Bass Playing Styles
Major bass playing styles - slap, tap, finger and pick
So you play bass guitar. Well, are you a slapper? Or a tapper? Do you play with your fingers? Or do you pick with your pleccie?
Whether it is slap bass, tapping, fingerstyle or plectrum playing, let me know your favorite bass style.
This lens showcases some of the world's most renowned bass players, from Larry Graham, the inventor of electric slap bass, to Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Look out for Mark King, Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten, also, each geniuses in their own right!
So, what are these bass playing styles?
Playing Electric Bass
Knowing which notes to play!
This page is all about styles of playing electric bass, and for slap bass it is better to use a bass with frets. I'm not going to tell you which notes to play, but you'll find with your own practice and experience that certain styles tend to favor common note patterns.
For example, in the slap style, it is very useful to thumb a note and then 'pop' the octave of that note - extremely popular and produces a great effect. A lot of the very mellow tapping stylists play close to the body of the bass - the high notes - which is also a wonderfully melodic way of playing.
Whatever style - or styles - you employ on bass, your starting points are the scales and common chords. If you know your way around these, you'll be able to add musical interest to your basslines, and of course, play notes that fit nicely with what everyone else in your band is playing!
So good luck in exploring the bass styles and I hope you find your style.
also known as 'thumpin and pluckin'
Slap Bass Tips & Tricks For Beginners - Learn The Techniques The Pros Use
This book describes in detail how to perform the slap bass technique. It covers everything from right thumb slapping, the left hand and right thumb mute slap, and popping, all the way through to more advanced techniques, such as Mark King style machine gun triplets, double pop triplets and the funk peel off.
First things first. This book was written by me! It is seriously cheap at the moment, because I felt it was important to get the techniques out there in their rawest form. I didn't pay for expensive musical notation software, or for some photographer to come in and take professional photos of my fat thumb and fingers doing the techniques. And so you don't pay stupid money for the booklet either. It's a little over a dollar - though the price will vary according to where you are and sales taxes etc.
So I'm giving you fair warning that you ain't going to get pretty pictures and sophisticated diagrams - the book just tells you to strap on your bass, then read the pages and do exactly what the instructions say. Then it's all down to you dudes. Practise 'til your slapping thumb and popping fingers are nice and hard and callused!
Oh, and if you buy it and it's helpful, feel free to leave me a review on Amazon. Thanks Slapmeisters!
The father of funky slap bass
Slap bass is generally characterised by striking the strings with the thumb of the right hand, using the left hand to fret notes, hammer on, or add percussive muted slaps. The fingers of the right hand are used for 'popping' or 'snapping' usually the D and G strings against the fretboard.
Slap bass is a very percussive style. It's invention (on electric bass) has been credited to Larry Graham, of funk bands Sly & the Family Stone, and Graham Central Station, allegedly improvising on an occasion when their band was left without a drummer! Larry Graham refers to the technique as "thumpin' and pluckin'".
Hear Larry's Slap - Larry Graham and Graham Central Station
Slap bass courtesy of Mark King of Level 42 - Example of slap bass
Influences - Mark King
And here's a really interesting slap bass tutorial
The techniques on this are amazingly difficult to get a grip on!
Other bassists who slap
In addition to Larry Graham and Mark King, other bassists known for using the slap style include: Stanley Clarke, Bootsy Collins, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Louis Johnson, Stu Hamm, Les Claypool and Flea.
Some other great examples of the style
Here are some other great examples of slap bass players doing their thing!
Slap Bass links
- Level 42
More information about Mark King & Level 42.
- Slap bass on Wiki
Contains an excellent list of bass players known for their use of the slap technique.
- Slap It!
Tony Oppenheim's 'Slap it!' website, with audio samples & musical notation with tab.
A great site with some cool clips of Gary Denyer's own compositions and his take on some Level 42 basslines.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
Featuring Flea, who uses an aggressive rock version of slap.
- The Basics of Slap Bass
An article about the basic methods of playing slap bass.
- Advanced Slap Bass Techniques
The follow-up article from 'Basics of Slap Bass' covering special slap techniques from double popping and double thumbing, to the fast left-hand slap triplets and more.
Slap bass books - Learn to slap bass yourself
Tapping on Bass
Tapping on the bass produces a very mellow and melodic sound. The notes are not plucked in the conventional sense, but result from hammering on with both left and right hands on the fretboard.
Examples of the Tapping technique
Tapping on bass courtesy of Victor Wooten.
Tapping bass stuff
Fingerstyle is one of the most common ways of playing bass, and is pretty self-explanatory. The notes are played by plucking with the fingers of the right hand.
Examples of Fingerstyle playing
Fingerstyle bass courtesy of Stanley Clarke.
And here's a nice piece of fingerstyle funk where you can actually see clearly what's going on.
The fingerstyle of jazz & blues
A commonly employed version of fingerstyle play is called walking bass. It's usually associated with jazz and blues, but can be found in other styles of music.
Unlike a lot of slap bass, especially that used in the funk style, walking bass is usually unsyncopated, and consists of quarter-notes (or four-feel in jazz terminology).
The sound of a walking bassline is generally ever-changing rather than a simple riff following chord progression. The walking line can use scale tones, arpeggios and passing tones, and provides an undulating melody that rises and falls in tone over several bars.
Here's a nice example of jazz walking bass.
Fingerstyle bass stuff
Playing with a Pick (Plectrum)
Using a pick or plectrum
Pickplaying involves the use - obviously - of a pick (or plectrum) and is used commonly in the punk and rock styles.
Playing with a pick demonstrated by Phil Havella.