Intense electric guitar solos, fast drum lines, and fancy keyboard riffs. When thinking about a band, one’s mind often drifts to those three. However, most people tend to overlook one necessary component of the band, and that is the bass.
Being undoubtedly the most understated and underrated instrument in the band, a bass is actually arguably the most crucial. A bass, in simple terms, is just a four-stringed guitar that plays very low. In fact, the four strings on a bass are the same as the four lower strings on a guitar, just pitched down an octave. With its low pitch and rich sound, the bass is mostly used for either background music, chord patterns, or standalone bass lines. However, there is a way for this seemingly irrelevant instrument to stand out and truly shine, and that is slap bass. “Slap bass” is a special technique solely used on bass and no other instruments. This creates some funky and unique sounds that are the building blocks to many great bass solos. Without a doubt, slapping is one of the most useful techniques to learn on the bass if you want to stand out. So I present to you, the slap bass tutorial.
First of all, to play slap bass, one must keep the playing hand in a position similar to a “thumbs up”. In this position, your thumb should be parallel to the strings that you want to slap. Make sure to keep your hand relaxed, though, as you don’t want to cramp up.
The technique of slap bass can be broken down into 2 categories: slap stroke and pop stroke. To perform a slap stroke, turn your entire forearm until your thumb points outwards, then turn back into the string, hitting the string with the bony joint in the side of your thumb.
Keep in mind that your hand should be rotating down across the string, not into the body of the bass. After hitting the string, your thumb should come to a rest on the string right below the slapped string. This will take a lot of practice if you want a good tone and a consistently accurate slap.
Next is the pop stroke. A pop stroke requires the same hand position as the slap stroke, but is used in a different way. For this stroke, you use your index finger and hook it slightly under the string you want to play. Now, all you have to do is to turn your forearm outwards so your thumb is pointing away from your body. This should bring your finger out from under the string and make a funky “pop” sound. One important thing to note is that you are not using your finger to pluck the string. You are just relying on the force that the rotation of your forearm generates to bring your finger across the string.
And that’s about it! Surprisingly simple, right? However, just knowing the technique isn’t going to make you a star. In fact, you are probably wondering why your bass sounds so different from all the slap bass solos that you find online. This is because this is a technique that requires lots and lots of practice. It will take months, even years to start playing the absolutely kick-ass bass lines that you hear from professionals, but don’t lose hope. Remember that while learning an instrument is always a tedious process, it is always rewarding.