1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

In Defense of Slapping

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bassist4Eris, Nov 14, 2013.

  1. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    It's becoming an annoying TB cliche: the anti-slapping thread.

    I really believe that the root of the phenomenon is an ancient interview that Anthony Jackson gave to Bass Player Magazine, in which he called slapping a "cold, irritating abomination". That was the first time I ever heard anyone say anything bad about the technique. Now, I imagine that Mr. Jackson could probably learn to slap if he wanted to, but I tend to believe that a lot of people who were unable to master the technique have turned to his attitude as a cover for their egos. I'm not painting all anti-slappers with this brush, but I'm sure it's got to apply to some of you. Personally, I never could master tapping. Every couple of years I try again, but it's just not really something I'm destined to do much with. Now, I could hate on tappers, and say it's not musical, and all that nonsense, but why? So many people make great music with that technique. And yes, many others make great music without it. And some people even use it for self-indulgent noodling. So what?

    And so, I'm starting this pro-slapping thread. And while I'd love it to be all sunshine and roses, I'm sure the anti-slappers will be around soon. But it's OK: I'm like Eminem in 8 Mile, I already know everything they're going to say against me:

    1. That kid at Guitar Center sounds like a typewriter and it's very annoying and unmusical.

    Fair enough. Now take a 16-year old kid with more technique than taste, but one who doesn't slap, set him loose in GC, and see how musical he is with his flashy fingerstyle licks. I mean, are you really going to judge the entire technique and all of the players who've ever used it on the musicality of a teenager in a guitar shop? :eyebrow:

    2. It's always in E.

    Yeah, and when I go to jazz jams, it's always in Bb or Eb for the horn players. Your point? Guitar tunes are usually in G, C, A, or D. These are keys with a lot of open chord voicings on the guitar. And yes, slap bass songs are often in open keys. That is because certain techniques are designed around the use of open strings. It's sort of like a metal band that goes chugga-chugga-chugga on the open strings (whatever unholy note they're tuning their "E" or "B" strings to these days). It gives you something to play off of. That said, most guys who slap and take it seriously practice it in all keys. My band currently has five tunes that I slap on. I will admit that three of them are in E. One is in B (without using the open B) and one is in that ever-slap-friendly key of Gm. And the tunes in E all contain plenty of chords that require me to get away from the open notes.

    Ultimately, the point is, keys are not chosen haphazardly, and they're not chosen because "gee, we never wrote one in G# before". They're chosen for reasons, and often those reasons are to take advantage of the characteristics of certain instruments. That doesn't invalidate a whole host of other techniques, both on bass and other instruments, so why should it invalidate slap?

    3. It's always based on pentatonic scales.

    Actually that's an oversimplification. I would say that if you want the true "funk scale" you need to start with the Dorian mode, put the "blue" note between the 4th and 5th, and also include the major 3rd being hammered onto from the minor 3rd. Using that pitch collection, and perhaps also placing a certain emphasis on the pentatonic minor scale hiding within it, you can play the typical slap licks you guys like to complain about.

    Before we proceed, let's define some terms, shall we? First of all, slap is a technique, and funk is a genre. Slap is not funk, and funk is not slap. Slap can exist without funk. Funk can exist without slap. But if we are to make these assertions, we must also admit that slap is a technique that is strongly associated with funk. And, though perhaps to a lesser extent, vice-versa.

    Now, I like the phrygian mode as much as the next guy. Melodic minor? Hey, great. But they're not FUNKY. The notes I described two paragraphs above are the funk notes. I'm not saying they're the only possible funk notes, but they're the biggies. If you want to sound country, you need to play the country notes. If you want to sound jazz, you need to play the jazz notes, and if you want to sound metal, you need to play the metal notes. Guess which notes you need to play if you want to sound funky?

    4. I'd rather stay in the pocket and groove than do all that flashy stuff.

    I think this one stems from a misunderstanding of the concepts of "pocket" and "groove". I think many players consider these to be synonyms for playing simply. But do you really believe that Sid Vicious grooves harder than Rocco Prestia?

    "Pocket" is perhaps best described as a theory of rhythm which treats each beat as a big fat moment of time with a beginning, middle, and end. And you can play more towards the beginning, right in the middle, or more towards the end, to affect the feel of the song. This concept exists entirely independently of the number of notes being played or the manner in which the strings are being struck.

    "Groove", for all of the mystical mumbo-jumbo often associated with the term, means quite simply playing with a good rhythmic feel. I'm almost sure that someone is going to try and argue that I'm oversimplifying with that statement, but I say: don't overcomplicate. If you're playing the rhythm in such a way as to make it feel good, you are grooving. This concept also exists independently of the number of notes or the techniques involved.

    Let's get back to that relationship between funk and slap. Funk is a genre that is basically all about groove. It's practically the defining characteristic. If slapping doesn't groove, how on Earth did it become so widely associated with funk?

    I happen to think that Flea and Les Claypool groove. That can be debated. But are you seriously going to tell me that you don't think that Larry Graham or Marcus Miller can groove? :eyebrow:

    5. You're not likely to get paid to do it.

    I'd love it if some of the uber-pros around here could grasp this concept: a whole lot of us don't give a ****. I did not put hours upon hours of practice time in so that I can adequately entertain drunken idiots with the same thirty covers every other lame corporate sellout band in town plays. If that's your thing, great. But for many, many of us, it's not. And I think it's a shame that when young players are taking an interest in anything that doesn't fit the typical "pro musician" lapdog orthodoxy, the money guys are right there, warning them about what happens to bad little bass players who dare play above the seventh fret.

    6. I understand all that self-important and probably butthurt crap you said above, and I still don't like slap.

    Well, that's your prerogative. To be honest, I don't like carrots. But I don't complain about them every time somebody posts a poll. ;)

    And so, my fellow TBers, who's with me? Who's willing to stand up and say loud and proud "we're here, we slap, and we're not going away!" :bassist:
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I think when it is done tastefully it is hot like fire and can add a lot to a song. But most don't do it tastefully. So, I love it! I just wish MOST bass players wouldn't do it..... cuz they CAN'T (other than the plickity plackity stuff you already mentioned).

    Sooooooooooo I guess I agree with you, except to add that most aren't NEARLY as good at doing it within the context of the song as they think they are. The ego goes both ways. For some, their ego won't let them NOT slap, because being that they know how, they simply MUST find EVERY excuse to do it, even in the middle of a song in which it is disastrously stupid to do so.
  3. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    Anytime I look up a product demo on YouTube and the guy starts slapping, I immediately go to the next clip. It's a big turnoff for me. Not a fan of the sound at all. I have the same reaction when I hear a guitarist do finger tapping.
  4. Hobobob

    Hobobob Don't feed the troll, folks.

    Jan 25, 2011
    Camarillo, CA
    I love a good, groovy slap riff. I don't use the technique a lot in my cover bands, but I do it to entertain myself when practicing at home. For the most part, I'll only use it in a band context after another member suggests it. But sit down and listen to classics like Just the Two of Us and Forget-Me-Nots before you say that slapping can't groove.
  5. Hobobob

    Hobobob Don't feed the troll, folks.

    Jan 25, 2011
    Camarillo, CA
    I love it when they do that - often, it's hard to really hear the tone of a specific instrument when the demo guy is playing light fingerstyle the whole time. Slap (and pick-style too) give me a much better idea of what the instrument really sounds like.
  6. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    I wasn't talking about product demos, I was talking about music. Or do you base your musical taste and opinions on product demos?
  7. I have been trying to learn a rock tune off and on for the past couple of weeks that has some slapping. Original part switches up between fingers, pick and slap. It bugs me that I struggle with the slap and I am determined to nail it. Slap is something that belongs to us as bassists. It is ours and seemingly ours alone. It is our thing and therefore I must learn it. Slap on my bruthas......
  8. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    You must hate Ed Friedland then, he does the best demos on Youtube IMO and loves to slap.
  9. ZachariahLee


    Feb 3, 2013
    I love slap. It's fun to do, it brings energy to the crowd, and not everyone can do it. I'm in an original rock band, and honestly only have 2 small spots in 2 songs out of 40 songs where it makes sense. There is a lot of truth in the fact that it can be overused, but I enjoy the hell out of every chance I get to do it.

    As for those stick in the mud type TB'ers..........Your opinion is NOT fact. Fact is the only reason most of you feel so strongly about certain things is that you were told that that is how you are supposed to feel. Too many "band wagon" types in here.
  10. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Nothing wrong with having plenty of arrows in the quiver...slap is fun and musical when done right!!! :)
  11. I thump a lot, but only in my home studio these days. I really enjoy doing it, but I focus on getting in the pocket above laying down poopiee-loads of notes and trying to impress people.
  12. Mennolineum


    Nov 12, 2013
    Okay, nice topic btw. I believe i've seen you defend slapping elsewhere on this forum, that's why i clicked;)

    I've been playing bass for like 10 years, most of these years i've been Happy slappin' combined with some fingerstyle, until i found out this isn't really the sound i want to create, i went to play fingerstyle only (I wouldn't call it flashy though, haha). I do tend to play a lot of funk so I agree on the funk doesn't have to be slap and viceversa statement.

    I don't consider myself a 'hater' but I did start to dislike the whole hype (i think the hype is what most people don't like) around slapping because of the majority of people slapping, around me, on the web and all the people (non musiscians) who wanted me to slap, beacause they did like that better then the 'muffled' chops i play (wich i love). I guess slapping has this entertainment factor wich fingerstyle doesn't have for most people. and most of the times when i see people slapping they slap them strings like there's no tomorrow, like the passion but dislike the attitude of those bassplayers trying soo hard to be in the spotlight, if you wanted that pick another instrument, i heard chicks dig the tambourine ;),
    My opinion: let us create the vibe and let the guitarists/singers/frontman w/e be the monkey puppets who dance to the will of the audience.. by creating the vibe i am not saying don't slap, I am saying do what you think is necessary to do so. Slapping or fingerstyle.
  13. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    Never heard of him.

    Edit: Just watched a handful of videos by him. He wasn't exclusively slapping, he was mixing it up. His clips seemed very informative. Thanks for the heads up.
  14. Robus


    Aug 25, 2013
    Chicago Area
    I just think of it as a technique that got overused to the point where it became a cliche. That doesn't mean it can't be done tastefully. A well-chosen slap at the right moment in a song can really liven things up. But as a style slapping makes me roll my eyes and yawn.
  15. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Adds percussive force to bass tone.

    Hate to think that defense against haters is required, as in you're for us or agin us!

    From my perspective, it's a generational thing. If you grew up with slapping music, then you spank that bad boy. Otherwise you come to it as you described in your own experience, including tapping. Curious minds want to know
  16. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Intergalactic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon sofware rep.
    Just another tool in the tool box!

    The more you know...the more you grow. :)

    I've been watching videos off and on and picking up a bit of technique. It's fun! Why limit your fun!

    Much better things to do than hating on things out of your control.
  17. I love slapping and so does the average music listener. People love it! I wish I could do it better, still working on it.
  18. lowdown_billy

    lowdown_billy Supporting Member

    My taste tends toward slapping and popping as a seasoning rather than a main dish, but that doesn't mean I need other guys to cook the same way.

    I think it might be generational, as StyleOverShow pointed out. For my generation, the quintessential bass technique that non-musicians recognize as "playing the bass" is walking quarter notes up and down. One can a make a persuasive case that technique is also over-used, but as a wise dude once said, "That's just, like, your opinion, man."
  19. pbass6811

    pbass6811 Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Indy, IN
    The two things I practice all the time:

    Sight reading-

    I'm not very good at either of them, but I continue to get better at both of them.

    I really do LOVE slap & pop! Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Flea, Mark King, Stanley Clarke, Alain Caron, Brian Bromberg, Robert Trujillo, Uriah Duffy...just a few of the pretty decent ones. :D

    I seriously listen to Slam The Clown(Alain Caron)at least 5 or 6 times a week! His economy of motion is mind blowing! I loves me some Louis Johnson, but watching him slap makes my arm tired! LOL! I'm working on LJ's feel with AC's technique.
  20. Can't believe how late I am to this party, but here it goes. I grew up playing urban gospel where slap is the predominant technique. You pretty much come straight out the gate slapping, that's just how it was. As I grew musically and started to take music serious as a career this is what I found...Slapping is a great dynamic tool. The reason it gets a bad wrap is because of guys who just thump away without even knowing/caring what/how many notes they're playing. The more rhythmic you get, the more it chops things up (pun intended). Props to Wooten, we all know what he can do, but that overly syncopated, speed clicking is what tends to turn people off because of it's lack of melodic content/value. Also because the rests are just as important as the notes in music. The slap lines that made it into some of the top 40 classics did so because they breath, they're not mucked up with flamencos or double thumb+pluck pluck for measures at a time.