Bass Lick of the Week #21

This exercise is a challenging slap bass groove that uses techniques popularised by French-Canadian bassist Alain Caron. This style of playing is similar to the grooves Caron played on tunes such as ‘D-Code’ and ‘Slam the Clown’, both of which would be great pieces to look at in detail if you enjoy this exercise.

This slap line requires you to be comfortable slapping and popping notes on the same string. For example, the first and third beats of the first bar feature four semiquavers, all played on the low B-string. Whilst it is possible to perform this line using the double thumb technique, Caron instead typically uses combinations of slaps and pops for such figures. The sequence required here is a slap, a pop with the first finger, a pop with the second finger, followed by another slap. Because the sequence ended on a slapped note, it will be comfortable to begin beat two with a popped note. Beat two is much simpler: a popped note on the A-string, followed by a slapped note on the low B-string. This sequence is repeated two further times, with the popped note descending from D, to C, to B.

At the end of the second and fourth bars there are some fills based on the D minor pentatonic scale. Again, these are played using the slap technique described above and will require you to slap and pop notes on the same string.

When playing slap lines that are based off of the lowest string on a five or six string bass, it’s incredibly important that you focus on your muting. The fingers of your fretting hand that are not required to fret notes can assist with muting where possible. You should also release fretted notes once they are no longer required, as this will also assist with muting. This exercise was written and performed on a 5-string bass, but will work equally well on a 4-string, transposed up a fourth to G. I used some chorus on the recording, supplied by the EBS UniChorus pedal - Caron often favours a chorused slap bass sound.

To download the backing track and PDF worksheet for this exercise, please visit the Free Stuff section of the website.