Funk Bass Techniques Every Beginner MUST Know

Funk Bass Techniques Every Beginner MUST Know

Funk music is a great place to start with playing bass. It sits very prominently in the mix, allowing bass players to experiment and use slap and pop techniques to express themselves. By using bassists like Marcus Miller, Les Claypool, Bootsy Collins, Flea, and other funky players as an example, Stu Hamm will get you up to speed in this genre with his TrueFire course, Funk Bass for Beginners.

In these free lessons taken from the course, Stu will take you through a few of the techniques needed, including syncopation, double stops, and using the fingers to play funk. Let’s take a look:

Syncopation – Demonstration

One of the biggest things to understand about funk bass lines is that they are often syncopated like the pattern that a drummer plays. One of the things that I found helpful early on in my funk journey was looking at drum patterns in any kind of instructional charts I could find. I would try to replicate the sound of the kick drum with my thumb and the snap of the snare with a pop. We’ll get to popping later in the course, but for now you want to start thinking of your thumb like a kick drum. Listen to some of your favorite records and try to imitate the kick drum pattern the drummer is playing with your thumb.

Syncopated Thumb Workout – Practice Session: Demo

Ok, it’s time to work on an exercise together to get this technique happening. In this video I’ll be giving you a quick demo of how it works. Pay attention and take your time here. It’s critically important that you don’t rush these things. Make sure you’re comfortable with the mechanics here before you even move on to the practice session. As soon as you’re ready, come join me in the next lesson.

Double Stops – Demonstration

Double stops are when you play two notes at one time. They are tricky to pull off as you have to fret two notes, sometimes with one finger and sometimes with two. Double stops are used in some of the most popular funky bass lines around. In this example I’ll show you how to play a minor third, much like what Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea plays on the song “Give it Away”.

Slide & Double Stop Workout – Practice Session: Demo

Ok, it’s time to work on an exercise together to get this technique happening. In this video I’ll be giving you a quick demo of how it works. Pay attention and take your time here. It’s critically important that you don’t rush these things. Make sure you’re comfortable with the mechanics here before you even move on to the practice session. As soon as you’re ready, come join me in the next lesson.

Slide & Double Stop Workout – Playalong: Slow

Download the tab and notation for this funk bass lesson on TrueFire.

Now let’s play that exercise together with the click. We’ll take it at an easy tempo here so you can really focus on getting the technique down and making sure you sound good. Listen to the metronome and try to divide your focus between trying to nail the timing and getting a great sound out of the strings. Take your time here and repeat the exercise as many times as it takes to be able to nail this exercise — even if you have to put the bass down and come back to it in your next session. Don’t move on until you have this down. See you in the next lesson.

Slide & Double Stop Workout – Playalong: Fast

Download the tab and notation for this funk bass lesson on TrueFire.

Alright, let’s play through that exercise together with the click again. This time we’ll bump up the tempo a bit, but you’ll still really need to focus on getting the technique together and making sure you sound good. Listen to the metronome and try to divide your focus between trying to nail the timing and getting a great sound out of the strings. Take your time here and repeat the exercise as many times as it takes to be able to nail this exercise. If you’re having trouble getting at this tempo, stop and move back to the slower tempo before coming back to this one. You’ll make slower progress if you skip ahead to quick and don’t take the time to make sure you’re developing a solid technique, getting good tone, and playing in time. Don’t move on until you have this down. See you in the next lesson.

Funky Finger Jam – Demonstration

In this lesson I’ll show you how to combine some of the techniques we’ve been working on to play another funky groove, this time focusing on that funky finger approach. I’ll walk you through the pattern nice and slow, but we will be applying some of the stuff we worked on to a new groove with some new target notes. Let’s give it a try and be sure that you can nail the pattern before moving on to the practice session. See you there!

Funky Finger Jam – Playalong: Slow

Download the tab and notation for this funk bass lesson on TrueFire.

Now let’s play that exercise together with the click. We’ll take it at an easy tempo here so you can really focus on getting the technique down and making sure you sound good. Listen to the metronome and try to divide your focus between trying to nail the timing and getting a great sound out of the strings. Take your time here and repeat the exercise as many times as it takes to be able to nail this exercise — even if you have to put the bass down and come back to it in your next session. Don’t move on until you have this down. See you in the next lesson.

Funky Finger Jam – Playalong: Fast

Download the tab and notation for this funk bass lesson on TrueFire.

Alright, let’s play through that exercise together with the click again. This time we’ll bump up the tempo a bit, but you’ll still really need to focus on getting the technique together and making sure you sound good. Listen to the metronome and try to divide your focus between trying to nail the timing and getting a great sound out of the strings. Take your time here and repeat the exercise as many times as it takes to be able to nail this exercise. If you’re having trouble getting at this tempo, stop and move back to the slower tempo before coming back to this one. You’ll make slower progress if you skip ahead to quick and don’t take the time to make sure you’re developing a solid technique, getting good tone, and playing in time. Don’t move on until you have this down. See you in the next lesson.

Funky Finger Jam – Playalong: With the Band

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this funk bass lesson on TrueFire.

Let’s jam that exercise again and this time, we’re bringing in the band. As always, work on getting the technique down and making sure you sound good. Listen to the groove and try to divide your focus between trying to nail the timing and getting a great sound out of the strings. Take your time here and repeat the exercise as many times as it takes to be able to nail this exercise. Don’t move on until you have it down. See you in the next lesson.


There’s much more to be had in the full version of the course on TrueFire. You’ll be able to get your funk playing rock solid with many more techniques and a slow and fast playalong to go with each, as well as several opportunities to apply the lesson with a backing band. Check it out now!