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Thumb/Slap Technique & String Spacing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by lovethegrowl, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. lovethegrowl

    lovethegrowl Banned

    Oct 30, 2013
    It seems that most basses have a string to string spacing of about 19mm or 17.5mm, sometimes 16mm at the bridge. Recently, I modified my Squier DAJV bass by adding another string, making the string spacing just under 15mm. I find that this facilitates faster left hand technique. I have always wondered why bassists prefer wide string spacing.

    I never learned slap technique. I will start slap lessons pretty soon. I occasionally do preliminary thumb exercises, attempting to make my up & down strokes.

    My up strokes seem to be problematic in that it's hard to stroke "through the string" without abruptly hitting the string above it, whereas I can get a decent up stroke on the low b string with no string above it to impede the flow of the thumb? I have seen Marcus Miller on YouTube videos do lot's of fast thumb work, & I don't see how I can even approach it.

    In terms of learning slap technique did I make a HUGE mistake shooting for a 15mm spacing. Funk jazz isn't my big priority, my tastes run more in the direction of neo traditional. I'd mostly like to play the sort of stuff that Eddie Gomez & Marc Johnson perform with Eliane Elias (only on electric bass guitar) or the stuff Steve Swallow did with Gary Burton.

    Playing slap isn't life or death, but as my user name implies, I am intrigued with the Marcus Miller growl & purchased this particular bass (along w/DR strings) to get that cool sound.

    Did I box myself into a corner shooting for 15mm?
  2. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    There are tons of guys out there with really tight spacing that are slapping just fine. There are videos online of people with huge extended range instruments with very little string spacing that make it work.

    While that old school Yamaha, you-can-fit-your-whole-fist-between-the-strings spacing might make it easier for people just learning, slap should involve very small and very controlled motions. If you watch videos of some of the great slap players (like Marcus and Victor) chances are their right hand is moving significantly less than yours is right now. With some time and practice, your technique will improve and the spacing won't be an issue.
  3. lovethegrowl

    lovethegrowl Banned

    Oct 30, 2013
    I'm really glad to hear there's a chance. I can't for the life of me get my thumb's up strokes to sound remotely like the down strokes. No control! Though the players you mention are very economical, particularly Wooten, their spacing is relatively standard & not tight like mine.

    With my other bass, the Ibanez, I am using Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Rounds. With those up & down thumb strokes are much easier. Those strings have so much more elasticity, & I can play them all day w/o the top of my thumb getting raw. I am also going to narrow the string spacing of the Ibanez & that could conceivably create similar problems.

    The DR Hibeams are also round cored, but I can't get a strong focused up stroke with my thumb at all. They are stiffer than the TIs, but shouldn't be that harder to play, yet they are. At this point I should start formally studying with someone who actually knows what they're doing. I could be using the wrong part of my thumb, who knows.
  4. Bassisgood4U

    Bassisgood4U Banned

    Jan 30, 2014
    My theory is..the tighter you hold your plucking hand, the less accurate you'll be. The wider the string spacing, the looser your hand is.
  5. lovethegrowl

    lovethegrowl Banned

    Oct 30, 2013
    When I do these preliminary thumb exercises, on the upstroke, I strike "through the string" with the thumb coming to rest on the string above it. So if I do an up stroke on a d string (w/the fingernail) the thumb stops & rests abruptly on the a string. (Same thing plucking with the fingers, with the fingers stopping & coming to rest on the string above it.)

    Am I doing that right? When the thumb comes to rest as it hits the string it's usually the cuticle that takes the brunt of the impact. When I use the Ibanez bass (with TI Jazz Rounds & 16mm between strings) it's pretty easy. When I use my Squier with the Hibeams it really irritates the cuticle area of the thumb.

    Is the thumb/cuticle irritation "normal", & if it is & does persist should I cover the sensitive area with super glue? Or is my thumb technique wrong?