Before I first picked up a guitar, my first love was the bass. True, there's the old paradigm of the bass player as the fat guy chilling out in the back and the old drums stop, very bad joke thrown occasionally, but to me the bass was something else. There's something about playing the bass that hits those low, satisfying notes that can't be reached by too many instruments. Maybe that's part of the reason why I've loved open and drop tunings (though not seven strings; those are another story...). Also, I was a huge Rush fan when I began playing, so Geddy Lee had a huge influence on me; I loved the fact that a bassist could be the frontman, and face it, Geddy Lee is the man. He can sing and is one of the best bassists out there, though in my opinion he's the best. Though, over the years, an inexpensive acoustic was all I had access to, and that's what I learned on. Though, to this day, there's something about the bass that just hits a spot no other instrument can and playing one is akin to the feeling of family time during Christmas Eve sitting around a fireplace... you get the idea. It's not a home, the guitar will always be that to me, but it's an amazing instrument. When I started playing both, I progressed at playing bass rather quickly, as the need and demand for bassists in my area is somewhat high. I ended up picking the walking bass line from my local jazz band and learned to slap from listening to greats like Flea and Les Claypool.
Then, a few years ago, I started experimenting with different sounds on my Stratocaster, thanks to the help of an effects unit. I was just messing around when I thought, wouldn't it be cool to apply bass techniques to the guitar.... Pretty soon, a whole new world opened up to me, and now some of these factors filter in everywhere from small licks taking up a few or even sometimes in solos. Here are some nifty tricks I picked up that will spice up your playing. Just be careful not to overuse them, or the effect will lose it's glamor.
The most popular funk bass technique, I simply tried it out one day and it fit, so it stuck. Slapping guitar strings is harder, as the strings are not as thick and are closer together. But, if executed correctly, slapping will make your playing louder and add a slightly percussive sound to whatever lick you're playing. What's even cooler is playing in open tunings; hammer on chords on the bottom three strings, slap with your picking thumb, and use the rest of your fingers to tap intricate melodies. It's possibly one of the coolest visual and tonal tricks up my sleeve. Okay, now for the good stuff: when you slap, you are really just snapping your wrist, holding out your thumb like a hitchhiker. Your thumb should be loose and bounce off the string(s) the moment they hit, kind of like a harmonic. If you want to pop, as bassists call it, place the other four fingers under a string, pull up a little bit (but not too much; you don't want tremolo guitars to go out of tune and you don't want to tighten the tension so the string will pop) and release, so the string hits the frets. This can create some cool harmonics in certain spots. As you get better, your thumb will become more acquainted with the technique and you will find a sweet spot where you can easily snap and pop. Of course, previous experience with these techniques on bass helps, but is not necessary. Experiment a little, create odd and funky sounds; I found once I slapped and popped the strings a little more than usual and they hit the pickups, which sounds pretty interesting. Generally, you want to slap the three thicker strings and pop the thinner three. Again, experimenting is the best way to perfect this technique.
So walking bass lines are the foundation of most jazz and even some blues. It's all based on the root-3-5-6-octave pattern, and back down. Generally, when walking, you want to keep all the notes within a four-fret distance or so, it makes life easier. If you want to mess with that, be my guest; some players have different preferences, like Eric Johnson moves some patterns to different frets and different strings for their variances in tonal quality. If you don't already know a walking pattern, watch another bassist do it or find a method of learning so, it's much faster than tabbing it out. Again, follow the root-3-5-6-octave-6-5-3 pattern Try moving it up and down strings and frets for experimentation among tonalities and chord changes. Eventually, you'll get the habit.
The same thing goes for bassists as well; applying guitar techniques like two-handed tapping to bass really produces some odd sounds. Again, just try everything you can find for the other instrument and apply it, with modifications if necessary. They will help mold and shape your sound.
By Nikhil Deshpande