To The Church Players....On Technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by mickeyw3340, Nov 13, 2002.

  1. Going into my fifth service this weekend with the church choir, I thought I would see if I could pick up some more tips from you folks. As you might remember I had been away from the bass for many years. Played full time in my younger years country and late 50s early 60s rock and roll. So obviously my heavy playing years were pretty much in the 3 chord song range. I find myself most times, especially in selections that I haven't had a chance to tape at rehearsal and work on in the wood shed, playing the notes corresponding to the guitar chord symbols. I am getting better at using approach notes when moving from one to the other. The notes and where they are on the strings and and frets are beginning to gel and become second nature once again without me having to think and hunt for them. I found myself last week changing my method a bit. If the song is in G for instance , then I am tending to skip all the guitar chord changes unless it is G C or D and only playing to those changes. This gives me more opportunity to add some nice sounding approach notes when moving to the chord change. Am I using the best technique as I have described above? If not, what would you suggest to better my technique with this type music. The director likes what I am doing thus far, and the other choir members are taking to this new electric bottom well, but I feel like I am mostly playing notes corresponding to the same chords the acoustic guitarists are playing, and I want to expand upon that. Thanks in advance.
  2. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    Hi Mick,

    I won't even pretend to give you advice since I just converted from guitar to bass back in June. Here is how it went with me however. As a guitar playing convert, I initially did what you describe, just followed along with the guitar chord changes, hammering out the roots. Next I ventured into the approach note/target note style and thought I was da bomb for a little while. After awhile longer though, I found that I started hearing bass lines in my head with the familiar songs and experimented with conveying those lines to the bass itself. So far it has worked out pretty well. Like you I tape our rehearsals for the following week so that I can work things out by the time Sunday morning rolls around. Some songs are only meant for an approach/target type progression and skipping some of the guitar changes seems to be fine as long as it sounds ok. I think that like me though, as you get more and more comfortable with having that bass back in your hands, you will find yourself creating changes and runs on the fly. We're doing a song called "Great and Mighty is He" this coming week, and the chord chart I was handed was pretty basic. I heard some nice transitions in my head right away though.

    Oh it might not be technically correct, or even follow the rules at all for bass line construction, but against the guitar and keyboard parts, it sounds great, and everyone that's heard it agrees that it's a big improvement over just banging out the root. Then again, I have only been playing for 5 months! So anything is an improvement I guess:D Keep at it man. It's a blast isn't it?
  3. Stu L.

    Stu L. Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2001
    Corsicana, Texas
    I just started in the church band, and all I have found is the root note approach. I mean, how can scales and all really fit in to the all too familiar G-D-C-D that is most praise and worship?
  4. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Most of the CCM type stuff-Hillsong Vineyard etc usually has music around the guitar changes (fake book style) and often here is a CD available. The basslines on these CD's are often simple and if I have heard the 'original' I'll either rip it off or use it as a basis for my own lines. The problem that can occur is that your line up is different to the CD one and sometimes is subject to change. Sometimes you have to back off and sometimes you have to large it up.

    Most of the Southern (or real) Gospel is the basis of Soul Funk etc and modern bands are based around those styles in a perpetual circle.

    Ok so depending on what style your church is based on there are different ways of working. Where I am, the later take a very laid back and often just play and expect you to do so. If I do this kind of thing I'll target the nearest tuned instrument player and ask them the chord sequences and if that’s a no no the key. This is a good time to know your I IV V and relative minor.

    With the CCM stuff the chord charts often use slash chords. This may be D/F#. This means that the guitar would play a D and the bass an F#. Keyboard players sometimes play the D with an F# bass (some guitarists add the altered root).

    This leads us nicely to something we bassists can use to get out of the play the root like a faithful puppy syndrome. Lets say the chord sequence is G D Em. You could play G F# E holy descending bass-lines batman. Another device I use is to find common notes for two chords lets say we have an Emaj7 followed by a B. The maj7 from the first chord is the maj 3rd of the second. Use that knowledge as you will.

    Another device that is notated by slash chords looks like this G C/G G D/G G this is known as a pedal bass. It is possible to work out a simple riff and play it over (under) the chord sequence. Be careful of your note choice as some will clash (you could even change the notes in the riff whilst keeping the root).

    The way I play is to learn as many of the songs as possible so I can play with the other musicians and go where ever it's erm… going. A lot of the stuff we do is hand signal led and the band leader might shout some instructions (like you are too loud which I misheard and played louder).
  5. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Because instead of playing G-D-C-D you can experiment with alternatives which support the song but give a different shape to the bass line, eg:

    G - F# - E - D

    Sometimes you might actually see guidance to play like this from the 'slash chords' written for guitar:

    |: G / / / | D/F# / / / | C/E / / / | D / / / :|

    On the other hand, sometimes you won't (or you'll find the slash chords themselves don't sound right... especially if the other musicians are ignoring them).

    A little bit of scale theory and you know that you're playing root notes on the first and last bars and the third note of the relevant scale for the other two.

    It also means that you have a good foundation for working out what notes to lead from one chord to the next. For example, if I was going to play the first chords as:

    G / / / | D / / / |

    My bass line might be along the lines of:

    G.... B C | D.... | (timing to suit)

    or even

    G.... B C C# | D.... |

    The first is using a couple of note from the G major scale; the second adds a chromatic passing note which gives a funkier lead into the D chord.

    I've used those kind of ideas on countless songs in church and it's an easy way to add a bit of interest (don't make it too 'interesting' though - your aim in church is not to make people walk away filled with thoughts of what a wonderful bass player they met that morning ;) )

  6. tonedeaf

    tonedeaf Supporting Member

    I have been playing in a Vineyard church for 3-4 years now, and in my case I am lucky enough to have complete freedom (i.e., I don't have to recreate what was on the CD), which is great.

    I have experienced many of the same frustrations as the rest of you. Vineyard stuff is very guitar driven, and for the first little while I have to admit to being a guitar follower. :rolleyes:

    As time went on, I learned that rhythmic variances are somewhat limited, depending on the drummer I am playing with (we have two with very different styles; one is a metronome and one knows how to swing a little :cool: ), so I turned my attention to harmony. A little theory goes a long way in this setting, I've found. In my case most of the other musicians are sticking pretty close to the root, so throwing in 3rds, 6ths, 2nds, approach notes, etc. really adds a lot to the music.

    My advice for what it's worth is to experiment a little. Sometimes it's great to just lock in with the bass drum, work on your rhythm, and only play two or three notes in a whole song. Sometimes you can almost use a solo-like approach (in good taste, of course :D ); and every once in a while, an incredible bass line will just jump out at you.
  7. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.

    Now that is funny! I've had that same problem myself. "Oh, I thought you were saying get down, not turn it down!" LOL! :D
  8. Thanks for the good ideas. I do need a bit of begnning music theory on the chords of the key. I don't understand this 1st 2nd IV VI stuff. It wasn't necessary where I migrated from LOL. One thing I think that makes this whole church/worship accompaniment thing different from normal gigging, is that the same song doesn't come around in rotation every Friday & Saturday night, maybe two or three times a night. If your lucky, other than the repeating mass parts (catholic church in my case) , the same song may only show up every 60 days or so.
  9. Stu L.

    Stu L. Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2001
    Corsicana, Texas

    The first statement there, instead of G-D-C-D, why the F# instead of D? I saw another post with a similar statement. And honestly, I do not know much theory. But at least I'm trying;) ...
  10. rickycootee


    Oct 24, 2001
    Statesboro GA
    I play in a praise band here at my college...we play alot of third day david crowder and passion songs...I do the same thing as one of the other posters does...I listen to a song and make up a bass part in my head and then try to play it...another thing..alot of people tend to think that the bass line in a praise band should be just roots and some walks and stuff...I usally do alot of fills and counter melodies and stuff. I am glad to hear that there are other people in hear in praise bands like me. give me an email sometime if you want to talk>>>Brian
  11. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    Let's see a North Carolinian, a Texan, two Georgians, and a couple of Brits. I think us bible belt residents are monopolizing this thread! Ha! Hey seriously, I'm sure some or all of you know already, but just in case not, there is a website/mailing list specifically for bass players who do their thing in a church setting. Info here:


    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    My current ministry work in the Roman Catholic Church is with the teen music ministry. We play at 5.30 mass and the songs are just basic cord progressions. Most of the bass playing is the root of the cord but you could really have fun with it. If your playin an A S 4 just play the lower and higher octives going on and off you can allso complement the cords with their inflections. When we play amazing grace i found playing in a higher register is great like past the 12 fret. In most church worship music the bass player is left to his own style which could really add something. Allso remember that you are their to lead in song so try praying with your group before the mass or service you will see the spirit will really help if you ask. I cant wait for sunday to come.

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    I meant to ask just does any one play 5 or 6 string at church. I just been playing 4 will see how my jack casady does at church i am sure it will rock.
  14. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I play my 6 string almost exclusively. Not only are there a good number of songs where the lower notes are useful (most of our songs seem to be in G and D, making that low D just the ticket) but I also find that round about the 12th fret on the D, G and C strings is quite a sweet spot for when I'm taking the melody (or inventing a counter-melody).

    Our group is also quite small, so I find frequent opportunities to use techniques such as chording, which sometimes are wasted in larger ensembles - again the 6 is really helpful here.

    Go for it - although it might be sensible to start by taking your 5 or 6 to a practise first before turning up to the service with it.

  15. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Okay - here's a quick primer.

    1. G major scale: G A B C D E F# G

    The most important notes for building chords are the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th

    2. D major scale: D E F# G A B C#

    Aha - one of those strong notes (the third, which determines whether the chord is major or minor) is F#... that is also the 7th note from the G major scale.

    3. Now think about the shape of the bass line. If you just play the root note, your shape is:

    However, if you play an F#, which will fit nicely with the D chord, your shape is now:


    It's a bit hard to see with the ASCII text, but if you try it, you'll hear that it sounds smoother.

    For a song in the key of G, fitting the style of most modern worship songs, your next chord is probably going to be either C or Em - in either case, playing an E will work - if I just give you the first three key notes of each chord, you'll see:

    C: C E G
    Em: E G B

    And that's why you'll often see a chord progression such as:

    G | D/F# | Em7 | C

    written out for which your first thoughts as a bassist should probably be:

    G down to F# down to E, jump up to C

    Hope that helps,

  16. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Hi, guys!
    Just tossing in to show there are others than "Bible belters" and brits in this line. Even one from the #1(or 2) de-christianed zone...
    Regarding the topic itself, there's not much to add to CS and Wulf - they cover all the basses - sorry, that was intended to be bases, actually:confused:

    Anyway, one chime from myself: don't be shy! It's OK to try, as long as it is intended to praise God.
    So, from some basic theory, you can experiment with bass lines - at home, at rehearsals and at service! Usually, it will work.
    You can also experiment with different instruments, like 6-string or fretless. I got a fretless (my first bass) on a thursday, rehearsed the next tuesday and played in service coming sunday. Not because I'm so incredibly talented, just because it's OK.

    NOTE: this "OK" thing implies that you make a severe effort to improve, in order to pay back that little talent you recieved, with an interest that suits the giver!! (oopsidaysy....)
  17. Stu L.

    Stu L. Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2001
    Corsicana, Texas
  18. JimiG


    Nov 12, 2002
    Manchester, NH
    Hi guys,

    I think it's great that there are other bass players at this forum that play at church. I've been playing with the worship team at my church in New Hampshire (note: definitely not the Bible belt) for 3 to 4 years now. We play the typical worship song stuff - Vineyard and a bunch of Tommy Walker (which is definitely more funky and better for the bassist).

    Some Sundays I play with a pianist, a drummer, and a sax player. Other Sundays we are more guitar driven with electric and acoustic guitars. What I have learnt is that you have to play differently to groove with the instruments you are playing with. For instance, I actually find it more freeing to play with the pianist because it seems easier for me to be inventive about the melodies and lines that I play. When you play with other guitarists it is not too easy to play different rhythms or harmonies because it just doesn't sound as good as when you play the same thing that they are playing.

    Another thing that I have learnt, and maybe the most important, is that Sunday morning is not about me, it's about God and helping the other church goers be brought to a place where they can truly worship God. After I got comfortable playing I decided that to be the best bassist I could be meant that I should play the most technically challenging material I could. Now I realize that sometimes simpler is just better. Too much bass may actually interfere with people worshipping God, especially if they are thinking about some cool bass line or rhythm I just ripped out. Maybe if that happens then I've really failed in my purpose as a servant of God. So I say whatever sounds best is the best, regardless of the difficulty level or whether it is different than what chords are written for the song you're playing.

    By the way, since somebody asked, I play a 5 string bass. The ability to have a low Eb and D can add so much emphasis in some of the slow worship songs. However, I am currently retuning my bass in fifths to match my cello, for which I am taking lessons. I just ordered those new strings today. So instead of the normal tuning of B''-E'-A'-D-G my bass will be tuned to C'-G'-D-A-e. Should be interesting. :D

    God bless,

    P.S. Thanks for the link to the church bass player's web site. I will definitely check it out.
  19. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    I play a 5-string in the teen/youth service at my church, which is Roman Catholic.

    If in doubt, the root of a chord is always a safe bet. It's like in hockey, they say a shot on goal is never a bad play. ;) It might not be interesting, though, so you're wise to work on adding some variety.

    In some songs you may notice a chord sequence that lends itself to playing consecutive notes that might not be roots. For example, G - Bm - C - D7 can work really well with a G - F# - E - D line in the bass.

    Often at the end of a musical phrase you'll find a dominant 7 chord, which adds some harmonic tension to be resolved by the next phrase. For example, in the key of G, you'd most likely see a D7, which is the V dominant 7, or perhaps a straight D chord building up into a D7, resolving into a G at the start of the next phrase. On the D7 or D-D7, try starting with the root, D, then moving up to the major third, F#. The major third and the 7 of a dominant 7 chord are what really give it its unique sound, so playing the third in the bass emphasizes that tension and the chord's role as a lead-in to the next phrase. Plus, the F# makes a nice lead-in to the G.

    Try adding some grace notes, especially to roots. They can add some punch to otherwise plain vanilla notes. For example, instead of a plain G at the fifth fret of the D string, start on the fourth fret (F#) and immediately either slide or hammer-on up to the fifth fret. The F# shouldn't have any discernible duration to it.

    Try these and experiment. Listen to what other players do with transitions and lead-ins. Have fun. It'll get easier as you develop and understand what you're doing. People may start telling you, "wow, that was really nice." :)
  20. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Bob's last comment has raised an issue that may be contentious (especially when I've finished with it). Some people have stated that it's not about me or cool lines and I agree. But how can 'you' justify the "Wow that was really nice" comments.

    IMHO you can reconcile the two if you are playing to worship God and not glorify yourself. I'll stop there and am willing to discuss this further via PM if anyone's interested. If not then that's fine too.