Scott Stenten

Cast In Concrete #6: Scott Stenten And The Sound Of Two Hands Tapping (On A Guitar)

Who: Scott Stenten
Where: Grand Central Terminal, Graybar Passage
When: November 10th, 2011, around 9 p.m.

Scott Stenten And The Sound Of Two Hands TappingI first scouted out Scott Stenten for this column late last fall, when the chilly weather cost me three solid evenings wandering around midtown and the East Village looking for musicians, who apparently had all already packed it in for the winter by then. But Stenten was bravely soldiering on into the cold; by the time we caught up again last week, that situation had completely reversed, and we found ourselves in the sweltering passageway between Grand Central and the Graybar Building.

Using a doubleneck acoustic - two identical steel six-strings, with additional electronics behind a detachable flap on the back - Stenten plays entirely via an unusual two-handed fretboard tapping technique. It's sort of like Eddie Van Halen's embellishing trick, except that it's applied at all times to create fully independent chord and melody voices for each hand, much like a pianist.

Scott Stenten And The Sound Of Two Hands TappingBoth his original compositions and his covers had a decidedly jazzy flair, which brought them squarely in line with the lineage defined by Stanley Jordan, who brought the technique into mainstream view on electric guitars in the 80's and 90's. (It just so happens that you'll be able to catch Jordan at Iridium next week, and a bunch of two-handed tappers will apply the same technique to their Chapman Sticks at Spectrum on Friday.)

Jordan, like Stenten, also eventually moved over to playing two guitars at once; presumably both got tired of trying to cram eight fingers onto six strings. But Jordan was almost entirely about the intricately tapped notes, even retrofitting his guitars with string muting devices to prevent them from making any other noises whatsoever. Stenten has actually taken the exact opposite approach, with little metal pretzels that spell out the shape of a chord fingering using tiny rubber nubs; he calls these "capo clips." When paired with a conventional capo, they superimpose a musically useful chord over the usual transposition, allowing him to aggressively slap and snap the open string. At times it almost sounds like at least one of his guitars is being played by an annoyed Leo Kottke instead of just, well, his own non-dominant hand.

Scott Stenten And The Sound Of Two Hands TappingStenten moved back to New York in 2010 after a run in Chicago specifically because he wanted to spend more time busking; his daytime gig now involves selling a touchpad mouse he also designed. This is all discussed in more detail on his web site, where he also has a gallery of the custom instruments he's commissioned over the years. There's a 17-string, one with custom fretboard mounts designed around the capo clips, two Martin Backpacker models that he basically bolted together, and finally a "convertible" where the contours of a detachable, crescent-shaped secondary instrument were specifically designed to sit flush with a regular archtop. Seeing these gizmos in action together is pretty captivating - "Little kids go nuts," says Stenten. But for some reason he still sometimes performs with an array of regular guitar picks sitting up by the tuning pegs, jammed in between the strings for storage - unused, bored out of their little plastic minds, and entirely too predictable.

By Vijith Assar The Villiage Voice - August 2012

Acoustic Guitar MagazinePaul Woolson went beyond his standard offerings to create this completely custom double-neck guitar for Scott Stenten. The instrument has Taylor ES electronics and a fingerboard that includes slots for the installation of Capo Clips (

Acoustic guitar magazine- March 2011

New York Post

When Jazz Guitarist Scott Stenten Left home in Chicago where he had regular gigs for New York, he never dreamed the streets of Manhattan would lead him to open for celebrated guitarist Stanley Jordan. But that's exactly what happened. Stenten was performing in Central Park a couple of weeks ago. When BMG record exec Steve Strauss caught his act. "It was incredible to watch" said Strauss. Who bought Stenten's CD on the spot. A phone call or two later Srauss hooked him up with an opening slot for innovative jazz guitarist Jordan. They perform tomorrow night at Chris Noth's (of Sex and City and Law and Order) Cutting Room. Stenten had lived and gigged in Chicago since age 19, but moved to New York in late March. The musician's custom made double neck 17-string guitar can catch anyone's eye. Stenten performs a wide section of jazz standards. Familiar Brazilian and Spanish melodies and some pop songs from Cyndi Lauper to the Beatles. While playing both necks of the guitar at the same time. He uses a distinctive "hammer style", which he picked up from Jordan.

-- Mary Huhn
The New York Post
May 2003,

Scott Stenten

Guitar 9Playing both necks of a double necked, 17-string custom guitar at the same time, Scott Stenten definitely sets himself apart from all other musicians in the instrumental jazz market. His CD, Meditation, was recorded with no overdubs or edits, and listening to the thirteen covers and original tracks, one can't avoid that same feeling that arose when hearing Stanley Jordan for the first time. Using this type of guitar, Stenten is able to easily indulge in sophisticated polyrhythms and harmonic movement. He is also able to create drum loops by tapping the top, back and sides of his DoubleGuitar and sampling it with a Boomerang Phrase Sampler. Clearly, Stenten is onto something here - his choice of instrument immediately grabs your attention and his technique and musical sensibilities will turn you into a rabid fan.Scott Stenten

Throughout the '90s, he led several original rock bands and in his spare time. He developed his own unique approach to playing guitar by tapping, strumming, and plucking the strings on the neck of the guitar. In 1993 Stenten started playing what would be the first of three custom made double necked guitars. Stenten's sound evolved with a pianistic flavor that came from playing the harmony with a chord with his left hand, on one neck of the guitar, while at the same time improvising melodies with his right hand, on the other neck. Stenten has performed throughout Chicago and opened concerts for a variety of artists including Charlie Hunter, Carly Simon, Jewel, Steven Stills, and Michael Franks. Stenten was hired to lead a jazz quartet at Chicago's Navy Pier. For three years the group performed four to six days a week. His originality has made him a much in demand solo and group guitar player. Stenten moved to New York City in 2003 where he continues to perform, record, teach and study music.

-- Guitar 9 Records
November 2004

Scott Stenten

Dedé Sampaio and Scott Stenten at the Rogers Park Jazz Fest

The gifted Brazilian percussionist Dedé Sampaio, who has played/recorded with Miles Davis, Rita Moreno, Gary Peacock, Randy Brecker and many others. Brings his much in demand talents to the Rogers Park Jazz Festival this Saturday. Sampaio teams with Guitarist Scott Stenten. Stenten cited by the Chicago Tribune as a musical marvel is well known for his personal approach to the double neck guitar. The duo has been performing together regularly over the last couple years and will bring there lively music telepathic interplay to this years Rogers Park Jazz Fest on Saturday August 4th.

Press Release 2001

Scott Stenten

In his generous opening set, Scott Stenten showed that he is one of Chicago's many unheralded musical marvels. His double necked electric guitar has sixteen strings, and his ability to play melodies simultaneously on the two fretboards, using touch method popularized by Stanley Jordan and Michael Hedges, is an amazing feat. Stenten's highlight was a jaw-dropping, two-handed assault on "Take Five," rendered at a take-no-prisoners tempo.

--Chicago Tribune
May 2nd 1999

The Scott Stenten GroupStenten Trio

In the heart of Chicago's bustling Lincoln Avenue night life scene you will find the Rumors night club. Seven nights a week Rumors features many of Chicago's up and coming musical groups and Saturday night is home to the Scott Stenten Group. Guitarist Scott Stenten is an adventurous artist to keep your eyes on. He plays both necks of a double neck guitar at the same time. In short he plays lines with his right hand and chords with his left hand much like a pianist. His left hand comps chords on the upper neck and the right hand plays lines on the lower neck. Stenten has developed his craft by studying with many world renowned artists including Grammy nominated pianist Laurence Hobgood musical partner of Kurt Elling and Howard Levy from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Drummer Mike Cascio pulls out all the stops and has assembled an amazing drum set that features a wide array of percussion instruments from around the world. His intense drumming is a powerful catalyst driving the group ferociously through up tempo numbers and creating a mystical J.R.R. Tolkien like ambiance for the groups more intimate tunes. Bassist Matt Geraghty fills out the group with pulsating hard driving basslines reminisent of Charles Mingus but he also has an impressionistic softer side during slow burning numbers. Instead of sending you to the bar during bass solos, Geraghty's pursuasive melodic lines draw the listener in. The group romped through a mix of jazz standards, bossa novas, and feirce funk tunes leaving me wondering weather the smoke filled room was caused by the patrons or the musicians.Catch this amazing trio at Rumors 4500 North Lincloln, Saturday nights from 10 to 1 PM.

--Wallace Hamilton The Village Reader 2002

Silly Stenten

"Windy City Guitarist Breathes New Life Into Two-Handed Guitar Technique"

Scott Stenten fell in love with the guitar relatively late in life. "I played when I was a kid," the Chicago - based jazzer says, "but I pretty much sucked. I just didn't get it until I was a little older and saw Michael Hedges and Stanley Jordan perform." Inspired by Hedges' and Jordan's two-handed technique, Stenten started getting serious enough about the instrument to give up a thriving career as a freelance photographer and concentrate on music full time. "The two-handed thing really worked for me because I've always been into the piano," he says. "I saw Stanley Jordan play with two guitars "one was on a stand" and that seemed like the perfect extension of that technique. But I found having the guitars on stands just didn't work logistically." Stenten's solution: design his own guitar. "I designed a special double-neck," he explains. "I had it built not knowing whether or not it would work. Fortunately, it did."Double guitars

Stenten's first creation consisted of two separate guitars that were joined together by luthier Brad Larson: an Ibanez AM 100 Semi Hollow, and a small solid body that was cut to fit alongside of it. Unlike most double-necks, which are designed to output one neck at a time, Stenten's creation allows both necks to be heard at once.

As his technique developed and his repertoire broadened to include the work of classical composers like Prokofiev and Beethoven, Stenten saw the potential to extend the guitar's harmonic range beyond its normal four octave limit. "I wanted to get closer to a piano," he explains. "I also wanted to keep the guitar as acoustic sounding as possible." The second incarnation of the DoubleGuitar (which Stenten has trademarked) was built from scratch. It's a semi-hollow archtop with two, 24-fret, eight-string necks, which are strung and tuned to handle the widest harmonic range possible. It took the luthier Brad Larson over a year and a half to make this new 16- string double-necked archtop DoubleGuitar," Stenten says. "Some day I hope to have a totally acoustic Double- Guitar made."

The neck closest to Stenten's head handles the lower registers, tuned to low F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E. Stenten strings it with a combination of standard guitar and electric bass strings. The treble neck starts at low B, followed by E, A, D, G, B, E, and G#. "I wanted to keep the interval between strings the same as on a regular guitar," Stenten explains, "But I haven't been able to get that top string past G#, no matter what I try. And tuning it gets a little scary as it is!"

Scott StentenEach neck can be routed through its own set of electronics, which can be split out to separate amps or combined to a single output. "The top guitar has several different pickups: first, all eight strings are covered with a custom made Lindy Fralin single-coil pickup. Then there's a separate pickup for the two low strings, and that has its own output. There's also a piezo stuck onto the body near the bridge, and that has its own output as well. The bottom guitar uses the same model Lindy Fralin single coil and a bridge-mounted piezo, each with its own output. I run all five outputs at once, into a little mixer, and pan them between my tow amp, a Peavey Bandit 65, and a Peavey pacer 45."

The DoubleGuitar weighs in at a hefty seventeen pounds, and Stenten says regular exercise is necessary to prevent the instrument from becoming a physical burden. But after using his DoubleGuitars for three years in an intense four-to-five set per day/five -day-a-week stint at Chicago's Navy Pier, he's comfortable with the extra weight because it allows him to satisfy his craving for sophisticated poly-rhythms and harmonic movement. "I keep coming back to jazz improvisation," he says. "I automatically hear the left and right hand interaction, and in solo playing, I 'hear' more than I would be able to do as a normal guitarist working in standard tuning." By allowing his sonic desires to lead him, Stenten has developed an instrument that "like his technique" pushes the guitar beyond its outer limits.

--E.D. Menasché
Guitar Shop
March 1999

Design Reflections Klein book

Klein reflects upon the evolution of his designs:
"My design is pretty well there-it feels full-circle, and I feel gratified that some very fine players find my instruments useful and inspiring. I also feel that I've gained a handle on the whole-the guitar as a system. And that understanding has enabled me to generalize some of my experience to other projects like the M-43 and the Kiso instruments. Every experience has informed my next process."
Klein also believes that his instruments are not the end-all of steel string acoustic design and that there is no such thing as having arrived- no orthodoxy. Klein believes that the fruits of his labours are merely where his gifts and journey have take him:

Excerpt from "Art That Sings" The Life and Times of Luthier Steve Klein
By Paul Schmidt

Guitar World

Scott Stenten's self-titled CD of solo jazz guitar, with its many layers of sound and intricate melodic and percussive elements, will leave the listener asking only one question: How did he do it in one take and on one guitar?

The answer is found in Stenten's unique Double Guitar, a two-necked, 16-string instrument with five pickups and five individual outputs. And if at first this seems like merely some twist on the old double-neck axe, think again: Stenten plays both guitar necks at the same time, using hammer-ons, pull-offs and two-handed tapping, a variation on techniques that he picked up from listening to Stanley Jordan.

"I saw him playing two guitars, one of which rested in a stand," says Stenten. "I tried it out and found that while it worked, the positioning got kind of clumsy."

So Stenten went to luthier Brad Larson, who designed a guitar that could attach to Stenten's Ibanez AM100 guitar. From here, Stenten and Larson came up with the DoubleGuitar, with its extra strings and extra outputs, plus a semi-hollow design.

Stenten's Album shows of his guitar and his playing style with a variety of cover songs, including works by Jimi Hendricks, Santana and George Harrison. Stenten even tunes the theme to The Odd Couple into a deftly rendered jazz number.

While Stenten is proud of the guitar that he created and hopes to see it reach the level of acceptance enjoyed by traditional guitars, his main focus is on the music he creates with it. "The big thing for me," he says. "is to be a musician, to perform, to make music."

--Guitar World

Double Guitars

When Scott Stenten decided he wanted to play two guitars at once, there were few options available: Conventional double necks only allowed one neck to be heard at a time and, as he explains in the profile in Nuggets (starting on page 10), using special stands to hold multiple guitars just didn't work for him. Here was his solution: An Ibanez AM 100 Semi-Hollow was mated to a specially designed solidbody cut to fit the AM 100's lower contours. "You could take the guitars apart if you wanted to," Stenten says about the original. He used the original DoubleGuitar for several years, until finally refining the concept with the current 16-string version.

--Danny Miles

Blurry Stenten

The liner notes to jazz guitarist Scott Stenten's new C.D. prominently state: "All songs recorded live direct to DAT with no overdubs." This message is the rough equivalent to David Copperfield avowing on one of his TV specials that no camera tricks or other special effects were used to perform his tricks.

That's because Stenten performs a sort of magic in his music. Play his CD, and you'd swear on a stack of Bibles that you were listening to two guitarists play together.

In fact, Stenten is soloing. His instrument is a double-necked 16-string guitar, designed by him, on wich he can play both necks simultaneously.

The result is astounding. On Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," one hand plays the underpinning piano line, while the other takes the saxophone part.

Stenten's two-handed tapping technique is a direct descendant of the music of Stanley Jordan and the late Michael Hedges. Stenten also takes on covers by artists as diverse as Sonny Rollins and the Beatles.

--Rob Thomas
Capital Times 1999

Special effects

Special Effects, Chicago Style

Scott Stenten reaches his perfection through embellishment and excess. Stenten is the "new kid on the block." His fertile imagination, his willingness to experiment and his never-ending search for the outrageous underscore his youthfulness.
Presently, Stenten's special effects work falls into two general catergories. His cityscape collages are constructed from black-and-white photographs of buildings from around the country often shot with wide angle or fisheye lenses. The individual buildings are then cut out, repositioned and airbrushed and re-photographed into a final image. The final work often uses a dramatic superimposed sunset. The result is the creation of a unique and unforgettable skyline that seems to assume its own personality.
For recent assignments for the cover of River North Magazine Stenten was asked to juxtapose the skyscrapers of the loop with the buildings of River North and in just a few days Stenten rewrote the architectural history of Chicago.
At 19 Stenten left photo school for a job at Nobart, the Chicago catalogue house. "for nine months I worked my ass off; I shot a ton of samples and kept logs on everything." With that, Stenten pulls out two overstuffed loose-leaf notebooks filled with copious descriptions-complete with drawings and test shots-of hundreds of images done at Nobart.
After leaving Nobart, Stenten worked for world renowned special effects photographer Richard Izui. From there he formed a photographic partnership with three others photographers and now he works on his own from his downtown Chicago studio.
"I try to go for the jugular with the special effects-I want the most impact, the wildest visuals - something that stands out in peoples' heads." And for Stenten and his acclaimed cityscapes the final product is just that.

-- Winsoar Churchill and Alan Klehr
Photo District News

A Panoramic View

A Panoramic View
The beauty of the Chicago Skyline delights both its residents and tourists day after day. But put a cityscape in the hands of Scott Stenten, and the city's vistas take on a new magic.
Stenten applies his special effect photography techniques and abracadabra - The Sears Tower is no longer black, but electric blue against and orange sky. The tony North Michigan Avenue shops are juxtaposed with solemn structures from the Loop's Prudential Tower and the Solid John Hancock building has an "s"curve in it. In Stenten's fantastical pictures. No building is portrayed realistically. Yet the total effect is to capture the city at its best - vibrant and multi dimensional.
His Clients have included Budweiser, McDonnell Douglas, Chemical Bank and others.
Stenten does not see a conflict in using his techniques in both his work done for corporate clients and his own work. Some of the artist he most admires have done the same people like Andy Warhol, Mark Kostabi and others.
Stenten likes Chicago and its amazing architecture most. "The nice thing about Chicago is that you have the room to shoot it. In Manhattan, the buildings are buried and you have to look straight up. L.A. is fabulous but it doesn't have the depth of amazing skyscrapers and architectural history that Chicago has."

-- Michell Buetow
The Gold Coast Magazine

Rock Around the Block

Rock Around The Block
The Second floor headquarters of Studio B, On Van buren Street, is alive with the sounds of rock music, the sight of el cars careening around on the loop tracks. And the smell of salami, among other things, drifting up from somewhere down below. Studio B is the collective name for four photographers-Danny O'Conner, Scott Stenten, Gary Hanabarger, and Rocco Corbino-who have been collaborating for six months now and who are producing eye-popping new images for advertising and other commercial clients.
Their city pictures, some of which are shown here, feature out of whack perspectives, jutting shapes, impossible juxtapositions, and color that, as Stenten puts it, "is so succulent it often knocks people over." The final products are montages of other images the four have taken and then combined, refined, and enhanced photographically ("Not with computers!") in the studio.

-- Joanne Trestrail
Chicago Magazine

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