Sloppiness is common. Many bass players simply play bass because they think it is an easy instrument, and quite frankly, they don’t think that they have to be any good to play it. In fact, they just want to be in a band.
For us true musicians, this is not the case; we want to perfect our instrument and better our skills daily. With this in mind, we come to one of the hardest technique with which to be accurate; slapping. Slapping, when done properly, can seem a bit unruly.
Not only is your picking hand working in a frantic pendulum of motion, but you also have your fretting hand to contend with. In this lesson, we will show you how to slap bass with precision.
First thing’s first; we need to go over the basic slapping technique, slapping and popping.
Slapping and popping are one single technique. When you slap with your thumb, you immediately pop with your chosen finger.
When you are slapping, you should be using the side of your thumb. After striking the note, your thumb should be rebounding. You should be strumming, plucking, or holding on to the note after you slap; simply hit it and back off.
With bass popping, you need to make sure that your finger is hooked.
It will help avoid putting unnecessary stress on the finger. Basically, your finger has no muscle; creating a firm hook supports your finger and helps avoid hyper extension, or other injuries, such as bending your finger the wrong way. All in all, it is your only defense against injury.
Now, onto the precision portion; how can such a rapid technique be monitored?
By slowing down.
Take a metronome and, starting at a lower tempo, practice your slapping technique. Starting off at lower tempos and practicing techniques from the ground up helps to develop accuracy. It is also the only proven way to develop your accuracy.
Perform your slaps on the on beats and your pops on the off beats. This means that for every click of the metronome, you should be performing two notes; a slap on the click and a pop between clicks.
What is important is that you don’t speed up the metronome. Resist the urge to shift into hyper speed, and simply take your time. Muscle memory is the only key to precision, and the only way to build up your muscle memory is to start slowly and be accurate. Pay attention to your form when playing as well; if you begin to play sloppily, correct yourself. Bad practice habits translate into overall bad playing habits.
In the end, learning how to slap bass with precision all comes down to one thing; putting in the time. There are no magic sprays or DVD’s that will help you to gain accuracy any quicker. The only way you will become a slap bass master is through daily practice.
Set aside a chunk of time each day and simply practice your slapping technique along with a metronome. Remember, it may not be a bonanza, but you are steadily moving towards your goal. Good luck!
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