Bass players may want to add to their repertoire of techniques by learning slap bass. This percussive technique was first designed in the 1920’s, and is still used today in all types of music. Latin, jazz, disco, funk, soul, pop, country, and rockabilly are examples of genres that utilize the distinctive sound in several variations and speeds. Slap bass appears easy at first, but it is deceptively complicated to master. Learning how to play slap bass can be accomplished by taking a slap bass lesson, finding instructions on the internet, or watching demonstration videos online. Beginners may choose a combination of methods to learn the technique properly. Practice is the key, so don’t give up.


It is not essential to learn this technique, but the sound is cool, and it can make players more desirable to local bands. At the very least, players can impress their friends, stand out at amateur night at the club, or use it to get the girl (or guy). The basic technique involves the thumb to produce the slapping component, and the index finger to add the popping part. The middle finger can also be used, if it is more comfortable.

Arm placement has to be perpendicular to the strings. The thumb needs to be at a specific angle in relation to the string that will be slapped. The thumb is meant to hit the bottom of the string slowly. The finger produces the pop, or plunk, by going underneath the string and pulling it from the fret board. The sound is heard when the string returns to its original position. The other strings not being used have to be muted so the sound is not muddled.

The depth of the sound depends on where the strings are engaged on the fret. The speed of the slapping and popping contributes to the sound as well. When first beginning to practice this technique, keep in mind the arm and wrist will be sore, the thumb may blister, and the fingers will shred until calluses can form. Do not give up, because it will not take long for those spots to harden. Just think of it as pain and suffering for the craft and the love of music. Once the technique is learned, speed, style, and rhythm will come quickly. Mastering the awesome slap bass lick can be done on either an acoustic or electric bass guitar, and ordinary or double bass as well.