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How to get Louis Johnson Slap Sound

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bluemoon4655, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. Ive played bass solidly for about a year and a half, so Im in no way up to speed with everyone else on this forum on bass terms and stuff, so please excuse my sophomoric approach to trying to describe this.

    -So I bought a pretty nice Fender Deluxe active Jazz Bass as my second bass guitar(which I love) when I found out I was pretty good with my Squier. I get a nice slap sound when I turn the preamp up. I have a fender rumble amp. Anyways, I've always wanted to get the Louis Johnson slap bass sound out of my fender, but havent and I went to guitar center to finally try a Sterling Stingray to see if that would just somehow magically make that nice poppy zingy slap sound Louis Johnson gets. I literally plugged the thing right in and starting slapping after I turned what I think was the tone knob all the way up. Needless to say I was utterly blown away at how I was hearing the Louis Johnson sound I've been trying to achieve at home, and the bass itself played like butter. I was playing on a really nice big amp (dont remember what kind), but it had an amp head and stuff.

    My question is, can I get that sound with my Fender if get a nicer amp, a certain type of string, or does Sterling make the Ray specifically to be able to achieve that sound because its similar?

    Any tips or anything would be great, thanks.
  2. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Knock on his door and cut his hands off :) and you already know the answer to your question sell something and get a used or new Sterling or MM they are two totally different basses than your jazz.
  3. chilliwilli


    Aug 17, 2005
    You need a stingray or a similar bass with a humbucker at the bbridge
  4. BassLife77


    Nov 13, 2009
    San Diego
    get his instructional DVD, it's a must have if you slap. also there is no way you are going to get that tone with your Squier. those Ray 4's are nice and inexpensive and I would buy one
  5. jojoslap


    Jan 28, 2014
    I remember watching an interview with him on YouTube, he said that his Musicman was custom made for him. They did something with the electronics to help produce that unique slap tone he has. I'm sure if you go to youtube you can find it, it looked like the interview was done back in the early 80s.
  6. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    I've seen that interview many many times. Have it on a DVD somewhere. What he was saying was that
    1. Leo wanted to make a bass that brought out his sound. That turned out to be the Stingray. (And later the Sabre)
    2. He was in the process of working with another company to develop a bass just for him.

    The point is....there was nothing different about the Stingrays and Sabres he had used up to that point from the ones people could buy in the late 70s. Leo used Louis as a consultant in the development and made tweaks and changes based on Louis's input.
  7. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Keep in mind that depending on which Louis Johnson recordings you are listening to, you may be hearing him play
    • A Fender Precision
    • A Gibson Ripper
    • An Alembic Series I
    • A Music Man Stingray
    • A Music Man Sabre
    • A Treker
    • A Fender Jazz

    Get a nice active bass (you have one), bias the balance a bit towards the bridge pickup. How much may depend on the bass. Crank the treble. You may need to back off the treble a bit if you get too much string noise. Add back in bass to your taste. I tend to crank the bass myself.

    Other than that you just have to play around a bit until you find something close or something you like even better.

    Fact of the matter is, given that he used so many different basses but still gets pretty much the same sound, you can come to two conclusions...

    1. The tone is mainly in his hands (especially the thumb)
    2. A lot of the sound may be studio tweaks and effects. Some of the later Brothers Johnson stuff had a lot of envelope filter and other effects.
  8. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City

    just noticed you just joined TB today. Welcome to Talkbass!

    You should add your location to your profile. If you live in the southeast Michigan / northern Ohio area I would gladly meet you at a Guitar Center and let you bang around on one of my Sabres or my Stingray. They are '78, '79, '80. Same as Louis used to play. I hear he's back to playing a Sabre now. If you can't get the essence of what you hear from Louis out of one of those, you won't get it out of anything.
  9. Thank-You very much for your generous offer. Id love to come play those basses, but I live in Houston, Texas. Ill add that to my profile.
  10. BassLife77


    Nov 13, 2009
    San Diego
    Leo custom wound his pickups to make them more powerful. more than likely they were overwound. Leo was such a perfectionist genius he probably figured out a way to overwind them without losing too much top end.
  11. depalm

    depalm Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    That's not an easy task.
    Get a MM bass and spend your days working it out.
  12. DirkP


    Jan 18, 2013
    Hamburg, Germany
    I own a stingray and love it. And yes they are slap monsters. But an active Fender Jazz maybe with a bit of tweaking of the bass-amp and a compressor should bring him pretty close. You need a lot of highend that isn't harsh or overly aggressive to get that "clang".
  13. Bodeeni

    Bodeeni Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2010
    don't forget the brand new strings.
  14. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    That definitely will help. Part of what sets Louis's tone apart from others is the zing in the high octave snaps. New round wounds definitely help.

    I have found that DR Extra Life coated strings come closest to giving you the best of both worlds. Very bright on the high end without sacrificing your lows AND they last a long time. I have Black Beauties on both my Sabres and my Alembic 5-string. I've had BBs on sometimes for over a year and still manage to get the tone I like out of them.

    DR Marcus Miller Fat Beams also do the trick, maybe even better for aggressive tones, but don't last as long.
  15. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    And DO NOT under estimate the impact of left hand muting (assuming you're a right handed player).
  16. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Dang, Malthumb, I wish I could take up that offer just to hang with you and play some awesome basses...:D

    Everything touched on here is spot on. I particularly like Louis' Stingray and Alembic days, but whatever he touches sounds awesome.

    The difference in sounds you are dealing with (after Louis' awesome ability, of course) is because of the character of the bass you have. Precisions, Jazzs (Jazzi?), Stingrays, Sabres, Alembics, all have their own signature sound because of the pickup arrangement and types (yeah, others do, too, but I'm especially fond of these, oh and Henrick Linder's Mattisons, too!). I have a Stingray that I dearly love, but I wish I had a Jazz again because I love its slap sound, too. Frankly, I'd be flipping a quarter every time I went to play if I had my Stingray AND a Jazz bass sitting there. And the Alembic Series 1's slap sound is positively to die for (so is it's price!). After I pay off my house and my truck, I may go into hock for another one...:D

    It seems that you are fond of the Music Man Stingray-type sound, so I'd go for the rear-pup Stingray, or other instrument with a similar pup arrangement. But the Stingray is the real deal. However, I'd seriously spend some time with that Jazz, you might find yourself really liking it (Listen to some Marcus Miller to get an idea of what it can do).

    And don't forget...those awesome basses don't at all play themselves (but I think you know that...:D)!

    Good luck and enjoy!
    Last edited: May 18, 2014
    Bluemoon4655 likes this.
  17. The Musicman Stingray with double humbucker or Musicman Sabre produce more or less the Louis Johnson slap sound with double humbucker mode selected. The finger style sound is more bridge pick up Stingray. You can achieve this where there are sections of slap and then finger style (such as on Stomp) by selecting with the toggle switch.

    When I saw the Brothers Johnson Louis was playing an Alembic - and did an amazing slap solo as the intro to the bands encore - appearing on stage alone and then joined by the band. Electrifying stuff.