The idea for this short article came to my mind after noticing a clear trend in relation to “popularity” that is very noticeable when it comes to comparing both bass audiences in relation with top bass solo instrumentalists.
The bassists that base their interpretation on the slapping technique, which we’ll obviously be calling “Slappers”, are in average way more popular than the bassists that base their technique on the pizzicato technique or “Pizzicatters”. Just take a look to the Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and mostly to the Facebook pages and you will notice the obvious trend.
Human nature has always had the tendency to automatically refute any statement, so I just please ask you not to focus on the “exceptions”, like bassists from super famous bands, bassists that are dead and became legends, the guy who played Bass for 155 uninterrupted hours, the super-sexy model that plays bass, the guy who played bass on the moon, etc. (smile).
Why slappers are way more popular then? Well, I have two theories….
1 – Slapping is a technique that was born within the electric bass context, and we have to thank Mr. Larry Graham for that, so it becomes natural that the bassists that have mastered that technique are much more easily embraced by the bass community because we consciously or unconsciously feel that this “sound texture” is encrypted on our bass DNA. It’s a fundamental part of who we are and for that very same reason gives us a sense of identity.
2 – Slap is founded and based on rhythm, before any other music component, and as I’ve always said, the essence of our instrument is exactly that… “The Rhythm” which, for the bass is way more essential than harmony and melody, so that kind of technique (Slap) keeps the player addressing exactly what the vast mayority of the bass lovers and bassists are consciously or unconsciously looking for.
What can we learn from this situation then?
First of all, a real artist has to do what he has to do despite the fact of the popularity factor. BUT, besides the need for eating and having a place to sleep, any real artist has also the need for an audience to be able to share and communicate that art; I’m sure each of us clearly know which is our very own “minimum audience critical mass”, and is clear for me that the one for a pop bass star is way higher than the one a Jazz bassist needs (smile).
My humble suggestion, just saying, is that you do not depend on dedicating your life as a bassist to slapping, so to become more popular, but you must do that with rhythm! I encourage you to take care of business as soon as you can in relation to that department and try playing your hot pizzicato, your complex tapping, your fast arpeggios, your clean chords, etc., and make it flow like if you were playing any great slap groove, if you know what I mean. This has nothing to do with “funkyfying” everything you play, the music style is completely unrelevant on this matter, we are just talking about the rhythm/groove essentials here, like steadiness, precision, fluidity, coordination and balance between silence and sound.
Bottom line, even though the slapping technique has been structural and fundamental on the developing of our instrument and vice versa, the real success of that technique and the bassists that have mastered it, in my opinion, has been based on the rhythm aspect associated with it in the first place, and secondly on “it’s cool sound”. So apply that basic and fundamental concept to your interpretation and you’ll start noticing many differences in your bass playing, your bass career and why not, in your public relations as a bassist!
See you on the next…