Slap Bass
Slap bass basically consists of pulling the strings on a double bass out away from the fingerboard and letting them snap back against it again which strikes a note and creates a loud click. These clicks in combination with slapping the strings against the fingerboard with the palm of your hand can create interesting rhythms. Slap bass is useful if you dont have a drummer, and served exactly that purpose in early country music. It also is louder than arco or pizzicato playing, and many early players (especially around the turn of the century) used that technique for recording records since the low-end was nonexistant and they wanted to be heard on the recording, the clicks would come through. Slap bass is used almost exclusively in rockabilly and psychobilly.

Slap bass is, in fact, the technique of playing the bass guitar with the thumb (as well as fingers) in a percussive manner. The thumb is "slapped" against the string, near to the fret/finger board to create a tone with a sharper attack (the very beginning of an acoustic waveform) than when a note is plucked.

This technique can also be augmented with "popping", which is to pull the string away from the board and release it so that it impacts the wood or metal to creates a very rhythmic sound. Slapping is usually done on the lower strings and popping the higher, often an octave above the root note, but this is by no means set in stone. Both techniques together are mostly used to create syncopated "funky" rhythms, and are referred to as "slap" or "slap and pop".

Proponents of this method include:

A tip for bassists: It's pretty simple to slap at a sustained speed of at least sixteenth notes. Relax your entire arm, or at least from the elbow down. Then rapidly rotate your hand from left to right. That's the basic motion that you probably have down already; the key is absolute relaxation of that arm. The speed of that basic motion is the easy part; what you need to develop the most at that part is accuracy; you have to master striking one string without accidentally hitting any others. This is hardest on a bass with five or more strings. Bill "The Buddha" Dickens slaps like crazy on a seven and nine string! He's a maniac; do not try this at home.

Slap bass is a way of playing the bass guitar. This can be achieved in two ways. If you wish to follow this, which could be called a tutorial, you will need to know the anatomy of the bass guitar and some knowledge of how to play.

The sound
Slap bass creates a sound which is more percussive, like you were playing the drums. It is used mainly in funk music, combined with pop bass to create a melody over the top of the slap. The sound is created by the string hitting the frets.

Rotating Arm
Any person can play this way. There are two mentionable variations of playing this way, but like with playing any musical instrument, your own style can be found. The first way is by making a hitchhikers thumb with your hand. Hold your hand out, palm up in front of you. Curl your fingers up so that they connect with the underside of your knuckle, so your palm is still visible. Now, keeping your hand in this position, turn it as though you were going to somehow shake someone's hand like this. Then, only moving the thumb and not altering any other part of the hand, make a thumbs up gesture. This is the position of your hand needed for the first variation.

Playing like this is achieved by hooking the middle finger (this can be any of the four fingers, but middle finger is orthodox) under the G-String (thinnest string, known as top string, nearest the floor on the bass. Playing the open string, it sounds the highest note.) Then, with your thumb, rotate your arm so the thumb makes contact with the E-string (thickest, bottom string, makes lowest note). When playing, the thumb must make a sharp, full contact, so that the string hits the fretboard, and straight off. The hand then should rotate so that the side of your hand opposite the thumb makes contact with the strings, muting them.

The second method is achieved differently. Forget the hand positions. Relax your hand completely, then make a thumbs up gesture using just the thumb. This is the position of the hand for this way. Position your hand, so that when you rotate the arm, the thumb hits the string above the fretboard, above the body. This way, a melody can be achieved in a number of ways, by plucking, popping or picking (if this can be done without the use of a thumb). The strings can be muted with either the fret hand, or the same way as above.

Thumb movement
For this method, you must have a versatile thumb. This way can use either of the two variable above, but without rotating the arm. You may be asking how do you do it then, and this is why only some people can do it. You only move your thumb. The thumb is the only part moving, unless you are laying a melody over the top of the slap. The thumb strikes the string quickly and is quickly removed.

Bassists who use this technique
For those interested in using songs to improve their skill in doing this, or for a demonstration of the sound, here is a short list of great inspirational bassists who are known for their funk playing or slap style.

Songs that use slap and might be of interest
In general, the songs that use this style are funk and fusion, including some jazz. Others can be found but this is the trend. In particular some songs would be:-

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Show Me Your Soul (A funk song but may be hard to pick out the bass above the piano, saxaphone and the whole funk feel in general, but worth a look)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Johnny Kick A Whole In The Sky (After the dodgy beginning of the intro, the bass kicks in with slap for the remainder of the intro, and the song.
  • After these two, some more Red Hot Chili songs have slap in, Flea is renowned for his slap methods.
  • These two songs really stand out in my mind as slap bass songs, others can be found easily though. Just any funk/fusion/even jazz songs may have slap in. These two are definetly worth a look though.

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