Slap Bass

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Authored by Anthony Vitti, Lenny Stallworth


Course Code: OBASS-234

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Popularized by such groups as Sly & 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. 

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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 playing
  • Apply thumbing technique to your playing
  • Apply popping technique to your playing
  • Play pull-offs and hammer-ons effectively
  • Further develop your time and feel
  • Develop a good slap bass sound
  • Incorporate double stops and slides in your playing
  • Construct original slap bass lines
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Basic Octaves Technique

  • The Roots of Slap Bass
  • Basic Octaves Technique
  • Rock vs. R&B Technique
  • Player of the Week (Louis Johnson)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Louis Johnson)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 2: Thumb Technique

  • Focus on the Thumb
  • Developing a Practice Routine
  • Player of the Week (Larry Graham)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Larry Graham)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 3: Popping Technique

  • Focus on Popping
  • Basses 4,5,6 String
  • Player of the Week (Janice Johnson)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Janice Johnson)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 4: Hammer-ons 

  • Hammer-ons
  • Time and the Role of the Bass Player
  • Player of the Week (Aaron Mills)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Aaron Mills)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 5: Pull-offs 

  • Pull-offs
  • Amps & Speakers
  • Player of the Week (Stanley Clarke)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Stanley Clarke)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 6: Combining Basic Techniques 

  • Combining Techniques
  • Sound—EQ
  • Player of the Week (Marcus Miller)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Marcus Miller)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 7: Adding Syncopation

  • Syncopation & Rhythmic Depth
  • Effects—Traditional & Modern
  • Player of the Week (Alphonso Johnson)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Alphonso Johnson)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 8: Groove Construction

  • Groove Construction
  • Strings, Straps, & Equipment
  • Player of the Week (Freddie Washington)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Freddie Washington)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 9: Sliding and Phrasing Elements

  • Sliding & Phrasing
  • Studio vs. Live Sound & Playing
  • Player of the Week (Doug Wimbish)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Doug Wimbish)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 10: Double Stops

  • Double Stops
  • Playing Pain & Hand Problems
  • Player of the Week (Nate Phillips)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Nate Phillips)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 11: Putting It All Together

  • Combining All Techniques
  • Building Confidence
  • Player of the Week (Victor Wooten)
  • Phrasing and Feel (Victor Wooten)
  • Bass Line and Improvisation

Lesson 12: Making Your Lines Stand Out

  • Remember Why We Play
  • Creating Standout Bass Lines
  • Great Slap Solos


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Bass Performance 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. 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 homework
  • Ability to play their instrument in tune
  • Basic understanding of triads and seventh chord types (major, minor, Maj7, min7, Dom7, etc.)
  • Basic understanding of scales and diatonic modes (major, minor, pentatonic, Dorian, Phrygian, etc.)


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Electric bass


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Instrument connected directly to audio interface (recommended option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Instrument cable
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need additional instrument or XLR cables and a microphone stand.
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


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.

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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. Read Less

Lenny Stallworth


David "Lenny" Stallworth (1946-2017) was an assistant professor at the Berklee College of Music in both the Bass and Ensembles departments. Stallworth toured throughout America and Europe as the bassist for the legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker (James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic). Stallworth appeared in the Broadway musicals Five Guys Named Moe and Another Saturday Night. He 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. Stallworth will be remembered for having special ability to motivate and inspire his students while guiding them through their learning process and musical journey.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Slap Bass can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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