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How do you set-up a bass guitar & amp for slapping?
Question By N.S.
My attitude is this: if the bass can make a sound you can slap it... remember it's the player - not the instrument. With that being said, there are some settings for your bass & amp that may make it easier for slapping:
- Make sure the neck of the bass is straight. You can adjust the straightness of a neck with the truss bar... the nut is usually found at the top or bottom of the neck. SLIGHTLY turn the nut to the right if the neck seems to curve forward... turn the nut to the left if the neck appears to be curved backwards. An easy way to see which way the neck is curving is by placing your eye near the top of the neck and looking down the side of the neck. If you encounter any resistance with the nut, DO NOT turn it... you can damage your bass. Take it to a qualified guitar tech. If you're careful, adjusting a neck should be relatively simple. If you'd rather leave your neck alone, that's cool too... it's not the end of the world. You can still slap your bass... adjusting the neck is something to do if you want your bass really dialed-in.
- New strings. Generally, people like clear-n-cutting slap tones. If this is you, new strings are a must. When I used to play a lot, it wasn't uncommon for me to change the strings once-a-month... not cheap.
- Light-gauge. Obviously, string gauge is a matter of personal preference. Most slappers though, seem to prefer lighter-gauge strings. Not only does it make it "easier" to slap, but you can also feel what's going on more... touch-n-feel is important to slap technique. I'd recommend 95-40 gauge or so.
- Low action. Action refers to how high your strings are off the fretboard... the lower the action the easier slapping can be. Also, lower the action - the more fret buzz will be present... it's ok to have a little buzzing on a bass dialed-in for slapping. There are several ways to achieve lower action... the most common is by adjusting the bridge. At the bottom of your bass you'll see the bridge and saddles holding each string. There should be some screws on the saddle - turning the screws to the right raises the height, turning left lowers the height. Always tune your bass after you've made some adjustments, since tuning will adjust the bass too.
- Bass amp settings. Ok, so now your bass is great... let's talk about the bass amp settings. First of all, most slappers like speakers that are smaller than 15" since a smaller speaker will produce tighter mids. EQ-wise, I like to boost the lows-n-highs a little while cutting the mids a little.
- Technique. Lastly is technique. Good Technique can make a bad bass set-up sound good. Bad technique can make a million dollar bass sound like junk.