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The art of Slap Bass originated in the 50's and 60's with the introduction of funk, which was inspired out of Jazz. One very important invention was the electric guitar, and the man who invented it was Leo Fender (of Fender Guitars fame). Out of his electric guitar he also created the first Bass guitar, called the Precision Bass. Because of the invention of the guitar, Slap Bass was also introduced, as the style was nearly impossible to perform on a traditional upright bass.
Since the days of Stanley Clarke and Bootsy, slap bass has evolved much in the past 30-40 years. Innovators like Les Claypool, known for his bizarre style and outlandish music in the band Primus, as well as Victor Wooten and Bill Dickens, who both, in their own ways, have introduced new techniques within the traditional thumb style.
Other, more well known performers, such as Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), P-Nut (311), and Dirk Lance (Formerly of Incubus), have inspired tens of thousands of new musicians to experiment with this percussive style of bass playing. While somewhat frowned upon by the previous generations traditionalists, slap bass has become quite an important part of todays modern styles.