Guest Instructor John Shaugnessy
In this lesson , John talks about the styles of
Louis Johnson, Stanley Clarke and Flea. The overall
lesson focuses on "Thumb Slap" and "String Pop", and
explains the techniques used to perform slap bass,
using specific thumb and wrist movements.
Intro To Slap Bass by John Shaugnessy
"Slap Bass" is a phrase that has many meanings. From
simple deep grooves to flashy pyrotechnics, everyone
has a different idea of what it means to slap. With
this column, I hope to give you some insights into
slap bass and how you can make it work for you.
Lets get started.
The first thing - and I canít stress this enough-is to
PRACTICE WITH A METRONOME!
Slapping is very rhythmic and requires complete connec-
tion with the rest of the rhythm section; good time is
essential. Using a drum machine is okay, but you need
to develop your own "internal clock". If you do use your
drum machine, set it to a simple bass drum pulse.
Slap and pop technique
The first element of slap bass is the right hand slap-and
-pop technique. There are many different ways to do this,
so first I will show the "classic" style used by bassists
like Louis Johnson, Stanley Clarke, and Flea. This is a
1) Thumb Slap - Start with your thumb parallel to the string
you want to strike, just below the body fret. Flick your wrist,
and strike the string using only the side of the thumb, near
the first joint. Turn your wrist back out to let the string
vibrate, and "reload" for the next attack. Flick your wrist
harder on the smaller strings (D and G).
The momentum should come from the wrist; DO NOT push your thumb
into the string.
2) String Pop String popping is the other half of right hand
technique. Start with the edge of the first finger slightly
under the string under the string. Keeping your finger rigid,
turn the wrist out and lift the string up. Keep your fingers
together, and slightly bent, at all times. Donít stick your
fingers underneath the string and grab; just use the side of
your first finger. Always keep your fingers in the same position:
The less movement your hands do, the more fluid your technique
The motion should come entirely from your wrist, not the fingers.
Practice moving back and forth between the two, using the E (or
your lowest string) and G strings. When you can do it comfortably,
move the thumb up to the next highest string, then the next highest,
and so on. Eventually you will be slapping and popping on the same
Now move your "pop" fingers down to the D string and repeat the
On a 4 string bass, the combinations will look like this:
Now, get out your metronome and practice this exercise at a comfor-
table tempo with one click for each note; Do each slap-pop combo 8
times. Gradually increase the tempo as you get better.
Thatís all for now; have fun. Oh, and donít worry about the blisters,
if you practice enough, they will turn into some mighty fine callouses!
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