Slap Loud, Finger Not

When I play slap bass, it is much louder than when I play finger style. This causes problems when a song uses both styles in different places. I suppose I could use compression, but the difference in volume is great enough that I think the amount of compression needed would be a bit severe. Has anyone else had this problem?


Excellent question, @EBXEBX - I have wondered about the same thing!

For myself, the explanation is likely that I am a beginner at slap and barely can slap at all, and when I do it is in one volume/strength and one volume only. I guess as a beginner, you are trying to get all physical aspects right , and there is no subtlety to what you do.

If you watch pros, they can slap/pop at insanely low volumes, i.e., in a seemingly very restricted fashion, and it still sounds insanely good.

So, for now, I blame it on lacking technique, but it would be good to hear whether there are other aspects (such as, e.g., compression) that should be considered as well!


You absolutely want a compressor for slap.

Basically you would set the threshold to only compress the peak transient from the slap. You could then dial in some nice makeup volume so that it raises the tone of the slapped note. And if you set the attack fast enough the fingerstyle shouldn’t be too affected regardless.

Compressors are wonderful things. My bass tone is always compressed in some way (usually multiband in my DAW at this point though.)


I would add that, if your compressor has separate controls, the release time should also be short – otherwise the pitch ringing out gets squished along with the transient. If it starts to affect the tone, that might be too fast, or the threshold should be higher (or lower the input gain, and raise the output to compensate). Unless it sounds good, of course!

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Also, I might add, that slapping in itself is a pretty dynamic technique. And if a part of your song uses it, it probably needs to stand out a little bit.

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Play how you play. People get caught up in right/wrong, proper/improper.

John Entwhistle plays Finger style, but basically slaps or strikes the strings. It isn’t “proper technique” but it als gives him his unique sound. As far as slap?

Watch Larry Graham or Louis Johnson. Or even Les Claypool. These guys slap the strings so hard their arm is almost fully extended before they strike at times. They slap hard and loud.

Now the issue at hand…you are talking dynamics. It’s practice and fine tuned control on how you pluck the strings. In an interesting example, Steve Harris. He plays very fast for long periods of time. So much so that people try to play Maiden songs on bass and their fingers/hands get tired. How does he do it?! Harris in his words, “lets the amp do the work”. He plays very lightly, and has the amp up loud. This increases stamina and speed. It is dynamically not as loud, but the amp being up makes up the difference.