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Develop a Better Pulse with a Drum Kit: Slap Basics With Doug Johns


Develop a Better Pulse with a Drum Kit: Slap Basics With Doug Johns

Hello, Everybody, and welcome to the second installment of Opening the Slap Style Vocabulary.

Recently, drummer Chris Ceja and I played at Pete Decuir’s BassQuake in sunny San Jose, California. It was a great gig; we shared the stage with some fantastic players like Michael Manring, Joel Smith, Todd Johnson, Kristin Korb and Jeff Schmidt. It was extremely funky!


In an effort to improve our musicality, we’re always listening to and critiquing our performances, as well as those of the people we share the stage with. As a result, one of the things we’ve noticed at gig after gig is that in every great player is a sense of inner time – a pulse, if you will. This is something I feel strongly about, as I mentioned in my first Bass Musician Magazine column (October 2007).

I’ve known cats that seem as though they were just born with a sense of inner time, but inner time really is something we all need to practice. I’ve had marathon rehearsal sessions playing bass and drums simultaneously – or sometimes with a looping device – where, when I stopped the music, I could still feel that pulse inside me. It’s happened that when I talked afterwards, I heard the pulse showing up in my speech! I even walk in that time because the rhythm is so ingrained in me.

That’s the crux of this video. I’m always playing drums and bass at the same time, and I think it’s necessary for us bass players to try it – it’s an important part of the effort to better connect with a drummer/percussionist. Just the physical action of tapping or moving your body on the kick and hi-hat develops a pulse that immediately creates musicality – and that is ultimately what we’re going for here.

Although this may seem far-removed from the very title of this column – Opening the Slap Bass Vocabulary – trust me, it’s crucial. By developing this foundation of inner time, it will definitely make the upcoming columns on slap bass technique flow so much easier.

Please check out the video, and remember – Get out there and jam with somebody!

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