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Whose Line Is It Anyway? by Steve Gregory

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Meet Steve Gregory –

The other day I took some time to listen to different live recordings of the song “From the Inside Out” by Hillsong and I became interested in the subtle differences I found in the bass lines that were played.  The differences were not core arrangement changes, but were “signature” changes – subtle variations that the different bass players made to the same song.  These variations included licks, small rhythmic changes, and the use of different harmonic devices to move to and from major song sections (verse, chorus, bridge).  Again, these variations did not change the base structure of the song, but allowed each bass player’s interpretation of the song to be heard.

This is an expected occurrence – as bass musicians, we naturally interpret songs through the filter of our personality, ears, and technique.  The true art of this process is not only filtering the song through our selves, but passing that output through a secondary filter to ensure that the musicality and worship of the song is maintained.

Applying filters is especially important for worship bassists.  In particular, this practice is important in situations where worship teams learn songs from recordings.  Some bassists will opt to learn the original bass line note-for-note and play back that line as recorded.  This works in situations where other band members are doing the same but, more often than not, I find that bassists (and other worship musicians) tend to “add themselves” to the interpretation of the songs.  Further, the level of “personality” that is added to the interpretation ranges from a few subtle changes to total disregard for the original line.

In the model where the arrangement hasn’t changed, but the bass line played isn’t going to be an exact replica of the recorded line, passing your interpretation through the second filter described above is critical!  Here a few thoughts on this process:

1. Learn the original bass line, in its entirety.

There’s a reason that the bass line you hear on the recording made it on the recording.  When you are asked to learn a song by Lincoln Brewster that Norm Stockton plays on, I assure you that Norm has laid down a line with critical elements that you need to know.  Learn the notes, the licks, and the feel…all of it.  There is nothing detracts more from a worship rehearsal that hearing a player that has not listened to the original recording and exudes arrogance through their “I don’t need to listen to anyone else, I can do it better” attitude.

Here are three good reasons to learn the original before going any further:  first, learn the original because everything there already might be everything that needs to be played.  Second, you can’t vary from something that you don’t understand or know completely. Third, song transcription is a self-contained bass lesson where you get to learn from master bass players!

2. If an element you want to add is all about getting attention/being noticed/ego, don’t add it…period.

A friend of mine tells this joke:

Q:  How do arrogant musicians count triplets?

A:  Look-at-me, look-at-me, look-at-me

This one is simple:  worship bass is about supporting worship, not about supporting egos. Enough said.

3. Understand what adding or subtracting something does to the core of the song.

Imagine watching a home improvement show and hearing the designer say, “I really want to open this room up…let’s remove all of the load bearing walls”.  The bass line is a foundational bridge upon which rhythm and harmony are joined and this role needs to be constantly considered.  Playing a lick instead of a bass element that supports the song is never the right choice.  Further, changing a bass line in a way that distorts the rhythmic or harmonic elements of the song radiates out and distorts worship.

4. Know the situation.

There are times to stretch; there are times not to stretch.  For example, last Sunday we played Lincoln Brewster’s “All To You” as a closing song. The congregation was dismissed soon after the second chorus, before the guitar solo.  As people were leaving, they were talking, laughing, and enjoying a time of fellowship.  During this time our band stretched out, taking some liberties in our playing, throwing in a few licks, trying out different lines.  It was incredibly fun and well received by those in the congregation who were listening.  In contrast, playing a song like Chris Tomlin’s “Our God” during a time of commitment section of worship would not be the time to stretch; rather, it would be a time to remain close to the original arrangement to respect the worship service.

We are not just bass players, we are bass musicians.  As such, we should make worship music alive and vibrant, so I am in no way suggesting that we clamp down on our worship and make it stale.  In fact, I personally love to hear different worship bass players play, because through their playing you can truly hear the person worship.  Definitely bring yourself to worship, but be willing to use your filters to bring your absolute best to worship.

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

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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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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Gear News

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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