Similar to how the position of the picking hand can have a significant impact on the tone generated from an instrument when utilizing the alternating two-finger technique, shifting the position of the slapping hand from over the fingerboard to the bridge can greatly affect the tone produced by a bass when applying slapping and plucking techniques.
The traditional and most common location to slap the strings is at the end of the fingerboard over the last fret. If you are playing a bass featuring a full two-octave fingerboard with 24 frets, this spot would be over the 24th fret.
Because there are a wide array of tones available between the fingerboard and bridge, you can create a variety of sounds by shifting the position of the slapping hand from over the fingerboard at the 20th or 22nd fret on a two-octave fingerboard to the neck pickup.
The angle at which the slapping hand is held relative to the strings may vary from parallel to perpendicular. The angle most frequently used when slapping is halfway between those two extremes. If the slapping hand is held in a position that is parallel with the strings, most of the muting duties on the lower strings can be performed by the forearm when the thumb is slapping the higher strings. On the other end of the spectrum, if the slapping hand is held in a position that is perpendicular to the strings, similar to utilizing standard bass playing technique with the alternating two-finger approach, the wrist can conduct most of the muting.
Once the slapping hand is placed relative to the strings, it may float freely above the strings in a closed fist position, or it can be also held in an open position with the pinky finger providing a point of reference on the body to help estimate the distance between the slapping hand and strings. The main advantage with the open hand technique is that it can improve accuracy due to the position reference against the body. However, its one drawback is that the pinky fingernail can place light scuff marks in the finish of a bass when used for an extended period of time.
The basic slapping technique is executed by striking the strings with the side of the picking hand thumb.
Although lines that are slapped or plucked will certainly sound different than phrases played with standard bass playing technique, there should not be a detectable increase or decrease in the dynamics or volume of the notes articulated with slapping and plucking. Lines should sound consistent and even regardless of the articulation utilized.
In terms of the motion required to strike the strings, most of the movement when slapping is generated by rotating the wrist. With regard to the amount of distance needed to strike a string and create a solid attack, it takes very little space between the slapping hand thumb and strings to produce a good slap tone. When the slapping hand moves further away from the strings, it takes longer to execute the slapping motion which will make intricate lines harder to perform, and it also requires you to exert more energy.
As the slapping hand moves from one string to the next, the string gauges change, and as a result, the thinner D and G strings are more difficult to slap and require more accuracy than the thicker E and A strings.
Although slapping and plucking can be applied to any fretted or fretless bass guitar, these techniques generally sound better when performed on fretted instruments since the frets contribute significantly to the sound.
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