In my last article we explored the tremendous impact small details can make on our bass playing. For that article, I had used “Our God” by Chris Tomlin, from the album, “Passion: Awakening”. This song provided fantastic material for discovering details: a strong kick drum/bass lock and dramatic dynamics that were perfect for bass line analysis.
A few days prior to that article being published, I was in a worship rehearsal working on the song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Tree 63. The song felt “flat” during our run-through and a very astute observation was made by my friend Dane: it can be extremely difficult to make a song with a repeating chord structure, especially one that has further been edited for radio play, exciting and energetic. This is absolutely true and calls for the bass player to pay even closer attention to the details that breathe life into a song.
The version of the song I’m referring to can be found on the album, “The Answer to the Question”. This is a great song with fantastic sing ability for the congregation. Now for the transcription – ready?
Db – Ab – Bbm – Gb (Db – Ab –Gb)
Ok, maybe we should expand the transcription a bit further, but I wanted to make a point: 4 basic chords total, repeating often (To be fair, there are several instances where a sus chord can be played, but I’ll leave that aside for now). Rather than provide a detailed, note-for-note transcription, the following is a “bass sketch” chart, which only shows the root motion and basic rhythm reminders.
“Blessed Be Your Name” has several rhythmic elements that should be used to their full advantage. The first bass entrance, halfway through the first verse, allows us to lock with the drummer immediately. The eighth note lead in on the “and” of four adds nice propulsion through the verse. To build from this figure the first pre-chorus changes to straight quarter notes, which lead to the eighth notes used in the first chorus. After the chorus, which ends in a whole note, the verse is “reset” by the low, held Db (marked by a subscript in the markup) which holds over the first and second measures of the verse.
The next area of rhythmic interest occurs during the last pre-chorus, where whole notes build to eighth notes, leading into the final chorus. Both sections create an overarching rhythmic shape that creates a sense of build and release. This shape should be applied so that the bass line creates movement, without bass note complexity.
The next element to look at is dynamics. In my last article, analysis of “Our God” provided the following dynamics chart:
Contrast that shape with the dynamics chart for “Blessed Be Your Name”:
Dynamics are where I believe the radio/album editing to be most evident. There are three builds, all peaking in the chorus. Further, the dynamic changes are not very dramatic – mezzo piano to mezzo forte to forte. In cases such as these, it is extremely important to pay strict attention make clear differentiations between the different dynamic levels. When there are small dynamic variances as there are in this song, it’s very easy to make everything “mezzo forte-ish”. When that happens, any chance of using dynamics to our advantage is lost.
I chose to compare and contrast “Our God” and “Blessed Be Your Name” by using rhythmic figures and dynamics as elements for analysis. These are certainly not the only two elements available. For example, one important detail in “Blessed Be Your Name” is providing steadiness when running eighth notes. Locking these into the groove and making every note count is critical. Further, using octave changes and short licks to shape phrases is another small detail that provides a big impact. There are other ways to view this song and find the details that make the difference; I hope you share your finding by commenting below or chatting with me in the Bass Musician Magazine Community, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
“Blessed Be Your Name” is a fantastic song with the possibility for great congregation involvement. On the surface, it may appear that there isn’t much to use to make your bass line great; however, careful attention to details gives us the tools to make the maximum impact. Bring your best bass playing to worship and make the small investment in details that provides great returns.
Until next time, I hope that your bass playing is blessed and that you can bless others through your bass playing!