Slap bass is something that almost every beginner bassist wishes to learn. It is a killer, flashy technique that dates back to the late 1960s. It all started when Larry Graham tried to emulate drum beats on his electric bass. He developed that technique when he was playing with Sly & The Family Stone and they did not have a drummer.
Slap bass entails hitting the string with your thumb while using your pointer and middle finger to pluck (pop) the strings. Larry Graham initially called this technique the Thumpin’ and Pluckin’ technique.
Since then, the slapping technique evolved tremendously. Players like Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller took this technique to the next level. Making it a necessary skill set for every working bass player. In this list, we tried to compile our top 5 slap bass songs of all time. Let’s dive into it!
1. Victor Wooten - U Can't Hold No Groove...
We’re starting our list with a banger. “U Can’t Hold No Groove…” is from Victor’s debut album “Show of Hands” which was released in 1996. When this song was first released, no one played bass like this before. It took the music scene by storm and the slap bass technique to the next level.
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Higher Ground
3. Patrice Rushen - Forget Me Nots
“Forget Me Nots” first appeared in 1982 on Patrice Rushen’s “Straight from the Heart” album, then returned in 1997 when Will Smith sampled the chorus for his Men in Black soundtrack.
Fun fact – When they recorded the Man in Black version, the composers didn’t ask for the right to the song. Patrice later sued and won the case.
4. David Sanborn - Run For Cover
Marcus Miller’s talent on the bass has positioned him as one of the most recognized sounds since Jaco. He was once known as the ‘thumbslinger’ for his cutting edge slap-style. “Run For Cover” first appeared on David Sanborn’s 1981 album called “Voyeur“. This song has since become one of Marcus’s signature songs which displays a mastery of the slap bass technique. Oh, and he was only 22 years old when he recorded this song.
5. Level 42 - Lesson In Love
Since the early 1980’s, Mark King has cemented his name as one of the most inventive and accomplished bassists in the world.
For this iconic Level 42 line, Mark used his distinctive ‘chugging’ slap rhythm. The primary groove is a busy line with a simple harmonic structure that propels the song ahead. Oh, and he sings at the same time too, mind blowing!
Now that you’ve seen our list of the top 5 slap bass grooves of all time, and if you are a bass player, it’s time to add them to your own repertoire. Furthermore, make sure you do a deep dive into all these artists’ discography, lots of good stuff to discover.