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Who Are the Masters of Funk Bass? Exploring Groove and Rhythm

Funk Bass Guitarists

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In this article, I will explore the world of funk bass guitarists and highlight some of the masters of this groovy genre. From iconic musicians like Louis Johnson to Larry Graham and more, these bassists have contributed to the infectious bass lines that make you move. Join me as we delve into their techniques, styles, and impact on the world of funk bass.

Louis Johnson – The Thunder Thumbs

Louis Johnson, also known as “Thunder Thumbs,” is a legendary funk bass guitarist. His unique style and incredible technique have made him one of the most influential bassists in the history of funk music. Known for his lightning-fast fingerstyle playing and powerful slapping technique, Johnson’s bass lines have left an indelible mark on countless songs and albums.

Johnson’s prowess on the bass guitar can be attributed to his distinctive approach and years of experience. He is renowned for his ability to create complex and intricate grooves while maintaining a solid foundation for the rhythm section. His mastery of thumb technique, where he plucks the strings with his thumb, earned him the nickname “Thunder Thumbs.”

His contributions to funk music are not only limited to his iconic bass lines. Johnson has also been a sought-after studio musician, lending his skills to numerous recording sessions for artists such as Michael Jackson, George Benson, and Quincy Jones. His bass playing can be heard on hits like “Billie Jean” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” solidifying his status as a key figure in funk and popular music.

Star Licks Instructional Videos

In addition to his impressive discography, Johnson has also shared his knowledge and techniques through instructional videos. One of the most well-known resources is the Star Licks series, where he breaks down his playing style and provides invaluable insight into funk bass techniques. Now, fans and aspiring bassists can benefit from these videos in book format with online access.

The Star Licks book offers over an hour and a half of instruction from Louis Johnson himself. It covers a wide range of topics, including thumping basics, slap and pop style, slides, octaves, and more. Each example played in the videos is transcribed in the book, making it an essential tool for bass enthusiasts looking to learn from the master.

“Louis Johnson’s Thunder Thumbs technique revolutionized funk bass playing. His instructional videos are a treasure trove of knowledge for anyone looking to master the art of funk bass.” – Bass Magazine

Selected Discography

Album Artist Year
Off the Wall Michael Jackson 1979
Triumph The Jacksons 1980
Thriller Michael Jackson 1982
Bad Michael Jackson 1987

Throughout his career, Louis Johnson’s thunderous bass lines have graced countless recordings. Here are just a few notable albums where his exceptional bass playing can be heard:

  • Off the Wall (1979) – Michael Jackson
  • Triumph (1980) – The Jacksons
  • Thriller (1982) – Michael Jackson
  • Bad (1987) – Michael Jackson

These albums showcase Johnson’s ability to inject infectious grooves and irresistible rhythm into popular music.

Larry Graham – The Slap Bass Giant

When it comes to slap bass, Larry Graham is undeniably a legend in his own right. His innovative techniques and infectious grooves have made him widely regarded as the master of this unique style. With his intensive bass work, he showcases his skills and performs alongside special guests such as Sly & the Family Stone’s original drummer, Greg Errico. Known for his distinctive “thump and pluck” technique, Graham’s slap bass style is a force to be reckoned with.

If you’re an aspiring bassist or a fan of the funk genre, learning from Larry Graham is a must. His tutorial offers an in-depth look into his techniques and style, providing valuable insights for both beginners and advanced players. From his impeccable rhythm to his intricate fingerstyle playing, Graham’s funk bass attack is one that every bassist should strive to learn.

Mastering the Slap Bass Technique

The slap bass technique, popularized by Larry Graham, involves slapping the strings with the thumb and popping them with the fingers to create a percussive sound. It adds a unique rhythm and groove to the bassline, giving it an undeniable funky edge. To master this technique, it’s important to focus on precision, timing, and coordination between your thumb and fingers.

“The slap bass technique allows you to add a new dimension to your playing. It’s all about finding that perfect balance between power and finesse, and creating a groove that makes people move.”

Here are some key tips to help you get started with slap bass:

  • Start with a relaxed hand position and practice hitting the strings with your thumb, creating a percussive “thump” sound.
  • Follow up the thumb slap by quickly popping the strings with your index and middle fingers, producing a crisp “pop” sound.
  • Focus on keeping a steady rhythm and groove, emphasizing the upbeat and downbeat of each note.
  • Experiment with different techniques, such as ghost notes, muted strings, and slides, to add variation and dynamics to your playing.

With practice and dedication, you’ll be able to unleash your inner funk maestro and create killer slap bass lines just like Larry Graham.

Larry Graham performing

Larry Graham’s Essential Slap Bass Techniques Benefits
Thumb Slap Creates a percussive “thump” sound that adds groove and rhythm to the bassline.
Finger Popping Produces a crisp “pop” sound that complements the thumping bassline and adds melodic elements.
Ghost Notes Utilizes muted strings to create subtle percussive sounds, enhancing the overall groove of the bassline.
Slides Introduces smooth glides between notes, adding fluidity and expression to the bassline.
Muted Strings Provides a percussive effect by muting the strings with the fretting hand while slapping and popping.

Funk Bass Grooves – Influential Bass Players

The world of funk bass is filled with influential players who have laid down some of the most iconic grooves. Bassists like Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham, Bernard Edwards, Mark Adams, and countless others have shaped the sound of funk and left an indelible mark on the genre.

One invaluable resource for aspiring funk bassists is Dan Hawkins’ book, “100 Funk Grooves for Electric Bass.” This comprehensive guide provides a roadmap to mastering the essential skills of funk bass groove. The book covers a wide range of techniques, including:

  • Scales
  • Syncopation
  • Playing fast and accurately
  • Hammer-ons and pull-offs
  • Slapping, popping, and tapping

In addition to the techniques, the book also profiles iconic players and their gear, giving readers a glimpse into the sounds and setups that have defined funk bass. But what sets this book apart is the inclusion of studio quality audio examples and bonus videos. These resources provide a complete learning experience, enabling bassists to not only learn the grooves but also hear and see them in action.

Mastering funk bass grooves is an ongoing journey, and the influence of these legendary bass players cannot be overstated. By studying their techniques and incorporating their grooves into your playing, you’ll not only deepen your understanding and appreciation of funk bass but also develop your own unique style in the process.

Bassist Notable Grooves
Bootsy Collins “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” “Flash Light”
Larry Graham “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” “One in a Million You”
Bernard Edwards “Good Times,” “Le Freak”
Mark Adams “Word Up!,” “She’s Strange”

Conclusion

Funk bass guitarists are the unsung heroes of the music world, laying down infectious bass lines that make you move. From Louis Johnson’s Thunder Thumbs to Larry Graham’s epic slap bass, these masters of funk bass have left an indelible mark on the genre.

Whether you’re an aspiring bassist or a fan of funk, exploring the techniques and styles of these bassists will enhance your understanding and appreciation of this groovy genre. Dive into their music, learn from their techniques, and let the funk bass take you on a musical journey like no other.

So get your groove on, unleash your inner funk, and join the ranks of those who have mastered the art of funk bass. Your bass playing will never be the same again, as you tap into the rhythm and energy that define the masters of funk bass.

FAQ

Who are the masters of funk bass?

The masters of funk bass include Louis Johnson, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Bernard Edwards, Mark Adams, and more. These influential bassists have shaped the sound and groove of funk music.

What can you tell me about Louis Johnson?

Louis Johnson, also known as “Thunder Thumbs,” is a legendary funk bass guitarist. He has released instructional videos, now available in book format with online access, covering a range of techniques and styles, including thumping basics, slap and pop style, slides, octaves, and more.

What is Larry Graham known for?

Larry Graham is widely regarded as the master of slap bass. He showcases his skills and performs with special guests in his intensive bass work. His tutorial offers an in-depth look into his techniques and style.

Who are some influential funk bass players?

Some influential funk bass players include Bootsy Collins, Bernard Edwards, Mark Adams, and more. These bassists have made significant contributions to the genre with their grooves and styles.

Are there any resources available to learn funk bass grooves?

Yes, Dan Hawkins’ book, “100 Funk Grooves for Electric Bass,” is a comprehensive guide to mastering the essential skills of funk bass groove. The book covers techniques such as scales, syncopation, playing fast and accurate, hammer-ons and pull-offs, slapping, popping, and tapping, along with profiles of iconic players and their gear.

How have funk bass guitarists influenced the genre?

Funk bass guitarists have left an indelible mark on the genre by laying down infectious bass lines that make you move. Their techniques and styles have shaped the sound of funk and enhanced the understanding and appreciation of this groovy genre.

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