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Spicing up Christmas songs...how does that work

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bdh2991, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    So i'm playing a show in a couple weeks and its going to be mostly Christmas songs but just going through them the first few times made cry from lack of groove and boredom lol... I need some creative ideas to make the bass lines better while still keeping the familiar sound of each Christmas song. The songs are basically modernized christmas carols such as joy to the world, god rest ye merry gentleman, and angels we have heard on high...

    I've tried to add some more jazz style bass lines to them but it wasn't working out for me too well. Also tried some more bouncy island style kind of stuff and it seemed to stray too far from what people would consider Christmas songs.

    any ideas?
  2. Johnny StingRay

    Johnny StingRay

    Nov 24, 2006
    I empathize with you about how boring playing bass to Christmas songs is. May I suggest you go to Pandora or Spotify and pull up Christmas songs by jazz artists. You'll be able to hear how they make those songs groove. Then again, it depends on the venue/crowd/purpose for playing Christmas songs. If it is straight up at church for a Christmas pageant/play then they may want you just to keep it boring and plodding. I play in a Catholic praise group and they prefer boring and plodding........one of these days I'd love to play at a more "upbeat" church. Unless it is in a more "upbeat, shout-it-out, raise your arms and praise the Lord kind of a church!!! Then you can cut loose with the more jazzier bass lines to Christmas songs.
    Also, the guy who runs www.CyberfretBass.com put together a nice Christmas music for bass collection of songs with all the chord changes, etc. I don't know if it is available on the website now, but last year he offered it as a free download. The melodies are written in bass clef so you can get the melodies down and interplay the chord changes to spice up the bass lines.
    Merry Christmas!
  3. janrick


    Apr 10, 2009
    Check out Chris Tomlin's Joy to the world

  4. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    thanks for the tips i'll definitely check out the jazz versions and cyberfret

    not to disregard your advice because i do appreciate it but this is the kind of bass line i prefer to stay away from lol
  5. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    -how- modernized ?
    Surf guitar modern? Check out Ho-Ho-Hoey (Gary Hoey)

    I have about a hundred Christmas CDs in all flavors of jazz and I've just scratched the surface.

    But just to get you started in alternative arrangements until you can expand on what you have in mind for genre and ensemble - check out Loreena McKennitt's "God rest You Merry, Gentlemen" from A Winter Garden: Five Songs for the Season, and Grover Washington Jr's "Breath of Heaven.'
  6. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    God rest ye merry gentlemen is meredith andrews version which is actually the least of my worries...another one is mariah carey's version of all i want for christmas is you
  7. Find the Hillsong live-recorded version of "Silent Night" from Jesus Christmas. http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Christmas-Live-Hillsong/dp/B003NL68EA

    The bass part is pretty incredible. Nothing boring about it. Good version of "The First Noel" on there too.

    I always enjoy playing "Sleigh Ride". The A-Strings version is bad to the bone.
  8. funkinbottom

    funkinbottom Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    Northern CA.
    You can pretty much rock/jazz/funk/punk/soul most Christmas songs as long as you keep original vocal melody in tact.
  9. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    i do like that bassline on the hillsong version my only concern would be that if i did something like that it would sound right over the chords from the keyboard
  10. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    the bass in that hillsong version is functionally no different than the chris tomlin track posted earlier. its supporting the arrangements style. if you want something more "interesting" arrange a christmas tune yourself and reharm it. from some of your posts it sounds like this christmas you may be better off just supporting the arrangements youre playing and playing parts you dont like. maybe next year
  11. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Although the bassist does have a heavy say in the genre of any performance there still is the entire band to consider. As a band you have to decide if this song will be jazzy, if that one will be. R&B.... After that basic decision is made you, since just about every reording artist has relased their own Christmas albums, can find many recorded examples in just about any genre as a guide
  12. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman is very square as written in 4. Try it as a bouncy shuffle in 6/8 a la Coltrane.
  13. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    I have never heard a version that comes close to this:

    Yes, I like Coltrane's arrangement too.
  14. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I'm not sure that Coltrane actually ever did the tune, but I was referring to that particularly airy six feel that McCoy Tyner gets at. Here's a viddy of a pianist who captures the six swing very well. I'm not saying you need to play it with Tyner chops, just in this feel of six:
  15. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Yeah - no sooner had I posted that than I thought 'wait a minute...' But I do have a -lot- of Christmas music (4 new CD's so far this year, more than 100 from prior years) so sometimes I lose track of what I've heard who do...

    F'rinstance - I bought the (mostly HipHop) soundtrack to 'Scrooged' so I could have the Miles Davis/Larry Carlton/Paul Schaeffer arrangement of 'We Three Kings'.

    This thread is a little frustrating because OP hasn't disclosed the venue or the instruments he's working with - this makes it challenging to offer specific suggestions.

    But as has been observed - just about every artist or group of artists (real or imagined - 'California Raisins' anyone?) has released a Christmas album and -most- of them are trying to put unique flavors on the material.

    I think the only group I know that has publicly stated will never do a Christmas album is Tangerine Dream...
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Check the Corea Elektric Band's take on GRP Christmas Vol. 1
    ...or Take 6 w/ the Yellowjackets on He Is Christmas.
  17. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    The venue is gonna be in an outdoor mall/festival type thing I'm playing with keys drums lead guitar and rythym acoustic/electric....oh and a female singer for all the songs
  18. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    The fact that you had to ask makes me want to caution you about taking it too far the other way ;) Fortunately, it appears you've thought about that already. I'm all for finding ways to spice up boring stuff, but then there's times the bass is boring for a reason. Knowing when to go for it and when to lay back is a tricky art.
  19. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    Hence my reasoning for asking in the first place, I don't want to step on anyone's toes when I'm playing nor do I want to put an distasteful spin on well known Christmas songs... Looking for a good median to have my cake and eat it too lol