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How do you get your funkiest slap tone?


alexclaber

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An update! See my post down at the bottom of the thread...

 

-----------------------------

 

A very subjective question - what is funkiest? I'll leave that to each of you to decide. I'd prefer to know how you do it without effects, otherwise we'll have a slew of envelope filters and phasers getting involved and distracting from the true deep funk.

 

For me, it's evolved over the years. I'm now deep in the Larry Graham school of slap, and I get that fat sound with my '87 Warwick Streamer, 45-105 Bootzillas, EMG reverse P-pickup soloed, and all EQ flat, through SWR GP (all EQ flat), into Acmes (attenuators @ 0dB).

 

Technique wise, the thumb on the 24th fret for the slaps and index (and occasionally middle) finger just behind for the pops. Lots of muting from left and right hands and a few ghost notes to keep things moving. No pyrotechnics. Thick, fat and juicy, with just the right amount of everything.

 

All the better to funk you, my dear...

 

Alex

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Nothing different finger style. Maybe a slight change of attitude. Depends on the song

 

For slap, I turn my preamp on. The thumb strikes right about where the 23 fret would be. Dead notes are done with whatever hand or fingers aren't busy muting the other strings. Popping is done with the index finger.

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On my warwick I boost the treble a little more and I mainly play though the neck pickup....it's pretty rare for me to use a whole lot of bridge pickup. The treble frequency on my bart pre is really high, when I boost it I get a very hard metallic sound reminiscent of chris squire's tone. On my yamaha I use both p and j pups with tone dimed. My amp is usually run flat, I tend to hit the deep switch though, sometimes the bright switch too.

I used to reall dig the sound I got by slapping on flatwounds,specially...somethumpinmg on my labella jamerson sets. Recently though, I've been digging my dr hi beams and the sounds they can acieve in terms of slapping, tapping, and fingerstyle. The biggest change for me, as I get into a slap setting deals with how I approach the music. I tend to play much more aggresively, incorporating more funky trills, vibrato, and hammeron/pulloffs, I also tend to employ lots of little ostinatos to keep that funk flowin. Generally I dig a tone with some deeep fundamental and punchy high mids, and a little bit of sparkle. I can't emphasize the low mids very much, or it muddies the tone in it's interaction with the lower bass freq's. I REALLY don't like an overly scooped slap tone, I believe in balance.

Dig?

P.S. a bit of envelope filter, some heavy phaser, or some delay can really help me funk stuff up.

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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p bass pickup only, tone open

no change in amp eq (almost completely flat anyway)

 

lke tnb said, slap where the 23rd fret would be

 

there has to be enough mid in there, i don't like a lot of modern slap sounds actually (but that's just me), too thin or too guitar sounding, too whiny

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Oddly enough, I get out the Rickenbacker.

You can stop now -jeremyc

STOP QUOTING EVERY THING I SAY!!! -Bass_god_offspring

lug, you should add that statement to you signature.-Tenstrum

I'm not sure any argument can top lug's. - Sweet Willie

 

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Since no one has yet brought this up……

 

First, forgive me if I am mis-reading the inferences in the original post, but you all should know better.+

 

The slap technique is often confused for “funk”, and vice-versa. And yes, while the slap technique is often employed in funk style playing, the slap technique is not “the funk” (make special note of how I defined slap “technique” and funk “style”. Slap playing is not a style….), nor will using the slap technique add the funk to something which is not funky.

 

It is true that slap technique has inherent qualities that make it a well-chosen technique for funk style playing, and that a good number of funk tunes are played with slap techniques. It might be noted that even more have been played and recorded “fingerstyle”, and quite a few recorded using a pick (including one of the absolutely funkiest basslines ever laid down…can you guess which one?).

 

All of this can be said about the use of chosen “funky” effects as well. Yes, an envelope filter CAN impart a certain funky color to the sound, but the use of an envelope filter does not make a line funky. And, in fact, just as in putting thumb to string does not and will not make a line funky, adding a phaser or envelope filter to an un-funky bass line will not add “the funk” in some sort of magical way (this is a very common and prevalent misconception).

 

This being said, we must ask, “what is the funk”? How is it developed? What makes a bassline funky?

It all comes down to timing, rhythm, perception of the beat, tension and release. A funky tone can be anything, yet hopefully one which blends with the other instruments. It can be picked, thumbed, plucked, tapped, triggered….(and a lot of very funky basslines are triggered). A good number of nasty, funky basslines are not even “bass” at all (Stevie Wonder's left hand; Prince's kick drum…)

 

The overall sound, including effects, has little to do with the mercurial “funk”. Funk is created by the rhythmic interplay between the bass, drums and other instruments. It resides in the tension created by one instrument pulling back on the beat as the other pushes it forward. It is conjured up upon the “ee's” and “and's” between the beats, and most importantly is created not by what one plays but rather by what one does not play (and where). It lives in the spaces between the notes.

 

Slap technique lends itself nicely to this due to the dynamics inherent in the technique, the quick attack and the timbral differences obtained by playing with the thumb and fingers (as well as playing at differing locations along the speaking length of the string). Marcus Miller has one of the pre-eminent slap tones, and if I recall right has three “principle” positions for obtaining these timbral variations: at the end of neck; just front of the pickup cover (he leaves the chrome cover on his J bass); and just behind the cover. Similarly, Jonas Hellborg , another viscous slapper, applies the technique at a position near the bridge. The point to this being: there is no “one” position to obtain the “slap sound”. There are various “sweet spots” on the neck which respond to the slap technique. It is better to find, develop and use these varied positions, and the varied tonal responses they produce, than to glue yourself to a single playing position (that is, if you simply MUST slap).

 

Slapping and playing funky, while not mutually exclusive, are not integrally bound to each other. Neither is the use of phasers, flangers or filters. To play funky one must learn the skills of listening, and carefully placing the notes at the magical spaces between the beats. One must pay careful attention to note duration (a well known recipe for funk: make the “e” of beat three in a measure a dotted eighth note followed by a 16th note rest), and learn the “art” of playing through the bar lines. Listen to the placement of the beat (ahead or behind) and learn to make your line “dance” and spar with that (many analogies have been made between music, and in particular bass playing, and the “sweet science”). Learn to feel the funk (and know that one cannot and must not ever fake it) first and then apply it to playing techniques such as slapping.

…don't fake the funk,

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Originally posted by Max Valentino:

First, forgive me if I am mis-reading the inferences in the original post, but you all should know better.

Your eloquent funkessay (which mirrors my own views) excuses your misreading. And also the fact that everyone else misunderstood my point...

 

How to more precisely rephrase it? Given that there are many different ways to approach the funk, fingerstyle being my preferred route in accompaniment with a drummer and guitarist that get IT, when you choose to apply the slap technique to a funk situation how do you optimise your tone for maximum funk appeal?

 

I'm not asking for your funkiest sound, I'm not asking for your favourite slap sound, I'm not even asking how you cop the MM, VW, LG, etc sound. But if you're dropped into a maximum funk environment and your thumb is getting jittery, what is your weapon of choice and how are you going to use it?

 

To clarify - slap does not equal funk: just listen to Les Claypool... But funk can enjoy a good slap: listen to Larry Graham.

 

Alex

 

P.S. I want to take you higher.

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Originally posted by Max Valentino:

(including one of the absolutely funkiest basslines ever laid down…can you guess which one?).

"For The Love Of Money" by the O'Jays.

 

 

EXCELLENT post, Max. I don't know how many times I've made this same argument and/or point. You just did it much more eloquently than I think I ever have. Most excellent. :thu:

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If I am understanding your post Alex, you are asking when to slap, not how do you do it? That's much harder than the question I thought you were asking. Before I go into a long, drawn out explanation, am I now understanding you correctly?
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Originally posted by tnb:

If I am understanding your post Alex, you are asking when to slap, not how do you do it? That's much harder than the question I thought you were asking. Before I go into a long, drawn out explanation, am I now understanding you correctly?

Oh dear, I seem to be doing a fine job of miscommunication; I thought I'd made myself clear after Max's diatribe on the incorrect synonymity of slap and funk...

 

When to slap is indeed a very hard question, which I wouldn't want to answer in words. When not to slap would be easier - when slapping isn't enhancing the groove and is messing with the vibe and getting in the way of everyone else.

 

My original question stemmed from my recent changes in approach to getting the maximum funk from my slapping, which for me has been to head back to that thicker chunkier greasier old skool tone (a la Larry in Hair) and to leave Victor/Marcus/Stanley behind. I'm not disputing that the latter three don't have great slap tones, I just don't think their slap tones are as FUNKY as Larry's.

 

So I was asking, what do you hear in your head when you want the funkiest slap sound, and then how do you get that?

 

As I've already stated, I hear Larry playing Hair, but getting that kind of tone wasn't that obvious for this Warwick wielding roundwound loving bassist. And then the revelation - forget the J-style bridge pickup, that reverse-P pickup makes a wicked fat slap sound, not dissimilar to a flatwound wearing J-bass. Weird? I thought so, but add a dash of EQ to fit the context and it funks for Britain.

 

All you J-bass players answered as expected - pickups 50/50, tone all the way up. Slightly surprised that everyone wants all that treble but the question isn't fully answered until we know what strings you're using and how old they are. And I guess I'm using to playing a very trebly bass... Are you trying to make that Marcus sound, or are you thinking less polished?But I was also curious, and remain so, as to how those of us not using the classic slap weapon both define the tone they want for maximum funk and they how they achieve it.

 

Rambling on...

 

Alex

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Actually, for that "old school" slapped funk vibe, I prefer the Louis Johnson tone. Or maybe even Mark Adams from SLAVE. When I first started playing the Mark Adams sound is what all the bass players in my high school were imitating. Don't get me wrong, we absolutely worshiped LG and anybody that was worth a damn was playing songs like "Pow" "Earthquake" and "the Jam" every single time they plugged in (you had to warm up with something funky).

 

Anyway, to get back on topic, the sound I hear in my head is the Marcus Miller tone. Or if I am feeling nostalgic, Louis Johnson - even though I don't have a Music Man. I feel like Larry's tone only works for Larry. Louis and Marcus have (IMHO) much more versitle tones.

 

Am I getting closer? Sorry for pulling your topic so far off course.

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Alex, I think your question is pretty clear. When slapping I personally find that the absence of growl equals round which can lead to funkiness. My growl tends to be exemplified at about 700 Hz. So when I want my slap tone to be funky in a round sort of way, I cut 700 Hz out pretty sharply with a tight Q. Of course on some songs I like a growl on my slap sound, so I stay flat. The song defines what is funky, I've found in mixing tunes that sometimes a lofi bass slap tone is what is called for. What I mean by lofi is alot of mids, and alot of bass rolled off. That happens in rare instances and usually because there's already alot of lowend content.

Together all sing their different songs in union - the Uni-verse.

My Current Project

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Originally posted by Bumpcity:

I'm still wondering what the song was that Max was referring to...

 

(including one of the absolutely funkiest basslines ever laid downcan you guess which one?).
It's got to be either AJ on For The Love of Money or Bobby Vega on I Want To Take You Higher. Is there another well known picked funk bassline, he says staring at his CD collection...?

 

Alex

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Yeah, I figured it was one of those. If there is another that we're not thinking of (or not hip to), I wanna check it out. :)

 

For The Love Of Money and I Want To Take You Higher are both funky as they wanna be. I dig those tunes. :thu:

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"For The Love of Money" was the call...but a most funalicious heads up for the Bobby Vega call.

For you who perhaps have not heard Mr. Vega,he is one of the all-time badasses, and maybe the funkiest pick player this side of Mr. AJ.

 

 

Max

 

p.s. I got out of the hospital today. Surgery went well...sore as can be and walking very gingerly, but all will be better in due time. Thanks everyone for their concern and regards

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Glad to hear from you Mr. Valentino. I know how weird it is to get out of surgery, although my case was less serious. Glad to hear you can play during the recovery period, it killed me to not be able to play for so long after I had broken my thumb. On the other hand, I'm 100% now, and the only things reminding me of my experience are one scar and metal detectors in general. Beats a whole lotta pain any day!
Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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This may seem odd, but I have always favored the bridge pickup for slap. I usually have the bass and mids boosted and the bridge favored for fingerstyle, so when it comes time to slap I just boost the treble. It sounds great, and it is very punchy to say the least.
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Funkiest slap tone? For me, I turn the bass and mid knobs all the way up on my StingRay, leaving the treble just a little shy of flat. This is with new(er) strings, otherwise the treble knob gets set accordingly.

I find this setting works well through my SVT Classic head and two SVT Classic 4x10 cabs, with all tone controls set flat, except bass which is at the "9 o'clock" position, Ultra Low and Ultra High switches both engaged, and horn attenuators rolled completely off.

 

Funky finger-style, pretty much the same except less lows from the bass EQ.

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Funkiest slap tone? For me, I turn the bass and mid knobs all the way up on my StingRay, leaving the treble just a little shy of flat.
Wow. That must be a chest thumping type of punchy. If there is such a thing.
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