Origins Of Slap Bass

As we continue Our Guide To Bass Guitar, we have to talk about Slap bass. If you love bass guitar or even funk and soul music chances are that slap bass plays apart in that love. Personally I’ve loved slap bass from 70’s funk all the way to Primus – “shake hands with beef” still a classic. We’re going to take a walk back through bass guitar and the origins of slap bass. From its funky origins to modern prodigies who slap their way to stardom.

Origins of Slap-Pop

Way before bassists were making crowds go wild with their electrifying slap skills, there was… the double bass. Yes, the granddaddy of modern bass instruments. In the jazz and blues scenes of the 1920s and ’30s, double bass players began “slapping” the strings against the fingerboard, aiming to be heard over the cacophony of big bands. It was practical, rhythmic, and paved the way for what would later become a cornerstone of bass playing.

Fast forward a few decades, and here comes Larry Graham, the man many credit with translating the slap technique to electric bass in the late ’60s. His thumping thumb and popping index created rhythms that felt like a drummer had taken over his bass. Soon, this “slap-pop” method became synonymous with the funky vibes of the ’70s.

larry graham live slap bass

Famous Slap Bassists and Their Influence

There are a handful of slap bass gods who contributed to the birth of the iconic sound. Each with their own flair and style that took bass guitar from a support role to the front and center of music production.

Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone)

Ah, the godfather of electric slap bass. With hits like “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” with Sly & the Family Stone, Graham laid down the groove rules that many follow today.

Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ resident bass ninja took slap bass to rock audiences in a way no one had before. Infectious grooves like “Higher Ground” and “Give It Away” showcase his unparalleled energy.

Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck & The Flecktones)

A magician of the bass. Wooten’s slap techniques, showcased in tracks like “A Show of Hands,” blend speed, precision, and musicality, making him a modern slap icon.

Les Claypool (Primus)

Personally my favourite bass player thats ever lived. Primus’ frontman and bass maestro brought a unique twist to slap bass, blending it with progressive rock, alternative, and a whole lot of eccentricity. There really isnt much Les can’t do on the bass. If you haven’t seen him – check him out.

slap bass pros les claypool
basic slap bass technique

Basic Techniques for Beginners

If you are just getting into slap bass or have been for a while but want to revisit techniques. These are the basic techniques you need to get started. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day it takes time to master slap just like anything be consisitant and you’ll get it in no time.

Thumbing the Right Way
First things first: the thumb. Position it parallel to the strings, hovering above. The goal here is for your thumb knuckle to tip to make clean contact. Hitting it with the start / palm section can cause a almost palm mute sound if not hit correctly. Now, slap away! But remember, it’s a rotation of the wrist, not a full-arm baseball pitch. You can practice on a flat surface to ensure its wrist not arm.

Popping Perfection
Using your index or middle finger, get underneath a string and pull it upwards, letting it snap back against the fretboard. If done right, you’ll get a sharp, clear, “pop” sound. This will take time to perfect especially mid scale.

Combining Slap and Pop
Start with a simple slap on the E string followed by a pop on the D or G string. Like peanut butter and jelly, these two techniques were made for each other. Try this into a simple hammer on G  on the E String to D on the A String. Same notes different sounds. Get funky with it.

Maintaining a Groove
Slapping isn’t just about showing off—it’s about rhythm! Incorporate it into your playing smoothly, ensuring you keep the groove alive and well. This is something that will come with years of playing. You don’t have to go crazy at first get your slap down with a pop here and there until you feel comfortable.

Advanced Techniques & Challenges

advanced slap bass technique

Fancy yourself as a slapper? Here are som more advanced techniques to take your bass playing to the next level. As we mentioned with the basics these are all take at your own pace everyone learns at different speeds. Things like machine gun triplets can take years to master and actually sound good. Remember you don’t have to use these all the time but their great to have in your arsenal.

Double Thumbing

Once you’ve got the single thumb slap down, why not double the fun? This involves using the thumb in a down-up motion, like a pick. It really is that simple. Get used to the pick motion without a pick then apply it. It can take a while to get used to it as you bounce the trick is to play through the string.

Machine Gun Triplets
A barrage of notes comprising a slap, hammer-on, and a pop. It’s like a mini-solo in the midst of your bass line.

Common Challenges
Muting: All that slapping can make unwanted strings resonate. Use your free fingers to mute the strings you aren’t playing.

String buzz: Too much force can lead to a displeasing buzz. Remember, it’s about groove, not brute force.

Do you even slap?

Alright slappers as Davie504 would say! The bass guitar has so much to offer outside of slap bass but it does make it one hell of an instrument. If your a six string warrior and haven’t taken time out to learn the four string brother you’re missing out. 

While slap bass is fun, funky and hard on the hands. It worth every second.

We hope you’re enjoying our bass series if there is something you think we should write about drop our team and email and let us know –


Our Team




Site Navigation

DAW & Recording
Instruments & Equipment
Software & Plugins


© Copyright Cob Web Audio 2023