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Slap Bass Question - Help!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by wannabe_bassist, Jan 30, 2002.


  1. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    Florida
    I am watching the Slap Bass Program video by Alexis Sklarevski.

    My problem is that when I "slap" the E or A string with my thumb, I get the annoying "string smashing against the fretboard" sound. Either my action is really low or I don't see anyway to slap the string with any force without it hitting the fretboard. The string bounces back, of course, resonating but it does not at all sound like the "slapping" that my ears hear on the tape. So I suspect that I am doing it wrong.

    The author has no doubt been playing slap bass since he left the womb and I just started last week, so I don't expect to master this overnight. However, I want to learn it properly prior to getting into any bad habits (which is probably where I am at now).

    When I pop, I get a sound close to that on the video but still off. He gets that "twang" sound where as I don't. The pop seems easier to learn than the slap.

    When I listen to others, I do not hear that sound at all.

    Should I be slapping the string so that it bounces off the fretboard? He spent a whopping 30 seconds on the thumb technique and quickly moved on to playing octaves and bass lines with this. I was left behind.

    Some newbie basic questions:

    1. What part of my thumb should make contact with the string?

    2. What area of the fretboard (or just below?) should I be hitting the string with my thumb? Many books say in the area of the last 3 frets on the fretboard, but his video shows him immediately below the fretboard. To each his own I guess but how do you folks do it as a general rule?

    3. How hard should I be hitting the string? I seem to emulate his hand motions but I am not getting the same sound, not even close.

    4. Should the string be making contact with the fretboard at any time during the "slap"? (not counting the left hand who may be fretting notes).

    5. On the pop, should the string be "popped" so hard that it bounces back off the fretboard?

    6. I have P+J pickups, which pickup is better suited (or mix both equally) for this sound?

    7. What bass, mid, treble settings would you recommend to help "get that sound" at least while I am learning this technique?

    Finding a bass guitar teacher in South Florida is nearly impossible (not many retirees want to learn to play bass for some reason, too busy driving 35 mph in the left hand lane, I imagine).

    So I am hoping that you good folks can give me some pointers.

    Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. lump

    lump

    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    I ain't no slap master, but I get around...

    You don't happen to have your bass strung with flats, do you? They ain't gonna cut it for slap. A fresh set of roundwounds would probably help. As for a PJ, I have no experience with that, but I'd probably emphasize the J a bit more than the P. As for EQ, a lot of guys cut the mids, but personally, I prefer a little oomph. He might also be using a compressor, to keep the pops from being way louder than the slaps, but again, that's personal preference.

    The slap sound should be the sound of the string whacking the frets. I usually slap around the end of the fret board or higher. Turn your amp UP - you really don't need to use much force. I don't have the normal, bent "bass player thumb" - mine's straight as an arrow, and I just use the side. Some guys complain about getting blisters, but I can't possibly see how that could happen. Let the amp do the work. Same with popping - don't yank the strings a foot off the fingerboard. It actually sounds better a little muted anyway. If you watch the guys who can really slap (and I haven't seen that video), there is less right hand movement than you'd think. It's all about rhythm, not force.

    That's my $.02. I'm sure you'll get plenty of other responses. Good luck!
     
  3. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Thats a great video. I couldn't slap worth a damn, and only about a year after getting that video I was able to do most of what he does there. It's mostly a matter of doing it so much that your hands kinda go on automatic pilot. Something just clicks one day.

    I think it's important to practice the way the video says and be really patient. I beleive he starts with slapping muted strings.

    I use the right side of my thumb, right where the fold it. I think your problem may be that you're hitting the string and not letting it go quickly enough. To get the proper sound you should kind of just whip it - hit and immediately release it. I would keep experimenting until you get the closest to how you think it should sound. Hit it soft and hard and quick and slow and at different angles to you find what feels and sounds best to you.

    Also - I don't remember exactly how his bass sounds on the video, but I knw it wasn't till I bought a Warwick and then my MM that I was able to get a slap sound that I really liked. A lost of basses just don't have a good slap sound and no matter what you do it might not sound quite right. New strings definately help a lot, if strings are dead they're gonna thump more than snap. I'd also recommend really light strings while you're learning because they're the most pliable.

    Tone settings I'd fiddle with also till you were happy. Most people seem to like to crank the highs, cut out the mids, and do what they will with the bass. I use different settings.

    Last note - what seems impossible now is ohhhhh soooo possible with practice. I think it's really important to not not worry so much about speed once you learn the techniques - but to just be diligient in doing the exercises slowly and steadly over and over and over. I used to do it like a mediitation. If you do this long enough the speed will take care of itself.

    Good luck.
     
  4. This noise u speak of - do mean the string repeatedly hits the frets after u slap making a buzzing noise - that means that your actions to low. or do mean the string hits the fret board once with the slap - that shouldn't make to much noise but puts the punch on the slap sound. if it is making a noise like that its probably the string hitting the pickup. if thats the case move ya slapping contact up the board a bit. I know there's one bass where the pu is right on the bridge, great pickin sound impossible to slap. I can't think of any other solutions but i'm then not sure of the problem.

    "When I pop, I get a sound close to that on the video but still off. He gets that "twang" sound where as I don't. The pop seems easier to learn than the slap."
    The pop sound depends on your bass - my mates is really twanging where as mine is more woody

    "Should I be slapping the string so that it bounces off the fretboard? He spent a whopping 30 seconds on the thumb technique and quickly moved on to playing octaves and bass lines with this. I was left behind. "
    you wanna smack the string on to the fb then get ya thumb out of the way so that it doesn't kill the sound

    Some newbie basic questions:

    1. What part of my thumb should make contact with the string?
    side of the knuckle
    2. What area of the fretboard (or just below?) should I be hitting the string with my thumb? Many books say in the area of the last 3 frets on the fretboard, but his video shows him immediately below the fretboard. To each his own I guess but how do you folks do it as a general rule?
    about last 2/3 frets or just off fretboard depending on ya pick up set up

    3. How hard should I be hitting the string? I seem to emulate his hand motions but I am not getting the same sound, not even close.
    Again depends on ya bass and also ya amp. the hard u hit the stronger the sound my advice is don't go for his sound - go for ya own


    4. Should the string be making contact with the fretboard at any time during the "slap"? (not counting the left hand who may be fretting notes).
    Yes first few times u slap ya thumb should get red and sore from smacking the f/b

    5. On the pop, should the string be "popped" so hard that it bounces back off the fretboard?
    yep

    6. I have P+J pickups, which pickup is better suited (or mix both equally) for this sound?
    I use my P cos my J is quite noisy but i like the slap sound i can get - I have and old cort performer

    7. What bass, mid, treble settings would you recommend to help "get that sound" at least while I am learning this technique?
    I got a one band on my bass set about 1/2 - 3/4 of the way around towwards treble and the 3 band on my amp with treble about +2 mid +1 bass +2 or 3. Again I say go your own sound not some one elses.

    Hope all that helps a bit
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Mr. Sklarevsky is using some kind of super-active electronics and fresh roundwound strings. One of the things that really struck me when I first watched that tape (especially when he's playing open strings for tuning) was that zingy '80s active-bass tone brought back to life.

    Your profile indicates that you're using a passive instrument. It just won't sound the same.
     
  6. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    Florida
    Should I get an active Bass?

    If so, any recommendations?
     
  7. If I were you I wouldn't go buy an active bass just to learn how to slap. I realize that's not all you plan on doing but when you do decide it's time for a new bass then look at some actives and try out your slapping on that. Don't decide it's time for a new bass because you want your slapping to sound better. I learned how to slap on a passive bass and until I de-fretted it, it was a great slapping bass. You'll probably just get used to it.
     
  8. Active bass wise; I like the new ergodyne series by ibanez, Cort have some nice affordable basses, warwicks have some bloody huge humbuckers and yamaha has afew nice guitars. Luthinite is nice cos its light resonante and cheap but good wood can sound better. But that said u don't need actives i like to think my passive sounds better than my mates soundgear which has actives.

    It's just getting to know your bass and getting the best sound out of it. Mark king once said that his new kingbass by status was better than his jd but he keeps using his jd because he knows it so well and can get the sound out of it that he wants. toy around with your eq and you should be able to get a decent sound.

    What kind of bass r u using anyway??
     
  9. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    An interesting thing I read the other day. Allen Woody went to see Larry Graham play (for those who don't know, he pretty much invented slap bass)and was amazed at how lightly he hit the strings, but still got a HUGE sound. I'm just a mediocre slapper, but I've found the same, you don't have to smack it hard to get a good sound.
     
  10. cassanova

    cassanova

    Sep 4, 2000
    Florida
    Practice just slapping out scales, once you have that down fairly solid, then practice popping out scales, after you have that down a bit, combine the 2 and slap/pop out scales. This will get your fingers used to doing what theyre supposed to.

    Where you strike the string with your thumb is somewhat irrelivant IMO, You can slap using your index finger way up by the bridge if ya want, you can use your thumb down by the lowest part of the neck. You can even take your fingers and strike the string in between the 2 pickups and get a slap sound. You pretty much just have to experiment untill you find that sweet spot on your bass. You will never get your slap sound to sound like the guys in the video, sorry, but for one your not him, you could have identical gear and have it all set the same and it just wont sound like him. (The tone starts in the hands.)

    Ive also found that eq setting doesnt really matter much either when I slap/pop. set flat, scooped mids, accented mids, it dont really matter, thats all just your own personal preferance imo.

    active/passive electronics, dont matter either, you can slap/pop on either type of bass and if you know what your doing, it'll sound just as good.

    there is also no need to beat your strings into submission when you slap/pop, a light touch is all it takes and imo sounds much better.


    and if you go to www.basslessons.com you'll see there are a few instructors in the South Florida area. 2 or 3 of them.
     
  11. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    Florida
    I was watching two of the "All Star Bass Series" videos and you are right.

    Larry Graham had this massive sound yet watching his slapping you would think he was hardly hitting the strings! Other folks on the video were using their whole arms and making all the motions (sounding equally as good).

    I understand that it takes time and practice. But I need to know that I am at least going down the right road. :)

    Being new to Bass, I have been watching these Bass Day videos and I am amazed at how versatile the instrument is (at least in the hands of an Expert!).

    I should seek out a teacher, but most around here are guitar based who also "just happen" to teach bass too.
     
  12. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    I made that mistake many years ago when I was young. I took lessons from a guitar player who didn't really undestand the different role bass plays in music. He would teach me to play a song, but have me follow the guitar line exactly when the bass in the song didn't. Find a real bass teacher, not a guitar teacher that also teaches bass.
     
  13. -You don't have to get an active bass to get great slap sound. -Listen to Marcus Miller... You need good, clean strings, and the right action adjustment.-Too high action will make the accent too loud, and kill the tone. -Also, if you hit too hard, you'll kill the sound. You'll just have to practice and experiment, then eventually you'll get it! I remember having a hard time getting the right sound, but it came to me almost out of the blue. One day everything just snapped into place, and I could just groove ahead... I never used much videos and books and stuff, but I had a book and cassette by swedish bassman Jonas Hellborg, called "How to play funk with the thumb on your electric bass". There were quite thorough description on slapping techniques, and was quite useful for me...
    Good luck:cool: