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Opening the Slap Style Bass Vocabulary : Slap Basics With Doug Johns

Meet Doug Johns

Hello and welcome to Slap Basics. I’m honored to lend my groove to this much-needed publication; but first, I have a heartfelt disclaimer or two:

First and foremost, I want to stress the utmost importance of getting out there and just jamming with somebody! The actual techniques, licks, and what-have-you that I will demonstrate (to the best of my ability) in this column don’t mean anything in the world of music. By that I mean that techniques are just tools; musicality comes from your heart.

It is of my [humble] opinion that, in this day and age of the “Get it Now” YouTube vibe, there are too many players learning licks that are absolutely spectacular in their execution, yet they can’t even swing some blues on a Thursday jam night.

At the risk of sounding like I’m ranting right out of the gate, I just want to stress the importance of practice, practice, practice – be the best you can be – BUT ultimately, playing on the stage with other cats is where you’ll make your living. So, getting in unfamiliar musical situations is where you’re most going to benefit when it comes to mastering the Groove.

Soul and Groove are tough words to describe because they are feelings you have to earn. The path to earning those feelings is flat out getting out there and playing – in any situation, no matter what. I once heard Stevie Wonder describe music, saying it’s 50% practice and 50% spontaneity – What else can you say to that!?

But, before we dive into the video (Remember the disclaimers!), I do want to stress one more thing: the importance of playing, feeling, and understanding the drum kit / percussion.

It is probably very rare to find a killer musician, whether it’s horns, guitars, keys or bass, who can’t get behind the kit and shed out some sort of groove. For us bass players especially, this is of paramount importance! You can probably bet that if you want to be a working bass player, 98% of your lifetime of playing will be standing or sitting next to a drummer (the other 2% trying to get some girl’s number).

So, my feeling is this: Get to know the drums, and try to play them. It will definitely help your bass playing. The truth is that slapping, tapping – or anything you play on the bass – is just emulating rhythms that one would play on the drums. I promise, your groove can only get better.

Since the release of my debut, solo CD, Doug Johns, a lot of people ask me how to play parts of my songs. So, I think this is a great chance for me to take a tune or segment of a tune and really break it down slowly to explain the Bassics behind it.


I think the great thing about what we’re doing here – taking one of my own tunes and breaking it down to its simplest form – is that it lets me learn, too, giving me the opportunity to re-examine my own playing. Let’s open the slap style bass vocabulary.

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