Ultimate Slap Bass is a 206 page book – with two CDs – that aims to be a definitive guide to the slap bass technique and ALSO aims to be for all levels of player, from beginner to advanced.
The author Stuart Clayton had authored several bass books prior to the 2007 publication of Ultimate Slap Bass and also regularly writes for the British Bass Guitarist Magazine.
Although there’s some additional material – eg a short history of slap bass playing, interviews with Marcus Miller, Mark King, Stu Hamm, Vail Johnson and Ray Riendeau as well as features on other famous slap bassists such as Flea, Larry Graham and Victor Wooten – the bulk of the book splits the complex body of slap bass playing into its constituent parts and looks at them pretty much one by one.
The table of contents will give you a pretty good idea of the approach to slap bass playing Stuart Clayton takes:
Section 1 – Beginners
Chapter 1 – Slapping Basics
Chapter 2 – Adding the ‘pop’
Chapter 3 – Using Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs and Trills
Chapter 4 – Ghost notes
Chapter 5 – Popular scales and modes for slap bass
Section 2 – Intermediates
Chapter 6 – Left Hand Slaps and 16th Note lines
Chapter 7 – Introducing 10ths
Chapter 8 – Machine Gun Triplets
Chapter 9 – Double Stops
Chapter 10 – Double Popping
Chapter 11 – Strumming
Section 3 – Advanced
Chapter 12 – The Shuffle
Chapter 13 – Open String Hammer Ons
Chapter 14 – Double Thumping 1
Chapter 15 – Double thumping 2
Chapter 16 – Double Thumping 3
Chapter 17 – Combining Techniques
I like the way Stuart breaks down the various techniques of slapping and presents them one by one with examples. At the end of each section is an ‘exercise area’ which has a number of grooves/examples which bring together the different concepts into more ‘true to life’ lines.
Another thing that Stuart does – that I’ve never really seen in any tuitional book – is periodically from Chapter 6 onwards he includes cool little side bars with recommendations of songs that feature the technique he is talking about so that you can actually go and find a track featuring the particular technique and check it out from a master!
There’s also a good discography section at the back of the book that lists famous (and a couple of not so well known!) slap bass players and then names songs for you to check out to hear slap bass playing in context. I like the fact that Stuart has listed ‘rockier’ players like Flea and Les Claypool alongside the funkier usual suspects of Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten etc.
The two CDs that accompany the book feature the bulk of the exercises so that you can put the disc on and hear how it SHOULD sound. The recording quality of the CDs is excellent, so the combination of the notated exercises plus the audio should help you really get a feel for how the various techniques should sound.
Another plus is that the book is spiral bound, so it sits nicely on my music stand without having to damage the book to get it to lay semi flat so that you can actually work on the examples.
If you want to learn to play slap bass – or you want to add some of the more advanced techniques to your playing arsenal – this is definitely a book well worth purchasing.
The bottom line is that the methodical approach outlined in this book will take you step by step from the basics fairly quickly if you incorporate the material presented here into your practice routine on a regular basis.
The only caveat (that’s latin for warning BTW) I would give to bass players contemplating buying this book is to get hold of something like Band In A Box and use it to set up groove situations/simple chord progressions and work out how to apply the techniques to different songs/situations/styles. The song list given in the discography will also help work this kind of thing out.
TOO MANY BEGINNER BASS PLAYERS BUY A BOOK LIKE THIS, WORK OUT HOW TO PLAY THE COOL SOUNDING LICKS AND EXERCISES BUT NEVER WORK OUT HOW TO APPLY THIS TO DIFFERENT CHORDS AND FEELS!
Please don’t make this mistake (just so you know, I’m totally guilty of this one – I bought SLAP IT by Tony Oppenheim in the early 80s and in the course of a year I could play every one of those grooves – but I never thought to work out how to play those kind of lines in different situations. Duhhhhh!)
TIP! Some of these techniques can sound pretty cool when worked into your normal playing technique (eg left hand slaps, open string hammers, etc etc). Some of the lines also make good string crossing exercises for either fingerstyle or pick style playing too!