To slap or not to slap ...

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

  1. I think it has its place; I love to hear good rockabilly and will use the occasional percussive slap for punctuative effect in bluegrass. But my $0.02 is:

    Not if:
    1) You can't hear the music that the bass is playing over the slapping
    2) Not if there is more slapping than notes going on (either actually or apparently - see point 1)

    I utterly respect that good rockabilly slap is a skill that is hard to master well and that it's someting I can't do myself, but personally can't stand it if all I can hear is 'clatter-clatter-clatter-bang-bang-bang' & no actual harmony...
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    +1. Is why I'm into the Milt Hinton vein of slapping. There's a ton of melodic and rhythmic stuff going on - not an unending clamor of metal-on-wood noise with a hint of music thrown in. Diff'rent strokes I spose.
  3. Don't forget boys....

    Rockabilly and Psychobilly are two totally different animals.

    Please generalize accordingly.

    99% of rockabilly slapped bass lines are slapped quarter notes, double slapped half notes (Root/5 bass line) or rhumba style triplet rhythms.

    99% of Psychobilly is typewriter clicks.
    cdavisshannon likes this.

  4. Cool, thanks for the clarification. To re-iterate, though, I'm not in any way dissing rockabilly or rockabilly-slap per se; I just don't like excessive slapping if it gets in the way of the harmony. True, this doesn't just apply to rockabilly but all types of playing (as there are both good & sensitive players as well as heavy-handed players in every genre), but I only referred to rockabilly because I have heard excess slap in rockabilly on occasion (not to the psychobilly level, but it was overdone nonetheless) and, well, because it's a rockabilly forum...

    Respect & peace :)
  5. TheCush


    Jul 15, 2008
    Portland, OR
    I like that this thread has become so active lately. Really great discussion. Like some other folks I perform regularly with a mixed rockabilly/Western swing/early country three piece. Some early Hank Sr, JC, Gene Vincent, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Bill Haley as well as modern variants. When I started working on this style about 4 years ago, I ran through a gamut of bassists (Marshall Lytle, Dorsey Burnette, Bill Black, Willie Dixon, Big Crawford, etc.) who seemed to represent the early stuff. Also modern players. I listen to a lot of Milt Hinton but his technique seems so much his own that I'm sorry to say I've struggled to get going with it. Someday. If I have a major influence, it's definitely Willie Dixon, though.

    How much do I slap? I really depends on whether the song calls for it (historicall), or supports it. Some songs are mixed, like if we take the dynamics down, or pick up intensity. I tend to keep the clicky sound down somewhat from the thump of the bass, but it tends to come through pretty well in recordings. So even in this format group I only slap 50-60% of the time.

    I enjoy playing it because of the intense focus on rhythmic playing. Playing just with a guitar and vocals really puts the pressure on to keep hold down the rhythm, and that can be fun while trying to mix up the lines, and keep it interesting both rhythmically and harmonically. So in that light I think it's just plain good for your chops.

    In the fall 2008 Bass World, there was a really great article by Donovan Stokes that covered the history of slap upright bass, including a classical example by Bela Bartok in 1928. For those interested, the article can be found at the author's website here:

    At any rate, I hope this thread continues. Good discussion.
  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Reading that article about the slap classifications... I have a limited hand percussion background from when I used to play Brazilian music so I'm sorta attacking it from the perspective as a percussionist. However, for the life of me, I cannot figure out how guys can do a triple slap using the heel of the hand for one strike and then the palm/fingers for the 2nd. I can rebound the hand to strike twice for a double slap just fine, but not the rapid fire triple slap.

    Seen dozens of vids in slowmo and what not and it still doesn't make sense.
  7. TheCush


    Jul 15, 2008
    Portland, OR
    Don't feel bad - I've been working on it for a couple of years and I'm still only a rank amateur when it comes to that style of triple. I'm now at the point where I can incorporate it into some walking lines occasionally (i.e. "Stray Cat Strut"). The best education I got in it came from Pete Turland's video on slap upright bass. It's still really fast, but he tries to break it down and explain what's going on. If you haven't checked it out, you might give it a try. There are some clips from this vid on YouTube.

    It's interesting how different players approach it. Lee Rocker does triple and even quad slaps on his instructional DVD, but all done with incredible speed, not using the palm-finger-pluck or whatever you want to call it. Just by rapidly slapping the board with his hand.

    Fortunately, I'm not in any practical playing situation (read: "payin' gig") where I need anything too fancy. I'd still like to get it down for the sake of building skills, though.
  8. Slaphound

    Slaphound Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    :thumbsup: That's what I'm talkin' bout!
  10. Thanks for that, it shows what good slap can be. Showcasing the bass as a solo instrument with dynamics, rhythm, melody and percussion.

    I personally cannot stand listening to a Rockabilly band without an upright player that slaps when called for. It's like hearing a slab play bluegrass.
    babaseen likes this.
  11. The Drag Triplet, according to Pete Turland:

    For me it's draggin the hand towards me and coming down on the fingerboard – " \ " – so my hand is moving along two planes;
    first hitting with the heel of the hand, and using the existing momentum I then
    snap my wrist directing the palm onto the FB, meanwhile the heel of the palm has bounced up a little allowing the
    bony protrusion, just behind where the fingers attach to the hand, to hit the FB, continuing to draw my hand back towards me
    the fingers then slap the board and catch the string for the pull.

    I hope that all made sense. I'm not good at fabricating diagrams, so words must suffice.

    Memphis evil comes close to how I do it, but from what I can tell he uses more of the fingers for the second hit before the fingertips get in for the pull.

    Love Milt Hinton, thanks for posting that clip, Youngspanion.
  12. MichelD


    May 19, 2014
    PinkFloydDan wrote "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."

    I must be his twin.

    I never bothered to learn and I've been playing DB for 26 years.

    I also think the technique is WAY overdone and overblown. I decided to concentrate on being able to know basic scales and play at least all the major and minor chords and sevenths in all keys.

    If you listen to a lot of early rockabilly you don't hear slapping on every recording, and certainly not in the cliched standardized form it has become.
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