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Start Your (Creative) Engines! by Steve Gregory

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Start Your (Creative) Engines! by Steve Gregory…  The worship bassist is an interesting animal.   Insert a nature documentary voice-over here:

“Here we see worship bassists in their natural habitat – the church.  Highly skilled in interpreting others’ works, the worship bassist’s primary role is to support the worship function. Our team has noted that, over the span of several months, there were several songs that the worship bassist would be required to play week after week.  Full of determination, the worship bassists would carefully navigate a course that included both inspiration and excitement, while not straying too far from the original music.  Yes, interpretation is a major function of the mighty worship bassist – a magnificent beast to witness in person.”  

Does some of this ring true for you?  We are often asked to interpret songs and, in many cases, to reproduce songs in a careful manner.  Since our role is to provide a setting for worship, radical derivation from the original song is not often needed.  More often than not, staying true to the original is necessary to allow our congregations to quickly recognize, sing along with, and worship to the music we present.

This is a difficult task for many reasons, but a big issue that needs to be addressed is one of creative atrophy.  It is very easy to see a weekly set list that contains songs that you know like the back of your hand.  When many of the songs are also based on steady, root-based pedal lines, the creative part of our brains can be neglected.

This is not to say that interpretation is not important – quite the contrary.  What I am pointing out is that there is a trap of rote reproduction that worship bassists must be aware of and avoid.  When worship bassists become ensnarled in this problem, three symptoms can be seen.  First, interpreted songs sound lackluster and emotionless.  Second, when called upon to be creative (when a newly written song is presented to be “fleshed out” by the band, for example) the artistic resources are slow to respond and difficult to tap. Third, there can be a bothersome sense of lack that overcomes the player and exhibits itself in lowered energy and attitude.

The last symptom recently bit me.  My worship team had several weeks during which the worship material was very familiar.  I felt a restless hunger to stretch, but I was not finding a way to feed that hunger.  I was complaining about the “creative muscle cramps” I was experiencing to my friend Dane, who was able to empathize with my position.  Dane’s suggestion was simple and spot-on:  find a way to be creative every single day.  In other words, make sure you are constantly exercising your creative muscles so that, when they are needed, they respond appropriately.  Also, keeping your creative juices flowing will ensure that your interpretations are fresh and energetic.

So, the first exercise in creativity is coming up with exercises for creativity!  Here’s a short starter list:

  • Use a looper to set up a basic chord progression.  Play different bass lines to the loop or find lines to layer on top of the track.
  • Take a song you know well and learn another part.  Be able to play the vocal line or the lead line, for example.
  • Play over a song with a completely different bass line – if the song is a slow ballad, try playing a sixteenth note pedal.  For a fast song, play only in quarter note triplets.
  • Find tracks without a bass line, whether a songwriter’s demo or a song that wasn’t recorded with bass, and create a part.
  • Turn the sound off on your television and play along, interpreting the scenes on the screen.  What does the basketball game sound like on bass?  How about something from Animal Planet?  Antiques Roadshow?
  • Write a song that is inspired by a piece of visual art.
  • Take inspiration from your reading or quiet time and interpret passages and verses on your bass.

Come up with your own exercises – the possibilities are endless!  Flexing your creative muscles will keep them ready for action and will infuse your interpretative playing with new energy.  You may even find that there are parts of the “same old song” with which you could do something different and, dare I say, be creative?

I would love to hear your stories of creativity and worship bass!  Let me know if you’ve beaten creative apathy and what you did to do it.  You can always reach me on Twitter (@sgregorybass) or in the Bass Musician Magazine Community!

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

Gear News

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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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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