Double Thumb: A Lesson in Slap Bass

In this installment of our new bass lesson series, we’re focusing on a slap-based, percussive bass technique widely known as “Double Thumbing” or the “Victor [Wooten] style”.

This technique involves an approach to slap where you hit the string with your thumb and follow through, landing on the next string. So the first note – an open E – would sound clear, while your thumb lands and rests on the A string, which is percussive. Basically, you’re looking to do is almost like grazing the string, as you would in finger-picking, but with more force to produce that slap sound.

Be sure to follow along with the notation (PDF). Here’s a guide to reading it:

  • Td (Thumb down): slap through the string and land on the next string.
  • Tu (Thumb up): with your thumb is resting on one string, pull up to catch the next larger string with your thumb, about mid way through the nail. (If you catch the string this way and pull hard enough then let the string slide off your thumbnail, you will hear a clear resounding note much like a normal slapped note.)
  • P (Pluck): Curve your index finger around a string and pull away from the body of the bass until the string slips out, and creates a strong hard note.
  • H (Hammer on with the left hand): use your left hand to create the attack. This can either be a muted note, or a clear pitch, but all the force of the note comes from the left hand. You should be able to play a “Hammer on” without using your right hand in any way.
Grant Stinnett is a bassist and music educator who teaches through Stinnett Music.

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  1. Nate Dilgard

    Does the gauge string that I use affect the ease of playing this technique? I use.105-.45 and I find it’s hard to get a good clear note when thumbing up.

    • Light gauge strings feel better to me for some styles and techniques, but the string kind or size shouldn’t get in the way of the sound. The trick is to practice until it sounds the way you want, no matter what strings you have. Sometimes the quality of your instrument might hinder the process of achieving the sound you want, but strings are all made so much the same. It’s a matter of personal preference. :)

  2. Jim Lambert

    Light gauge is the best if you like to use a hammer and snap or Thumb technique.I have been using this for about 35 years, and find light gauge the best for this and regular playing as well.If you want it clean that comes from allot of practice on the technique.

  3. Great Thump Study GRANT !! AWESOME !!

  4. Slowing it downs helps, but what would really help is if you could actually explain each right hand pluck with left hand mute step by step while you are playing it. Thanks, this is a great column!

  5. Grant Dude. I know how to do the slap-pop mechanical aspect of the technique. It’s the “How do I apply this to music” that I can’t find anyone telling me. I’ve heard it’s a percussion way of playing.

  6. The secret to a good slap and pop sound is new or clean strings, sorry just saying that for anyone that didn’t realize.

  7. OK, so HOW do you do that! I would like to see the technique that produces the sound. Do the bass tone knobs have to be set in a particular position? I watched the video several times but cannot produce the sound! seems I cannot get a clean pluck with my pinky… where is the best hand position to strike the string with the thumb? I have been playing at least 5 years (self taught) but still cannot do this!