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Slap Bass Lesson: An Introduction to Popping


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.


A Brief History of Slap Bass:

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.


What is Slap Bass?

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, outlines his approach to integrating the index and middle fingers into his slap bass playing to create the iconic popping sound we all know and love.


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!


“Slapping and popping should both be really easy motions,” Stu explains. “These techniques don’t require overly exaggerated physical movements. And, when you start increasing your speed and playing more quickly, you’ll want these motions to be as streamlined as possible.”


In addition to detailing the limited and relaxed motion that should be employed when slapping, Stu also illustrates how your index and middle fingers should be making contact with the strings, how to pop the high D and G strings without injuring yourself, where to attack the strings with your plucking hand as a whole when slapping, and how your bass should be set up to best facilitate slapping.


“I set my basses up so that the strings are exactly the right height off the body of the bass between the pickup and the fretboard,” explains Stu. “I need just enough room to be able to get my index and middle fingers underneath the strings to pop them.”


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


An Introduction to Popping 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!



Electric Bass Lesson: Creating Harmonic Chords with Stu Hamm

Bass Guitar Lesson: An Introduction to 5-String Bass with Nathan East

Electric Bass Lesson: Arpeggios for Common Chords Found in Jazz with John Patitucci




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