Idiot-Proof Beginner Slap Bass (Every F**king Detail You Need to Get Started)

Can’t slap? Do these 7 drills and you’ll have a solid slap bass sound in 20 minutes.

1:30 - Drill #1: Slap the Table
3:26 - Drill #2: Notice the Thumb
4:30 - Positioning: Thumb Down vs. Thumb Up
5:28 - How to Position for Thumb Down
6:32 - How to Position for Thumb Up
8:41 - Drill #3: Slap the Bass
10:46 - Drill #4: Relax the Thumb
13:17 - Drill #5: Nail the Accuracy
17:06 - Drill #6: Cross the Strings
19:50 - Drill #7: Mute the Notes
22:13 - Kick-Ass Slap Takes Time

If you’re doing the Beginner to Badass course, this lesson would be a helpful addition to the slap lessons in Module 13.

Thumb Angle

It can be tricky to get right thumb angle for the thumb up technique. You have to play with strap height, neck angle, and horizontal position to find the sweet spot that works for you. Again, this is the angle you’re shooting for:

Get A Set Up!

Broken record alert - your bass probably needs a set up if you’ve never had one, especially if you want to slap. If there’s more than ~5mm between the E string and the 12th fret wire, it’s gonna be harder than it needs to be to get a consistent slap sound.


Let me know how your slapping is going!

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Arigatou gozaimasu, Josh-sensei!!

Oh, man, this is just what I was waiting for! The only part of B2B I had skipped after a few fruitless attempts was the slap section and it has bothered me ever since. This is the kind of “Ok, let’s take a deep breath and tackle this from square one again!” motivational and instructional video to get me going again that I needed (as the proverbial kick in the behind)!

Looking forward to getting going with slapping again tomorrow!

Thanks, @JoshFossgreen and Happy Post-Christmas!

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Let me know how it goes @joergkutter! Really curious how this vid will help with people like you who’ve had trouble with the slap module in B2B.

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Excellent, you worked Kiyoshi in to the vid :slight_smile:

Well done with calling out the Smoke on the Water guitar vs bass part too.

I need to practice it a lot more! Thumb down is still by far the easiest for me but accuracy is harder with it (as you point out). I love the idea in this video to just practice slap and ignore popping for a while.

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I have found that slapping has been the most difficult part of this course. I really felt like I had made great progress with my instrument and then the slap lessons sent me back to total beginner level, and really threw me for a loop. As an older person (61) with limited free time , I decided it was best for me to concentrate on finger style and playing with a pick, and to put slap on the back burner and to forge ahead without this technique. So far I feel like I have made the right decision.

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It’s perfectly normal to find some bits harder than others, @gipsj. It happens to everybody and can sometimes simply be because it’s a style of music that we’re not familiar with or interested in. Don’t let it get you down or make you feel you’ve lost ground - move onto the next lesson and come back to the troublesome one when you feel more inclined.

Slap isn’t for everybody, and after spending weeks or months working on finger plucking techniques where such noises are considered unwelcome, deliberately getting that sound is a bit odd. It may be that you will never go back to the lesson because it’s not a sound you desire, in which case you can forever ignore it. Or you might get some more time under your belt and decide you are ready for a new challenge - and there it is, waiting for you.

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It was indeed helpful. One takeaway for me the the percussive vs. tone explanation. Very helpful!

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Thanks to you @howard! Hadn’t heard of her before you shared her on the forum a while back. You’re a great PR team for the Japanese slap industry. :slight_smile:

That’s totally okay! Slap is extremely optional, very few gigs call for it. (much to the chagrin of my slap-happy teenage self)

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I’ve no doubt I’ll get back to it at some point because I LOVE the slap and pop sound.

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Josh, I skipped ahead and tried some slap after seeing your video. It works! I can do it thanks to your very detailed explanations…not bad for lefty! Now back to the course!:smile:

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Awesome, thanks for sharing!

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That’s a great lesson. I would think how your bass is EQed is also important.

Getting a good fundamental bass note and also the higher frequency of the percussive “click” needed for a slap, I would think is also involved.

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Hey Boz, definitely! Depends on what sound you want a lot too, which is why I didn’t have a “here’s how to get a good slap tone with your gear” section of the video. A classic J-bass slap sound is different from a Stingray slap sound is different from an active humbucker “modern” sound, etc. etc.

But no matter what, if you’re missing the bottom, it’ll feel wimpy, and if you’re missing the top it’ll sound muffled. Which is bad… unless that’s the sound you need!

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Gah I really want to learn slap!!
I haven’t reached that part of the course yet but I keep getting impatient because a lot of songs I want to learn use slap and it sounds so good.
I’ve tried before and I’ve never really been able to make anything other than a horrid metal sound and still seems to be that way.
I’ll wait until I reach that point in the course but once I do I’m gonna furiously practice lol

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OK, here is an update from me (as promised to @JoshFossgreen):

(Before I forget it: nice playing on “43” during the outro!!)

So, your diagnostic approach in the video was spot on. First, I had to adjust my thumb with respect to the strings, as I was hitting them way too parallel (i.e., no angle).

Second, I clearly suffered from a thumb that wasn’t relaxed at all, and basically killed off all tone right after hitting the string. This has improved, but still some way to go.

However, there was a third aspect that is almost more a “psychological” thing… Because my sound was very percussive and very “clanky”, I didn’t like it at all, which created a negative feedback. In order to avoid it I played very softly, which just aggravated things really… I also played softly because with my wife in earshot, it felt embarrassing, like I was torturing a string or the entire bass or something. (Obviously, playing with earphones doesn’t help, as all the percussive “noise” is still audible for anyone close by).

Recently, I had the house for myself a couple of times and finally cranked up the amp and slapped much “harder” (with intent), which allowed me to better understand what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. Having figured this out, I can now also get the right combo of percussion and tone less violently :grin:

Still a long way to go, obviously, but your video was immensely helpful to get me out of the slap funk I was in (pardon the pun)! Thanks!!

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Awesome! For the tone try scooping your mids - EQ away about half of your midrange. And when your GT-1B arrives, use a compressor with the attack time turned to “fast” and the ratio pretty high. This will help with evening things out.

I’m still terrible but that helps me sound less terrible :slight_smile:

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Thanks, @howard - will try that - hadn’t really given this part of the equation much thought yet, but it makes perfect sense that the overall tone also provides a feedback to my playing (I.e., influences it)!

And I think there are probably some funk presets already on the GT-1B :wink:

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Thanks for the details @joergkutter! Super helpful as a teacher to get reports like that.

Good catch! Yes, slapping timidly is a really unfortunate feedback loop, because you feel embarassed -> slap timidly -> which makes it way harder to slap -> you sound worse -> you feel more embarassed -> your brain breaks and your bass explodes.

SLAP ANECDOTE: There’s an old Marcus Miller interview in some issue of Bass Player mag from who-knows-when, I remember they interviewed his bass tech. The dude said something along the lines of “In order to get a gain/level setting on Marcus’ bass, I take a quarter out of my pocket and hit the strings with it as hard as I can, to imitate his slap technique.”

SO don’t be afraid to beat the living s**t out of the strings, as long as you stay relaxed. Once you find the threshold for a good tone, you can explore your dynamic range more so that you don’t have to go into beat-the-bass-up mode unless you really want that tone.

And you win a gold star for the slap funk pun! Love it. :star2:

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When I was messing around with slapping it, and the sound was at it’s best I would describe it as not only relaxed, but almost as if I was “slinging my thumb” at the string slowing my thumb to rebound a little. Not uncontrolled; the thumb was definitely on a leash!

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I bet that is one of the main challenges of an “online” teacher: as you can’t see your students, you’d have to anticipate everything they possibly could do wrong…

“Timid” is the word I was looking for - that’s what it was!

Yay :star_struck:

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