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Worship Bass With Steve Gregory: Bass Blessings

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Meet Steve Gregory

When I was younger, I had a very cynical view of worship bassists. I imagined that playing bass in a worship setting meant sitting stoically on a stool, playing whole notes from a page in a hymnal. I was convinced that playing for worship was possibly the most boring fate a bass player could face!

I kept this attitude until my girlfriend, now my wife, challenged me to actually go to church. I explained that, while I would go to church with her, I knew that the music would be painful to listen to, at best.

Have I mentioned that in our relationship, my wife is the smart one?

My wife took me to Highlands Fellowship Church in Abingdon, VA and thoroughly enjoyed watching my arrogant attitude turn upside down. Her “I told you so” look went unnoticed as first, because I was immersed in the music! From that one experience, my opinion of worship music changed 180 degrees and I found my calling as a bassist.

After my initial wake up call, I went on a mission to learn all I could about worship music. I listened to Lincoln Brewster, Jeremy Camp, Francesca Battistelli, Tommy Walker, and others and was amazed to discover that, yes, worship music could be hip. I also realized that the mythical “stoic stool sitters” were nowhere to be found. Instead, bassists including Norm Stockton, Abraham Laboriel, and Matthew Tennikoff were playing grooving bass lines that would silence even the most anti-worship music critics.

While on this discovery mission, I was blessed with the opportunity to play worship music on a weekly basis. What I immediately realized was that there is a distinct role for the worship bassist. This role can be summed up in one sentence:

“The role of the worship bassist is to aid in the creation of a special musical environment in which people can worship, praise, and prepare for the message.”

This may seem to be a bit “touchy feely” and am I certain that some of you are worried that I’ll be presenting a solo bass arrangement of “Kumbaya”, but there are sound musical principles to use in fulfilling this role. Let’s explore these concepts and see how to create the worship environment from the bottom up.

You Have to Love the Drummer

Bassists learn a basic rule soon after they pick up the bass: create a pocket with the drummer. In worship music, the drums and bass provide the immediate feel that determines the fullness and depth of the worship environment. I’ve heard several worship performances where the “spark” was missing and almost every time, the problem can be traced to the bassist and drummer not locking in a groove together.

I am unbelievably lucky to play with a great drummer who has an impeccable sense of time, listens incredibly well, and has chops to spare. When we first began to play together, building a bond was the first order of business. To do this, a return to basics was necessary: I listened to the kick drum and locked in as tightly as possible with that drum alone. The result? We immediately felt a connection. I then allowed my lines to interact with the kick, snare, and hi-hat. I made it my goal that, when a bass note and drum hit coincided, the drummer felt as if the drum actually triggered the bass note. By doing this, we felt as if we had been playing together for years! Now that we have been playing together for some time, we are “brothers in groove” and together form the foundation for the worship experience.

Victor Says…

In a recent clinic I attended, Victor Wooten made a fantastic and often overlooked point. Victor pointed out that while the bassist-drummer relationship is an absolute necessity, you have to listen to each and every player you are with in order to create a complete groove. This is entirely true in the worship setting, where you may find yourself on stage with any number, and any combination, of instruments. In my setting, it is not unusual to be playing with drums, acoustic rhythm guitar, electric rhythm guitar, electric lead guitar, keyboards, and even a saxophone on occasion. With so much sonic space being occupied, it is important to play bass lines that support, not weaken, the worship experience.

Case in point: Highlands Fellowship Church features the best keyboardist I’ve had the pleasure of joining on stage. In particular, his Hammond organ work is phenomenal; however, the Hammond organ has a range that overlaps the range of my bass. In order to play together, the keyboardist and I have to listen to each other and develop a “conversation” together. Decisions I face in this conversation include what range on the bass I will choose for a given section, whether to play the root of a chord or create an inversion, and whether or not it would be beneficial to play a lick or passage together. Being a successful worship bassist requires having huge ears and the willingness to play what is needed for the worship experience. At times there is room for a flashy run down the fingerboard and other times a half note on the root is the perfect choice.

Follow the Leader

Here’s an important question to consider: how many people leave a church service singing the bass line to their favorite song? I’m willing to bet that the answer is, “not many, if any”. People are singing the words to the song! The worship leader singing these words and leading the experience must be listened to and supported, above all. This is where the worship bassist gets to truly exhibit a “servant’s heart”. If the vocalist needs space instead of a busy bass line, the space should be given to them. If the worship leader wants to have a sense of propulsion, a driving bass line is needed. What about when things don’t go the same way they did in rehearsal? If the worship leader decides to repeat a chorus where there wasn’t one in rehearsal, the change should be seamless. If the worship leader feels a connection and begins to vamp, be prepared to play that groove as long as is needed. Connecting with the worship experience often means “follow the leader”!

Be a Servant With a Groove

For the worship bassist, building the worship environment is everything. If you are willing to be a servant to worship, the musical and spiritual experience cannot be explained in words. I can say that if you stay strong on your spiritual walk, consistent in your musical walk, and keep the role of the worship bassist in your heart, you will have some of the most incredible adventures you have ever had playing your bass!

Until next time, I hope that your bass playing is blessed and that you can bless others through your bass playing!

PS – In case anyone is wondering, some of the most amazing worship experiences I’ve had were done sitting on a stool, playing whole notes.

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Travis Book

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Interview With Bassist Travis Book

Interview With Bassist Travis Book…

Bluegrass music has had a very solid following over many years and I am always happy to hear from one of the pioneers in that genre.

Travis Book plays bass for the Grammy award-winning band “The Infamous Stringdusters” and has recently released his first solo album “Love and Other Strange Emotions”. As if he wasn’t busy enough, Travis also hosts a podcast, Plays a Jerry Garcia music show with Guitarist Andy Falco, and is constantly gigging locally in his neck of the woods.

Photo, Seyl Park

Visit Online:

www.thetravisbook.com
www.thestringdusters.com
FB @ TheTravisBook
IG @ travisbook

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