Funk, metal, jazz; all different styles of music employ slapping. From Mudvayne, to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Larry Graham, many bass players have made slap bass their prime playing style. Why?
It gives texture and dynamics.
In this advanced bass guitar lesson, we are going to teach you the bass guitar slapping technique.
First off, if you are a pick user, throw down your weapon; there is no room for picks in the world of slap bass. The first portion of the technique is all about thumb.
Fret the third fret of your low E string with your forefinger for the note G. Next, fret the fifth fret of your D string for the note G. This is an octave; the same note in a different frequency. This is the shape we will use today while learning the slapping technique, so fret it and forget it because you won’t be moving that hand for a while.
Now, back to the thumb; look at the side of your picking hand thumb. Notice that, unlike your fingers, the thumb only has a single notch or joint in its middle. The joint is thick and bulbous for most of us.
Even if yours isn’t, this is the joint we will be using to create that slapping sound. Strike the low E (which is now fretted as a G) with the side of your thumb. The portion that should strike the string is the side of the joint. When you strike the string, immediately pull your hand away.
Don’t brush downwards, upwards, or leave your thumb on the string; give it a good slap, then rebound. Once you rebound, you have learned half of the slapping technique. Practice the slap for a few minutes; allow yourself to find that perfect pang, where the note just seems to bounce.
Now, for the second half of the slapping technique, you will use either your middle finger or forefinger. Slap the string with your thumb, and when you rebound, immediately hook your chosen finger (it should be erect and firm) under the D string (which should still be fretted as a G) and pull off.
The result should be a twanging sound, a lot more prominent than the pang of the slap. The note should be brought to attention; if it wasn’t, try it again.
The slap technique should be all one fluid motion; the moment your thumb rebounds, you pull off on the octave. The entire motion should be produced from your wrist tilting side to side while your fingers do their work.
The only way to perfect the bass guitar slapping technique is through practice. This particular technique can take years to master, and it is best that you be patient and work diligently to achieve the desired form.
Nothing happens overnight; set aside a block of time, whether it is a half hour or three hours (anything is better than no time at all), and dedicate this time to practicing the slapping technique. Focus on your form; if you are sloppy, work to fix it. Try playing your scales or your favorite licks as slap licks. You should also focus on learning how to pop the bass guitar as it complements the bass slap. Remember, the harder you work, the further you will go. Good luck!
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