Six Lessons for Playing Funk Bass – with Dan Hawkins

Dan Hawkins

This is an exclusive lesson for Making Music Magazine

Funk bass places the bassist at the front and center of the music. You need great timing, feel, pocket, and technique to play it well. Here are six video lessons that will get you grooving in no time.

1. Funk Disco Octaves

The octave features a lot in funk music. Here is the most common bass octave pattern.

Most Common Bass Guitar Octave Pattern

This video lesson shows you how to use that pattern along with some ghost notes and finger style to create irresistible funk grooves.

2. The Funkiest 4 Notes Of All Time

Add a 5th and a b7 to the octave pattern above and you have what you could call the Funk Formula. These notes have formed the basis of hundreds of catchy bass lines. It’s incredible how much mileage you can get from this one cool pattern.

The Funk Formula For Bass Players

3. How To Write A Funk Bass Line

So you have a few patterns that work but what about when you want to write a bass line over a chord progression?

This video lesson shows you how. There are two sections. Section one is just over an Am7 chord and section two over GMaj7 to Am7. All is explained in the video below. Be sure to practice along to the downloadable drum beat below.

4. Learn To Use A Plectrum

When it comes to funk, slap is the obvious technique to employ but don’t forget how awesome it can be to use a plectrum. When it comes to plectrum technique, there’s no greater exponent than Bobby Vega.

This video lesson highlights his main techniques.

5. Slap Is Awesome In Funk Music

Slap bass is probably the most common technique associated with the genre. Here are two examples in the style of Les Claypool from Primus and Victor Wooten. These are from my upcoming book 100 Funk Bass Grooves.

Victor Wooten Style Advanced Slap Bass Line

Les Claypool:Primus Style Slap Bass Line

6. The Greatest Funk Bass Line?

We end this lesson with one of my favorite bass lines of all time. Glide by Pleasure ticks all the boxes! Great tone, timing, technique (slap in this case), note choices, and hooks. Download the PDF of the transcription below the video as well as a drum beat to play along to.



Finally, here’s over 12 hours of funk bass heaven to get your ears around. The more you listen, the more you will get this incredible genre into your soul and into your playing.

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Dan Hawkins is a London-based session and live bassist who can be hired for remote bass sessions at He also runs a bass teaching blog:

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