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I have in some videos people wear a big plastic thumb when they slap.

What is the purpose of that?

Here is an examplewhere Buckethead uses it:

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

This is not a common thing. Members of the TalkBass forum discuss it as a novelty.

It appears to be a variant of the "Funk Fingers", which is a pair of short drumsticks attached to the first two fingers. It was invented by Tony Levin, while working with Peter Gabriel, as a way to get funky percussive sounds out of a bass.

Tony Levin's Funk Fingers can be purchased here.

There are stories going back to the big band and the rockabilly eras of an upright bass player working together with a drummer, where the bass player would finger notes on the fingerboard while the drummer would rapidly beat on the bass strings with a drumstick in each hand to produce a percussive sound. Funk Fingers was a solution that enabled an electric bass guitarist to get a similar sound all by himself.

Buckethead seems to have innovated here, creating something which (in his hands at least) provides extra reach, extra bounce, and the ability to slap harder and faster without pain or injury.

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I added some details to Slim's post. – user1044 Oct 29 '13 at 16:49

Agreed with the first answer, except that Funk Fingers are indeed in production here. Just bought a pair myself.

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Thanks, I'll modify the answer above. – user1044 Oct 30 '13 at 15:57

I believe the item you are referring to is a thick rubber finger cover (not plastic) designed for such purposes as being used by bank tellers to protect the fingers while counting large amounts of paper money. The purpose, for a bass player who slaps, is to prevent or reduce blisters or bleeding on the thumb. I don't believe it adds anything to the sound.

Here is an example of a set you can purchase on Does this look similar to what you are describing?

enter image description here

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