
also worked quite closely with the Chapman's in teaching and demonstration, a
gig he fell into almost by accident.
'In 1987 Bert Gerecht,
a German bass player and journalist organised a bass and stick weekend, together
with a bass shop who sold the Stick in Frankfurt, with plenty of top bass
playersgiving clinics. Emmett was also giving a clinic and workshop. You had
also the chance to book a private lesson with Emmett, which I did of course.
I wished I could afford a whole day of private lessons with him. On the workshop were about twelve Stickplayers, mostly German and some French and this Dutch dude from the cheese town.
Emmett started the workshop which was supposed to last 4 hours, so he could demonstrate his midi gear. After about an hour of playing, demonstrating and explaining, Emmett ask the crowd if anybody wanted to play something. I said to myself, "This unique person to whom we owe a lot has taken the effort to travel thousands of miles to share his knowledge with us mortal beings, so the least we can do is participate in the action!"
So I played all the new stuff I had been learning since the last time Emmett had seen me. I had a break after fifteen minutes and wanted to hear someone else. Since no one reacted, I had to continue by playing and explaining what I was doing exactly. This really blew my mind, I came only to observe, yet here I was being a big part of the workshop.ī?
Shortly after that
workshop Emmett invited Ron to assist him at the Frankfurter Messe and he worked
there with the Chapmans in 1988 and 1989. Ron has visited the Chapmans in the
States a few times since then.
road to releasing his own solo albums has been somewhat plagued by difficulties.
Vague offers, stranglehold contracts and worthless promises all seemed to
contrive to delay the release of any material until1999.
'After a few more of those braggers and bluffers, I decided to do it all by myself. I sell my CDs at my gigs and through my site and the one of Stick Enterprises. So that's when my first CD "Galaxy Gypsy" saw the light!
I think one other reason why it took me so long to get an album together is that I was more interested in gigging, travelling, partying all the time and didn't have the peace of mind to sit down and write and record my ideas.'
Since that time Ron
has release a second CD, Seven
Sisters,which has more of a full band sound. I asked
him to tell me about some of the musicians guesting on it.
'Most of the drum parts are played by fellow Dutchman Gertvan Middelkoop with whom I've been playing on and off for the last seventeen years. He's one of the few drummers I know who can play both subtly and with fire. Also because we go back a long way, he knows what complements the Stick. It's not always comparable to regular bass/drum tandems.
Raymond Blahowetz plays percussion on the first tune Maia, he also plays on my previous album Galaxy Gypsy. Raymond is a complete percussion player. He can solo and create percussion ensembles. He's also the percussion specialist for Paiste in Holland and as such is their representative. With Raymond I also go way back. At least seventeen years, so the feel, the vibe and understanding is there.
The last tune of the album Memories of Io is recorded live in Allaire, France at a Tap guitar Festival last year. Organised by French Stick players Youenn Landreau and Alain Launay, together with another Dutch drummer Jeffrey Mayer. He's got a different style than Gert and also complements the Stick very adequately.
Frank Leurs is a singer and Stick player who sings on the second track of the album Asterope..Shifting Dimensions. I met him when he was a Stick student attending our 1999 European Stick Seminar in Holland.
Since that seminar Frank has organised quite a few gigs for me in solo, duo and band form. He always sings a few tunes when I play live. It's always a pleasure working with him. On a future CD I hope to be able to show you more of his qualities.'
Besides these CDs, Ron
also has a live video available, 'LiveIn Luxembourg'. The concert was filmed for
a TV special and features Ron, playing with the incredible drummer Jan Wolfkamp.
'As you probably know, he is also the drummer of the Greg Howard Band who will be touring the states soon for a couple of weeks,' Ron told me. 'It's amazing how Jan blends the acoustic and the electronic drums. Whatever he does it's always musical.
His set-up includes an Ayotte acoustic drum set, Zildjian cymbals, DDrum 3 module/samplers with eight pads and two tubes. In the DDrum he's got PCM cards with his own created sounds also, triggered by the pads and tubes.
Jan also uses an Oberheim echoplex, to create real time loops- This can be layered with either acoustic drums or electronic drums. He also sometimes uses an UDU drum.'
from Emmett Chapman and the bassists we mentioned earlier, Ron cites a whole
array of artists as influences on his music. Ranging from Chick Corea and Herbie
Hancock through to Steve Vai and Joe Satriani as well as prog rock giants like
ELP, Genesis and Yes. Elements of all these styles can be heard intermingling in
his sounds, together with pieces of complete and pure inspiration. I asked Ron
to close by telling us his immediate future plans.
'Well, first of all, I want to become rich and famous and retire to a comfortable planet at the other side of this Galaxy, sipping cocktails in the 11th dimension,' he quipped. 'Kidding aside, I set up my company, Galaxy Gypsy Productions officially a few months ago and I will make more Stick CD productions this year for sure.
On the next CD I'll be
singing myself, as will be Frank Leurs, he also will play Stick on that one. Jan
Wolfkamp will also be featured on a couple of tunes. Besides this, I've created
a new band with Chris Barchet on drums, Heribert Wagner on violin, Peter Wilms
on marimba and Frank and me on Stick and vocals. They all reside in Holland what
makes it easier to create something solid.
sound productions I make from now on will be made together with sound engineer
Silvan Jongerius, his company is called Ducy, ICT & Audio, and will very
soon be online at www.duxy.nl. He mastered and mixed
my last CD and is also my sound-engineer on live gigs.
Any upcoming performances will be announced on my site and on the one of Stick Enterprises. I also will extend my catalogue with other Stick players CDs which also can be obtained through my website. Any Stockpiler who's reading this is welcome to contact me about this.
I also have been teaching the Stick in 1999 and 2000 on the European Seminar in Holland. Unfortunately the one for 2001 fell through for well known reasons. Hopefully we will be able to get something together this year.
I'm also in the process of transcribing my songs to regular Staff and Tablature, including partly my improvisations. I will publish this together with a lot of tips & tricks. Notjust how to play my songs, but showing varied approaches and practical examples to be used with any style of music.
With 30 years of musical experience up my sleeve performing and educating, I believe I can relate to Stick players coming from very different backgrounds. My philosophy in teaching music is to pass along playing technique and harmonic/rhythmic knowledge so the player is limited as little as possible in his/her expression by our obviously physical shortcomings as mortal beings.
I try to avoid teaching in ways that lock the player in to just one way of playing, although this can be subjective. Compromise always has to be made. But I try to find the fair trade-offs, so anybody will be able to find their individual sound.
This summer I probably will be playing again for three months in the south of France and Italy. Stick players Marco Bouri and Virna Splendora are organising 2 different performances. Two other German Stick players, Harald Rost and Christean Buechele, are also organising some gigs for me: The details will be announced soon.
All in all, plenty of occasions to let the Stick make its mark and to give Emmett Chapman the credit he deserves. He didnít just created a playing technique and an instrument. He above all created a whole new musical universe. A place that contains whole new worlds of music, right at your fingertips.
Visit Ron Baggerman's website at www.ronbaggerman.com.
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