Spending my high school years playing electric bass in a series of jazz, rock and fusion groups meant quickly learning and adapting to different styles. Within rock there was the looser ‘arena rock’ style and also the much tighter and punchier style favored in New Wave music and by artists such as the Police. Jazz music required considerable harmonic depth, the ability to improvise and swing and communicate. Fusion required all of those things, and also needed the added skills of slap & pop techniques. For me that meant time listening to and practicing with the records of Stanley Clarke and Sly and the Family Stone. But for new bassists the process can be much easier due to the Lick Library Learn Slap Bass in Six Weeks Instructional DVD. Let’s take a look!
Type of DVD: Music instructional DVD
Where to buy: Lick Library Store
Developer: Lick Library, featuring Phil Williams
Here are some of the features:
– Develop the motor skills and technique that are necessary to master the slap style of bass playing
– All examples are visual and broken down into manageable and easy to follow sections.
– Week One includes: Slap bass overview, including equipment, basic technique and background. Simple left hand thumb hits, and muting. Technique builders using 8 bar exercises. Hammer ons and left and right hand motor skill building exercises
The Lick Library methods are largely divided into two approaches: single DVD lessons with a singular focus, or broader 6-week courses that seek to apply a greater breadth of technique. Learning slap bass is given the latter approach, which is a great idea as the slap technique has become so engrained in pretty much every type of bass playing that there is a ton to learn.
The first DVD is very much ‘the basics’. As such most experienced players can probably skip it to save money, but I am glad I got a look at it. I tend to be very linear, so when I go through a guitar or piano book I always walk through the ‘songs on the open strings’ section or ‘C scale’ section just to integrate myself with the style. What I appreciated was that Williams took the time to go into considerable depth on every subject along the way.
After the first week you know how to approach the instrument, how to optimize your bass and amp settings to get the sound you want, and the fundamentals of left and right hand techniques. The second week gets into more depth with hammer-ons, pops and pull-offs, as well as the concept of ‘ghost notes’, while also revisiting things you learned the first week. The third week again refreshes the first two weeks, but dives deep into ghost notes and triplets of pops and pulls and some of the advanced techniques popularized by players such as Stanley Clarke and Level 42’s Mark King.
The three later courses continue to build your motor skills, working open-string techniques, syncopation, rhythmic figures and more complex lines, and so on. Williams continues bringing in the work and styles of the best slap bass practitioners such as Marcus Miller, Flea, and of course Clarke and King. By the end of the 6 week course you should be able to play confidently and authoritatively in a slap bass style in a rock, jazz, funk or fusion idiom.
The reason this is called a ‘6 week course’ is because there is considerable practice and homework required to succeed. Rather than squeezing a superficial glance into a single DVD, Williams spreads out his lessons, and you will realize after each week that you only absorbed a portion, and need to work hard to get everything under your belt. Areas that were harder for me in the later lessons were things I never learned when I was younger and have just avoided playing all these years.
It is also worth noting that the Lick Library website has additional material including sheet music for some of William’s lessons. This DVD is very much recommended for anyone looking to learn slap bass techniques.
Ease of use/Overall performance: The Lick Library site says this DVD course is suitable for all levels, and that is completely true. Even a beginner can approach the techniques described on the first DVD, and experienced bassists will still learn from the later DVDs.
Would use again/recommend?: Definitely! Even though I have been playing with a slap technique for more than 30 years, there was still a lot for me to learn on these lessons. Most slap bass players learned by emulating others rather than in formal training, and therefore have developed habits and limiting techniques along the way. These lessons can help you get started, but can also help you break free of your limits and become an even better player.
Suggested changes/wish list for updates: Nothing.
Price: DVD with online features for $18.99, but you can buy the entire 6-week series for $89.99!
Here is my video review: