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Slap Bass Lines by Joe Santerre.  Published 2001 by Berklee Press/Hal Leonard. 53 pages. CD included.

The book doesn't really state who the target audience is, but based on the introduction and the material, it seems targeted to the beginning to intermediate player, who has little to no idea of slapping technique, and is looking for a place to start.   Unfortunately, the book doesn't talk about how to actually slap and pop with regard to hand position and rotation of the wrist, nor is this knowledge listed as part of the prerequisites in the introduction. Armed with a little previous knowledge or an instructor, the book is useful in providing slap exercises, but don't expect your trombonist to walk away unaided as a Victor Wooten after five minutes.

The book progress over the course of 8 lessons starting with the simplest One-Chord Slap Grooves and Two-Chord Slap Grooves and ending with the more difficult Shuffle or 12/8 Slap Grooves and Odd-Time Slap Grooves with a few other approaches thrown in between.   Each lesson has approximately 10 examples and CD tracks devoted to it, with each example being a two or four bar phrase out-lining an idea for demonstration within the context of the chapter.  Each chapter ends with a "Song" that incorporates some of the ideas from the chapter's examples. Most of the examples do a good job of covering the main topic, while introducing some more advanced techniques like 16th note pop/slap combinations, double thumbing, (which Santerre calls an "Up Stroke," hopefully as a reference to the P-Funk song, denoted by a "U") along the way.

The quality of the CD is medium, consisting of a bass (of course) and synthesizers mixed at a relatively low volume.  Evidentially, the mastering step isn't deemed necessary for an instructional book.  The music plays twice for each of the example riffs, followed by two times without the bass to let the reader hear himself in his own nakedness. The CD is helpful in providing a musical context for the riffs, and adds dimension to a what would have been just another octave slap groove, despite the 7sus4 chord notation.  The over all musicality of each of the examples is good, but the bass lines aren't quite melodic.  I guess Santerre wanted to emphasize the groove aspect of slapping technique more than the "how to write a good slap line" aspect.

Greatly helping the book and saving it from "just another slap book" are the supplemental chapters on basic theory, which are really great for the beginner. Covered are key signatures, basic scale types, basic sight reading, and other topics which greatly add to the usefulness of the book  These chapters could really open the door for getting a newbie introduced to the theory before he's too far down a Tab only road.

There are a few notational errors in the book, but hopefully none that will throw the reader too far.  Tab is included, which is nice for the beginner, and useful with respect to fingerings for some of the techniques, but I think the summary songs could have been notated without tab, to help push the student towards sight-reading. The stated examples in the book for further listening are too vague to be useful.  For example, really which one of the gazillion John Scoffiield albums should I listen to, in order to get a wider knowledge?  References to specific albums and tracks would have been much better.  BPM notation for each of the examples would also be useful as the student approaches each exercise with a metronome, and tries to work it up to speed to play with the CD.  Curiously, Santerre uses "L" to denote a "lift-off" which is more commonly referred to as a "pull-off"--I presume this is because the letter "P" is already used in the notation for referring to a "pop."  A short discussion of that difference in notation would have been helpful; I'd hate to see a young bassist trying to tell the guitarist in his band that what he was doing was really "lifting off."  I also found the notation and transcriptions not to be always accurate.  In order to get a little more groove on the playing on the CD, Santerre plays the notes more staccato than notated.  This difference between notation and playing could be very confusing for the beginner, trying to associate the written music with the sounds of music.  Also missing is a discussion of the difference between "Slap Bass" and "Funk Bass."  We wouldn't want to confuse the two.

Overall, Slap Bass Lines is a good but not great introduction to slapping, but would be a good starting point for a bassist who has some fundamental slapping knowledge.   However, I can't recommend this book for the complete beginner despite the theory sections, unless he has an instructor to help guide him through some of the missing points.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Bottom Line: Useful, but neither the first nor last word on slapping.