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Bass setup - getting the slap sound right

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by climatex, Aug 13, 2017.

  1. climatex


    Jul 17, 2017
    Hi folks,

    a newbie here. Got my first bass yesterday, a Yamaha TRBX174EW P/J.
    Of course, like any other instrument it needed a little setting up, as the frets were buzzing far too much. First, the neck had been dead flat and there was no air gap in the middle of the E string, when it was fretted between the first and the 17th fret. I've did some neck relief to make it a little bit concave [the manual even did state so], allowing a 0.75mm gap, measured at the 7th fret, through which a business card would pass and then let it settle for a day.

    Then I've checked the action height, tuned that thing up and verified intonation through playing a harmonic tone, with the finger barely touching the string at the 12th fret, comparing it with the twelfth fretted note. Here's the action of the E string at 3 milimeters between the last fret and the string itself:


    But one thing that continues to bug me, is a sharp "thump" while trying to slap the strings. The sound gets clunky especially if I try to slap while fretting a note, but it also clanks while slapping an open string (all 4 strings do it, regardless of pickup volume). The string hits the last fret, but it doesn't seem to hit either the P or the J pickups, so I have ruled out that possibility:


    I'm slapping close to the neck, with my thumb, and if I try a more "softer" technique the sound just gets dull. I mean, is it supposed to sound like this, or am I making a mistake somewhere in the process?

    Best regards.
  2. kumimajava


    May 19, 2010
    Tokyo, Japan
    Firstly - welcome, and congrats on starting on your bass journey!

    Secondly: My experience with setup is far less than many on this forum, but in case it takes a while for the more informed members to respond...

    Action at 3mm seems a bit high for slapping from most recommendations, and also the pickup heights may need adjusting, if you've changed the neck relief. also, there may now be a bit more relief than intended - perhaps halfway between flat, and what you have, may be ideal. As a first attempt, I'd try lowing the saddles a bit, then checking whether anything improves.

    For reference, the string-heights I usually see as recommended for "slap/pop" are around 1.5mm on the G, up to around 2mm on the E (and very slight relief on the neck - around 0.3-0.5mm), so you may try dialing in those heights and go from there. Check whether with those string heights, you're still not hitting the pickups, etc.

    Also, if you're just starting out, and if it's not too expensive, it may be worth asking around locally if there's a good luthier/tech who could set up the bass for you. I think there's a lot to lear from just seeing a "well set-up" bass, and taking that as a reference for your own future tinkering.

    Meanwhile - good luck!
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
  3. xroads


    Nov 6, 2012
    Try lowering the beck PU. In your picture, it looks quite close to the string, if you have a strong right hand when slapping, it could bounce against the PU...
  4. climatex


    Jul 17, 2017
    Thanks for the replies folks!

    Just spent this sunny afternoon slowly and carefully re-adjusting the truss rod, along with a capo on the 1st fret and an automotive feeler gauge, setting the neck relief to 0.35mm. After that, I've tried to lower the action of the strings using the height adjustment screw pairs on the saddle, and the thing still clunks happily away while attempting to slap an open E string [it does the noise with all strings]. Not giving up at that point, I've tried to lower the neck pickup also - the strings do not strike 'em at all.

    I'm thinking of getting a refund for this clunker... :)

  5. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I think you may be having problems that are more related to your slap technique and expectations than with the bass and the setup. Unless you slap lightly, your are going to have the string hitting the board. That is part of the sound. It does tend to come through less from the amp. Slap doesn't tend to sound good un-plugged.
  6. climatex


    Jul 17, 2017
    Yes, that was also my first impression. I've then proceeded to record the thing , using an ECC83-based tube preamplifier that I've made, so, no extra effects or whatsoever did I add into the recording thereafter; apart from tweaking the tone control. Comparing this sound that I've got, with the sounds from the basic YouTube slap lesson tutorials, I think an open string really shouldn't sound like that. Or maybe I'm wrong ;)

    I have even tried to slap the string very gently, but it doesn't ring out or vibrate at all.
  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    The string is not ringing out because you are muting it with your thumb. Try following through the string with your thumb, like a golfer follows through the ball with the golf club. At the end of slapping the E string, your thumb should come to rest against the A string, not the E string. :)
    kumimajava likes this.

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