The Art and Science of Slap Bass

by Dave Gagnon

Let me start off by saying that there are a lot of different ways to execute the slap bass technique successfully. Every person has a unique slap style. My goal in writing this is to help you find your own success. It really doesn't have to be done any certain way. I do encourage you, however, to find your own style through studying, experimenting, listening, and having fun with it!

In the exercises below the "T" located underneath the note means to slap using your thumb. The "P" means to pluck the note using your index finger.

If you are new to the slapping style or want a little bit more instruction about how to slap the bass have a close look at the two lists below.



Slapping Techniques:

  1. Start by resting your forearm on the body of the bass. You probably already do this naturally when you are in rest position with the bass.

  2. Twist the forearm so that the thumb is temporarily pointing away from the bass and then twist back and strike the E-String. You can also flick your wrist slightly. That is a basic slap. For more energetic slaps you can also move your arm at the elbow and shoulder as well.

  3. Don't worry about the fingers for now just let them relax.

  4. Sometimes when slapping more aggressively the forearm may loose contact with the bass. That's okay. You don't want to become too stiff with this style.


Plucking Techniques:
  1. Curl your index finger about halfway and place it underneath the G-String.

  2. Keep the finger somewhat stiff while you twist your forearm and flick your wrist away from the string. If you were afraid that the string might break that was probably a pluck. Be careful, now you know just enough to be dangerous!

  3. Take note that the forearm and wrist movements for plucking are opposite of the movements for slapping.

Now lets get started! Below is a simple exercise designed to get you playing slap bass immediately. If you need to, play the exercise with your fingers or a pick first. Then when you're ready, add your thumb and pluck to the mix!



Next, let's have a look at the slap bass technique applied over a twelve bar blues context.






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