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Bass Lesson on Slapping from Nathan East

In this sample bass lesson from the Online Electric Bass Guitar School, Nathan East introduces a fundamental technique in the art of playing bass - slapping. Slapping the strings gives the bass a percussive sound that make it sound like a drum and a bass at the same time. As a bass player, slapping and popping are techniques you cannot avoid. Even if you don't plan to use it a lot in your own playing, bass slapping is still an important technique for bassists to learn.

larry graham bass slap innovator Nathan East distinctly remembers the first time he heard a bass slap. It was a long time ago of course, and he was at a show watching Sly and the Family Stone play. He was instantly both transfixed and amazed by the percussive sound coming from the bass player Larry Graham’s bass guitar. It was like hearing a drum and bass all in one instrument.  Graham is said to have been the first to pioneer this technique, so Nathan was hearing it direct from the source.  At first, he could not even figure out how this sound was being played - it sounded so unlike anything he'd ever heard!

It wasn't until later when he found out what Graham was doing  to create that surprisingly percussive bass sound. Once Nathan did figure out how to incorporate that bass slap though – it was game on.

As an instructor, Nathan East is dedicated to teaching you how to become a complete and well-rounded bassist, and this includes learning how to slap. It is just one of the many lessons in his online bass curriculum however, and his online students can submit questions to him anytime for direct feedback on their playing.

Nathan says he does not use it that frequently, but he likes to incorporate slapping every now and then, depending on the groove of the music. Some bassists make an artistic choice not to ever use slapping and popping. An example of this is the great bass player Anthony Jackson, a friend and influence of Nathan's who does not use slapping. Nevertheless, especially if you are going to play funk, slapping is an essential technique to have in your skill book.

For some great examples of bass players who do incorporate slapping, be sure to check out players like Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten among other bass greats. Listen to some of the tracks they played on to help you hear the slapping technique in the context of a familiar song. 

The technical aspects of the slap is just the thumb striking down on to the string and slapping it, just like it sounds. The left hand is used to mute the resonance and to create a percussive sound.

Releasing and closing the strings in different patterns produces a drum-like sound. As you practice this, experiment with the rhythm to create your own desired pattern.

Next,  the popping part of it can be done by putting your thumb and the index finger together, like pinching, then pulling the fingers off the string. Another option for popping is to get the index finger underneath the string (closer to the instrument). Try to Combine the popping with the slapping and as always, experiment with different rhythmic patterns.

At the end of the bass guitar lesson, you have a chance to try out your own slap routine with the drums as your backing track. Have fun getting your slap on and don’t forget to get funky with it!


Watch Nathan's Free Bass Lessons

Check out more free sample bass lessons from Nathan East by filling out the form and find out more info about his online bass school at

Related Nathan East Blogs:

bass lessons with nathan east



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