Slap Bass – An introduction

If you are a fan of bass players like Flea, Marcus Miller, Les Claypool and Mark King but haven’t yet got to grips with the basics of slap bass then this lesson will point you in the right direction.

Like other musical skills slap bass can be broken down into a series of moves that should be learnt, played and rearranged in order to produce a pleasing effect for the player and listener.

The first step in this journey is to get used to slapping the string with the thumb (Symbol S) and popping the string (Symbol P) with one of the plucking hand fingers. The index or middle fingers seem to be the most commonly used however others can be incorporated.

The goal in both slap and pop is to get the string to make contact with the fret before sounding its note.

When using the thumb for slap there are 2 main approaches used – one is where the thumb hits the string and remains hovering over it after the slap and the other is where the thumb strikes thru the string and comes to rest on a higher string like a sort of reverse rest stroke.

The pop actually pulls the string away from the finger board until it snaps back and hits the fret before ringing out, this could be seen as similar to an archer pulling the bow back and then releasing it.

One tip to keep in mind is to work on having your hand in a position where when you slap your popping finger is automatically underneath the string you wish to pop.

When slapping and popping remember that there should only be 2 moves slap and pop,  not slap – reposition for the pop – pop – reposition for the slap – slap etc .

The first 5 exercises should be played with muted notes and this is achieved by laying not pressing the fingers across all the strings so that no pitches are heard but rather a percussive click.

Once these are mastered then you should move on to the original bassline, pay attention to the last two 16th notes and ensure you use a hammer on.

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Original Bassline








Once you can play the above original baseline you can begin going through variations 1 – 7.

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Variation 2

Variation 3

Variation 4

Variation 5

Variation 6

Variation 7









Once you are comfortable with variations 1-7  you should begin adding your own variations and begin constructing your own bass lines.

Below is an example of the variation 7 applied to a Em7 – A7 vamp.










All the best and check back soon for more free lessons.





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