Slapping woes

Slapping is my kryptonite. Just cant seem to do “bounce slap” with my thumb up–all I get is a thud and a harmonics. I can sort of do the “rest stroke”/slap THROUGH technique where I whip my thumb down and use it like a pick almost–catching the meaty part at the end.

But I cannot for the life of me bounce OFF the string with my thumb up. I don’t understand how you can “relax” your thumb if you are jerking it up in a “thumbs up” position and angling your wrist back. I can make it “floppy” with it hanging down, but I don’t want to learn this “incorrectly.”

So how do you make your thumb “floppy” when it is sticking up–doesn’t that require your muscle to be engaged to stick it up? When I stick my thumb up, the tendons in my wrist are engaged as well as the muscle on the palm of my hand. How do I get the thumb to relax?
How do you “bounce” it off and hit the knuckle while your thumb is “relaxed”?

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Theres no right or wrong, everybody is different. Slapping through is okay, thats how i started till I got control over my thumb to bounce, it should come naturally once you start to play faster slaps after a while of slap through. If Wooten can live with it why cant you?

Also floppy is good thats the way to fast slaps. If you bring any tensions in your thumb if wont bounce properly and you will lose speed and clarity of tone.

And by floppy I dont mean like that scene in Harry Potter when he broke his arm.

Also if you have no plans to double thump you should be fine with Flea style slaps.

Try to think of your thumb as of a whip.

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If your wrist is still not relaxed enough you just need more time. I remember when I started slapping I slap that neck every time I picked up the bass just E string. At first I had to look then aim then slap. Then it got easier, before I knew it I was moving up to the bread and butter the A string.

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I’m not sure if you already went through this whole thing 20 times or not, but this video addresses everything you’re struggling with in the best way that I know.

How to relax when you’re thinking/focused/worried about the thing you’re trying to do??
It’s pretty much impossible.
I’d recommend trying to watch a movie and just have the bass in your lap and just whack away at it with your thumb while you’re watching.
Maybe you can trick yourself into being relaxed.

Josh’s move in the video for the wiggly, wobbly arms and hands is great… but if you still can’t keep that relaxed thing going when it’s time to slap, here are my relax checks:

  1. slow down
  2. take a break
  3. convince myself I don’t actually care about what I’m doing, it’s just fun.
  4. slow down

Everything is designed to just take the pressure off.
The pressure to do it right kills the ability to do it right.
Not sure if the Zen koan there of bass slap is helpful, but I hope it is!!

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Thanks…yes I have watched that video multiple times. The thing I keep getting hung up on is relaxing while point the thumb up. I can relax it if I am holding it out–like going to push an elevator button, or do a thumb print…but not extended up.

I must be incredibly stupid and missing something so basic here, but look:

Extended “tensed” thumb with wrist and palm engaged vs relaxed “floppy” thumb.


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I took a day off work and dedicated the entire day to getting the basics down. Took me a lot of experimentation and repetition to get a halfway decent sound. You’ll get it :metal:

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That’s a real cool differentiation.

That’s perfect.
You don’t need a thumb-wrestle thumb to slap. Your relaxed thumb is perfect. As long as it angles away - even slightly - from your hand, you’ll be in good shape.
Just keep it relaxed, and hopefully it’ll start bouncing off the strings!

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It’s like everything @Old_Noob . Practice makes perfect. I’m pretty sure one day you’ll have a “eureka “ moment and away you’ll go. Just look back at how far you’ve come already in your bass journey

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You’re thumb doesn’t have to be extended like you’re hitch hiking, just in a relaxed neutral position. Put your open hand out in front of you with your palm up and it should end up in the right position.

For anyone looking for a book on slap, I found that " Ultimate Slap Bass: Bass Techniques" by Stuart Clayton is good and it’s very inexpensive too on Kindle.

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I find that slap is one of the things with the most variety of styles on bass and you really have to experiment a lot and find out what works for you.

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I would appreciate it if someone could look at what I am doing and steer me in the right direction here. Thanks.

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You had it with the “whip” thing - just need to work on it being not as large a motion I think?

Low action helps, slapping with a high action is much harder.

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Yep, Howard’s right. That whip is what you need to practice. I recommend not worrying about the popping for right now, and getting that down. It’s literally the quickest attack you can manage with your thumb, slamming down and snapping back.

When you start to get the “whip” down, and want to get back into the pop, you gotta feel it out like a “seesaw”, and not a reach. You’ll want to practice your whip motion angling your thumb down, “see-sawing” with your palm as the center point, to angle your middle, ring (or pinky) finger down to pull that pop.

Little points:

  • I’m a thumb-down slapper, myself, but one thing that makes thumb-up easier for me is to have that neck angled up (comfortably).
  • You might wear your bass a little higher for the above reason, as well.
  • I like to pretend my thumb weighs a ton. Like it’s coming down heavy on the neck and bouncing off from the force.
  • As you go along, getting into it, you might find yourself in some interesting postures (look at Flea, who practially bends over his neck enough to kiss it) – don’t fight it (but also don’t throw your back out!)

And finally…
Slap. Takes. Time.
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t learn it in a few days or even a few weeks. It’s the thing I’ve worked on the most since getting into bass a year ago, and while I’m worlds better than where I was when starting, I have a ways to go if I want to be Larry Graham!

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Well…I finished the slapping module. Wound up having fun the last 2 lessons. Still can’t do it like Josh does…I wound up with some hybrid “bounce off to the side” technique with my thumb roughly parallel.–not slapping “through”, but bouncing off at an angle…eh…Not planning on being a slapper so, it was fun and time to move on.

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I have literally frozen in terror for five days paused my progress at Module 13 because it’s the slap module :joy:

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Still better than me @Old_Noob . I’ve still not completed the slap section yet nearly 2 years in !

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That was me 2 weeks ago. I went through the first 3 lessons I think 2-3 times.

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Glad you gave it a go. Slapping can be a lot of fun. If anyone wants to do a deeper dive into slapping, I recommend Mark’s slap course over on TalkingBass (well, part 1 anyway - I stopped at the end of part 1 when he got to 16th notes because I can’t move my hand that fast in rhythm yet :smile: )

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When I did the course, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my bass set up to slap well so I skipped the section and came back to it later.

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Try channeling Noob Josh - that’s what I’m doing. I have ZERO expectation of being able to do anything other than wear the skin off my thumb while failing to make anything close to the right sound. It’s working out for me. :rofl: :joy:

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