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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!

Bass Videos

Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

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Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

I was intrigued when The Bastard Instrument showed up on my desk… let’s dig in!

When we dive into the history of our beloved instrument, the bass, we find roots that go back as far as the 15th century. This instrument was a member of the violin family and was for the longest time, an acoustic instrument. As the years passed and music changed, there was a need for the instrument to evolve and the electric bass was born.

Comparatively, the electric bass is a relatively new instrument with its earliest appearances dating back to the 1930s and it is exciting to be an electric bass player while this history unfolds around us. Fortunately for us and future generations to come, Professor Brian F. Wright has taken on the herculean task of documenting the trajectory of the electric bass with this excellent book.

The Bastard Instrument presents an extraordinary amount of fine details about the instrument itself, the development of the amplification to handle its output, the pioneers that dared play it, the rapidly evolving music that flourished because of its presence and so much more. 

When I first started reading this book, I noticed that it felt a tad academic, like a textbook (it might be one someday) or a doctoral thesis, but to present all this information accurately, this approach is more than appropriate. Another detail that might be a bit of a spoiler is that the book only gets us up to the late ’60s. I was left wanting more as we know that so much has happened in the bass world since that time frame; I hope there is another volume in the works to get us up to the present!

All in all, “The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass” is a must-read for all of us who play electric bass and understand its essential place in music.

I found that there was a lot that I already knew but also quite a bit that I was unaware of. I believe that to know and understand where you are, you must know the history of exactly how you got here.

Highly recommended.

The Bastard Instrument is available at Amazon.com (beginning July 2024)

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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 @meridian_guitars @adamovicbasses @anacondabasses @mgbassguitars @xylembassguitar @officialspector @edwinpaanakker @alesvychodilbasses @boyarskycg @dmarkguitars

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Bass Videos

Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

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IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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