How to slap on a five string

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Flipowitz, Jul 25, 2020.

  1. Flipowitz


    Jul 25, 2020
    Hello fellow bassists. I am an aspiring slap bassist but made the unfortunate mistake of being stupid and buying a five string after using an old 4 string for a while. I was wondering if there was a proper technique for slapping a five string efficiently. I have the basic technique of hitting the right string with my thumb on a 4 string but have had some trouble with the five string. I've tried multiple techniques such as the "flea" (as I like to call it, slapping with your thumb down. This proved difficult even on the four string.) Another technique I tried was with my thumb horizontal following through to the next string like in finger style. And directly hitting the string without any follow through with my thumb horizontal. Does anybody have any tips? I am using this bass Concert Bass :: JS Series Concert™ Bass JS3VQ, Amaranth Fingerboard, Cherry Burst
  2. String spacing at the bridge has to suit your hands.

    Fresh strings with good setup makes a huge difference for slap, esp the B string.
    Flipowitz and Alik like this.
  3. thabassmon


    Sep 26, 2013
    New Zealand
    I really don't think you need any special technique, as they all can work. Just focus on aiming.
  4. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    I learned to slap on a five string Jackson as it was the first active bass I bought.
    Just takes practice. After that I bought an active MM Sterling four and it was no problem switching between the two.
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  5. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Hi and welcome to Talkbass! The main thing that makes slapping on a five that much more challenging is string muting. Is that part of what you’re asking about or is it really more a matter of thumb technique that you’re unsure of?
  6. I learned to slap on a 4 string with wide string spacing, then permanently switched to a 6 string with narrow string spacing. It was hard to immediately adapt, but within days I had figured it out. I now feel that your hand can adapt to any string spacing, given a little practice.

    Here are things you will have to adjust:
    1. Keep the thumb parallel to the strings, to avoid striking more than one string
    2. Narrow the gap between thumb and snapping finger. That octave slap-snap you are so accustomed to is now much narrower. Iron this out by just doing octaves for a day or two.
    3. Mute higher strings with your flattened non-fretting fingers. Mute lower strings with the heel of your palm.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    The same as on a 4 string. Just damp more.
  8. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    There is a lot more left-hand muting required IME. I don't usually slap the B string much, that's why I usually use a 4 string for thumb stuff. Easier spacing, easier muting.
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  9. If slap sounds good on your 4 string, but sounds bad on your 5 string, I wonder if there is a difference in the strings and/or "setup" between the two basses? The basic slap technique is the same on 4-string and 5-string, except that the 5-string requires a bit extra "muting." If you are getting a big difference in tone between your 4 string and your 5 string then there is some difference between the basses (like the type of strings, the setup, the pickups, the electronics, etc.) beyond simply having 1 additional string.

    You said the 5 string is a Jackson. What kind of bass is your 4 string? If your 4 string is also a Jackson, with the same strings and same setup, then slapping should sound the same on the two basses. On the other hand if your 4 string is not a Jackson, and/or if it has different strings or setup, then it is normal for slap to sound different, on different basses. Switching to a different type of bass then you are used to, there is going to be an adjustment period in your technique.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
    Flipowitz likes this.
  10. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    Left hand muting and good aim are your friends here.

    I've slapped for years on a 5 string with 15mm string spacing.

    You can do this. :)
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  11. Flipowitz


    Jul 25, 2020
    Hey thanks for the tip. My previous bass was an old 2000s squire affinity p bass. A relative used it for church playing and never changed the strings in 15+ years. It kinda just sounded bad altogether. Other than that the pickup was passive. And it most definitely had a shorter scale.
    CatOnTheBass likes this.
  12. phillipkregg

    phillipkregg Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Learn to mute properly - using both left and right hand. It will be slightly more challenging on 5 string, but not a big deal.

    Be sure to record yourself. The real key is knowing what you actually sound like.

    While you're playing, in your head you may think that you sound great, but in reality there are probably notes ringing freely that shouldn't and other random string noise that you aren't picking up on because you're too busy concentrating on technique.

    So record yourself while you practice and listen back to try and catch the mistakes that you miss but others will hear.
  13. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    I recently purchased a 6string with 16mm spacing. I wear XXXL gloves and my ring finger is a size 11.5. I've got sledge hammers for thumbs. That being said I recently tried putting one of my silicone rubber wedding bands on my thumb, HUGE IMPROVEMENT in tone and accuracy.

    The best part is when I jump back on the 4 string my accuracy is astronomically improved.
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  14. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    Flattening the arch of your hand a bit extends the reach of your fingers for muting, I find when I'm fretting/playing on the E, my fretting tips also make brushing contact with the B string, keeping it quiet hopefully. Usually to stop it transmitting the sympathetic vibration of the bass.
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  15. Mdrummey


    Oct 18, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    Practice slowly. Take your time. It can take some time to get used to having the low B.

    I'd also recommend keeping your right hand relatively close to the strings. IMO a lot of issues with right hand slap technique early on come from keeping your right hand too far away from the strings. The further away you keep it, the more room for error when you come down on the string.

    Practice something really slow and boring. Maybe just try using your thumb to hit open strings. If you can play open strings and actually look at your right hand it might help you to hit the string clean.
    Flipowitz likes this.
  16. Flipowitz


    Jul 25, 2020
    Hello everybody I want to thank you all for the wonderful tips. They helped a great amount. I was just wondering though because I have been screwing with my action, what would be better for slapping? Higher or lower action? Thanks in advance
  17. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    All my basses are set-up with a 2.5mm gap between the under-surface of the G string and the last fret. I play with a relatively light style, I like to try to play what I play with my fingers on the thumb. Double-thumb, using the thumb and the index on the same string, raking, things like that. It's important to get a controlled style together, there is no benefit to using more force than is needed, all that introduces is sympathetic vibration on unmuted strings. Unless you want a full-on aggressive attack, that takes a lot more muting.
    Flipowitz likes this.
  18. Lower action is best for slapping
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  19. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    In general, lower action - but your strings still need space to vibrate.
  20. burgerdj


    Dec 4, 2006
    As others have said, take it slowly...and watch that B string - it tends to pickup sympathetic vibrations and you’ll need to adjust your technique a bit to dampened it. May not seem obvious at first, but if you record you’ll notice that 31-32hz hum.

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