Slap bass

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    Does anyone know if there are any youtube videos of harpist using slap bass technique? I’d like to learn but need the visual.


    I’m not sure I heard any slap bass technique in there. It was just flat octaves, right? Do you have another example maybe, because, I’d be interested in this as an extended technique. 🙂


    Like Katie said that looks more like the technique of using a flat hand to muffle while playing, which can help give an effect more like a string bass. Slap bass is used a lot in electronic basses for a funkier sound that is very percussive, the “Seinfeld” theme being a well-known example. It’s from the left hand slapping the fingerboard, to give the off-beat “chak” after the playing plucks the “boom”. Lori Andrews mentions doing something similar with her left hand in a Harp Spectrum article. I saw one video of her playing where it looks like she’s slapping the bass strings on her offbeats with a forceful, loose-handed muffle-style motion designed to make noise.


    Hey Kreig, thank you so much for emailing me. I’ve used the slap bass technique since my first gig in Atlantic City in 1980. As a solo harpist at that time, I felt the need to have something not only percussive but rhythmic since that’s the way I hear music. What I do is play an octave or 10th in the left hand on 1 and 3 and slap the bass strings on 2 & 4 with the palm. Hope that helps. Here’s a few videos from my solo CDs where I slap on everything. ( ( ( my email is if anyone would like to ask me about it. thanks!! keep harpin’!


    I should mention, these are not video samples in the post above but audio only – but you can clearly hear the effect. Here’s one video ( MAJOR tuning issues, I hate to even send you this link LOL!! I have so few videos playing solo since 99% of my gigs are jazz gigs with my hubby playing jazz acoustic bass.


    Thanks Lori! I also love the bisbigliando at the beginning! Something else I’d like to get better at! Being primarily self taught is some what of a disadvantage for learning some of these fun harp effects. In this video by Cheyenne Brown, is she achieving the percussive effect in the second piece primarily by a flat hand muffle?


    Jerusha I love the video you shared. Do you think that the electrified harp helps it sound more percussive?


    What is this interesting percussive technique that starts about 1:30 in?

    Jerusha Amado

    Hi Jennifer, I love that video too! I thought that there were slap basses in there (boom chuck, not flat octaves) , but I ran through it rather quickly late last night.
    I do think that the electric aspect of the harp gives it a jazzy percussive sound.


    Perhaps not on You Tube, but Becky Nissen , pedal harpist, won the Lyon and Healy International Pop and Jazz Competition in 1999. I was impressed in the way she used slap bass. and this was the main reason I bought the DVD available after the event, on which she is shown smiling throughout playing her winning piece, obviously greatly enjoying her sharing of the music. She’s in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Others on the DVD are Park Stickney, Paul Baker, Kim Robertson and other fine players. , I show portions of this DVD to students so they can get an idea of professionalism, which took these players a lot of hard work, beside their initial gift of talent, to achieve.


    I apologize, for not having that DVD right in front of me when I wrote! It was in 2004, when that International Jazz and Pop HARPFEST was held, and Becky(using slap bass technique on her harp) and the others played. on that DVD, in Salt Lake City at the U. of Utah. What a wonderful event it was, and I should mention the other harp players on the disc: Jan Jennings, Michelle Gott, Marimikel Charrier, Mary Amanda Fairchild, Phala Tracy, John Metras, Cindy Horstman, Nina Ruthardt Cynthia Douglass, Carol Robbins, Ray Pool, Lori Andrews. Is anyone aware if there will be another harp festival, uniquely for pop and jazz harp?

    Jerusha Amado

    Patricia, Here’s a video of Becky’s. The left hand at the 12:56 mark is what you may have in mind.


    Wow Jerusha and Patricia! That was amazing! I wish I could have heard the bass a little better. She brought incredible rhythmicity to He’s Got the Whole World just with the syncopation of the melody. The pedal slides also gave it a lot of zing.

    It looks like they have a Jazz and Blues focus session at Somerset this year.


    I’d youtube videos on how bassists achieve slap bass & then take what you will from it to apply to the harp. I play bass as well as harp & apart from using different hands the method is much the same. It’s all about the thumb & rotating the wrist to slap it down on the strings (this will hurt a lot until you’re used to it); as stated by others before it’s more a way to create a particular sound while muffling the strings rather than to sound a note itself like you would on bass. The main difference is that you’ll have to use your other fingers to dampen other strings while you’re bringing your thumb down, though depending on what kind of music/effect you’re looking for this may not be necessary. Hope this made sense & was of some help.


    I like this video because he slows it way down and focuses on what the different hands are doing. I’m not sure I’m that coordinated though! 🙂

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