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The thumb hits should have enough emphasis, but at the same time a touch of lightness.
The thumb hits should have enough emphasis, but at the same time a touch of lightness.
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Bass Around the World #21: Punk Slap Grooves

Do you remember those special awakening moments in your life? When you are completely in awe of something—pure fascination while experiencing the magic. Well, one of these moments happened to me when I first heard the opening slap bass line in Infectious Grooves' "Punk It Up." My jaw dropped to the floor. Literally, I fell in love with Robert Trujillo (now the bassist of Metallica). His style combines all my favourite music styles such as funk, punk and metal. Combine this with a solid portion of virtuosity and he is the perfect mix. And that tone... just whoa! And that was it—emotional eruption and a musical volcano for a child raised in the 90s.

As you probably know, the first slap bass lines are attributed to Larry Graham, the godfather of slap and at the same time one of the most "cool" bassists walking on the planet. He can easily combine an elegant hat, a white metallic bass and a suit of the same colour with utter nonchalance—and takes your breath away with his perfect Barry White style baritone vocals.

Lesson time

However, let’s go back to our punk slap theme. This musical combo is a great challenge for any bassist as it emphasises advanced playing techniques. For inspiration, I definitely recommend checking out household funk-rock names such as Flea (RHCP), above-mentioned Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies & Infectious Grooves period) or Norwood Fisher (Fishbone).

Our groove uses the tonal material of F# diminished scale (F #, G, A, Bb, C, Db, Eb, Fb), where the semitone-tone sequences alternate, giving us an 8 note scale within the range of an octave. The diminished scale is alien-sounding and therefore ideal for progressive or alternative types of rock or metal music. 

Regarding playing technique, be consistent with the hammer-ons in the fretting hand and try to be relaxed while playing fast slap thumb & pluck techniques in the right hand. The thumb hits should have enough emphasis, but at the same time a touch of lightness, in order to get the proper articulation of those fast sixteenth-note divisions.


Tagy Bass Around the World lesson BASS slap

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.