Slapping on Bass Guitar Lesson #2
Today's topic: Popping and muting
Last time I left you all with this slap, hammer on, slap and mute pattern:
q q q q
G |---------------------| q = quarter note
D |o-------------------o| S = Slap
A |o---5---7-----------o| H = Hammer on
E |------------0--------| M = Mute quietly
S H S M
I hope that you all started slowly, like I suggested, and have gotten to the point of having a nice clean clear sound. Work on the sound now and we'll worry about the speed later. You'll be surprised at how soon it will happen.
Now that you've started to get comfortable with slapping, let's add popping to our bag of tricks. To "pop" a string, place your first (index) finger of your slapping hand part way under the string (just enough to grab it), pull the string out lightly and then let it pop back against the fretboard. Keep your hand in the same relaxed position we talked about last time. Keep your first finger just stiff enough to pull the string out. Try popping the G string now.
As with slapping, do it as lightly as you can. You want to play with as little energy as possible. Remember, speed will come from relaxation. Pull just enough to get a good solid "crack" sound. This sound will be quite percussive and if you're like me, the first time you get a good pop with the amp turned up, it will make you jump! Go for it.
Now turn on your metronome and set it to between 40 and 50. Practice popping the G string on each beat, and mute with your fretting hand half way in between beats. Hold your fretting hand as before, with your thumb about half way down behind the neck, and keep your fingers straight. When you pop, leave the tips of your fingers touching the E, A and D strings and lift just the base of your fingers off of the G string by moving your hand forward, pivoting your wrist slightly. After the pop, you can mute by moving your hand back. You should be able to keep the E, A and D strings muted the whole time.
Once you feel comfortable with this pop - mute process, let's pop with a slap. A very common technique is to slap and pop notes one octave apart. Place the first finger of your fretting hand on the fifth fret of the A string, and the fourth finger of your fretting hand on the seventh fret of the G string. Start up your metronome again (it's still on 50 isn't it? ) and practice a slap on the A string and a pop on the G string. Slap on the beat and pop in between. Don't move your fretting hand or worry about muting, just let the notes ring.
e e e e e e e e
G |-----7---7---7---7---| e = eighth note
D |o-------------------o| S = Slap
A |o--5---5---5---5----o| P = Pop
S P S P S P S P
Now, you may accidentally touch the E or D strings, so let's talk more about muting. We're already using the first and fourth fingers for fretting notes. Rest your second (middle) finger lightly on the E string to mute it. You'll have to keep the second finger almost straight, and bend your first and fourth fingers to do it.
Here comes the tough part. So far we have used the first, second and fourth fingers to fret the A string, mute the E string and fret the G string respectively. We could try muting the D string with the third finger, but since the third and fourth fingers are so dependent upon each other, it is hard to keep them working separately. So, to mute the D string, flatten your first finger at the first joint just enough to rest it against the D string. Just let your third finger "hang out" next to the second finger.
Practice the slap and pop for a while, keeping the metronome set to between 40 and 50. Listen carefully to make sure that you aren't hearing the E or D strings ringing. You may also want to hit them on purpose to make sure that you are muting them properly. Muting is the hardest and most important part of slapping cleanly! Work on this slow slap and pop until you get a clean sound with only the two notes ringing. Alternate popping with your first and second fingers. Try to get the volume levels equal with each.
A word of warning: Take it easy here. Popping can be real hard on your fingers! Before you know it, you can get blisters and that will definitely cut into your progress. Stop early, take a break and then go back to it.
OK folks, practice the pop and mute and the octave slap and pop and we'll go further next time.
Take it slow!