Welcome to the last and third part of our easy to learn slap bass mini-series. In the previous lessons, we have laid down the foundation and the techniques on how to execute slap bass in a band. We also discussed how we can add more speed by utilizing the hammer-on. Since we have the style and the speed to go along with it, all we need now is a better tone. And that’s what we’ll be focusing on in this lesson. We will talk about how to achieve a better sound when playing slap bass.
Since the launch of this mini-series, I have been getting questions on how to get the quintessential slap bass tones like Marcus Miller, etc… There is actually a trick to do this and that is called the “Smiley Face EQ”.
The “Smiley Face EQ” is an EQ curve featuring boosted low and high frequencies (or cut mid-range frequencies). The term comes from how such an EQ curve appears on a graphic equalizer – it resembles a smile.
The Smiley Face EQ can be achieved in three different ways. You can do it on your (1) amplifier, (2) your separate eq pedal, or you can do it on the (3) pre-amp knobs on your bass guitar (if you have an active bass guitar).
Useful Tip: Use round wound strings instead of flat wound if you wish to get that classic slap bass sound. You can also try a variety of gauges to figure out what suits your playing style most. Personally, I find that using lighter strings makes the snap and pull really easy.
Now let's move on to the Slap Bass Cell formula.
This formula is a way to build slap bass lines and also make it intrinsically simpler all at the same time.
The Slap bass formula is all about taking a part beat by beat. What we will do is to go over 4 individual sections that we can build at one by one and we'll combine them later in the lesson.
In our first section, we will play it with a hammer on - come back down with a thump - and then a pull. So there are 4 notes in each of the 16 notes of the beat. It Should look like this:
Example 1- Cell 1
In the second cell or beat, we will play G which is an 8th note and two 16th as snaps. If we combine them together, it should look like this:
Example 2- Cell 2
In the third cell or beat we'll be adding an octave to octave 8 notes. Again, we will combine them together and it will result into this:
Example 3- Cell 3
Finally, in the fourth cell or beat, we will be putting in a rest for an 8th note and play two 16th notes in the end. You can either add the first beat of the next bar to create a one bar loop or just play them as two notes in isolation.
Now that we have all the beats, we will combine them and it should look like this:
Example 4- Cell 4
So there you have it! We have successfully made the Slap Bass Cell formula. Always remember to take it apart beat by beat and split it into individual cells of three to four notes. This will make learning slap bass much more easier.
Also, please take note that the key to effectively using the Cell Formula is to not rush and take your time in getting used to the beat before adding the next one. In this manner, you’ll be able to play all 4 beats or cell solidly.
Before we wrap up this lesson, I want to show you how to go about adding the "Sexy Notes" in your bass lines. For me, Marcus Miller is an absolute genius in doing this.
If you can recall, I mentioned that I preferred slap bass lessons which has harmony in them so there are interesting note choices instead of a bunch of trickery.
I'll show you a few note choices that you can add in especially if you are using the classic box shape.
We will apply this on the previous beat that we have worked on.
What we will do is change the last part from the "flat 7 to the octave" to "6th to the 7th". You can also do it with a flat and third to the major third so it will be from B flat to B. It should look like this:
Example 5- The Sexy Notes!
Lesson Wrap Up
So that concludes the Slap mini-series! I hope you’ve enjoyed and have learned a lot from it. Slapping is a very unique and fun way to play. With a little help from these lessons and time in practice, you can make your way into slapping and play in style.
If you liked this lesson and wish to learn more, do make sure to check out the FREE 14-Day Bass Lab PLUS membership Trial!
Good luck and get stuck in!