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Hello…. My name is Paige Garwood, a new contributor to Global Bass magazine. I am a member of the CHURCHBASS community, which can be found at the following URL  In the future, I hope to be writing on issues that directly or indirectly affect bassists as it relates to playing in a church environment. Some articles will directly apply while there will be other articles that will be tutorial in nature, but with a special slant towards what would apply in a church orchestra or a Praise Band situation.

            I have been playing bass since 1972, (I am 45 years old), with about 10 years in the middle between then and now where I wasn’t playing in a professional or a church gig (to help my wife raise our kids…). With my children all grown and gone now, this last 5 years have seen me concentrating again on my playing. I am playing in and around the Metro Atlanta (Georgia) area in rock gigs, Jazz trios, Big Bands, and various for hire church gigs, as well as my regular Praise Band gig at Westridge Church (my current church) in Hiram, Georgia. I teach bass at Firehouse Music in Conyers Georgia on Saturdays – and there are open slots available on Saturday! My bass rig is as follows:

Carvin LB76 fretted six string, with Bartolini Pickups

Alembic Epic fretless 5 string

Fender Pbass special (PJ pickups) 4 string

Carvin Redeye 2x10 cabinet

Carvin 600 W power amp

Line 6 Bass Pod

There – enough about me. What is it about playing a church gig that makes that type of gig so …. ummmm “special”? The following ideas are the result of my years of playing in a church environment. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means…. But a good place to start, I think.

1.      It is not usually a performance-based experience.

·         You will be part of a band that is accompanying an entire congregation, not just a vocalist and a horn player or two. You are there to provide the music that is a vital part of people’s worship experience – and this is a much different dynamic than when you are performing before a crowd of people bent on watching you perform.

2.      Usually, there is not a ton of time for practice as a band.

·         The Praise Band or orchestra is almost always volunteers who have day jobs, so the more people involved in this band, the more difficult it becomes to organize rehearsals where everyone can attend. This results in a couple of things…

·        The musicians, many times, will be required to “wing it”, sometimes reading charts for the first time during a quickie rehearsal on Sunday Morning. In my Praise Band at Westridge, we have a rehearsal on Tuesdays where we run down the charts for the next Sunday’s service. But our band is fortunate in that everyone is professional or near professional in talent and experience. That is the standard our Minister of Music (MOM) has set because he knows that many times the band will have a lead sheet tossed in front of them before a service and we need to have the musicians who can sight-read or transpose a tune at the drop of a hat. We prepare as best we can on Tuesdays, but….. stuff happens  - so the MOM has determined that in order to be in the Praise Band at our church you need to be at a fairly high level musically. It’s not a pride thing – it’s a practicality thing. An occasional Sunday will see something like: (MOM speaking) “Guys – Christi’s voice is shot, so she won’t be singing “****” this morning. We’re going to have Jane sing it, but in order to do that, please play the song in Eb instead of G where we practiced it.” Sometimes we get to go over the tune in the new key, sometimes not. Many times we transpose it in our head and go for it.

 ·        Not every church can afford the luxury we have of having the level of musicianship available at Westridge. If that is the case, there will be several things you might have to consider in order to still have a good church praise band experience… but I can touch on that in future articles.  

3.      Sound “Engineers” at church.

·        Man!  If there isn’t a ton of potential issues that we bassists could have to deal with here… There are many things that can mess up a band’s sound – but nothing more nefarious than a sound guy you’ve hacked off. We will definitely talk about this one in the very near future. Let it be said, that in my experience in playing in churches for over 20 years, only in my current church have I seen the soundman considered part of the band, and only in my current church have I seen the church staff committed to hiring – yes HIRING – a professional to run sound for the band. Now I know there are churches out there who are also doing what I have just mentioned, but generally speaking, smaller churches don’t have that luxury of having pro sound engineers on staff. This means that usually, the sound man is quite possibly a volunteer like everyone else who is just trying (like everyone else) to make Sunday services a success, and is therefore not as knowledgeable as you would like him/her to be. This can be a potential point of contention for all concerned.


In conclusion, it looks like I have laid out my agenda for future articles, doesn’t it? Though the issues I raised above are generally issues the band itself faces in a church setting, I will be making sure that in future articles I will be sharing what we bassists can do to address these things so that WE aren’t the problem child in these areas. There will be articles on sight-reading, practicing, understanding chord charts and lead sheets, soloing (oh-yes… some churches even let the bassist take a solo…), how to address sound problems (or – how to make your $3,000.00 bass rig sound ok in a square room with tin ceilings, a concrete floor and a $400.00 Radio Shack sound system in a band with three guitars, a saxophone, bagpipes and a pump organ), and stuff like how to properly groom your drummer so that you and he/she can set the groove properly and avoid dirty looks from the MOM, who probably only knows three chords on his guitar and once sang lead in a high school musical (only joking, guys – my MOM knows TONS of guitar chords!)

I am really looking forward to sharing this with all of you – be proud to be loud!


Paige C. Garwood






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