Worship Musician September 2018 | Page 96

One of the most wonderful things about the electric bass guitar is that - relative to other instruments like drums , 6-string guitars and keyboards - it ’ s quite simple to be good enough to be useful . You don ’ t have to spend long with a bass guitar before you ’ re ready to be in the band !
Sure , it takes as much practice , perseverance and talent as any other instrument to acquire outstanding ability , but that higher level is not necessary to fill the bass needs for a lot of music - especially today ’ s most popular Church music .
It ’ s true that lot of bass players in church bands have limited technical ability . Especially in the ( mainly ) volunteer / amateur bands of smaller and medium-sized churches , the bassist is often someone who ’ s jumped ( or been thrown ) into the position with very little background on the instrument . A warm body who ’ s willing to have this lump of wood hanging over their shoulder and shows up !
The band leader ’ s wife or girlfriend has been asked to play bass on more than one occasion . Someone who played cello in high school might find themselves as a Church bassist . A team with three guitarists might ask two of them to sub out and share the bass playing role . In many cases , they do a wonderful job - bringing just what is needed . In some ways , their lack of expertise can actually be an advantage .
NOTE : A 6 string guitarist who gets asked to play bass is not a failed guitarist . In my opinion , guitar to bass is actually a promotion .
For a lot of today ’ s Church music , the basslevel technical requirements are quite low . Thankfully , the base can be covered with very little strain : One note at a time . Not very many notes are used . Changes are usually conventional and predictable . All the notes can be within one octave .
However , as I travel to train Church music teams I often encounter bassists who are neglecting some of the bass-ic essentials of their role . Instead of serving the song and building foundational groove with the drums , they are branching out into not-always-helpful pursuits - playing faster , higher , and frankly too many notes . As a result , groove is compromised and mistakes are frequent .
While I celebrate and encourage bassists ( and any other instrumentalist ) to work at their craft and increase their abilities , during a Church service is not the time for that . Playing a moredifficult-to-execute lick must never be more important than the song . More notes and harder-to-play parts are not necessarily better . So , bassists ( and the musical directors who guide them ), let ’ s focus on these things first :
PLATFORM POSITION Make sure you ’ re on the platform right next to the drummer . The musical connection between drums and bass is imperative to the success of the song . Proximity can help a lot .
1 + 1 = 1 Watch and listen to the drums intently . Play your bass as one half of the drum-and-bass whole . Work at and maintain a great musical relationship with the drummer . Lock your playing together with solid groove . Find and stick to simple , repetitive beats where bass guitar and the kick drum land together .
IMPROVE YOUR INTERNAL METRONOME Does your band play with a metronome ? If so , lean on it . Learn from it . But relax . Don ’ t have it too soft , nor too loud in your monitor mix . If your band does not play with a metronome , practice with one . Better yet , practice playing with your drummer and a metronome . Reduce your band ’ s timing tug-of-war .
TUNING I asked a young out-of-tune Church bassist if he ’ d checked his tuning . He told me he had . I asked him when and , in all sincerity he answered , “ Yesterday ”. A bass , like any other stringed instrument , needs to be tuned often . At least before each time you play . That includes between rehearsal and the service . You must own and use an electronic clip-on , or a pedal tuner .
TONE The bass is called a bass for a reason . Together with the kick drum , it ’ s supposed to be the dependable constant of lower frequencies in our band ’ s overall sound . Make sure your tone is low , warm and round . Not spiky . Resist the temptation to grapple with the “ sonic space ” of guitars and other mid-range and treble instruments . Own your low !
I will always prefer a band with a beginner bassist who is prepared to serve with solid , simple , reliable groove over someone who might be technically and musically more capable , yet they play at the limits of their ability . The second bassist will invariable tumble into mistakes and a lack of groove .
More than that , a congregation will be more warmly invited to sing worshipfully to God when the bass is solid and simple . And it ’ s from within this supporting role that a higher joy is to be found .
Want more ? Check out this bass and drums instructional video for the song “ Lion and The Lamb ”.
Grant Norsworthy Grant Norsworthy is founder of More Than Music Mentor , providing online and onsite training for the heart and the art of worshipping musicians .
96 September 2018 WorshipMusician . com