"Slappa da Bass!" - a term we’ve all heard before that is usually just met with eye rolls from bassists. But while the phrase might be a bit played out, the act of slapping bass certainly isn’t.
But getting a great slap sound from your bass can prove to be a bit tricky. And not everyone can afford a Fodera Yin Yang. Luckily, there are many great budget options available for that ultimate slap sound.
5 Best Bass Guitars for Slap
The Fender Player series of basses reminds me a lot of the old Standard series, specifically, the Precision, which isn’t very surprising considering the Player series takes so much design inspiration from the Precision.
Of course, they aren’t carbon copies of the old Standard series, but instead a modern update to a classic. Fender has gone above and beyond to keep what made the old basses great and improve only where necessary.
The first improvements that I noticed were the body and neck. The Player series sports a modern C shape neck. This means the bass not only plays faster but is also much more comfortable to play.
I usually feel like I have to press harder on thicker neck shapes like a U. This causes my hand to tire out faster while playing, but a C shape is much more comfortable and I can keep playing for longer.
The body shape has also been redesigned slightly. The Player series has a slightly thicker body to help it sit more comfortably against the player's body. This change certainly helps because I did notice that I was adjusting the bass less while playing and it just rested more naturally against my body.
The biggest difference, however, is in the bass’ pickups. The Player series uses Fender’s Alnico 5 Jazz pickups. These pickups capture the warmth of the bass quite nicely, but they also solve a big problem I feel some of the old Standards had.
Some Standards tended to have a slight dullness to their sound. Almost like the sound had a curtain draped over it. The Player series is much clearer, and more importantly, punchy.
If you are planning on using some slapping in your playing, I can’t stress enough how important clarity and punch are in a bass’ sound. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with muffled noise.
The Fender Player series is not just a great bass for slapping, but a great bass regardless of your genre or playstyle.
Squier often gets a bad reputation for being the “cheap” Fender. Implying that these instruments are of lower quality and not worth it. But that hasn’t really been the case for the last few years, and the Squier Classic Vibe ‘70s is excellent proof of that.
Designed and built in the same factory as Fender basses, I can see and feel that the Vibe has been given the same attention to detail as its Fender counterparts. If it weren’t for the Squier logo, I probably would have thought this was a Fender bass.
The bass’ neck and body feel like they belong on an instrument double the price. I also didn’t notice any issues with the assembly of the bass. Cheaper instruments can often have issues like the neck not sitting tightly in the body or uneven paint.
With its design based on classic ‘70s basses, I think the luthiers at Squier really pulled off the vintage look. One of these basses would not have looked out of place in the hands of someone like Jaco Pastorius.
But they aren’t just complete ‘70s remakes. The Vibe ‘70s have been given the right changes to bring them into the modern-day. With a modern C shape neck and Alnico pickups, this bass plays and sounds like any modern bass.
Sound-wise, while it does have a very vintage sound, the Vibe is a bit on the thinner and brighter side. The bass is still thick and boomy, but not as much as something like a Fender Player. I think this helps to tighten up the sound a bit and makes the Vibe great for more funk-style slapping.
My only real issue with the Vibe is the fact that the pickups aren’t very even in terms of volume. The higher strings are noticeably quieter than the lower strings. Adjusting the pickup height and string action does solve the problem enough, but it is a bit of a hassle to have to do.
Another Squier bass, but this one is unlike any I have ever come across, I think. Right off the bat, the Contemporary Active looks extremely modern compared to other Squier and even Fender basses.
This bass sports a matte finish and two humbuckers. It also features a Pan and a Boost knob. The Pan allows you to blend the amount of neck and bridge pickup you want. The Boost allows you to boost the amount of treble or bass you want.
Seeing this I immediately knew that this was going to be a very versatile bass in terms of tone. Boosting the treble gives the bass more attack, turning your slapping into more of a funk-sounding style. Boosting the bass gives you those nice, thick and boomy slaps.
With the Pan, I was able to fine-tune the sound even further. If the sound was a bit too sharp, I could easily blend in more neck pickup to mellow it out a bit. And if I wanted some more attack, I just needed to blend in more bridge pickup.
The active pickups also mean that the string volume is very even all around -no string sounded louder or softer than any other. The pickups are also lively and dynamic and don't occasionally sound static like most active pickups.
Apart from sounding great, the Contemporary also feels great to play. It has a C shape neck for comfortable playing and sits very nicely against your body. I did notice that it felt a bit bottom-heavy while sitting down. What I mean by that is that the bass drooped a bit at the bridge if I wasn’t holding onto the neck.
But besides this one small issue, I really love playing this bass. It is also another example of how Squier managed to build a bass that feels and sounds like it should cost at least a few hundred dollars more.
While I am not very familiar with Schecter’s basses, I am familiar with their guitars. I was interested to see how a Schecter bass would perform.
My very first impression was that the Stiletto Extreme certainly looks like an instrument made by Schecter. It has that same attitude as any of their guitars.
Of course, looks are one thing, but what about feel and tone? Well, in terms of feel, I think Schecter has done an excellent job. The Stiletto is a very well-built instrument. It fits your body nicely, feels very well-balanced, and is very comfortable to play.
The body and neck are also a bit smaller than basses usually are, which I think will make the Stiletto very appealing to players with smaller hands and who aren’t too comfortable with how bulky basses can be.
On the sound side of things, this bass also doesn’t fall short. It sounds just as good as I expected it would. The tone is dynamic and vibrant. The frequency range is also well-balanced with nothing being overpowering or lacking.
The bottom end is certainly a bit more prominent. I was able to get some very boomy slaps on the lower strings and nice pops on the higher ones. The Stiletto also doesn’t limit you to one type of sound.
Instead of just a standard tone control, the Stiletto features an active 2 band EQ. This allows you to fine-tune your tone. Whenever I wanted less bottom end, I simply had to dial up the treble. The EQ controls are also very responsive and I didn’t notice any dead zones or jumps while adjusting the EQ.
The controls aren’t marked, though, and it took me about a minute or two to get used to which knob controlled which setting. But this is a very minor gripe with an otherwise excellent instrument.
The Jackson Spectra certainly follows the Jackson design philosophy of function over form. It isn’t the flashiest looking bass on the market. Featuring a simple mono-color gloss finish and plain dot inlays. But I never expect Jackson basses to stand out like their guitars.
What matters is how it plays and how it sounds. And this thing plays and sounds fantastic. The Spectra is on the smaller side with a slightly shorter scale length. This makes it not only comfortable for regular players, but also younger ones and those with smaller hands.
It does have a thin U shape neck, so it isn’t quite as comfortable as a C shape. At least I don’t find it as comfortable. The thin U shape does still make for a very fast neck, though.
The Spectra also sounds fantastic. It has a very fat sound and certainly the heaviest sounding bass on this list. If like me, you are a fan of those thick and heavy slaps in the style of someone like Fieldy from Korn, this bass is definitely for you.
This bass just has that certain oomph that you need to create some really booming sounds. It also features a full 3 band EQ to dial in the perfect tone. I also really like that the Spectra allows you to switch between active and passive modes.
Simply pull out the tone blend knob and the bass will bypass the active circuitry. I always worry about my batteries just dying in the middle of a gig with active pickups. However, this feature relieves that stress, meaning you never have to worry about sound issues ever again.
I do feel like this isn’t the most versatile bass, though. I wouldn’t take it to a jazz or funk gig and is really more suited to rock and metal. But if that is all you are looking for, then the Jackson Spectra certainly won’t disappoint.
Getting A Great Slap Sound
Because there isn’t something like a slap bass and basses aren’t really marketed based on their slapping abilities, it can be hard to buy a bass that will sound good with slapping.
But if a bass sounds good played normally, it generally will sound good with slapping. You can, however, narrow down your choices a little.
Thin and Tight or Fat and Boomy?
I feel that there are two types of slapping: a tight-sounding slap and a boomy-sounding slap. Depending on which of these two sounds you prefer or are going for, your bass of choice will differ.
If you want a tighter, more controlled slap, think Jaco Pastorius or Les Claypool, then your best bet would be something like the Fender Player Jazz or one of the two Squiers mentioned in this article.
For those big, boomy slap, think Fieldy or any modern djent bassist, I would go with something like the Schecter or Jackson instead.
Certain basses are just naturally better at one of those two sounds. Picking the right bass is half the battle in getting a good slap sound.
Technique, Technique, Technique
As with any technique, having a good instrument can only get you so far. The most important part of achieving a good sound comes from how you play.
If you want to improve your slap playing, I can’t recommend enough that you study the masters e.g Jaco Pastorius, Fieldy from Korn, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Les Claypool.
To me, these four have perfected the art of slap bass. If you want to learn how to do it, learn from the best.
And there you have it. A few of my top picks for the best bass guitars for slap playing, along with some helpful tips to get the best sounding slaps possible.