Worship Band - The Bass Player's Job

Adapted from a clinic taught by Jerry Tyson.  jerrytyson@earthlink.net

  • The Bass is the musical foundation of every chord played
    • The function of the bass is to lay the foundation for everything that is happening in the band
    • It is extremely important that the bass player be aware of what is going on. This includes song forms, stops and starts and groove.
  • The Bassist must have good time and good feel
    • A metronome or drum machine is a necessary tool to use to help internalize one's time feel
    • The bass and the kick drum are a unit
    • To make a band feel good the drums and bass must lock in with each other's time. 
    • A good way to achieve this is to have common time feels. An excellent way to get that is to practice with a drum machine.
  • A Bassist must be in tune and groove
    • Always, always use a tuner to correct intonation. Strings change during a performance.
    • Groove means that the rhythm of the music makes the audience want to tap their foot or clap their hands
    • Know what groove to play on certain styles.
  • A Bassist must have good tone
    • Use compression when slapping
    • Equalize your tone with more mids and highs than you think you might need so it will cut through the band and a center of pitch can be established
  • Good technique is essential for good time and endurance
    • Bad technique can wear a bassist out and when he begins to get tired the time will begin to slow down
    • Technique can make a difference in one's time and groove. Bad technique can make something that is reletively easy to play become difficult.
    • Taking a lesson now and again can fix these problems and steer one in the right direction.
  • Good visual communication is key to a bass player's success
    • If the bassist is not aware of his surroundings, he may miss a cut off or a great musical moment. This can be disastrous.
    • Be where you and the drummer can visually communicate. This is very important on beginnings and endings of songs, as well as periodically throughout the song in establishing feel and in working together as a team. 
    • Don't bury your head or stare off into space, watch the Worship Leader for instruction and cues 
  • Play simple
    • Complex rhythms are almost always a combination of many elements, not just one
    • Complex rhythms require a team to make them work
    • There is nothing better than a big fat root on any chord. Its how you play the root that determines the groove.
    • Know the notes on your neck. Read the chord changes and just play the bottom note of the chord.
  • The Worship Leader has the final say
    • In some cases, the instrumentalists may have more musical experience than the person up front. Learn to be ok with that.
    • Musical perfection is secondary to giving God the Glory he deserves. Much of this comes from attitude and servitude.
    • While input is healthy, and constructive criticism is part of the band dynamic, keep egos in check and realize the weighty responsibility a Worship Leader carries in ushering a congregation into the throne-room of Grace.
  • Don't overplay - LESS IS MORE


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