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Suggestions for solving a long-time annoying problem

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Alvaro Martín Gómez A., Nov 18, 2005.

  1. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Hi everybody.

    I've just thought about looking on opinions or tips on an annoying technique problem I've had for a long time. As an example, I'm posting an audio clip and an image. Here is the audio file (a short excerpt of Mark King's "Mr. Pink" solo), and here's the way I play it:


    Notice the highlighted section (in red) those three notes are played with a double slap (not double thumping - just bouncing the thumb on the string) and then a pop. Since I got into the slap stuff many years ago I've been struggling with getting those kind of licks (double or triple thumb bouncing plus a pop) to sound clearly. I'm not talking about the popped note. I'm talking about the double thumb bouncing thing. I can't get the second thumb hit to sound clear the first time I try to play the riff because of the urge of playing the next pop. If I keep playing this thing it starts sounding right, but for a live performance you need it to sound well THE FIRST TIME you play it and it hardly happens. It pisses me a lot! Of course, the logical answer is "keep practicing", but I think maybe I'm missing something to take into account for playing this stuff, and that's what I'm looking for opinions about. Mark King plays this thing with old school slap style (no double thumping) and I like to play it like that also (besides, I'm not very proficient at DT).

    I don't know if I've worded my problem the right way. Hope you understand what I'm trying to say. Basically it's sort of a "nervousness" when playing this. Again, two or three fast thumb slaps are OK. Problem appears when I have to play a fast pop after them. Another example: If RHCP's "Higher Ground" was faster, I'd have exactly the same problem, for sure (Playing these kind of licks at a slow-moderately fast tempo is OK). For those of you who has the excellent "Slap It!" by Tony Oppenheim, check the last staff in page eight (This is a triple thumb bouncing. Same problem. Only the first hit and the pop are heard clearly for the first time). Thank you in advance for your input! :)
  2. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    I think this advice is probably not what your looking for (My guess is your a great player from reading your posts), but, you could just ghost the first 16th note (play it as a muted open A) and hammer on the second one.
  3. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Perhaps try popping with your middle or ring finger.

    I had the very same problem. In order to get my thumb to bounce off of the second slap in quick lines, it made my index finger out of position to play the pop in tempo. You can almost anchor your middle or ring finger under the G string, and have plenty of play to get your thumb off the A string to voice the slaps.

    That may be too wierd a style adjustment for some, but I have seen a video of you play, you should not have a problem.
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    practice it slowly and then develop speed.
  5. darkblack99

    darkblack99 Supporting Member

    A suggestion, Alvaro...I worked around something similar to this by treating it as an exercise in visualization, almost a drum rudiment ...The thumb taking the part of the kick, the popping finger the snare.

    Above certain tempi, both notes will have 'ghostlike' characteristics, of course.This will be less apparent if the song has a slow groove.
    The 'stall' may occur due to the position change between the E and D note set up in the previous gliss, and whether an open or fretted note is chosen.

    I would recommend using a fretted low D note (to 'control' the string better) if you are not already doing so, and keep the thumb as perpendicular and close to the string as possible to facilitate a double tap. It's essential that the fretting finger beat the thumb to the note.

    And as others above have said, practice to clarity first, then speed.
  6. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Using my ring finger seems interesting. I'll give it a try.

    Of course. You're totally right. In fact, pitches aren't my concern. Problem is that the rhythm must be clearly heard and that's what I can't get from the first time of playing it.

    Hmm... I don't think so. The "Slap It!" example I mentioned has just a few shifts and it's a simple octave pattern:


    And I have the same problem playing this fast.

    (I know that Mr. Tony Oppenheim is a TalkBass member. I don't know if it's wrong to post an excerpt from your book, Mr. Oppenheim. If you see this, please let me know if I should remove it and I'll do it inmediately)

    That's the other problem. I've practiced this thing for years (the first time was with the "Slap It!" exercise above) and I can play it very well at a slow tempo from the beginning. It isn't difficult, really. Again, I also can play it right fast, but after repeating it a couple of times. The first time (which is the one that really counts) it simply doesn't happen.

    Thank you everybody for your posts. Please keep them coming! :)
  7. Tony Oppenheim

    Tony Oppenheim

    Nov 17, 2005
    Author, Slap It! Funk Studies for the Electric Bass

    First, it's fine with me to quote the book as long as you give credit (which you always do), and as long as the entire book doesn't end up posted one excersise at a time. Lol!

    I found a web site a couple of years ago where a guy had scanned every page of Slap It! and posted it as .jpgs on his web site. No credit was given, and I'm sure many people grabed the images instead of buying a copy of the book. That wasn't very nice. He had my book and at least one other book on walking bass posted this way.

    With regard to your question...

    If I had to guess, I'd say you are having a rebound problem. That is, when you strike the string with your thumb your hand rebounds a little bringing your index finger out of position to pop.

    This means if you want to play a series of notes like the excercise from Slap It! that you posted you have to do extra work, extra wrist motions, to get your index finger back into position to pop a note after any thumb note. You want to eliminate those extra motions if you can.

    In the technique I use I don't really think in terms of hitting the string with my thumb. I have my hand in a position that places my thumb in position to strike the string automatically. I make a bridge over the strings from the heel of my hand to the tip of my index finger.

    On every downstroke the heel of my hand and the tip of my index finger hit the bass. This motion causes my thumb to very quickly (quicker than you can see) spring forward and strike the string. If I place my hand in the downstroke position my thumb does not touch a string. It's only thru the motion of my wrist that the thumb strikes a string.

    If you were sitting in front of me watching me play repeated thumb notes on the E String it does not look like my thumb ever touches the string.

    It's not because I'm a particularly fast player (especially these days), it's because I'm not relying on any conscious movement of my wrist to get my thumb to hit the string and get out of the way. It happens due to the hand position I use and the mechanics of the hand.

    What you want to practice is economy of motion. See if, working within your technique, you can eliminate any extra bounce from your downstroke.

    Every time you hit a note with your thumb you should be in position to pop a note on the upstroke (if you want to).

    When I Pop a note my hand can stop in the up stroke position ready to come down to play the next thumb note. I don't let my hand rebound on the upstroke either.

    By practicing this technique very slowly (using the octave exercises in Slap It!) I've learned to do these motions cleanly without thinking about it. When I speed the whole thing up it makes for a clean efficient technique.

    There are, of course, side effects and limitations to every technique, so there isn't any one "best" technique. It's best to just have as big a bag of tricks as you feel you need and can support thru your practicing.

    My technique works for me, but it would be pretty much impossible to do double thumb (down and up strokes with the thumb) with my hand position since my thumb never goes below the level of the string. It's always on top.

    It's all good!

    You're a great player. I'm sure you'll work this out!

    I hope this helps.

  8. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Welcome to TalkBass Tony! I bought your book with included floppy record in 1985-86 or somewhere around there. It was what I recommended to anyone looking to get to know slap bass. I actually loaned it to a student and never saw it again. One of these days I'll buy a new copy.

    Anyway, glad to see you on TalkBass!
  9. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    WOW! "Slap It!" has been the bible of slap bass where I live for so many years. I think I'll print this post and frame it. A "personal" lesson from Tony Oppenheim! Thanks a lot! I'll try to accommodate your suggestions to my technique since I don't slap the strings with my thumb perpendicular to them, but completely parallel. When I hit a note with my thumb, it rests on the string below the one I've just played. I'll let you know of any progress (or any change, at least) on overcoming my problem. Thank you again, Mr. Oppenheim!
  10. Tony Oppenheim

    Tony Oppenheim

    Nov 17, 2005
    Author, Slap It! Funk Studies for the Electric Bass

    Just in case you (or anyone else reading this) ever want to try the technique I'm talking about you should know that I do not play with my thumb perpendicular to the strings.

    If I were to flatten my hand out on the strings from my playing positon my fingers are roughly perpendicular, but my thumb just rests in it's natural position relative to the other fingers.

    My thumb is at roughly a 30 to 45 degree angle to the strings, and of course I'm playing with my arm oriented more from above, than below the strings.

    The heel of my hand sits above the E string near the end of the fingerboard and my index finger touches the bass most times either between the D and G string or below the G string (depending on which string, if any, I'm going to pop on the next upstroke).


  11. Tony Oppenheim

    Tony Oppenheim

    Nov 17, 2005
    Author, Slap It! Funk Studies for the Electric Bass

    Thanks for the welcome, and thanks for the recommendations!

  12. Sorry again, I am not home and that is mostly the case because when I get home about the only thing I really do now when I get home is play bass for 8 hours or until I pass out. As I improvise and try and create my own grooves or writings I really want to implement tap or slap more often but I really have trouble actually doing so. The only times I have ever really used slap I do it to accent or make the note more powerful then the others, but I find popping it is usually more effective for that kind of sound I am looking for. Also occasionally I end up muting it because I feel that it resonates for far too long and even though I use it to accent a certain note; it occasionally drowns out the rest of my music and makes my incomplete writing seem done instead of indented or highlighted. Is there something I should know about this technique, Is there something I am doing wrong?

    By the way, Alvaro Gomez i'm sorry if I am redirecting your post but it is unintentional. I just wished to add onto this and introduce some of my problem on a hot thread in the search of answers. I'm very sorry if you find this rude :(
    I'm sure you'll master what you're seeking though =), from what i've seen in my short time on this forum you're a very dedicated and very talented bassist.

    Tony I have not bought your book as I have only played for a couple years, and only have recently gotten very serious about music and am starting to consider actually persuing it as a career (Maybe this is just a teenager's dream ) I actually plan on buying it now however as many here seem to really approve of it, but in the meantime do you or anyone else have any suggestions? :confused:

    P.S, My computer's HDD recently fried I think and don't have the money to fix it right now, so working on that ASAP. So, If I don't get back to you relatively quick as to thank you please don't take offense =) (Assuming you do post)

    Edit: I recently got a Spector Legend 6 (6 string, and that is why I have no extra funds right now :D!), moving on from a 4 string to a 6 added some new concepts for me, for the most part I felt more comfortable slapping B as when I try to slap other strings as I occasionally end up overlapping and hitting another string (Not always the case but when I do.. just eww...) I adjust the rest of my music to do this now however as I am currently practicing to eliminate that bad overlapping habit in the future.

    Suggestions :eyebrow:
  13. Tony Oppenheim

    Tony Oppenheim

    Nov 17, 2005
    Author, Slap It! Funk Studies for the Electric Bass

    My best advice is to find a really good teacher in your area.

    Take lessons with whatever frequency you can afford, and then diligently practice what your teacher assigns.

    At the beginning you want to be practicing as much as possible and playing as much as possible with other players.

    Learn as many songs as you can (in whatever genre you like).

    Slap is a fun technique, obviously I've spent a lot of time trying to learn it myself, but I didn't even begin to learn slap bass until I'd been playing bass for about 5 years.

    Of course, in my case, this was because I didn't know what slap bass was at the time (1970), or I probably would have started sooner.

    ... but my point is, not knowing anything about slap bass didn't prevent me from learning to play bass and doing lots of gigs by the time I was in high school.

    Concentrate on learning scales and songs and learn to sight read standard notation, and chord changes.

    You'll be way ahead of the game.

    Good luck!

  14. Edit: Nvm I think I have more of a grasp of it now. Thanks
  15. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    No problem, man. Thank you one more time for your comments!