How to Play a Slap Sound
A slap is usually easy for people to learn, but hard to play really well. It took me 2 years to get excellent sound differentiation, so be patient, and work at it. You can do it, with practice and practice.
I want to share all the tips and techniques that I learned from many different teachers, so you have all the ideas you need to create a great "clack" with your slap. Good luck!
As with the Bass and Tone, there are three main aspects of getting a good Slap sound ::
-- Position of the hand
-- Shape of the hand
-- Strike of the hand, or angle of attack
And in the case of the Slap, there is also the trick of the wrist angle, which helped me more than anything else. See below.
Then you need to listen and verify and keep refining, until you get a good "clack" sound. Compare your sound to mine, and if possible, to the better sound of the african master drummers, and keep refining. I still work on my sound every week, and always will.
There are actually two slaps, at least by some teachers, and the one I am teaching is more of a Guinea slap. But some of the tips I will share are from Mali slap techniques as well.
Main Points :
Position of Hand :
Your hand should be at the edge of the drum, with just your fingers on the drum skin. For a good position for Tones and Slaps, do the triangle trick. Hold your hands in front of you. Meet your thumbs straight toward each other. Bring your hands together to form a triangle space. Watch the video to see what I mean. Now lay your hands on the middle of the drum skin, and pull your hands apart until they reach the point where your hands are over the edge and only your fingers are still on the drum. The video shows you where that is. This is where you will hit the Slap and Tone.
Shape of Hand :
For the best slap, I find that holding my fingers together, but a little loosely and mostly straight, works the best. In other words, don't hold them tightly straight and together, like I teach for the Tone. There will be a little curve to your fingers when they are a little relaxed, but not all the way limp like a wet noodle. The video shows you what I mean. The contact point on the drum will be the tips of your fingers ONLY for a slap. Mainly you will get the "clack" sound from the tips of your middle two fingers (the ring finger and middle finger).
So here is the big trick of the Slap. Your fingers need a hinge to them, so they can just whip as you come down to hit the drum and get close to the skin. You want your fingers to stay straight, but the big knuckles to be totally lose, so the whole fingers just whip down to the drum as you stop your hand. A lot of teachers promote the idea of hitting the drum with your palm so your fingers flick, but I find that unnecessary. I have found I get a pretty good sound just by letting my hand stop at the drum, and I dont build those big ugly callouses that hurt my wife when I try to give her a massage. And if know my lovely knockout wife, that would not be my preference. The video shows you more of how to practice flicking your fingers to get a good sound.
Strike of Hand :
The hand position for the slap is crucial. Use your wrist to change the angle that your fingers hit the drum. It will give you a good flick, as if, but not for real, your fingers were coming from the side instead of straight down. See the video, its crucial to see this to explain it.
Angle of the Wrist :
One of the tips that seems to help a lot of people, is the angle of the wrist. When you do a Tone, the wrist should be straight. But when you play a Slap, you might want to bend the wrist down. You will have to see the video to see what I mean. This angle of the wrist will help you change the angle of your fingers and help you flick your fingers more, like a whip, onto the skin of the drum.
Listen and Verify :
As always, play a Slap, listen to the sound, compare to your Tone, and see if you have a difference. If not, keep trying. And when you do, keep making it better. There is a never a stopping point. You can always learn more and refine. I still work on my sounds, every week, as I have done for 15 years now. There is always something more I can figure out and improve.
OK go Slap away!
Screaming with Joy
I am a musician myself but wanted to learn drumming. When I watch Robert drum for dancers at Dance Church, Sufi, and parties, and see how everyone starts moving, shouting and screaming with joy, it's amazing. I realized I wanted to do that! I have been taking group lessons from Robert once a week for about 2 months now, and for someone that never touched a drum before, I am getting better fast. His knowledge goes way beyond the rhythms and sounds - he really understands the art and spirit of it, the psychology and physiology of dancers. I get a lot out of every lesson, and I intend to join his performance group.
~~ Kevin Dalfonso, Musician, Systems Tech, Encinitas, CA
Get the Room Rocking
I met Robert some years ago. When I learned about his prowess as a drummer and rocking the djembe, I invited him to join my rock band, Clarke After Darke. He was amazing. It didn't matter what the song was, he was always able to get the room rocking with his strong percussive beats. And he dueled with the kit-drummer, like a swashbuckling pirate and they laid down some fabulous solos. Besides, he is a really kind and gentle person. We were sad when he left for California. We love him to bits.
~~ Clarke Stevens, Entertainer, CPA, Phoenix, AZ
I've been casually drumming for many years but never formally, and never with african drumming. Then I saw Robert drumming at our local dance church. I was amazed how he could change rhythms effortlessly and "communicate" with the other drummers. Not only is he a great drummer, he is an extraordinary teacher. He is kind, patient and shows a true love for drumming and teaching. When he asked us at our first lesson what were our goals, he didn't snicker or laugh when I said "I just want to be as good as you" - now my goal is to have fun and be as good as I can be, and if that even approximates a quarter of Robert's talent I will be grateful.
~~ Paul Paez, Chiropractor, Encinitas, CA