To slap or not to slap ...

Discussion in 'Rockabilly [DB]' started by Norre, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. Norre


    Jan 5, 2001
    Antwerp, Belgium
    I started playing DB a couple of years ago but I never really learned how to slap. I'd really like to learn how to play like Willie Dixon, Bill Black, etc... So, I ordered some gut strings and will take my bass to a luthier to make some set-up adjustments.
    Now, I've never really played a bass that was used and set-up for slapping. I heared the bridge is usually higher than normal. I'm a bit worried that after the setup it will be impossible to play any non-slap basslines without the strings hitting the fingerboard. So I guess my question is if you slappers still can play normal pizz on your bass when you want to? I'm talking about fast walkings, practicing Simandl (I don't bow), etc ...


  2. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    I play pizz about 50% of the time, with gut strings and a relatively flat bridge profile. Not an arco player though.

    The thing is, not all slappers like the same setup, same as any other bassist. Some like high string height, some like very low. Some like a high arc on the bridge, some like a flatter profile.

    In a nutshell, being a competent slap player is more in the individual technique (and lots of practice) than anything, and there are no "rules" really.

    Some slappers even use regular Spirocore mediums and do just fine - I hate those, but a very well known slapper (Djorde from Fishtank Ensemble) uses them and is great. He must have fingers like steel.

    More common would be a low-tension string setup - like gut strings, Solo steels tuned to EADG, or nylon strings.

    You should be able to keep your bridge profile the same - for your arco playing - and just try a lower tension string setup. I would suggest trying some Solo gauge steels for the most versatile setup if arco is a big factor (not sure how much arco you play).
  3. Norre


    Jan 5, 2001
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Hey Gearhead, thanks for the reply. I don't play any arco at all anymore. I even practice my Simandl lessons only pizz. Actually, when I started playing DB I took some lessons using a bow (in our local music academy). I soon found out why it is called the stick-o-pain :help: Why go through all the trouble trying to get a decent arco sound when I have no practical use for it? I'm more interested in blues and roots music and maybe a little bit of old-school jazz (thinking Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, etc ...). And personally I've never heared an arco solo in blues or jazz that I really like. But that's just my humble opinion.

    What I would like is to learn how to slap on my bass, but without sacrificing the way how I would play on my bass when I'm not slapping. I don't know if I'm telling it right. Does that make any sense to you?


  4. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    A slap setup can be a good pizz setup also, and vice versa. Experimenting with strings and setup is the only way to find out what works for you.
  5. Norre


    Jan 5, 2001
    Antwerp, Belgium
    OK, thanks. I will ;)
  6. Just thought I'd add to this thread a little late in the day. I have one project where I slap 90% of the time, and another project which is exclusively pizzicato. I use SilverSlap strings from Innovation. They are low tension and easy to slap, but still have a good pizz sound. The guitarist for my jazz project raves about the sound I get from them, he says they have the perfect old-school jazz sound.

    My setup works well for both. I set the string height with my adjustable bridge just once, and haven't moved it since.


  7. PinkFloydDan


    Jul 4, 2005
    I never slap and wonder if I ever will. I honestly never liked the technique and believe it is overused. I've never slapped during a show. I think I am a rarity in that aspect.
  8. Pcocobass

    Pcocobass Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    Hi Norre,

    I'm a jazz player who also plays a lot of slap bass. I also play arco and play through a lot of classical rep for practice, so I routinely use my bass for a bunch of different styles.

    What has worked for me is finding a string height that's comfortable to pizz, but also allows me enough height to easily slap. I have my bass set up with Spiro Weichs currently. If you are using steel strings, I've found that setting the strings too high will choke the sound. Since I play a lot of jazz, I like having the long sustaining notes, so finding the right height is key for me. With guts, usually having them pretty high is okay, and since they are soft, it's not too hard on the hands.

    As gearhead said, you gotta experiment, but I hope this helps you out.... There's definitely a happy medium.
  9. PaulKing


    Apr 17, 2004
    London, UK
    I think you`s in the wrong forum mr e-bass.
  10. hublocker


    May 17, 2007
    I agree with PinkFloyd Dan.

    Slapping has become a cliched required style for rockabilly music when it wasn't present in a lot of original rockabilly music.

    It's just a small sampling, but Be-Bop-A-Lula and C'mon everybody were performed with electric bass (at least in the videos we see) and Carl Smith's original recording of Go boy go has a walking upright with no slap.

    But whatever, fill your boots.
  11. Geoff Firebaugh

    Geoff Firebaugh

    Apr 1, 2004
    Nashville TN
    Endorsing artist:Blast Cult, BNA Audio, Fender, Innovation Stings, K&K
    Slapping is part of the roots of rockabilly music, hardly a cliche'd requirement. The original cut of Be Bop a Lula (1956 at Owen Bradley's for capitol) was not electric bass. it was Upright played by Jack Neal, and does have slap during Cliff Gallup's solo break. Go Boy Go, is also Single slapped with no back slap.

    Eddie Cochran is one of very few rockabilly artists that used and electric bass while still making music in the rockabilly vein. Many young rockabilly artists, (Buddy Holly, Rcky Nelson) had already moved on to playing and writing more pop oriented Material.

    Virtually every seminal Rockabilly recording, Bill Haley's Essex recordings, Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio, the majortiy of the Sun Rockabilly artists, are primarily slap bass driven. Even Country crossover artists such as Onie Wheeler and George Jones had slap bass on their recordings.

    I get so tired of hearing people slag on slap bass. It's a style of playing just like Pizzicato or Arco. Furthermore, to do it well, takes serious dedication and technique, and a sense of rhythm unique to slap alone.

    If you don't like it, that's your opinion, but at least research your examples before you make overreaching statements you can't back up.

    -be well
  12. hublocker


    May 17, 2007
    You're right.
    Youngspanion likes this.
  13. I guess its easy for bass players to have a poke at virtuosic bass players who overplay, heck mostly they have a point. I used to have this attitude to slapping, but in the case of rockabilly, the slapping is as much a part of the drum sound as Alex Van Halen's cymbals are part of Eddie's guitar sound on Van Halen's first album. It's about the overall sound. However, you can overdo the click in the mix. You can also concentrate so much on the slap that your intonation is way beyond acceptable. This is the worst thing.
  14. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    Hahahaha. I like how the guys commenting on "oh yeah slapping is overrated" were reacting to a bass guitarist's opinion who posted on the wrong side.
  15. LowAndFunky


    Dec 22, 2007
    Richmond, VA
    You might or might not change your mind after listening to Slam Stewart playing some killer arco solos on various classic jazz recordings. Also, Paul Chambers played some cool arco stuff on his solo recordings. Check them out on YouTube sometimes. Also, all of the old New Orleans bass players could pizz, slap, and bow like there was no tomorrow. just sayin'
  16. yes, but most of them played tuba too, and you can't tell me that's a good idea... :bag:
  17. LowAndFunky


    Dec 22, 2007
    Richmond, VA

    Hey, I used to play tuba! LOL!

  18. you got some phat grooves, but sorry no dice. I never liked the tuba. :ninja:
  19. Rockmusician

    Rockmusician Inactive

    I never slap. I don't like that style at all. Slapping has almost become a cliche. Every time you walk into a music store there is a teenager trying to slap. I don't like the way it sounds and to me, it takes away from the songs because those who slap usually have a tendency to over play.
  20. LowAndFunky


    Dec 22, 2007
    Richmond, VA
    I wish I could say that was me playing tuba, but it wasn't. Rebirth Brass Band out of New Orleans. That cat can play "What Is Hip." No easy feat on the electric bass and nearly impossible on the tuba. Crazy breath control. Anyway, each to their own.
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