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Electric Bass Lesson: An Introduction to Slapping


Since its inception in the 1970s, slap bass and its signature sound have become essential to the aesthetic of a variety of genres ranging from rock to funk, jazz, R&B, country, soul, and more.


The invention of slapping techniques on the electric bass is originally credited to Larry Graham, most notably known as the bassist of funk and soul groups Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station. Larry is said to have pioneered this technique to fill the role and sonic space of a drummer during a time when he was playing in a drummer-less band. The slap of the thumb was said to exist in place of the bass drum while the pop of the index or middle fingers replaced the snare drum.


Traditional slap bass playing couples a percussive thumb-slapping technique of the lower strings with an aggressive finger-snap of the higher strings, often in rhythmic alternation. This combination of slapping and popping creates a thick, low-end thump and a percussive high-end attack resulting in an unmistakably unique harmonic and rhythmic musical foundation.


In this online bass guitar lesson, world-renowned powerhouse of the low-end and legendary bassist for Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and more, Stu Hamm, teaches the basics of slapping, specifically the introductory methods used when slapping with the thumb. Stu provides guidance on how to attack the strings and where to place your hand to achieve the most desirable tone, as well as a handful of exercises to quickly get you thumping with your thumb.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play bass from a master musician like Stu Hamm? Try some free online bass guitar lessons now!


“Slapping is a percussive style of bass playing and is a method that lets you get a totally different, unique sound out of the instrument,” Stu explains. “It’s a technique that I’ve studied, followed, and am a fan of. And, it’s something that I’ve tried to add my own twist to over the years and use in different ways.”


Bassists that are new to slapping tend to apply a lot of force when attacking the string with their thumb. The thinking behind this is often that more force will create a more percussive and thick-sounding tone. However, that is typically not the case.


“As with most techniques, the main thing you want to focus on when slapping is that you’re producing a tone that sounds good,” Stu explains. “When they’re first starting to slap, a lot of players think they should use a really heavy, hard motion. But, it really doesn’t have to be. It should really be a very controlled motion and is preferable that way because it often allows you to produce a truer tone.”


To learn more about basic slap bass techniques and how to implement them into your playing, dive into this online bass guitar lesson from Stu Hamm:


An Introduction to Slapping with Stu Hamm:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play bass guitar? Through our comprehensive bass guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Stu Hamm, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Stu’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner bass guitar to advanced performance techniques, improvisation methods, two-hand tapping, slapping, sliding harmonics, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as bassists and musicians.


Try out some free sample music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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