What is Slap Guitar?
Here is a little technique that pays big dividends in making your strumming more rhythmic, compelling, and engaging. It probably goes by many names, but I have always called it the "strum slap." It is very effective when used with the right songs and should be part of the arsenal of every acoustic strummer.
Here is how it works. On specific beats, instead of a full strum of the strings, we mute all the strings with our strumming hand and run the pick across the dead strings. It creates a "blip" kind of sound, which is the foundation for slap guitar. That sound creates a pleasing rhythmic contrast to the rest of the strums, which carry a full tone. The key to its effectiveness is creating an accent on the beat where it falls.
So this means that it is not used on just any beats (although I am sure there are examples of it used in unusual ways). Instead, slapping a guitar is almost always used to simulate the effect of the snare drum in a basic rock groove. The snare drum creates the "backbeat," a rhythmic pulse falling on beats 2 & 4 of a 4/4 measure.
This sets up a basic syncopation (accent of a weak beat), and the resulting tension of accenting that weak 2nd and 4th beats adds a lot of life to a groove.
Guitar players will simulate this effect right on the guitar by using the "slap strum." This is done on beats 2 & 4 (the weak beats in a 4/4 measure) or sometimes only on beat 2. I will give you a few simple steps to follow to get this sound. Follow them, and soon you'll be "slapping" your guitar with the best of them!
Slap Guitar Technique - Step By Step:
Now, some technique tips for how to slap on guitar. i.e. slap and pick at the same time:
Here are the steps for getting into the correct position and how to slap and pick at the same time:
The Strum Slap in Action
This technique sounds excellent on a folk-rock ballad like "Best Of My Love" by the Eagles. I would suggest only slapping on the 2nd beat, as this is a laid-back song, and slapping on both 2 and 4 would be a bit too much. The rhythm for the strum is written out below. You can copy it by ear or follow the written rhythm. The arrows are the direction of the strum, and the circled arrow is the "slap."