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Beginning Slap: String-spacing and type


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At basslobster.com if you click on the "Videos" button on the left-hand side, there is a real nice free video slap-lesson titled: "Victor Wooten is showing his unique slap/pop style".


At the risk of admitting I'm the last bass-player in the world that can't slap...

...in the video, he starts-out with a thumb technique, using his thumb like a "pick" - both down-stokes and upstrokes. I tried this on my 6-string Ibanez (uh, with TI Jazz flats) and found this virtually impossible.


Is the "thumb technique" down/up-strokes like at the start of Victor's video much easier on a 4 or 5 string (such as a Fender) given the wider string-spacing? I'm especially interested in any comments on:

* Fender 4 or 5 string-spacing suitability for Slap (presumably ideal...). I'm guessing a 4-string would be the easiest (but I'd sure miss my low B!).

* Need for round-wounds with slap


I've looked into slap enough to know that it is hard on a 6-string Ibanez with flats, but I'm trying to determine if (as I suspect) it's dang near IMPOSSIBLE or if I just have a wussey thumb...


Since I prefer a pick (except for the sharp attack), I found the approach of using a thumb like a pick quite appealing. Too bad I can't do it (at least on my bass...).

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You just need to practice it more.


If you already don't slap at all, you'll find Victor's technique a bit too advanced.


Make sure your hand is aimed forward with your fingers paralell to the strings, like this:




Then when you slap with your thumb, make sure you *graze* the string so it hits the fretboard and your thumb comes to rest on the next string. An upstroke then just requires you to rotate your wrist back up.


It's tough. I don't really use it for anything more than a simple flam.

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Larry Graham played with flatwounds when he recorded "Hair," and he invented the slap bass technique.


While strings have an effect on the sound, you can certainly slap with flats...it just won't sound as "zingy".

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Speaking as one who cannot slap very well myself, I can atest that it's more the technique than the equipment. I've had guys grab my bass and slap it just fine, when all I could do is just pop it.

Now, having said that, I think some basses are easier to slap. And I think it's easier to get slap sound out of rounds than flats. (Or maybe because my flats were always dead; always use fresh strings.)

If you want to learn just the technique in the video, then yeah, as BenLoy says, it's all about practicing. Wouldn't hurt to get lessons from someone that can actually do it, either. I think a 4 with wider string spacing would give you more room for error than a 6, thus making it easier, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's impossible on a 6.


I'm sure Victor could do it on any bass.

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i use this technique once in a while, combining it with two-finger pull-offs. i agree that it is about practice.

with the issue of string spacing, Bill 'the Buddha' Dickens slaps his Conklin basses silly, and his main axe is a 7-string, also tight spaces.

I'm sure with enough 'shedding you'll get around your ibanez' string spacing.

Check out his video 'funk bass and beyond' if you can, and good luck!

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My best advice, because I'm still not really good at slapping myself, is to just ... well, slap your bass silly :D


Really, just keep 'banging' on it. That said, do pay attention to your technique, as it is easier to adjust a wrong technique in the beginning :)


I play a 5-string Ibanez, btw.

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes


The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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also, i have friends who work for the same company as i do that use ibanez'. one of these guys uses a 'budget model' 5 (not sure about the model yet, but weighs nothing) and it sounds great. he is also a proficient slapper who has an unorthodox style he worked on by, you got it, slapping the bass silly. i agree, pay attention to technique, and also listen to the sound.
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I have been playing my Ibanez 5 string since, uh... well, a pretty long time. Roadstar II, pretty narrow spacing.


I can slap ok. :D


The main thing is to practice, as has been said. Start slowly, concentrate on getting a good, full tone. The last thing on your mind should be speed.

Or playing fast. :)


Focus on comfortable hand position and getting a clear sound. Practice, always with the intent of a clear and precise attack. Go slowly.


Realize that your "perfect" playing position will be dictated to some extent by a certain string spacing.

This can work in your favor, though-

I find that after years on a narrow-spaced bass, playing on widely-spaced strings is like a walk in the park...


Check out the video offerings by Alexis Sklarevski and our own Mr. Friedland. There are others as well.


Oh, and practice.

You might want to start out slowly. :)


Good luck!






I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.






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I tried it last night on my Ric. It was kinda fun! Not sure that I've got the technique down so I gotta watch the vid again. In particular, not sure if it's all wrist or if the thumb joint is allowed to move. Thought I'd have trouble with deciding what part of my thumb would strike the string, but that seemed to be pretty natural.


Not nearly as fast as the esteemed Mr. Wooten. Yet. ;)

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