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Too old to start learning rockabilly slap bass?

Discussion in 'Rockabilly [DB]' started by Eyesee7, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. Eyesee7


    Jul 17, 2005
    I've got a hankering to get an upright bass and join a rockabilly band or even a bluegrass jam. So the question -- is rockabilly slap the kind of thing you need to start when you're younger and your hands are more flexible? I'm 60 and been messing with guitar and bass for over 40 years but I no longer play in bands and sometimes go weeks without picking up an instrument. I think my hands are in pretty good shape but I broke the knuckle on the ring finger of my right/slapping hand when I was 13 and the whole area of those last 3 fingers feels arthritic today. I'd hate to lay down the money on a bass and after a month of woodshedding find that I'm having hand pain/problems. Thoughts?
    DonaldFraser likes this.
  2. If Marshall Lytle can pick it back up late in life, you might be able to as well.
    Maybe try renting a bass...

    Eyesee7 likes this.
  3. I'm pretty much in the same experience/age situation as the OP. I'm in my mid 60s, about 50 years (and continuing) performing with other instruments, primarily bluegrass and old jazz and swing. I had dabbled with my son's and some friends' basses before, but had never owned one. I just got my first DB and began seriously learning and playing it about 9.5 months ago. Already gigging.

    Yes, my hands hurt after a day of practice on the bass. But I'm loving it.

    For what it's worth, my hands hurt after playing any of my instruments. I'm not stopping.
    Eyesee7 likes this.
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Yes. Once you get to a certain age it's pointless.


    I can't run a marathon right now. I have every intention of running one at 70 just to prove something to someone. Myself :).

    Learn to play rockabilly slap bass like it's nobodies business!!!
    Quinn Roberts and Eyesee7 like this.
  5. Definitely try it!!!

    But I recommend a few lessons to learn proper technique which will help you avoid injury,.
    Eyesee7 likes this.
  6. I'm mid-60s and took up upright bass 10 years ago after playing bass guitar and guitar all my life. I'm doing fine with it, take lessons and gig fairly frequently - but slap on an upright is even trickier than slap on a BG. I can do a simple 1-2 slap but more complex rhythms are pretty tricky. Check this out:

    Reiska, jsf729 and Eyesee7 like this.
  7. I’ve broken my right hand twice, once the day before a gig, and have been turning wrenches for decades. I work as a writer.

    Ain’t no thing. Just develop solid technique.
    Eyesee7 likes this.
  8. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Never too old to Rock N Roll.
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Slapping is just drumming on the strings with your palm. All the work is done by the arm, not the fingers. Unless you have a bad rotator cuff, you'll be OK.
    Eyesee7 likes this.
  10. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    You can absolutely do it. I'm 71 now and play quite a bit.
    That said, I can't imagine why you would want to learn to slap. If a band needs some kind of percussive rhythm, just get a drummer :). If you do want to slap, especially in a bluegrass band, don't forget to wear big floppy shoes, a hat with a flower in it, and a red clown's nose. Did I mention that I think slapping is a novelty act? IMHO, I think a bass has more to offer to the musicality of a bluegrass band than slapping can ever convey.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  11. If it was acceptable for Bill Monroe, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

    Besides, in such a tune, the slap is almost essential to the feel:

    Joe Nerve and Eyesee7 like this.
  12. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    You're right, no one should worry about what I think. I should have said that clearly; just my opinion. I play in a band that does western swing, traditional and more contemporary bluegrass, and some folk. Fortunately, we don't do too much straight ahead, up-tempo, head-banging banjo tunes. For me, those are just boring, and when slap bass enters into the arrangement, it is annoying and boring. BUT THAT IS JUST WHAT I THINK. Plenty of really talented players slap, and it is certainly important to rockabilly and psychobilly.
    The Biz likes this.
  13. Don't get me wrong Bob, I think most ('modern') rockabilly guys slap too much! :)
  14. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    Here's something I find amusing. The other half of my amateur musical life is playing my upright in bars, and at private parties, with a typical "beach bar" singer/guitarist. Very talented guy and we have a lot of fun. On more than one occasion someone has found their way to the stage and yelled: "slap that big*** cello, Bob!" Usually when we're doing an Eagles tune, or maybe Tom Petty. That's when I know the alcohol has kicked in.
    Eyesee7 and The Biz like this.
  15. jasonrp


    Feb 19, 2015
    Also if you're slapping away on a bluegrass song, the mandolin player might get a little angry with you stomping all over his parts.
    Eyesee7 likes this.
  16. Hmmm, the mandolin player gets stepped on by the banjo, fiddle, dobro and guitar too, so he or she is just mad at everyone :smug:.

    (I play banjo, mandolin and dobro too.)

    There's actually a fair amount of slapping in our bluegrass circles out here on the left side. Aside from me. Audiences do respond to it, mostly positively.
  17. jasonrp


    Feb 19, 2015
    It's tiny guitar syndrome
    The Biz likes this.
  18. I think, generally speaking, this almost "half a slap" (spank?) approach to the solo is more genre appropriate:

    BobKay and Eyesee7 like this.
  19. Yup. Mando players like me -- on banjo anyway -- because I've played long enough to recognize that I should be embarrassed about it. I can play quietly.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2018

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