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define 'slap'

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by finno_gilbo, Oct 10, 2002.

  1. finno_gilbo


    Jul 31, 2002
    australia NSW
    alright I dont play double bass and ive only ever touched one once for about 30 seconds so I dont know much, but:

    when you guys talk about playing slap is it different from bass guitarist?

    if not is it possible to "slap" and "pop" like BG's?

    if it is different from BG's how do you slap a double bass?

    with respect:


  2. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Herr Donosaurus moderataurus: didn't you tell me once that you'd slap only in extreme situation, preferably not a fine gypsy babe.
  3. finno_gilbo


    Jul 31, 2002
    australia NSW
    dude, i really can't understand what your tryna say.....id like a serious reply

  4. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Cool Dude,
    I don't do slab, so I won't be able to tell you much about slapping the slab. To me it's associated with funk. Go to the BG side of the board for details.
    The basics of slapping the DB: pull the string with your finger, release on beat 1, slap the fingerboard on beat 2, repeat for beat 3 & 4. It's cool for tunes with half note bass part, especially if you don't have a drummer. It requires some practice, claro como no, and it can be used with some refinement, double slap etc... They call it the un-gentle art because the dear bass get beaten about 60 times per min, which is gonna shake off any loose part... not to mention other sort of abuse as can be seen on http://rockabillybass.com/. Check that link only if you're ready to see the darker corner of the dark side. As for us, well-mannered and grownup bass players, we "will slap for food" only if we reach the bottom.
    Take it easy, with all due respect.
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Some of the older of us did some neat stuff with slapping, like Milt Hinton and guys of that ilk.
  6. Willie Dixon done all that
  7. Finno, Slapping started back pre WWII when bassists had no amplification, and needed to project more, especially in big bands. Since WWII, it has generally been regarded with disdain by the "purists", as you witnessed in a previous post. In the 50's it was popular amongst rockabilly and country players, and continues to be today in those genres. The most high profile exponent in recent times would likely be Lee Rocker of the now defunct Stray Cats. Lee uses steel strings, but most slappers prefer gut for the sound, and for the ease of playing. Slapping is a very physical technique, and will often cause blisters, blood, callouses, broken strings, broken basses or a combination of all.
    I play in jazz groups, and also in country/rockabilly groups, and as I cant afford to have a bass set up specifically for slapping and another for jazz, I wedge a block of foam under the strings by the bridge for slapping. This shortens the sustain and makes for a more gut-like authentic sound. I can pull it out in 1 second and I'm ready for jazz.
    Upright bass has been used in many genres, but the majority of jazzers and orchestral players refuse to see it as a serious instrument when it's used outside of their own narrow margins.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    As I understand it, slapping goes way back before WWII. All the way back to New Orleans, at least on this side of the puddle. I believe Pops Foster did a bunch of slapping stuff, although you're getting far in the the grey and cloudy as far as my jazz history goes.

  9. robw


    May 14, 2001
    Long Beach, CA

    Hi. I hope all is well.

    I'm curious about your comment on interesting slap playing you've done. I'm playing mostly big band and rockabilly, and love slap style. What kind of stuff were you doing? So far I've been most impressed with some rockabilly players that integrate rhythmic fills into their playing like a drummer. The most standard method is to vary the 3 or 4 slap techniques throughout a song trying to keep things interesting and tasteful.
  10. If you read my post, you would see that I said slapping goes back PRE WWII.
  11. jugband


    Jan 16, 2001
    Yes, it's VERY different. Instead of pulling the strings to the side, you pull them UP and to the side, so they click back against the fingerboard.

    In addition, Rockabilly players tend to like low-tension strings, so they can slap all four the strings down against the fingerboard instead of plucking a string at all, essentially playing bass and drums both on the URB.

    In a Rockabilly band that includes a drummer (something I dislike:( ), it can be very hard to distinguish bass-slapping from rimshots on the tom.

    Part of the purpose of the slapping is to produce clicks against the fingerboard which take the place of a drumstick on the rim of a tom or snare.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    All is well. I do almost no slap playing at all. Once or twice a year it'll find its way into a duo gig somewhere. Usually a bossa nova.

    I did see that, but the WWII thing stuck in my head after reading your post. I just wanted to clarify it, for me as well as anyone else.
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Got it, thanks. :)
  15. jugband


    Jan 16, 2001
    Originally, Rockabilly groups were typically trios, and didn't include a drummer, though the majority of Rockabilly groups are larger and do use drummers today. It was the job of the bass player to also provide the drum part, on his fingerboard.

    If you ever get a chance to hear a San Antonio group called "The Bop Kings" live, their bass player is an absolute slap-bass master. Unfortunately, he doesn't come out on their albums well, apparently the victim of an engineer that isn't a Rockabilly fan... http://www.bopkings.com

    They're are due back in from a tour of the west coast in a couple of weeks, and play in Las Vegas fairly often. (http://www.mp3rockabilly.com/vlv5/bobkingslitephoto.jpg)

    Also, on The Grand Ol' Opry, drums weren't allowed on stage at The Ryman Auditorium for decades. To a lesser degree, because the bass was much less prominent, slap-bass served the same purpose when someone wanted drums but couldn't get onstage with them.
  16. robw


    May 14, 2001
    Long Beach, CA
    Thanks for the reference. I haven't checked out the Bop Kings; funny thing is I'm in Texas now on a business trip (Houston).

    I'm pretty familiar with slap bass, and play in a drumless rockabilly group now. I just didn't describe very well what I meant. Most slap players (myself included) use the slap sound to add the percussive sound of drums. It is usually varied with quarter note, eighth note, or triplet slaps. Oftentimes the prowess is based on speed. I've seen or heard a few players that really added a rhythmic dimension to their playing that I can only describe as similar to a drum fill. For instance, a drummer will typically add fills every 4 or 8 bars beside keeping regular time.

    Specifically, I've been really impressed with Kevin Smith from High Noon and Sasso Battaglia from the DiMaggio Brothers in Italy. Their rhythmic fills accent parts of the song like a particular vocal line or guitar break, and are much more rhythmically complex than the standard time keeping lines. That was why I asked Ray since he is a jazz player; I wondered if some different things were going on.
  17. jugband


    Jan 16, 2001
    Ironically, you show as being from Long Beach, and while YOU are here (more or less), THEY played out along I-10, through New Mexico, to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, on up through Washington and Oregon, to British Columbia. They've worked their way back southwest from Canada, and are in Fort Worth tonight, Oklahoma City tomorrow, then back here to San Antonio, with dates Oct 20, 26, & 27th, and Nov. 2, then back to Las Vegas after that.

    As I said, though, the samples on their website, and that first album don't really let the bass be all it actually was. Tomcat Miller didn't play on it, and the engineer apparently didn't know how to make the most of Mendez, either. Hopefully the next album will let Tomcat shine, because he's REALLY got "the sound", at least in person.
    Way to fire Man!

    The Classic Way is three pieces, strongly driven by a slapped upright. I have to wonder if the proliferation of drumsets might be partially due to a lack of upright bass players who can really do it RIGHT.

    Slap bass defines Rockabilly, more than any other one aspect of the genre, and it's a shame to hear a drummer competing with it, or even mostly taking it's place.

    Slapped upright bass is SO identified with classic Rockabilly that sometimes it's hard to remember that other styles slap also, though they certainly do.

    I've played Tomcat's bass, and it is freakin' AWESOME. It's a Korean plywood job, but he had it set up by some luthier in Austin who's since retired, and among other things, he put $500 worth of gut strings on it, which you can REALLY tell when listening to it.

    We went up to Luckenbach a few months ago, and when I went back to get something from the car, I could hear every note he played (no amplifier at all) from 75 yards away.

    It's loud AND mellow (you feel like your're swimming in the sound when you play it), and there aren't words for the way he can slap that sucker!

    Watch their website, and maybe you can catch them live in Las Vegas (Easter).

    The Rockabilly Hall Of Fame seems to think VERY highly of them, and I think they were the Official House Band at the convention last year.
  18. Buddy Lee

    Buddy Lee

    May 5, 2002
    Most original Rockabilly "trios" in the old days actually played with drums.
    Elvis had DJ Fontana added to his band, at first at the Hayride, later even on his studio recordings.
    The Perkins Brothers got themselves a drummer almost right from start.
    The Johnny Burnette Trio at first added a drummer to their studio recordings, then also played with drums at live shows.

    So in fact, drums were quite usual for Rockabilly bands way back then.
    I personally like drumless trios as well as quartets (or even neo-trios).
    If the slap bass cuts through well and ain't swallowed by the drums, it's not a sacrilege to have a drummer IMHO.
    The fine thing about Rockabilly is that you don't HAVE to have a drummer. :)

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