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Greetings and Salutations!

by Paige Garwood

Last month, I kind of laid out my agenda for future articles, so this article will deal with the first point; namely the fact that playing bass in a church Praise/Worship band is a bit different than most other playing situations, at least in my experience.

But – as in any band that you play in, no matter the venue… your purpose is to groove. As the bassist I believe it is our job to set the groove and establish "the pocket". This can be an elusive target – but perhaps I can lay out a simple tactic and thought process that will make your job a little easier.

Step One:

Get your attitude in check… you are not the center of attention here – but you are quite possibly the most important member in this band (like you think a bassist writing an article to other bassists would even THINK anything different?). You are a servant to the congregation – they need to feel the groove (we will talk about this groove thing in a minute) – they are there to worship and that becomes very difficult if they are unsure of where beat "one" is…. They should be able to close their eyes and get lost in the music. They can’t do that if your thinking and playing is so wrapped around getting this lick or that pattern in that you lose the downbeat. Your primary thought needs to be… "What can I do to ensure the congregations’ worship experience is effortless for them?"

So what CAN you do to ensure that this will happen? So glad you asked….

Step Two:

You OWN beats one and three… the drummer owns two and four. If you and your drummer get that idea nailed down – the groove is darned near guaranteed. This next month, when you listen to whatever music you listen to – see if what I say here checks out. Almost every form of popular music you will hear has what is called what is called the "back-beat".. i.e. the drummer nailing two and four (or variations… maybe only two OR four – but the effect is the same). If you, the bassist, nail one – and the drummer nails two, and you nail three, and the drummer nails four – the band, and the congregation will feel the groove.

Now – I am not saying you have to do a straight up and down "polka-style" pattern, but if you listen to a typical rock, pop, country or most funk patterns, you will hear the bassist defining beat one, and the drummer nailing beat two. The bassist and the drummer will feed off each other, and the band.. as well as the congregation, will follow. Sound too simplistic? But it works!!!

Step Three:

The bassist and the kick drum are one….

Try this little exercise the next time your praise team practices…. Talk to the drummer – yes, drummers are (contrary to much public opinion) much higher on the food chain than Piltdown Man and are usually more literate and communicative than people think! Chat with him and explain what you want to try… tell him that you are going to marry your bass lines to his (or her) kick drum. Settle on one or two basic rock patterns he or she will do on the kick drum for your rock tunes. Then when you are practicing the song, play only the root of the chord on your bass, and play the exact rhythm that the drummer plays on his kick drum. Trust me here – if you have not been doing this kind of thing up until now, you will improve the groove of the band immensely.

Let me share a personal story and I will bug out of here until next month. I’m a fairly good player, practicing as much as I can to improve my playing. Over the years, this has unfortunately resulted in my being a pretty "busy" player… a nice way of saying I played too many notes… but I was absolutely clueless to this facet of my playing. I saw myself becoming a more accomplished player, able to incorporate more ideas into my playing.

Anyway – I was getting very frustrated with my praise band because though we were all pretty good musicians, it seemed the band was always on the verge of a train wreck… just glad to make it thru a service without totally embarrassing ourselves. We just figured that it was because we couldn’t practice enough as a group.

I went into the studio with our worship leader to lay down some tracks for him. I got so frustrated that I fired myself from the job, because I couldn’t "find the pocket" while playing with a different drummer than the one on my praise band. Beginning to suspect that perhaps at least part of the blame of the lack of "groove" in the praise band may be mine (two different drummers, same groove problem.. hmmmmmm), I called upon a studio bassist/producer friend of mine from Seattle (Marc Miller) and explained what was happening. Here was his suggestion/prescription:

"Next Sunday", he said, "play only the root of the chord and lock up with whatever the drummer is doing on the kick drum… and oh yeah – you might try listening to some of the good bands of the 70’s and 80’s.. Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, for example. Listen to what their bassists do most of the time in relation to the kick drum." That was pretty much the gist of it.

Step Four:

Root whacking ain’t a necessarily a bad thing.

So I did just that – became a "root-whacker" and did my best to do exactly what the drummer was doing with his kick drum.

I can’t even begin to tell you the difference! After church, the band was chattering on and on about what an incredible service it had been, how tight the band had been, did you see the congregation moving and grooving etc etc etc. Point made.. case closed… I didn’t have the nerve to ‘fess up and say that I may have been the reason the band had sucked (oops – I’m sorry – maybe I should have said "I may have been the reason the band created it’s own special vacuum…").

Reader’s Digest condensed version:

1. You are not the show. You are a sideman. You are not there to stun the audience with your Jaco-esque 16th note patterns or your Wooten-like tapping or triple thumb popping/slapping techniques. You are there to serve up a groove so solid that my great aunt Edna would dance to it…

2. You own beats one and three… the drummer owns two and four.

3. Lock up with the kick drum.

4. Simplicity is NOT a sin… rather it is a necessity. Especially if your band doesn’t spend a lot of time together. Simpler is best. Can I say it any stronger… in case you haven’t picked it up yet… SIMPLE!!!!!!!! There…. Now I feel better.

Folks – this stuff works. If you keep this one thought lurking in the back of your mind… "Make them ask you to play more. Never make them ask you to play less."

God Bless youse guys and gals. Be proud to be loud!

Until next month -

Paige

 

 

 

 

                                  

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