P basses have a unique tone that is a staple in multiple genres of music. One thing that the precision bass is not known for though, is being slapped. So why is this the case, and are P basses good or bad for slapping?
A precision bass can be slapped the same as any other bass guitar and does not differ in difficulty. However, the P bass has a thicker tone than most bass guitars. This results in a different type of sound than what is commonly associated with slapping.
So while you can slap a P bass, you might not be able to get the type of tone you`d want out of it. With that said, it’s has a unique sound that can work well in a band, as well as help you stand out as a bass player.
Personally, I like the fat and powerful sound of a slapped P bass. Therefore, I`m going to show you what it can sound like, and explain why a slapped P bass sounds different.
I will also show you how to emulate a classic slap sound on a P bass. While it won`t sound exactly the same, there are many steps you can take to get fairly close.
What does a P bass sound like when slapped?
The P bass has a roomy, powerful, and thick sound that sits well in mixes. Thus, slapping a P will generally result in a strong but unconventional tone.
The reason precision basses sound different when slapped is mainly due to pickup placement. As opposed to J basses, P basses have a split-coil pickup. This means that 2 pickups are wired together, and in practice work as a single pickup.
This results in fewer options for how to set your tone. The upside is that this also cancels out outside interference and prevents unwanted static buzz.
The split-coil pickup and pickup placement on the neck is a major part of why the P bass sounds so distinct. It is also what makes it harder to customize your tone and get a typical slap sound from it.
With that said, I find that the precision bass sounds great when slapped. The sound is boomy and fat and packs more punch than what is typical for slapping. This also means it is unlikely to ever sound too thin when playing with a band.
Below is a great demonstration by Pauli Pétas of how groovy a P bass can sound when slapped. He is playing an American Series Precision Bass and showcases a funky disco bass line.
How to get a good slap sound from a P Bass
In general, a P bass can produce a more desirable slap tone by turning up the tone knob and using fresh roundwound strings. The tone can be further improved by lowering the action, using light strings, and turning down your mid frequencies.
Keep in mind that a P bass will have a unique tone when slapped no matter what you do.
The tips below are helpful for getting a funkier and more pronounced tone out of it. This will make it sound more resemblant to what slapped basses commonly sound like. It will however sound somewhat different due to the coil and placement of the pickup.
- Turn up the tone knob – The first step to a great slap sound is to dial up the tone knob. This knob controls treble and ensures that your highs will have a twangy sound, especially when popping (pulling) the strings. I recommend turning the tone knob all the way up at first and experimenting with dialing it down gradually. Depending on your preferences, you will generally get the best tone when it is dialed between 100% and 70% up.
- Use new strings – Fresh strings are important for a good slap sound on any bass. Over time, sweat and dirt from your hands will seep into the strings which will make them lose their tone. This can also make the strings start to smell. When slapping, the strings will generally be worn out faster, and the loss of tone will be more noticeable. Thus, if you notice the tone fading, rejuvenating or switching out your strings can often solve the issue.
- Keep the action low – For slapping, low action is generally preferable regardless of what bass you are playing. This is because lower action makes it easier to produce a percussive sound when striking the strings with your thumb. As an added bonus, you also don`t have to strike the strings as hard as you would need to with higher action. This in turn will be less straining on your thumb and will allow you to play for longer.
- Lighter strings – If you are looking for a slap tone that is brighter and has more pronounced overtones, I use a light set of strings. It can also be preferable to use stainless steel strings, as they can produce a more percussive tone. A regular set of strings for a 4-string bass typically has gauges of 105-85-70-50. This roundwound set from Rotosound has gauges of 40-60-75-95 and is also made of stainless steel. Switching to this type of set is preferable if you find that your current slap tone is too boomy, has too much low end, or does not sound percussive enough.
- Lower the mids – By removing the mid-frequencies, your tone will sound thinner and sharper. Thus, lowering the mids will make your tone similar to what slapped basses sound like. You will often get the best results by dialing them all the way down. If this ends up sounding excessively thin, you can turn them up gradually til you find a sweet spot that fits your preferences.
So what does a P bass sound like when slapped? It sounds powerful and thick. It also sounds unique and distinct. Therefore, bassists tend to have a love/hate relationship with the sound of slapped B basses.
Thus, depending on what type of music you play, a slapped precision bass might be a great and unique, or a noisy and unfit pick for your band.
It is not harder to slap a P bass, and it does not sound objectively worse when slapped. If you like the sound, and you believe it fits the type of music you are looking to play, I say go for it. It will make you stand out and sound different, which is something I believe every bass player should strive for.
Are you looking to learn more about slapping on basses that are not conventionally used for this purpose? Then continue by reading my guide on whether you can slap on any bass guitar.