Acta non verba
Join date: Jul 2005
2,744 IQ
this is posted in the technique of the month thread in the bass forum, but i thought it might be suitable for a lesson.

comments welcome..

Slap Bass

OK, what is "slapping" and "popping"? It's a style of bass playing where you use the side of your thumb to hit the strings just by the base of the neck. This force gives it a percussive sound to it, which many will say gives it a funky sound. The "popping" part comes from pulling the higher strings outwards so they snap back much in the same way. This gives the same sound, but as it's higher in pitch the dynamic changes. You will all know what it sounds like i'm sure. But if you dont, then try just using the side of your thumb (by the joint) and hit your Open E just below the neck. Got it? Well your slapping baby.
The style was created by Larry Graham while playing with Sly and The Family Stone, and he says he was trying to create a drum sound at the time. I say thank you very much Larry!
Many people think slap bass is a funk thing, although the majority of REAL funkplayers do not use this style at all. It can be seen as quite limited, and to a point i agree. But it is a brilliant technique to have under your belt, and it's easy to impress people with even a simple slap riff (if you like impressing people, that is). It's a technique which, like tapping, takes a long time to get really good at it. But as with everything, there is no rush. So take your time and in a couple of years you will be a slap bass playing motherfucker.

Some other notable users of this technique are:

Bootsy Collins (early stuff mainly)
Louis Johnson
Marcus Miller
Victor Wooten
Mark King
Stanley Clarke
Les Claypool

Yes, there are countless others, but these are shining examples of what the style can do.


As i said above, i find the most comfortable position to slap on the thumb is the joint. Also,

your bass will need to be at a comfortable height, so you may need to position it.
Your hand shold be as if you were to shake someones hand but with your fingers curled back in. not a fist, just fingers curled back at the first joint. Got it? Now, remember the action is all in the wrist, not the arm. It's a swift flick of the wrist, and you need to let it bounce back off the string. The longer you leave your finger on the string, the more you are going to stop the sound from ringing out.


This technique, to me, gives the best sound. I prefer it to the sound of a slapped note, and i often use some pops to fill in between bar changes and stuff. So you take your index and/or ring finger (you can use whatever you want though, rin or pinky if you feel like it, just remember index and middle have the most control and independence naturally), and slap the string outwards. Not too hard or you will break your string. But too soft and you wont get the sound. I find with popping that fretting the note completely with your left hand is not necessary and leaving it a bit looser than normal gives a more percussive sound. try it out for yourself..


Try the below


So, slap the E and A strings and pop the D and G strings. Boring as **** i know, but notice how you cannot get the A string to sound clearly? This is your goal for now. I mute with the bottom of my slapping hand palm. Some mute with their thumb wrapped over the neck. I've never been an advocate of this, but whatever works for you. Although do try to mute with your playing hand as much as possible as it leaves your fretting hand free to do some crazy licks.

When you are completely ok with the above, move on to the below. Remembering the golden practice rules above in bold.


This should be done all the way up to the 12th fret and back down, and then moved down on to the A string.

This is your basic slap and pop pattern. Think if the slap as the kick drum and the pop as the snare..


Again,up to the 12th fret, back down again and then move down to the A string. Notice the double hits.


12th fret and back down, then down to A string. Take your time, make sure all notes are sounding clearly. You should've been working for a good week already with the above exercises!
Acta non verba
Join date: Jul 2005
2,744 IQ
OK, so you're grooving with the above. But what gives slap bass that funky sound? Well, that would be the mute. Also called a dead note, this is the sound you get from your bass when you are stopping the strings from vibrating when you do a slap or a pop. It works best with the slap, but muted pops are excellent too. We'll start with slaped mutes. Mutes are ad in tabs and scores with an x. To mute a note, you simple cover the string a bit harder than you would to play a harmonic.

Be careful not to do it over the main harmonic areas or you will get harmonics ringing out.


Notice how the above is the same as one of the above exercises but we've replaced one of the notes with a mute. Think about this changes the sound. Sounds good eh? I know. Remember, up and down the neck and then move the pattern down on to the A string.


Different placement of the mute, see how much it changes the dynamic of the loop. Remember, up and down the neck to the 12th fret and and then move on to the A string.

Right young people, if you've worked hard for a good couple of months at this, and been disciplined, you should be well on your way with this technique. We're now going to move on to some triplets. If you're wondering what these are, this is playing three beats in the space of two. So taking a 2/4 beat, you will make two slaps on one of the beats and on on the other. So, your count goes One and Two and. You will slap on the "One", the "and" and then pop on the "two". Get it? Slap, Slap, Pop...Slap, Slap, Pop. This brilliantly highlighted by the RHCP cover of Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder. Listen to it carefully and you will hear it.


Remember the count. If your metronome can do different time signatures, set it to 2/4, otherwise just make the time sig in your head. But remember the count above.
Up and down the neck to the 12th fret and then move down to the A string.


This is the same triplet feel but the rhythm is different, so the count is different. See if you can figure it. Remember, 2/4 beat. Up and down the neck to the 12th fret and then move down to the A string. (are you getting bored of me saying that yet?)

Now lets chuck in some mutes to our triplets..


Funky shit right? i know. This will sound funky as fck when you play it fast, and this is still just octave patterns. if i still have to tell you to do this up and down the neck and then on the A string, then you need to sort your life out ! So i wont from now on.I trust you.

So you've got the basics down, yeah? But you want frills, right? Everyone loves frills, some style. Well, that style comes in the form of hammer-ons, pull-offs and trills. If you're not sure what they are, click h e r e for my lesson those things.

Lets try some riffs with some of those elements in them.


This is more an exercise this one..


Fit this to a 4/4 beat. We are now using hammers, pulls and muted notes. Give yourself a pat on the back and/or go show off to you wife/girlfriend/mother (delete as applicable).


great little riff for practicing your trills. 3t4 means fret the 3rd, and trill on the 4th fret.

I'm gonna end it here, as i am done with the typing and my girlfriend is home now and wants some good lovin'. I hope this has helped some beginners get to grips with this fascinating technique. Be disciplined with the above and you'll be a great slapper soon enough. Many of the exercises were taken from a book called Funk Bass by John Lieberman, which i recommend. It has lots more like it and many riffs for you to practice. The ISBN is 0-7935-1620-x and is published under Hal Leonard.

I'll leave you with some songs to play once you get into it.. if people would like to add more, let me know and i'll add them in.

Emergency On Planet Earth - Jamiroquai
Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz

Higher Ground - RHCP
Can't Stop - RHCP
Get On The Floor - Michael Jackson (Louis Johnson on bass)
Funk Box - Sugarhill Gang
Earthquake - Graham Central Station
Get Up and Jump - RHCP
Down With Bass - fIREHOSE
David Bowie - Phish

Tommy The Cat - Primus
Power - Marcus Miller
Run For Cover - Marcus Miller

This list is not exhaustive!!! Feel free to add, young people.

Good luck

more hardcore than you
Join date: Jul 2006
277 IQ
You need like some pics so people dont have to just read about how to slap so that they know what it should look like. A lot of people dont go out and look for what it would look like and rely on the post you know.. Other than that good lesson.
Acta non verba
Join date: Jul 2005
2,744 IQ
cool man, i'll do some pics. i didnt think you could put pics in the lessons section?