Performed and produced by Danish bassist Thomas Hansen Skarbye, Tascam's Scarbee J-Slap Bass CD ($149) is designed to capture all the nuances of electric bass playing using the slap technique. In this playing style, the thumb slaps the lower notes while the forefinger pulls or snaps the alternating upper notes. The technique is popular in jazz, fusion, funk, rock, and other musical styles. Skarbye used a Celinder J Update 4 bass, recording all samples direct to keep the sound as clean as possible and to avoid unnecessary coloration. In fact, the only enhancement in tone was a small amount of bass boost from the instrument's built-in Aguilar OBP-1 passive treble and active bass preamp.
The Scarbee J-Slap Bass library consists of three GigaSampler (GIG) files: J-Slap 1, J-Slap 2, and J-Slap 3. The first sample was recorded using only the bridge pickup, the second uses the bridge and neck pickups, and the third uses the neck pickup alone. Because of the pickup positions, J-Slap 1 has a brighter timbre, J-Slap 3 has a darker tone, and J-Slap 2 (due to the combination of both pickups) has a fuller sound.
Each GIG file contains several Instruments, including Jam Bass, Jam Bass-Trills, Studio Bass, Slides, and Fingered Harmonics. If you want to quickly lay down a bass track, Jam Bass is the logical choice for live performance. However, Jam Bass is much more than a basic slap-bass patch. Its keymapping, Dimension, and control parameters are extensive. For example, the standard playing position for each string is mapped across the keyboard, with an alternate playing position for some notes starting two octaves below the standard note map. You can manipulate the volume level of the release triggers, which controls the staccato release on all sustained notes, with a foot controller.
In addition, Mod Wheel and Velocity values combine to trigger a variety of playing techniques. For instance, a Mod Wheel setting of 0 through 31 combined with various Velocity values controls the four levels of thumb slaps on the E and A strings and the levels of plucked notes on the D and G strings. A Mod Wheel setting of 32 through 63 combined with Velocity causes notes to be half-muted, muted with lots of overtones, or muted with few overtones. Setting the Mod Wheel anywhere from 64 through 95 triggers fast grace notes up, whereas Mod Wheel values 96 through 127 let you play legato tails from hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Jam Bass also includes 150 Slide mixes mapped on the keyboard from E5 to D8. The Foot Controller regulates the direction of the slide; the Mod Wheel controls the three slide-note speeds.
The separate Jam Bass-Trills patch plays two types of semitone trills produced by rapidly sliding the finger back and forth over a fret or by alternating hammer-ons and pull-offs. The Mod Wheel position determines whether the trill notes are played on the D string or the G string.
Is It Live?
Although you can produce a realistic slap-bass passage using Jam Bass and Jam Bass-Trills, constructing a perfect slap-bass track calls for the Studio Bass, Slides, and Fingered Harmonics patches. However, they often require patch changes (each Instrument is assigned a patch number) as well as ample use of key switches (assigned notes outside the playing range for switching from one articulation to another) and different types of controller messages. As you might guess, it could take you a few passes to create the ultimate bass line.
The Studio Bass patches differ from the Jam Bass patch in that the Trills are included as part of the patch, and the Studio Bass patches use key switches instead of the Mod Wheel or Footswitch to change between the various techniques.
The Studio Bass patches also reproduce the sounds of alternate fingerings by triggering samples created at different positions on the fretboard. To play a note on the desired string, simply insert a patch change for the Studio Bass that plays that note at that particular position. You will have your ultimate bass track when you've edited the notes, patch changes, and Control Change information to work together properly.
Scarbee J-Slap Bass can help you create perfect slap-bass tracks. That may seem like an exaggeration, but listen to the demo songs and you'll be a believer. To create the ultimate bass part, take some time to learn the ins and outs of this complex library, even if you limit yourself to the Jam Bass Instruments. Nonetheless, the rewards are well worth the time spent.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4.5
Tascam; tel. (323) 727-4864; Web www.nemesysmusic.com