Here’s a few ideas on slap bass fills and an interesting method for practicing them. As well as the standard Mark King style triplets I also cover more straightforward melodic lines and some funky mute techniques.
How To Practice Slap Fills
A great way of practicing slap fills is by playing a repetitive 4 bar groove and then inserting fills in on the final bar. We can obviously change the number of bars in there (8 bar riff/2 bar fill for example) but the main method simply involves incorporating fills into a groove.
For this lesson we’ll be using the following riff:
Finger Fills To Slap Fills
An easy way of creating a slap fill is to simply apply the same type of fill you might use in your fingerstyle/pick playing. As an example, here we have a fingerstyle fill played first with the fingers and then with slap/pop technique:
Octaves are a great way of creating slap fills and can be used both melodically and from more of a rhythmic, melodically static perspective:
Open String Hammer Ons
By slapping an open string followed by a hammer on into an octave pattern we can generate incredibly fast licks that can be used within our fills. Below we have an example of an open string hammer on into an E octave pattern:
We can hold the fretting hand lightly over the strings when slapping to create a ‘ghost note’. These muted percussive notes can sound useless out of context but when combined with complete fretted notes we can create really funky fills:
Muted Palm Slaps
The fretting hand can be used to create ghost notes by simply smacking the strings. Don’t push the string down (as we would with a hammer on). Just drop the hand down enough to create a percussive ‘whack’.
When combined with fretted notes we can create fast flurries that work well in our slap bass fills:
Stu Hamm Style Triplet
The following lick uses the muted palm slap to create a fast ‘machine gun triplet’. Barre the first finger at the 7th fret across the A, D and G strings to accomplish this pattern:
The following lick is an extended variation played by Stu Hamm doubling up on the slapped notes. The extra slap makes for a much trickier line.
Mark King Style Triplet
The following triplet is very similar to the Stu Hamm line but played between the E and G strings without a barring of the fretting hand. This allows for more movement and is a line popularised by Mark King of Level 42:
For a variation, try muting the E string. This gives a more percussive sound:
By moving the Mark King triplet through different notes in the upper voice we can create melodic movement in our solos/fills at high speed:
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