Slap Bass

Authors: Lenny Stallworth, Anthony Vitti | Course Code: OBASS-234

Popularized by such groups as Sly and the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, and the Brothers Johnson, slap bass lines were an infectious trademark of many 1970s funk hits. Since then, slap bass has become an essential part of playing electric bass; typically used as a phrasing element and a way of getting a different texture and sound. In Slap Bass, you will learn the fundamentals of playing slap (from traditional to advanced modern techniques), and learn to construct your own slap lines over original songs. The course begins with a focus on developing proper right- and left-hand technique, including basic octaves, thumb, popping, pull-offs, and hammer-ons. You will then explore advanced phrasing elements such as slides, double stops and bass line improvisation. The ability to play slap bass is essential to a modern bass player, and this course will show you how to incorporate this important style into your own playing. This course is perfect for existing slap bass players, as well as for developing players. Slap Bass will take you from the very beginning techniques of producing sound and quickly have you playing classic lines that employ those fundamental techniques. You will progress at your own pace and skill level, and be challenged as an individual.

You will also study the bass lines and history of some of the great slap bass players, including Louis Johnson, Larry Graham, Janice Johnson, Aaron Mills, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Alphonso Johnson, Freddie Washington, Doug Wimbush, Nate Phillips, and Victor Wooten. By the end of the course, you will have a solid foundation in traditional slap bass technique, the skills to play the vast majority of classic slap bass lines, and the technique to approach most modern styles of slap bass, including applying them to your own playing.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

apply basic octaves slap technique to your playingapply thumbing technique to your playingapply popping technique to your playingplay pull-offs and hammer-ons effectivelyfurther develop your time and feeldevelop a good slap bass soundincorporate double stops and slides in your playingconstruct original slap bass lines

Lesson 1: Basic Octaves Technique

The Roots of Slap BassBasic Octaves TechniqueRock vs. R&B TechniquePlayer of the Week (Louis Johnson)Phrasing and Feel (Louis Johnson)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 2: Thumb Technique

Focus on the ThumbDeveloping a Practice RoutinePlayer of the Week (Larry Graham)Phrasing and Feel (Larry Graham)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 3: Popping Technique

Focus on PoppingBasses 4,5,6 StringPlayer of the Week (Janice Johnson)Phrasing and Feel (Janice Johnson)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 4: Hammer-ons

Hammer-onsTime and the Role of the Bass PlayerPlayer oftThe Week (Aaron Mills)Phrasing and Feel (Aaron Mills)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 5: Pull-offs

Pull-offsAmps & SpeakersPlayer of the Week (Stanley Clarke)Phrasing and Feel (Stanley Clarke)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 6: Combining Basic Techniques

Combining TechniquesSound—EQPlayer of the Week (Marcus Miller)Phrasing and Feel (Marcus Miller)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 7: Adding Syncopation

Syncopation & Rhythmic DepthEffects—Traditional & ModernPlayer of the Week (Alphonso Johnson)Phrasing and Feel (Alphonso Johnson)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 8: Groove Construction

Groove ConstructionStrings, Straps, & EquipmentPlayer of the Week (Freddie Washington)Phrasing and Feel (Freddie Washington)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 9: Sliding and Phrasing Elements

Sliding & PhrasingStudio vs. Live Sound & PlayingPlayer of the Week (Doug Wimbish)Phrasing and Feel (Doug Wimbish)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 10: Double Stops

Double StopsPlaying Pain & Hand ProblemsPlayer of the Week (Nate Phillips)Phrasing and Feel (Nate Phillips)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 11: Putting It All Together

Combining All TechniquesBuilding ConfidencePlayer of the Week (Victor Wooten)Phrasing and Feel (Victor Wooten)Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 12: Making Your Lines Stand Out

Remember Why We PlayCreating Standout Bass LinesGreat Slap Solos

Lenny Stallworth

Author & Instructor

David "Lenny" Stallworth is an assistant professor at the Berklee College of Music, and teaches in both the Bass and Ensembles department. He is currently touring with jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove and his band, The RH Factor, in addition to jazz saxophonist Kenny Garrett and his quartet. Stallworth also has toured throughout America and Europe as the bassist for the legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker and his funk and soul band (Parker was James Brown sax player). Stallworth has appeared in the Broadway musicals Five Guys Named Moe and Another Saturday Night. He has recorded with many artists in a wide variety of genres since his teenage days touring the Chitlin circuit with his first funk and soul band, The Super Soul Movement, in the 1970s. Today, his greatest inspiration comes from teaching. He has a special ability to motivate and inspire his students while guiding them through their learning process and musical journey.


Anthony Vitti

Author & Instructor

Anthony Vitti balances a successful performing career with a professorship in the Bass Department at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught since 1988. He got his start in the rock club scene in New York City in the early 80s, sharing the stage with classic rock bands like Twisted Sister, TT Quick, and the Good Rats. He went on to study at Berklee College of Music, graduating in 1986.

That set the stage for a busy performing career that has included performances on numerous Broadway shows and many television and radio commercials, as well as performances with a wide variety of artists, including Steve Smith, Gregg Bissonette, Carmine Appice, Zoro, Blues Saracino, Toy Caldwell, Barry Goudreau, Abe Laborial Jr. (Paul McCartney), Jamie Haddad, Giovani Hildalgo, Marcus Miller, Chuck Rainey, Sammy Davis, Jr., Liberace, Nell Carter, Bobby Vinton, Diane Carroll, and many other artists.

Today, he performs with Herb Reed and the Original Platters, the Drifters, the Coasters (as seen on the PBS Doo-Wop specials), and Tomo Fujita and Blue Funk. Vitti is the author of numerous bass instructional books and DVDs.

Student should have the following:

basic ability to read music (notes or TAB)ability to play traditional (finger style) "classic" songs on the instrument (no previous slap experience is necessary)physical capabilities on the instrument and computer to allow them to download and record homeworkability to play their instrument in tunea basic understanding of triads and seventh chord types (major, minor, Maj7, min7, Dom7, etc.)a basic understanding of scales and diatonic modes (major, minor, pentatonic, Dorian, Phrygian, etc.)

None required.

PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherMac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current versionA basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself playing along with a background track and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity or GarageBand.
Windows Vista SP2 or higherIntel Pentium or higher1 GB RAM500 MB hard drive space recommendedSound card
OS X 10.5 or higherIntel Mac1 GB RAM500 MB hard drive space recommended
Electric bassA basic amp chord with a 1/4- to 1/8-inch adapter for recording directly into the computerA printer is recommended, so that you can print out music examples used in the courseSpeakers or headphones for your computerA built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
    $1,449
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
    $1,200 + $25

Fall Term Starts September 29 for Courses and Multi-Course Certificates


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