The Elusive Right Hand Technique (Rockabilly)

Discussion in 'Rockabilly [DB]' started by AlBass, Jun 4, 2021.

  1. AlBass


    Aug 19, 2018
    Would really appreciate any comments on peoples experience of learning the slap technique.
    Im using Superior's Dirty Gut strings - the middle set. Ive got some golden slaps but whilst I love the pizz sound, couldnt get anywhere with them with slap as a beginner.
    I find a simple I - V type rhythm easy, and dont have any trouble with the rhythms themselves, having done a fair amount of both elec bass playing and drumming.

    The probs I am experiencing are:

    The transition between the slap on the board, where the hand is open, and curving the fingers enough to get some traction on the strings, especially as soon as any speed is required.
    I understand that pulling the strings more to the near side, gives more thump and less click, and on the low strings, that is pretty easy to achieve, but on the G string, it seems an entirely different angle is needed, because that directinon causes the string to miss the boiard completely.
    The G is also where I have maximum trouble getting traction on the string, and if I do get it, the "snap" on the board has a totally different sound to that of the low strings.
    I have constantly messed with string heights, and even knocked the bridge to one side a little, which seemed to make an improvement in the placement.
    I know its just practice practice practice, and Im not whining (much) but I always appreciate nuggets of peoples experience here.
  2. AlBass


    Aug 19, 2018
    The most major problem, seems to be getting any traction with the G string. It seems the only way to get it to hit the board for down click, is for the string height to be pretty low, and to pull the string virtually straight out, but with the height low, it's really hard to get traction on it with the playing fingers, especially at speed. The whole technique seems to be different for this string, especially with the big tension difference between the lower strings and the G. Am I describing a common problem or is it
    just me?
  3. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    First, if you're going to play amped, make sure you practice amped... Perhaps with earphones or such, but in some way hearing what your audiences will hear. Otherwise you are not hearing your slap as the audience will. Practicing acoustically is fine for straight pizz or arco, but the slap won't sound the same acoustically as it will sound amped.

    There is actually a large library of pretty well done instructional vids for slapping on YouTube. If you haven't already looked at them, you may want to spend some time there. There is also a variety of methods for slapping, so be prepared to observe differences and similarities, and then identify what works best for you.

    My personal slap sequence for triplets is simple: note with index middle and ring fingers - slap with the heel of hand - slap or tap with the fingers - repeat. For quads it's a rounder motion: note with index middle and ring fingers - slap with little-finger-side of hand - slap with thumb-side of hand - slap or tap with fingers - repeat...

    What I don't do is a string-pull, so I don't worry about getting under the strings to whiplash strings against the fingerboard. Nothing wrong with doing that, but it isn't part of what I'm needing in my tool set. But you probably will find someone doing it on some YouTube vids.

    String wise, I'm using SBW Deluxe Dirty Guts D and G over SilverSlaps E and A. The whole Dirty Guts set sounded great amped for me, but I play acoustically as well as amped, and needed E and A strings to be more loud and defined than the Dirty Guts E and A could do. SilverSlaps E and A do the job very well under the Dirty Guts D and G, and it's a very nicely balanced mixed set of strings.

    Good luck with all this!
    longfinger, Slaphound and AlBass like this.
  4. AlBass


    Aug 19, 2018
    Thank you Don, your input is really welcome. I have watched the youtube vids, and keep going back to look at more detail ... It's coming together, but is good to hear people's input, and know you're on the right page ya know?
    I have some golden slaps stored away, and planning to give the E and A a try when Ive got some more mileage.
    I do love the Dirty Guts Deluxe set though, and very easy on the hands!
    That Alcoa looks incredible!
    dhergert likes this.
  5. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Thank you!

    You may have already read this in string related discussions, but the Golden Slaps are basically the same as SilverSlaps except they have phosphor-bronze internal foil instead of silver-plated copper internal foil. There may be a discernible tone difference, but if there is it's probably extremely subtle.

    And yes, the look, feel and sound of the SBW Deluxe Dirty Guts is amazing, with the spiral cut they move a lot of air. I've had experienced DB players and builders ask me if they are real guts. And the E and A Golden Slaps should be a very nice gauge match with the D and G Dirty Guts medium gauge that you're using. On my mix, both the SilverSlaps A and the Dirty Gut D are .105" so they feel really nice together while playing.
    AlBass likes this.
  6. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    AlBass - it sounds like your action might be a bit too low or that the curvature of your bridge doesn’t match your fingerboard. I had this problem when I switched from a bridge with no adjusters to one with adjusters. The A and D strings were way too high up while the E and G strings were too close to the fingerboard. I took off the bridge and sanded it down to match the curvature of the fingerboard and all was well because I had roughly the same string heights on each string. A luthier will do this for you fir fairly cheap if you don’t want to do it yourself. This should help you keep your attack similar for each string as the same combination of fingers will be able to pull under and snap the string before you slap back with the palm of your hand for the percussive feel.

    You also don’t need crazy string height to slap; you need just enough to get your fingers under the string to get your initial pull and snap. I use my index, middle and ring fingers together on my right hand to get my slap, while others use just the index and middle finger. Djordje from Tiger Army uses his middle finger and ring finger to slap. The goal is to find what works best for you. I also prefer to keep my wrist fluid when I slap; almost in a waving motion as I move my right hand. I find it keeps me loose for triples and quadruple slaps.

    There are tons of YouTube videos to check out but the best one I remember (and if you can find it) is the Kevin Smith and Mark Rubin slap bass instructional video called the Ungentle Art of Slap Bass. It’s very hard to find but it’s amazingly helpful. It goes over all the stuff you need to get started with solid right hand technique from two of the greatest guys who ever slapped a bass. Here’s is a link to it on Amazon:

    Slap Bass - The Ungentle Art

    Kevin is incredible and such a humble guy. He may even be giving lessons still from his home. Check out his website and see if he’s still doing that (I know he was during the pandemic). Also check out and the YouTube channel: The Art Of Slap Bass. Djordje Stijepovic (the Tiger Army guy) is doing amazing work with his channel with interviews and slap bass lessons with some of the greatest guys to ever slap the bass.

    String choice is up to you. Golden Slaps and Dirty Guts are great for slapping. I prefer nylon/synthetic core and gut core strings for slap bass so you don’t kill your fingers. When my band got a chance to open up for Lee Rocker and Big Blue I freaked out when I saw he was slapping steel strings. He had calluses of iron when I shook his hand. He’s a big believer in magnetic pickups though to avoid feedback so that’s his deal. Find what works for you and go for it. There’s lots of used string choices for sale regularly here on Talkbass so if you choose to go down the rabbit hole of strings you can do it without breaking the bank. Good luck to you!
    longfinger and AlBass like this.
  7. AlBass


    Aug 19, 2018
    Thanks @Keith Rawlings for taking the time to pour in so much info. Lots to think about there. I couldn't track down a copy of the Ungentle Art, but x did find some clips and interviews with Kervin, and as you say hes a great guy.
    Thank you too Don, its great to "meet" you guys, and be part of this community.
    Keith Rawlings and dhergert like this.
  8. Slaphound

    Slaphound Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
    I think one of the most useful things I’ve learned is to practice deliberate and slow. Speed will be easier to develop as you progress. Practice your single slap just snap each note. Start with a scale and just snap each string. Practice with a metronome. You can add swing eighth notes and straight eighth notes. Count to yourself as you practice. As these rhythms get steadier you’ll pick up the pace. If your strings are too low, you’ll have a hard time. I find that as you get better you can lower your strings.
    I started out with Super Silvers by Innovation. Then I switched to full guts. Now I play the guts with the Super Silver E string. Nice combo for me.
    Good luck and keep it going.
    Keith Rawlings and AlBass like this.
  9. AlBass


    Aug 19, 2018
    So helpful, thank you!!
    Slaphound likes this.
  10. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    Yep. Slow and steady wins the race. You can gradually increase your speed as you go. As many of said on other threads using a metronome is incredibly helpful.
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