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Claypool's Tap Technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ffutterman, Jun 12, 2014.

  1. ffutterman

    ffutterman Talentless Bass Enthusiast

    May 7, 2010
    I'm not really a big fan of tapping, but I've dabbled with it here and there. What I don't get is how Les Claypool gets such a clear sound when he taps and there's no significant drop in volume. Is it just how he has his compressor set up or is there some other technique stuff involved too?


    3:27 in this video

    Main riff of DMV
  2. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I have no idea, but wow that first video was nuts.
  3. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    The first video was taped at Jimmy Kimmel live, and I was there in the front row. It was pretty awesome.
    rtav and ffutterman like this.
  4. I think there is an element of his bass & EQ'ing.
    Also, apart from compression, there is definitely some distortion used as well that helps with his tapping & harmonics.

    That Tommy the Cat vid was awesome
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Hi ffutterman, I started playing bass in 1989, same year Primus released their debut Suck on This. If you wanted to learn slap bass in 1989, the popular instructional video was Alexis Sklarevski's Slap Bass Program.

    That's what I looked like back in the 80's, too!

    Since they were released the same year, it might be interesting to compare Sklarevski's video with Claypool's slap/tap technique. The foundations are pretty much the same. Alexis talks about developing a "strong, accurate pulse in your playing," and the same could certainly be said for Les. Primus songs like "Tommy the Cat" have that same rapid-fire 16th note groove, created using a mix of techniques: slaps, taps, pops, open strings, mutes, hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc. The technique at 3:47 I would describe as a palm-slap; it is a maneuver that will sound appropriately powerful on most basses with low action.

    You're exactly right that there is a difference in bass tone between Claypool and his contemporaries (like Sklarevski) circa late 1980s/early 90s. I can tell you as a bass-playing kid in 1989 it was shocking to hear Primus' music for the first time! I've never successfully nailed that vibe myself. I don't know what percentage of it comes from his Carl Thompson basses, or the settings in his signal chain, or his physical characteristics, or his unique creative mind? :)
    rtav likes this.
  6. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    in the first vid you talk about the little bass solo before he went into a different song? If so it is really easy to make it loud enough. You need low action, fresh strings, a little bit more treble and a touch of overdrive never hurts. Otherwise there is no tapping in the first vid.

    The second vid is all tapping and again using the same formula or something close it will work. It isn't that hard to make it works.
  7. tbz


    Jun 28, 2013
    I was there that night too!
  8. I'm pretty certain Les uses a compressor live in his signal chain, which helps keeping the tapping balanced. I've heard him go Tony Levin full-on super squash a few times, particularly with the six-string fretless. Otherwise, low action and playing lighter is the way to go. The few times I've played DMV live, I'd back off my attack on the upper frets and hit the lower frets (left index on low D on the B-string) harder to compensate. Tilting the pickup balance toward the neck helps and so does tapping your fingertips right on top of the frets for a nice, clear tone.

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