Slap technique

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The slap technique developed in the field of jazz since the 1910s. Since the introduction of electrically amplified guitars in the 1940s meant that the bass could hardly be heard even in small ensembles, so the bassists tried to increase the volume of their instrument:

  • by hitting the strings in the lower part of the fingerboard ("slap") or
  • by tearing the strings, which then hit the fingerboard (“pop” or “pluck”).

Both playing styles produce a percussive tone that additionally emphasizes the rhythm of the music.

Slap technique with the double bass

The easiest way to slap on the double bass is to pull the strings away from the fingerboard with the fingers of the playing hand and then let them strike back on it. Pops Foster made the technology known. Recordings with Steve Brown were made as early as 1924 . This variant is particularly suitable for slower walking bass lines.

A higher playing tempo is achieved by hitting the strings with the flat of your hand before you start playing. This creates another percussive sound. This way, bass lines, binary or ternary, can be played at high speed. Music styles in which the slapped double bass is often used are rock 'n' roll , rockabilly and psychobilly .

Slap technique with the electric bass

In contrast to the double bass, the slap on the electric bass is not performed with the flat of the hand over all the strings, but rather the thumb or, more rarely, the index finger of the playing hand hits a string at the end of the fingerboard. It is important here to pull the beating finger back from the side as quickly as possible so as not to dampen the vibrations of the string. Due to the construction of the electric bass, the resulting sound is more tonal than percussive, but still has a more powerful effect than a classically plucked sound. The countermovement to slap is tearing the string with your index finger ( pop ). Both techniques are often mixed or used alternately.

Development of the slap technique

The slap technique prevailed on the electric bass in the 1970s, mainly in funk music, after Larry Graham , bassist for the group Sly & The Family Stone , first used it. Even the Jazz , especially in the form of a fusion style designated influenced bassists Stanley Clarke , u. a. through virtuoso use of this style of playing. In the 1980s, the slap technique was both fusion jazz as well as by New Wave influenced pop music very widespread. An important representative of the slap technique of this era is Mark King . In 1980 he founded the band Level 42 with the Gould brothers and Mike Lindup . Known for his dynamic game, he delivered successful recordings such as "Love Games" and "Guaranteed".

In the 1990s, this technique went a little out of fashion, although some well-known bands whose style is very much influenced by this playing technique ( Red Hot Chili Peppers , H-Blockx , Primus , also used as a strongly percussive element by Korn ), enjoyed great popularity at this time.

A further development of this playing technique is striking the strings with the thumb or the entire palm of the hand (whereby only the sounding string is not muffled with the grasping hand). The sound is of course comparatively brutal and uncontrolled, but in a corresponding musical context (e.g. Nu Metal ) not without irritation.

Another virtuoso development is double thumbing .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Cary Ginell, Roy Lee Brown Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing , p. 252