How to Play Slap Bass

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Beginning to learn the Slap Bass? This article provides a brief introduction as to what you should do. You will be using your thumb (to slap) and index or middle finger (to pop). A pop (sometimes pluck) is when you slide your chosen finger slightly underneath the string and pull it away from the fretboard. This should produce a nice twangy sound.

Steps

  1. Keep your hand perpendicular to the strings and your thumb at a 50-60 degree angle with the string youre slapping. You will need to have your arm at a particular angle. Think of a traditional scarecrow with rigid upper arms. This may ache after a long period of playing, but youll get used to it.
  2. Remember, its all in the wrist. For a basic slap exercise, you can slap and pop an octave - an octave is 2 frets up and 2 strings up. Play an octave with your first and third fingers on your left hand.
  3. First, to position your right hand. You need your thumb parallel to the string, (lets use the E string first).
  4. Now, using a hitch hiker or flopping fish action, bring your thumb down slowly and hit the string, when you hit the string try and hit the bottom half of it, the bottom of your thumb should end up on the next string.
  5. Keep practicing that action until you get good hits, the ideal sound is a solid thump.
  6. Now, try adding some popping to the technique. Popping is where you pull up on the string.
  7. With either your middle or index finger, (which ever is most comfortable) put your finger underneath the string lets use the G string, pull up your finger until the string eventually snaps back down on the fretboard.
  8. Now lets try putting both of those into one technique:

 

 

S P S P S P S PG|------9-------9-------9-------9-|D|--------------------------------|A|--7-------7-------7-------7-----|E|--------------------------------|Variation S P S P S P S PG|------5-------6-------7-------8-|D|--------------------------------|A|--3-------4-------5-------6-----|E|--------------------------------|

 

 

Tips

  • Check out some good slap bass artists: Mark King of Level 42, Stanley Clarke, Louis Johnson, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham, Fieldy from Korn, Les Claypool from Primus and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • If you want a real slap bass challenge, try The Awakening by the Reddings. If you want a moderate challenge try the song Blackeyed Blonde by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • When you slap, take your thumb off the string straight after hitting it. Otherwise you wont make a sound!
  • Play as much as possible to develop a callous on your thumb and popping finger. Your fingers will hurt at first, but youll get used to it.
  • An easy way to remember the order of strings is:
  • -Eddy
  • -Always
  • -Drinks
  • -Guinness
  • slapping and poppin always sounds good in octaves.

Warnings

  • This article assumes that you are right-handed.
  • While popping, be careful not to pull the strings too hard. Otherwise youll be spending a lot on retuning strings each time (bass strings are very different compared to guitar strings).

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Sources and Citations

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