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Going Vamping by Steve Gregory

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There are a number of musical devices that can be used to build deep, meaningful worship experiences.  One such device that is often used in both live and recorded worship music is the vamp. A vamp is defined as a short musical progression that is repeated, often as an introduction to another section.  In vamps within the worship setting, the worship leader often speaks, prays, or ad-libs vocally while the worship team repeats a single chord progression a number of times.  During this section, the worship team is responsible for keeping the music alive and responding to the worship leader.  In a very common implementation of this technique, the dynamic level of the song is lowered at the beginning of the vamp section and then slowly built to a point to where the song “tips over” to the final chorus or two.  Time spent watching live performances of worship teams will inevitably result in seeing this done.

What I find to be most interesting about vamping in worship is the enormous disparity between the possible effects. When done well, the swell of emotional worship can be overwhelming and amazing.  When done without thought, the vamp section ends up sounding awkward and clumsy.  On one hand you have an eruption of worship; on the other hand you have worship dropped to the ground.

Since this technique is so common and can have dramatic results (both good and bad), it is important for us as worship bassists to think about what can be done to make a vamp section successful.  To begin, it is very important to realize that one possible pitfall is the vamp structure itself:  usually consisting of 1-4 repeating chords, there is not a big song structure to hide behind.  In addition, the consistent, repeating nature of the vamp is used to heighten worship and increase congregational involvement and therefore takes away drastic reharmonization as an option.  Since so little is given in chord variance, it is important to look for other areas with which to work.  Here are a few suggestions of techniques to improve the vamp experience:

Dynamics

I will admit that this is an area to which I give a lot of attention both as a bassist and as a teacher, but I do so for good reason.  Dynamics give the worship bassist dramatic “shaping” abilities that apply perfectly to vamp sections.  When playing a vamp, think about the shape that the section should take on:  does it start soft and rise steadily to loud?  Are there “hills” or “valleys” that a particular vamp demands?  Will this change, depending on the worship leader?

Do not be afraid to implement effective dynamics and use the whole range of sound to your advantage.  If the vamp goes for a longer time than you expected, it is very easy to run out of headroom too early.  This is a quick way to reach the aforementioned “awkward and clumsy” stage!

Rhythm

Rhythm is a great tool for the worship bassist when building a vamp.  In some cases, rhythm can provide the ability to shape the vamp section much like that which can be done with dynamics: longer, held notes at the beginning of the vamp lead and build to a busier rhythmic line toward the end of the section.

In other cases, the bass rhythm figure may be important to maintain, but accents on certain notes can propel the line forward. This is particularly true when working with a drummer who listens and carries on a musical conversation with the bassist.  A single accent, played on the same rhythmic pattern, can change the effect entirely.

Arpeggiation

As I mentioned above, the vamp offers a static progression from which to work.  In many cases, the melodic and rhythmic interest of a bass line can be increased by playing patterns derived from the arpeggios of the chords.  It is important to regularly practice arpeggios and put on big ears when using them in worship, as it is very easy to lean into a note that does not sit with the group or walk yourself far away from comfortable transitions within the progression.  Once again, the line between “awesome” and “awkward” can become very thin!

This is a very small list of possible techniques worship bassists can employ during a vamp, but it is important to remember that they are just techniques. Musical approaches such as these are simply tools to be used thoughtfully, not parts to put together in a formula. Every vamp will be different and will require the worship bassist to listen to the worship leader and the other instrumentalists. The bassist has the ability to lead with their choices (you will be amazed at how many musicians look to the bass for dynamic, rhythmic, and melodic cues!), but must also be willing to be led.  Vamping can be tricky, but can ultimately create worship beyond compare.

Since I have listed only a few ideas about vamping, I would love to hear your thoughts!  Let me know what you have found to be effective in your worship vamps by leaving a comment below.

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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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 @zonguitars @shukerbassguitars @bite.guitars @adamovicbasses @mayonesguitars @bassbros.uk @capursoguitars @overwaterbasses @saitiasguitars @ramabass.ok

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

New from Elrick Bass Guitars, Headless Series added to Custom Lineup…

Elrick Bass Guitars is excited to announce the addition of a headless option on hand-carved series bass guitars. Initially previewed on the 2023 Gold Series SLC MkII bass of prolific solo bass practitioner and educator Steve Lawson, a headless bass option is now available to all. According the Elrick, “The excitement surrounding Steve’s MkII SLC bass at 2024 NAMM confirmed that the time is right to add a headless option to our extensive range of custom options.” To date, Elrick instruments have only been offered with traditional headstock construction but, in response to market demand, custom features will now include a headless option in 4-, 5- and 6-string models.

Headless bass guitars share these features with the traditional headstock series:

24 frets + zero fret
exotic wood top
hand-rubbed oil finish
2-way adjustable truss rod
custom Bartolini pickups
custom Bartolini 3-band preamp
fully shielded control cavity
Hipshot bridge
Dunlop Straploks
Elrick Fundamental strings

The headless option can now be selected when submitting custom order requests via the form on elrick.com, contacting the Elrick Sales Office directly, or working with your favorite Elrick dealer.

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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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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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