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Slap Bass Guitar Lesson: Popping & Pull-Offs


Slap bass is a dynamic and percussive technique predominantly used in funk, jazz, and rock music genres. It involves striking the strings of a bass guitar with the thumb in a downward motion, followed by a popping or snapping of the strings against the fretboard with the fingers. This creates a distinct and rhythmic sound characterized by its sharp attack and pronounced articulation.


Slap bass players often incorporate techniques such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, and ghost notes to add complexity and groove to their playing. The technique gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly through the work of bassists like Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, and Flea, and continues to be a hallmark of energetic and funk-driven basslines in contemporary music.


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, outlines his approach to integrating pull-offs into the popping technique of his slap bass playing. In addition to detailing his unique methods, Stu provides a handful of exercises using the E minor pentatonic scale so that you can quickly begin employing pull-offs in your slapping and popping.


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


“Up to this point, we’ve taken a look at integrating hammer-on methods into our slap playing,” Stu explains. “In this lesson, we’re taking a deep dive into a technique that’s simultaneously similar and almost the opposite—incorporating pull-offs into our popping.”


What is popping in slap bass playing?

Popping is a fundamental component of slap bass technique, where the player plucks or pulls a string away from the fretboard, causing it to vibrate and produce a sharp, percussive sound. This technique is achieved by using the fingertips or fingernails of the plucking hand to strike the string in an upward motion, creating a distinct "pop" sound. Popping is often combined with slapping—a downward striking motion with the thumb—to create rhythmic patterns and accents in basslines.


Developed alongside slap bass in funk music during the 1970s, popping adds groove and funkiness to basslines, and is commonly associated with bassists like Larry Graham, Louis Johnson, and Bootsy Collins. Mastering the popping technique requires precision, timing, and coordination between the plucking hand and the fretting hand to achieve crisp and articulate notes.


“Pentatonic runs are great for incorporating pull-offs into our popping,” explains Stu. “These runs feature a series of whole steps, making them symmetrical and perfect for performing the pull-off movement when popping.”


To learn more about slap bass and how to begin integrating the index and middle fingers into your popping and pull-off techniques, dive into this online bass guitar lesson from Stu Hamm:


Popping & Pull-Offs 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.


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



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