Bass Lick of the Week #36

This week’s exercise is an up-tempo slap groove that makes extensive use of fretting hand slaps.

The key to mastering the first bar of the exercise is in learning to play fretting hand slaps in between the pitched notes. To do this, you’ll need to make sure that you are fretting the notes with the first finger of your fretting hand - doing this will mean that the other three fingers are available to perform the fretting hand slaps.

The second bar of the exercise is a continuous semiquaver line based around E. With the exception of the popped note at the end of the second beat, all of the notes are either played with the thumb, or with the fretting hand. Note that fretting hand slaps usually follow slapped or popped notes. I recommend working through this beat by beat, at a slower tempo. Be sure to follow the video tutorial for guidance here as well. This ‘linear’ style of slap bass playing was popularised by Mark King during the eighties.

In the fourth bar we have another bar of E-based semiquaver material, this time with some additional triplet figures. The first of these occurs at the end of the second beat and is played by slapping the E-string with the thumb, a ghost note with the fretting hand, then a ghost note with the thumb. As these three notes are split between the two hands, it’s possible to build this up to high speeds.

The second triplet is played on beat three. This one is played by popping a note on the G-string (fretted with the first finger), performing a fretting hand slap, then slapping a ghost note with the thumb. Again, because the work is split between the two hands, this can be done very fast.

This line was recorded using a Status Washburn bass - very eighties! I recommend playing lines like this on an active instrument, with new strings for added brightness. A typical eighties-style ‘smiley face’ EQ will also work well here, as will a healthy dose of compression.

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