This is the second in the series of lessons on slap bass from Mark J Smith at Talkingbass.net. This lesson covers the use of muted notes or ghost notes in getting that funky sound we all want.

Ghost Notes!

In this lesson we’re looking at the concept of playing muted notes as part of a slapped bass line – more commonly known as ‘ghost notes.’ You might already use ghost notes in your finger/plectrum picked basslines and really the concept is no different. By holding a finger lightly against a string and plucking it, you get a thumping sound with no tonal quality that is really more percussive than musical.

Funk is a musical style built on syncopation. Ghost notes allow you to really add rhythmic spice to a line – almost like playing a second drum part with your bass guitar. In these quick exercises, you’ll learn how to play ghost notes in terms of the basic technique, and then play a couple of patterns that show you how you can turn an ordinary slap bass line into something much funkier!

Exercise 1

In the first exercise, simply slap a bar of four quarter notes on the open E string on a nice even measure (no need to go fast), but mute each second note. Then repeat the exercise across all four strings. This is a simple exercise that should help you get used to simply muting the string.

Exercise 2

This exercise (which I play at a bit more of a clip) has the principle: open string followed by two muted notes. You should hear and feel that the bars are much more syncopated and therefore funky. This is the driving aim of most slap playing – to create a percussive feel that makes the groove move.

Exercises 3 and 4

These exercises use a mute in places where you might expect a snare drum to fall, as well as introducing us holding a note down rather than merely playing an open string. Again, start slowly and concentrate on the rhythmic feel of the line without worrying too much about the speed. When you are comfortable with the feel and the phrasing, by all means speed things up! You’ll also hear how the C itself is choked off and made shorter by the muting finger. This is another way to make more interesting slap bass lines, rather than having all the notes of equal length.

Exercise 5

Essentially the same as exercise 4, only this time move the note from C to F to G, as you would if you were outlining a standard pop chord progression.

Exercises 6 and 7

In this exercise, you’ll get used to playing a note then immediately muting the string before moving up a note. This will help you develop some good muscle memory for rapidly muting notes during a slap riff while thinking of the next note ahead. Again – no need to rush: play it slowly to get used to the feel, then progressively speed up the line until it becomes rapid and smooth.

For the second half of the line, simply repeat the exact same pattern on the E string. We’re trying to get used to both using slap to generate a funky rhythm, while also getting used to moving fingers between strings as well as individual notes.

Exercises 8 and 9

Now we’ll repeat the exercise, but with two mutes in between each note. You should start to feel the greater complexity of the rhythm now, even though it is still relatively simple. Remember though: we’re not looking for speed. We’re looking for control.

You can play the exercise on any string.

Exercise 10

Now, we bring together all of these little techniques to create a coherent slap bass line, with ghost notes for added rhythmic interest. Because it’s a little bit more involved – you have to move strings and fingering between various parts of the line – you might find it a little challenging, but if you’ve got the techniques down from the earlier exercises you shouldn’t find this too difficult.

Exercise 11

So hopefully you’re pretty comfortable with muting between slaps. In this exercise we introduce ghost notes between pops. A simple octave pattern, with rhythmic accents provided by muted notes between. Slap the A string and rotate your wrist to pop the G string. In terms of technique, this is no different to the muting we’ve done with slapping up till this point, but you will find that it feels different and might be a little tricky at first. You’ll find it a lot easier if you get your fingers positioned in place first.

Exercise 12

Exercise 13


For a complete method to learning Slap Bass Click Here for the Talkingbass Simple Steps To Slap Bass Method!

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