The first time I played through this month’s transcription of Fred Hammond’s slamming “Let The Praise Begin,” I completely ignored the T’s and P’s indicating thumps slaps and finger pops. I was just trying to make it through the chart. It wasn’t until I went back with an eye for detail that I noticed that many notes I would instinctually pop, Hammond slapped, resulting in a completely different sound than the one I was getting. This struck me for two reasons. First, extracting the maximum benefit from transcriptions means going beyond pitch and basic rhythm. There’s as much to be learned from articulation, dynamics, and feel as there is from note choice. Maybe you’re like me: When I’ve finished the notes in a transcription for my own personal edification, I tend to be so thrilled that I forget I’m not quite done with the whole process. I should go a step further and learn from players’ more subtle contributions, like the shape of their note envelope, the dynamic differences between notes, and the techniques employed.
The other insight I took from the transcription was a reminder of the enormous sonic difference between thumbed and popped notes. Some players stick to a strict thumb-low-strings/pop-high-strings regimen, but more sophisticated slappers are capable of slapping or popping any string on the bass. For a golden example of this, check out Marcus Miller. To develop your D- and G-string thumb technique, try forcing yourself to only use your thumb on lines you currently thumb and pop. And when you confront this month’s transcriptions, pay closer attention to the markings than I did.