Andrew Ford
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Slap bass does not equal funky bass

At some point people began equating funk bass with slapping the bass. I wish I had a nickel for every time some band leader gave me the universal thumb wagging symbol while telling me “now get funky”
At some point people began equating funk bass with slapping the bass. I wish I had a nickel for every time some band leader gave me the universal thumb wagging symbol while telling me “now get funky”. I often thought to myself, man, I could have sworn, IMHO, what I just played was pretty funky, oh well, let me try and appease my superiors. I mean there are bands that used very little if any slap bass and were very funky. James Brown, Parliament, The Isley Brothers, Rufus, The Meters, The Ohio Players, Kool and the Gang, Tower of Power, I could go on, they all have managed to become innovators in funk without relying on slap bass. Now before you decide that I am anti-slap, let me inform you that could not be any further from the truth. I view the slap style as a means to an end, a great tool to use, when appropriate, to add another dimension to the funk. Slapped bass does not equal funky bass is all that I am saying. As a matter of fact, I have heard some slap style playing that was not funky in the least bit, but that’s ok.

I think it was George Clinton, or maybe Bootsy who coined the phrase “the funk is on the one”. Not, the funk is in the thumb. That emphasis of the first down beat, on the one, took funk to another level. Funk itself has very little to do with slapping the bass and more to do with understanding James Brown, Sly Stone, George Clinton and other pioneers in this genre. I am happy to oblige when an artist wants to hear me slap the bass but, please be aware, it is not funky because it is slapped. Slap bass is a means to an end. If you don’t believe me check out Sir Nose D’void of funk by Parliament, it does not get any funkier than that bass line, and not one slap or pluck. There are slides, mutes and other miscellaneous techniques, but no slapping. There is also Larry Graham’s classic solo in The Jam by Graham Central Station, though he slaps throughout the song his solo is just crazy funky, with a touch of rock and roll, but no slapping. I love the slap bass style, but funk is on the one, whether slapped, picked, thumbed, finger style or played with your toes.


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