The first topic I’d like to cover in this slap series is what I call double thumbing. I guess I’m “old school” when it comes to slap in that when I first learned the technique there was no such thing as double popping. I like many learned the traditional way of attacking the string with your thumb by hitting the top of the string and then pulling the thumb away.
My introduction to double thumbing was hearing Victor Wooten for the first time. Even then I thought he was using the traditional thumb method followed by a popped note on the same string to get the “doubled” sound. It was later after seeing him play that I learned of double thumbing.
Let’s start by breaking down the actual technique itself. In double thumbing it’s advantageous to think of your thumb as a pic. Just like a guitarist would with a pic you use your thumb to attack the string and pass through on the down stroke and then bring your thumb back up catching the string on the upstroke. It’s important to keep your thumb rigid and it shouldn’t move at all. The motion comes from your wrist. Use the corner of your thumb, you don’t want to use too much of your thumb or it’s difficult to pass through on both the way up and down. The key is to keep a steady motion and keep the accent of both attacks as even as you can. Later when you get the technique you can accent the attacks however you want. Like most new techniques it may seem awkward at first (especially if you already slap the traditional way like I did) but with a little practice it doesn’t take too long to get.
Another thing I’d like to add is that double thumbing shouldn’t replace traditional slapping it’s just another technique to add to your slap bass vocabulary. In fact both techniques have certain individualities and compliment each other well.
As with any new technique I find it’s most beneficial and rewarding to apply it to music as soon as possible. I often write music based upon techniques/concepts I am currently working on to help me develop and get comfortable with the new ideas.
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VIDEO EXAMPLE 1 – Let’s start by using the technique to play through a major scale. Since scales are the basis for playing melodies and bass lines getting comfortable with double thumbing scales/modes is a great place to start. After you can ascend and descend all your scales try creating melodies and breaking up the scale pattern as you would if you we’re playing finger style.
VIDEO EXAMPLE 2 – A great way to get used to incorporating double thumbing into your playing is to use the technique for your walking blues/jazz lines. For instance, take a common blues eight note groove, say root-octave-b7-5th. Play each note twice (1and-2and-3and-4and) using the double thumb technique. This is great because you want to retain an even walking line and also it has you doing some string skipping which is a little difficult at first but again with practice you’ll have down in no time. This approach works great with any eighth note walking blues lines.
VIDEO EXAMPLE 3 – Another one I like is to use double thumbing for my walking jazz lines. Again I just double each note with my thumb. This sounds pretty cool and sounds harder than it really is.
Of course double thumbing is not limited to walking ideas but for this lesson I just want to get you familiar and comfortable with the technique itself. We will expand on its role in the future.