Help please - jazz slap (milt Hinton style)

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by josiah goldfish, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. Hi there,
    The other day I was watching a fred astaire film and there's a number in it called 'slap that bass'. I started watching some milt hinton and became instantly hooked on the way he slapped. It's my understanding that slap comes from the unamplified days where player had to be louder.

    I decided to learn how to slap, but I just don't get it, so I was wondering if anyone here could answer my questions or post some pics/videos on what I should and shouldn't be doing.

    1) in milt's videos, he doesn't seem to let the strings snap back on the fingerboard as I've seen described elsewhere. Does the click come from the string hitting the board of from the hand slap afterwards?

    2) what part of the hand do i slap with? I've heard that milt used the side but I don't understand this? Could someone post a picture or something?

    3) what part of the hand do I pluck with? I find that the first finger is easiest, but still difficult. Do I use all my fingers?

    4) where should my thumb go? The bassists in Fred astaire's film had it at a right-angle to the first finger, but someone said milt tucked it out the way? What does that mean?

    5) Is it normal that I find crossing strings tricky? I don't seem to play anywhere near as fast as I do pizz.

    I'd really appreciate it if someone could post pics to help out, and thanks in advance for any answers to my questions and any advice given.

  2. Go on YouTube and search for Nicolas Dubouchet. He also posts under the username technodub. Apart from being a good slap player, he's a devotee of the older jazz players.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
  4. I like how Nic will focus on his interpretation of a particular player's technique and film his right hand closely, hence the suggestion. But yeah, straight from the source...
  5. Thank you very much, appreciated :)

    I've searched milt Hinton slap already, but couldn't find what I was looking for. I found that watching his technique in videos most helpful
  6. HateyMcAmp


    Apr 13, 2006
  7. is it possible to slap animas?
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    IME in my short time messing with learning Milt's stuff and doing just one transcription (I'm still absorbing it from the past year). I wouldn't look at any other bass players slapping, cept Pete Coco's as he seems to stay very close to Milt's technique. Everybody else is doing more of a rockabilly slap, including Dubouchet.

    1) 95% of Milt's slap comes from the hand slaps, not from pulling the string to slap against the fingerboard. If you look at his hand position, it's usually very close to a "jazz" pizz position with the thumb almost resting on the fingerboard. It's to slow if you hand isn't anchored as it takes too much time to transition from a rockabilly slap with the right hand completely off the bass to go back into pizz. Also for my tastes, I find that doing a big pull and snapping the strings against the FB makes too much clacking noise and obscures any melodic type of playing. Milt's slap solos are still very melodic even if he's throwing in the slaps. With less motion involved it makes it far easier to throw in an occasional slap or mix in melodic phrases into your slaps. If you attempt to transcribe Milt's soloing, you won't be able to keep up with your completely leaving the fingerboard.

    2) There was a great video on youtube with his hand position that I can no longer find. Yes he slaps with the side of his hand/palm. For me, it's the side or bottom of the first knuckle.

    3) I pluck just like I do with pizz. See Chris Fitzgerald's vids on jazz pizz. Sometimes I'll pluck with two fingers. Most of the time I'm sticking to my general jazz pizz and just pull with either finger I'm on (first or second). I just throw in slaps on top of what I'm already doing for regular pizz.

    4) Rather than tucking it away, i think it's just better to find a natural relaxed position where the thumb doesn't get in the way. For me it means kinda pointing my thumb at an angle toward the table. So in the beginning I started jamming my thumbnail into the table of the bass - so I've got some marks on my bass from it now.

    5) String crossings become easier with time. Just take things slow.

    One more point i'd like to make was that video that no longer can be found. Milt described learning his slapping method and came up with some very simple drills on slap/walking:
    #1 Pick a quarter slap once. Quarter note style.
    #2 Pick a quarter slap twice. Eigth note style - swing or straight.
    #3 Pick a quarter, slap three times. 16th note style.

    So basically, you're slapping on beat 3 on #1. With #2, you can slap like a swing beat or if you work through some of his music, he'll do this as a straight triplet. In messing with this, you come up with your own exercises to be able to alternate between the 3 exercises.

    Finally, I think it's very important to transcribe what he did. Alot of the cool stuff he did is in the language in how those slaps are applied. It's like he uses a particular slap for a given phrase and will change up the slapping as he changes phrases. Use something like Capo or Amazing Slowdowner to work through his solos note for note, slap for slap. I don't think it's hard, it just takes time to get accustomed to playing in a different manner and buildling up speed with you slapping (esp the 16th note slaps). Also, start slow and work your way up to faster tempos. It takes time for your right hand to get used to a different kind of abuse.

    The only thing I haven't been able to do is that at small instances, he'll actually snap the string against the fingerboard in a 16th note phrase and he gets this fascinating syncopated thing going. My advice is to focus on the melody being played and not so much the slapping. That way it always sounds hip and not gimmicky. Also, think like a drummer and the rhythms make a lot more sense. That is also Milt's intent.

    Yes it's possible to slap Animas - I did it. You can slap any string so long as the tension isn't too high that it makes it hard to push the strings into the fingerboard. Too stiff and your hands just bounce off the string without making noise. I would also play with striking the strings on just certain areas - like just the E and A strings. You don't have to rattle all 4 strings.
  9. Thank you so much, this answer is absolutely what I was looking for.
    I found that the rockabilly-style slap is reasonably easy, but milt's style is a bit harder. Guess I'll just have to keep working!

    Thanks everyone for the fantastic replies,
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    oh one funny little thing I found with the thumb. If the hand is free and the thumb is under the fingerboard, the thumb can act like a stop to limit how far away your hand moves from the standard pizz position. So once you reach out, the thumb can help rebound the hand back into the strings for the next slap. Just do it subtly and it can help improve your rhythmic consistancy and speed.

    Examining Milt's videos, I think he does tuck it away under the palm tho, in which case I think his slaps might end up a little more of sidestrike with the hand. I dont' see why you couldn't employ all three techniques - tucking the thumb, using the thumb as a stop, and RB style. It's just a lot of work.
  11. wdave


    Apr 7, 2008
    Milt's short explaination here
  12. I started transcribing one of milt's pieces today. If you search 'milt Hinton slap' on YouTube it's the 5 minute long one near the beginning. In the clip milt talks about pieces that aren't slapped then slaps at the end. I started transcribing the ending (not too long) and so far I've got most of the melody down (I got up to the high D on the G string). I'm a bit stuck at that point as I can't hear how it descends very well. If someone wanted to give me a hint I wouldn't say no? Haha.

    It's trickier than I thought, but definitely rewarding. Thanks for all the advice everyone.
  13. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Most of the fun is in figuring out how he did it yourself. Give it time and enjoy the journey!

    That one is close. There is one more that is really on the spot and very similar.
  14. The video didn't open yesterday but it did today! Huzzah! Thanks, fantastic video :)

    Thanks for the help hdiddy
  15. almal


    Aug 28, 2006
    Hey All--great thread.
    Any Milt Hinton Recordings you all really like--that show his slap and arco playing?
  16. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Get these albums:
    Hayward & Hinton - w/ Lance Hayward. Exactly Like You is an easier one to transcribe.
    The Trio - Hinton, Rosengarden, Smit. The Fascinating Rhythm track has some great slap.
    The Judge At His Best - Two tracks - Slap Happy and Milt's Rap
  17. klyph


    Mar 28, 2009
    Milt's tenure in Cab Calloway's band lasted from 1936 to 1950. I don't know how much recording the band did after WWII, but the late 30's Cab recordings are magic for a number of reasons. "Pluckin' the Bass" was his big feature, but quite a few of these recordings have short slap solos. My vinyl copies are reissues on Brunswick and Societe' du Jazz (sp?), but I believe Proper Records (UK) and Mosaic(USA) have reissued them on CD.

    These recordings also feature the cool arrangements and volcanic playing of Chu Berry, a very young Dizzy Gillespie, proto latin jazz rumblings courtesy of Mario Bauza, and some of the most exuberant minor key music ever recorded! Guaranteed to brighten your day, even if you can't quite get the hang of Milt's style (which I never could).
  18. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2004
    Milt recorded an album with Branford Marsalis - Trio Jeepy. The two of them duet on "Three Little Words", so you get to hear his playing very exposed....
  19. cultrvultr

    cultrvultr Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2008
    Oakland, California
    Thanks everyone! I tracked down these recordings on Spotify. They are all great examples of Milt Hinton slapping.