This week we’re taking a look at American Life by Primus which features some great slap bass and strummed chords courtesy of the legendary Les Claypool.

American Life

A lot of you recommended that I break down this line from Primus’ 1991 album Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Like a lot of Les Claypool riffs it has a very tricksy sounding rhythm that results from his characteristic blend of slapping and strumming.

It’s essentially a G minor which uses a lot of hammer ons and open strings which are strummed together to get that very distinctive swimming feel. I find it best to strum inwards first, and then strike the strings back outward with my nails to get maximum attack. You’ll probably also find this the best way to establish and maintain the overall rhythm.

This makes a continual in/out motion which will start to feel fairly natural once you get into the groove.

Pay attention to how you use your fingers – as it can get tricky to lock down the low strings and avoid noise. Les himself will often use the third finger of his fretting hand, but I favour using my pinkie. Play around and find what fingering works best for you though.

Also note how the dynamics change in the line itself – with a very hard staccato feel that alternates between harder and softer strikes.

Practice Tracks:

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