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One Big Tip to Improve Your Slap-Pop Technique

When slapping and popping, most of our natural instincts are to put our pops on beats 2 and 4. Which, when you think about it, makes sense. Larry Graham, the pioneer of slap bass, in numerous interviews has explained that his mentality for developing slapping and popping was to replicate the drum set. So it makes sense that the sharp, snapping sound of a pop “feels right” on 2 and 4 – it was meant to replicate snare hits on 2 and 4. But how do you break out of that 2 and 4 pattern and begin to make your pop selections feel more funky?

The Trick Is Practicing To Making It Work Anywhere

Part of making an internal funky feeling come out in your pops when you play means practicing feeling out the places where funk lives: on the “e” and “uh” of a beat (bolded below).

|1 e + a |

Whether you’re a drummer, a guitarist, keyboard player or kazoo player, the essence of what makes funk funky is playing the notes that accent the 16th notes, rather than, say, rock which tends to focus more on the 8th note to give it quality. Not to say that 8th notes can’t be funky or plain downbeats, but is you go back and listen to some old Sly and James Brown records, the main aspect that runs true across many of those funk and RnB albums of the 60s, 70s and 80s was that the drummer focused on the 16th note subdivision and placed kick hits on the “e” and “uh”s more often than rock drummers. And of course, the bassist played right inside this pattern.

Try This During Your Next Practice…

If you find yourself being one of these kinds of bassists that wants to put more funk into their playing, consider this exercise:

Slowly, start by counting out a 16th note run to a metronome click. If your metronome has a subdivision feature that allows you to hear ticks like 1e+a 2e+a and so on, set it to that. Write it out if you need to.

Then, focus on thumping on the down beat and, first, try popping on the “e” of each beat. So the result is something that looks like this:

| 1 e + a | 2 e + a | 3 e + a | 4 e + a |

Once you’ve got this feel down to a personal comfort level, try moving that pop to the “a”:

| 1 e + a | 2 e + a | 3 e + a | 4 e + a |

With these 2 exercises, you should begin to notice more of a “funky feel” developing with your pops. And once you feel like you’ve got a pretty good handle on these examples, try mixing up the thumps as well. Consider these examples where the thump is on the “e” and the pop is on the “+” and the thump is on the “e” and the pop is on the “a”:

| 1 e + a | 2 e + a | 3 e + a | 4 e + a |

| 1 e + a | 2 e + a | 3 e + a | 4 e + a |

Guaranteed, if you can:

  1. Learn, apply and manipulate these exercises (plus any other ones you can think or or get your hands on) and…
  2. Develop critical thinking about subdivision and time as it relates to thump and pop…

You’ll be able to play this style with confidence and anywhere at any time in any tempo.

Check out this classic example of funky slap and pop with Larry Graham. Pay careful attention to the location of his pops and think why do they feel funky. I’d recommend listening to this again and paying attention to the drummer this time, specifically his kick drum hits and see if you notice a pattern develop:


  • volodjah

    hi video not working

    • memiliani

      Thanks for the heads up! Try the video now.