Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by GreggBummer, Jul 4, 2008.

  1. I have been playing bass now since 1986. About six months ago I decided that I was going to concentrate more on playing "slap" bass. The Talkbass community was nice enough to give me quite an education on how to get started. There is no shortage of threads on how to play, things to practice, and awesome music to listen to (check out the Funk 101 thread!).

    All this being said, I have been chasing that ubiquitous "funky slap tone". My problem lies in muting, so everything sounds really overlapped and muddy. I think my hands aren't "meaty" enough to mute the strings. Perhaps I could get a silicone implants in my palms....:D

    Anyway, I decided to address my problem using the Generation X method- I threw money and technology at it. I played through a variety of compression and effect pedals. None of them gave a nice tone, and it certainly did not give me a more funky and muted sound.

    Then, I heard about some bassists using a sponge in the "ashtray" pickup guard over the bridge. To be honest, I thought this was really stupid. Heck, my J-bass doesn't even have an ashtray guard on it. Well, desperate to get "THAT TONE", I cut a small piece of sponge and... guess what? Wow! What a difference! The strings that I am not intending to play don't ring so loudly, and I can mute them much more easily. Slapping sounds MUCH better, although the popping sounds a bit odd... some tweaking will probably fix it. I am considering putting an ashtray on my J-Bass (although I don't really like the way the look so much. However, the pink kitchen sponge looks far worse.)

    So... does anyone else do this? More importantly, all of you teachers out there: Is this a crutch to cover a bad habit? Am I going to develop a bad technique habit from this? Thoughts? Suggestions? Ridicule?

    <<Note: I thought this was more of a "technique" discussion, however this thread may belong in "effects". I apologize if I mis-posted.>>
  2. Mutes of various types have been around a long time, although I can't say I've heard of using the sponge for slapping because of the effect you described on pops. Fender used to put foam in the ashtrays - it makes it sound more like an upright by dampening overtones and deadening sustain.

    Maybe I read around here that somebody (Wooten?) uses one of those hair bands before the first fret to mute strings?

    If you are satisfied with it, that's good. An alternative is to keep practicing to get better at muting.
  3. Mesmerize-16


    Aug 31, 2007
    Just out of curiosity, why do you need to do this? You're looking for a funky, muted tone. Okay. That aside, what needs to be muted? The string you're slapping/popping? The other strings?

    The only string(s) that should be ringing is the one you hit with your thumb/one(s) that you pop with your finger(s). If you're having trouble with this, slow right down and work on the accuracy.

    If you need to silence the slapped string before a pop, I think most players use a sort of rolling action with their slapping hand. They palm-mute the slapped string and that silences it, then kind of rotate their wrist clockwise (for us righties) and either pop the string or slap again.

    At least, that's what I do. I thought I paraphrased that from Slap It!, but in there it says to use the heel of the right hand. You strike the strings on the downstroke with the thumb, and on the upstroke you allow the heel of your hand to touch the strings just enough to mute them.

    If you're talking about the actual sound of the note, mute with unused fingers. A great example of this is FRP, from Tower of Power (see here . Not slap, but funky!) The whole finger mute thing is what goes on there.

    You probably knew most of that already, but I hope that helps!

    PS: Check out Fingerstyle Funk by Francis Rocco Prestia and Slap It! They'll both help a lot, I think.
  4. Curiosity is what drove me to try different ways of muting the strings. I like to experiment. However, I would much rather be able to do it with my hands and not have to rely on a cleaning aid. :D

    The strings that need muting are the strings adjacent to where I am trying to slap. For example, if I am slapping the A string, I usually get E and D to ring a bit. As you noted, I have an accuracy problem. I was looking at "Slap It!" in the shop a few days ago... although I am loathe to buy another book this seems to be one of the diamonds in the rough.

    Your advice to slow down and practice is certainly sound... I have no wish to use a short cut... but time, family, work and so on leave practice time very precious.

    I am sure others use hair bands, sponges, foam and the like... I would love to hear from those of you as well.:bassist:
  5. Mesmerize-16


    Aug 31, 2007
    I know what you mean. Exams just finished and I'm just dusting off my bass now. Try putting a scrunchie up near the nut, some guitarists use it to stop open strings from ringing when they tap. You can see one in use here, near the beginning on the guitar.