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Finger-Slapping is a unique playing technique for the bass guitar. This way of playing makes it
possible to simultaneously execute the orchestration of a musical work by adapting and by
transforming into a simplified score performed only on the bass.
This bass technique is the result of a combination of three different guitar fingering styles,
1° The traditional Slap
2° Congolese guitar and bass technique (thumb-index)
3° Fingerpicking on a classical guitar (Spanish).
Finger-Slapping uses the middle and ring fingers, just like Fingerpicking, but can also use the
little finger in the context of a solo performance, to expose a theme or a melody when it comes
to voicings or even more complex polyphonies.
This method can be applied either in a group or as part of a performance as a soloist. It is not
limited to any musical genre.
Its history is very similar to the legend of the Slap, invented by Larry Graham (8). Having to play
with his musician’s mother who had timing problems, Larry Graham had to develop a bass
technique that had to be both percussive and harmonic. It was the beginning of the popular
Similarly, after producing two studio’s albums, Toobass decided to play live in solo with nothing
but bass and voice.
In 1990 at the Catholic University of “Louvain-La-Neuve “, Toobass had the idea that the electric
bass could contain on its own a register of sounds and notes large enough to orchestrate an
entire song. The bass was thus the theme of his graduation thesis as a sound engineer. The title
was: "The electric bass guitar; lutherie, amplification and peripherals".
It was therefore necessary to invent a musical technique, a new electroacoustic way of treating
this instrument and of course a new musical style. The challenge of this new approach was to
record, process and finally sound the 5-string bass under this new concept.
This new approach meant that the high register was also electro acoustically extended, not by
adding an extra string in the treble (as for the 6-string bass) but by widening the spectrum in
the frequency processing of the instrument. Beyond 5000 hertz, Slap playing in tune could thus
be colored and more precise whereas previously these frequencies were masked by other
instruments such as the voice in this case. The low register would be enriched by the fifth string
while the failing high register would be represented by the harmonic notes in order to complete
the failing part of the frequency spectrum.
The melodies are played with what remains available in free fingers, in accessible notes and in
available temporal silences. The rhythm, on the other hand, is struck either by the real notes
played, or by the dead notes. The description of the execution is set out in the following.
Sound is composed of three vibratory planes, namely: the dynamic plane (amplitude-time), the
frequency plane (amplitude-frequency) and finally the transient plane (frequency-time).
Inspired by the effects already used at the time for bass solos, reverb, delay, multiband
compression, chorus, flanging and phasing were used to enrich the “mono instrumental”
From 1992, drawing inspiration from "Congolese rhythm" regarding this particular way of
articulating notes on the bass guitar with the thumb and index finger, while borrowing from
the fingering of the so-called "Accompa" guitar, Toobass developed a very particular Slap which
grew as his performances progressed.
From 1998, Toobass was thus able to perform almost all repertoire genres on his own (from
blues to funk to Celtic), thus performing the parts played by the percussion and the
accompanying instruments (guitar, keyboard, ...).
In 1999-2000, Toobass performed 5 solo pilot concerts (bass & vocals) in small clubs.
It was after having accompanied a whole series of formations reduced to a maximum of a trio
in 2003 that he did solo concerts (bass and voice) filling in this way the rhythmic, accompanying
and melodic parts.
3. HOW IT WORKS
Finger-Slapping can be described as fingerpicking in which the low notes are struck or caressed
in the style of Congolese or Jamaican bass. The chords are pulled by the index, middle and ring
fingers as for fingerpicking, while the base of the palm of the hand and the pull of the Slap mark
the tempo by composing the rhythm. For a four-beat measure, each beat is made up of four
sixteenth notes, including:
• The first is given by the thumb;
• The second drawn by the index, middle and ring fingers (chords);
• The third struck by the base of the palm;
• And the fourth pulled by one of the fingers, either the index, middle or ring finger; or all three
at the same time.
2. La guitare basse électrique: lutherie, amplification etpériphériques, mémoire de fin d’étude,
Toobass, Université Catholique de Louvain-La-Neuve, 1990
3. Run for Cover,Run for Cover, M.Miller, 1984
4. I'veseen that face before,Living my life, R.Shakespeare, 1982
5. School days (School days, S.Clarcke, 1976)
6. Come together(Abbey Road, TheBeatlles, 1968) played by Marcus MILLER
7. Dune tune,Level 42, M. King, 1981
8. Graham Central Station, L. Graham, 1974
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