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What is it that makes 'gospel bassists' masters of the groove?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fountain boy, Feb 21, 2006.

  1. I stay completely baffled and humbled by these guys musicianship almost all the time.

    What in the world makes these guys so damn good? (excuse my language)

    They play with such feel and confidence and can speak the language of music like nobodies business. Ask them what they're doing and rarely they can explain it. I'm talking guys, 1 or 2 years outta high school. Don't get me started on the guys in their mid twenties, they can play most guys underneath the floor.

    Is it from years of transcribing Isreal Haughton and New Breed, Fred Hammond and others of that ilk?

    Was up with this phenomina? Ed fuqua? somebody, please explain?
  2. kenlacam


    Nov 8, 2005
    akron, ohio
    As a former (and I stress-former)gospel bassist, I was always surrounded by great musicians. A lot of gospel musicians,not just bassists, are extremely competetive, and want to be better than the other, so I think that comes into play, because everyone wants to shine. Plus a lot of these musicians study jazz artists, as well
  3. RoVaughn


    Oct 8, 2005
    Why are you a former ( Stress former) Gospel bassist?
  4. jim primate

    jim primate bass guitarist.

    presumably because he has his reasons for finding it embarrassing.
  5. Thank you'll for the insight fellas.

    These young and hungry bassists are -very- compettive but also have engaging and warm personalities. (as bass players do)

    The bass guitar, to me, has very spiritual roots and it's usually the way i hear the church guys play, that i kind've find myself envying in my heart.

    I suppose learning the language of music in a church is a very forgiving enviorment, as i'd imagine that you could bomb sunday in and sunday out and still get a commendable reception or reaction from it's members, not so in the secular world.

    Additionally, to get surrounded by fantastic musicians around you and develop under that tutelage must enable these guys to only become the monster players i always seem to encounter.
  6. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    I think one of the things that make current gospel bassists so good is that they also dabble on keys (a lot of them do) so they are very fluent at chords, progrssions, and key movements. Some of the things they come up with astound me too. Another reason is the competitiveness (sp?). A lot of these guys and gals are young players and one-up-manship is a regular theme in their very existence. Also credit the creeping influence of R&B riffs and licks... Urban / Contemporary gospel (Fred Hammond, Hezikiah Walker, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Isreal & New Breed, Martha Munizi, etc.) are reaching out to new audiences by incorporating things into their music that the people they're trying to reach are familiar with. Kirk Franklin's "Stomp" from a few years ago pretty much stole a George Clinton/P Funk/Funkadelic line and used it as a gospel track!! So the culture of Black Gospel isn't a bunch of old uncles and gramma's sitting in a run down shack of a church with a rickety piano singing freedom songs..... it now more reflects the almost club scene that the church has so long scorned. With that modernization has come the renewing of the music, the musicians, the style of writing, the freedom of creativity, and hence the bad @$$ bass players....

    Maurice Fitzgerald, Fred Hammond, Sam Scott, and others... they're just sick.

    Also, they've got drummers that rock the house too. What do we bass players like more than a drummer we can lock tight with? A drummer we can lock tight with ALL THE TIME - and they're in the black gospel chruch!!!

    just my $0.02......
  7. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    You're sugar coating it.... as one who is essentially a nomad because of my job and who regularly goes from church to church until I can find one that i like and that wants/needs me, I can assure you that musicans (especially organists and bass players) get eaten alive if they can't cut it. If the congregation and church body is growing, and is progressive minded, I'd bet you my B string that one of the main attractions is the music department. The Choir and music pit have got to be tight and be able to bring the house down with authority and regularity. Has it gotten a little showy and theatrical.... maybe, but that's another thread topic. In the spirit of the original question posed here, I'd say that that insistence on knowing your instrument and being able to literally make it speak is what gets those guys the gospel gigs. It's an "improve and deliver" or "move on" environment.
  8. You nailed it Mario! You nailed it my man! (You evidently are a gospel cat yourself)

    What i love most is seeing the gospel guys cross over and play secular music behind the r&b cats, live. (Usher, Anthony Hamilton, Floetry, etc)

    This 'making the bass speak' is exactly what i was rambling on trying to convey and all i ever want to accomplish on the bass myself.

    Again, these young cats are not only competitive but very intimidating, when their playing isn't tempered with humility. (and usually it isn't, until their more seasoned, or have matured)

    The few times i've engaged in a conversation with these guys, seldom they say anything about the theoritical part (chords, progressions, scales, modes, substitutions) but rather, they'll play the hell out've a gospel song or improvise on the spot like a mutha. Melody, feel, rhythmn and technique, ain't nothing to these dudes.

    In a way, i can see how they have a right to be a *little* arrogant, as seeing that these r&b guys seem to get the recognition, while these gospel and jazz guys toil in anonimity.

    Oh, i know in Atomic Music (here in the Washington DC metropolitian area) the who's who of musicans in town, especially bass players, fall through and have no problem showing out.
  9. It's also my opinion that gospel bassist's seem to get the absolute most, out've their instruments.

    It's funny, because i also catch myself at times reading how the musicians here fawn over Sadowsky's, Roscoes, MTD's, and Norstrand's but am humbled by seeing how those gospel fellas *assualt* those simple passive 4 and 5 string Fender jazz basses, or the active deluxe ones.
  10. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    I'll agree to a certain extent. With the added demand for the expertise has come the visibility that say a Fred Hammond or Maurice F. can bring to a particular instrument or a line of gear. I always see an Elrick at the ready for Fitz and Hammond is a known Ken Smith fan, but don't get it wrong, these guys (and gals) do like boutique basses too. Gouche's own personal MTD has exchanged hands on TB, and with the high dollar productions of videos, and concert tours, and promo's, these folk are getting PAID! and they've got the instruments to show it.

    In closing, I haven't seen the credits yet, but check out Hezikiah Walkers latest "The Experience" , you'll hear "bass speak" all over the place..... And the intro to cut #3 utilizes the intro to Dancin' Machine by the Jackson 5.... that's the kind of on the edge stuff that keeps urban (or black) gospel so intense and bringing folks (like me) in by the droves. I gurantee you'll be out yo seat and on yo feet by the end of the first cut "Lift Him Up"...
  11. +1 to what everyone else already said...no sense in getting repetitive and you guys summed it all up better anyway...
  12. You on point Mario.

    I have Anthony Hamilton's Live dvd (Coming From Where I'm From) and his bassist Christopher Pottinger has got to be my all time favourite in making the 'bass notes sing'. He plays in such a *sensational* way. He use to be Tonex's bass player but i guess he seeing way more scratch with Anthony's band, constantly touring and all. In fact he's the reason i let my brand new 3 month old Warwick Thumb 5 string go, for a Conklin Groove Tools. Stupid, i know, i know.

    Funny you mentioned P Funk/Funkadelic, as i sent off a money order 2 days ago, to the funkstore and ordered the Micheal Hampton/Ronkat Spearman/Steve Boyd, Live in San Franscico dvd!

    All i can reccomend (as you'll already know) is to be aware that if they walk in a music store and you are playing something without conviction or surety, those guys have an uncanny ability to sniff you out, plug up near you and run through so much material that all you can do is bow out gracefully and concede defeat.

    Oh, and before you'll will try and admonish me with the whole 'music ain't no competition thing' - in that particular enviorment it's usually every man for himself. So please, miss me with that...
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Funny thing about showing out (and Atomic is a perfect example)... what some consider showing out ofttimes is just a player playing. Just doing what he or she does. Granted some do come through with a mindset of one-upsmanship but for the most part it's about being yourself.

    Atomic is a cool place to hang because, at least when I'm there, we talk about any and everything... chord progressions, positions, note choices, gear, gigs, business, whatever. The only problem is that it's obviously unscheduled so you never know when a "seminar" or "fellowship" will break out. Matt has been talking about taping sometimes, it can be a very cool and enlightening environment to hang out in.

    Back to the original question, what makes Gospel guys so good? The same thing that makes any musician good... a strong desire to play and for some, peer pressure are at the top of the list IMO. If you really want to play better, you'll put in the time. That can be figuring out things on your own or finding other resources. Help on a local level is great and that's where these meetings at Atomic come in handy. Ask any question you want and you'll probably get some useful information. The trick is figuring out if the "help" you're getting is loaded with baggage or not. For example, I've found that the people who tell you you need a specific bass to do anything are usually projecting... "they" haven't figured out a way to get past that "obstacle" and they're passing that onto you.

    One last thing... don't just listen to Gospel. You can bet that the cats that you like in that field who can really play didn't and/or the guys they listened to didn't. Gospel bassplaying these days is very secular. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Good music is good music.
  14. You nailed it to Brad!

    You must be one of Preach's boy's @Atomic? (short guy with the dreadlocks, plymoth prowler)

    Man, y'all dudes have Atomic locked down so well, that when the top tier used pieces come into the store, the owner and some of the employees call you'll for first dibs on the new arrivals. Must be nice.

    Not being negative about the one- upmanship but i also believe that these bassplayers use their playing in an introductionary way, in drawing out, or getting to know, other bassist/musicians. Almost like a way of introducing themselves.

    I find with guitarist, that for the most part, they want you to sit around and listen to them solo for 10 minutes, without interupting them and then maybe, just maybe, they'll acknowledge you.

    To some gospel musicians i suppose, it's 'just another gig' as to others, it's worship and in the process they obtain a resovior of experience with playing in front of the public and learning to manipulate the feelings of others in an emotional way.
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Yeah. Preach is a good friend of mine. BTW he has a PT Cruiser:D

    Funny thing about bassists... sometimes people are bashful about sitting down and playing. It really isn't a competition and IME pretty much everyone brings something to the table.

    If someone is doing something that you don't do and/or would like to understand, I've yet to see anyone any less than happy to explain it. For the most part it is like a brotherhood... the only people who seem to get annoyed are those that want everyone to like what they like. Me, if I'm asked a straight question I give a straight answer.

    You're right on target about the guitarist. Too funny. It's especially amusing when they're fawning over a 10 top flamed maple guitar because it has, are you sitting down... a MATCHING HEADSTOCK:eek:, then they see what some of us bassists are working with:D

    BTW the reason why they call us is because:

    a) they have an idea what we're looking for and
    b) we don't kick tires:D
  16. Bryan_G


    Apr 28, 2000
    Austin, Texas
    I think a lot has to do with the fact that most of these guys have been playing their whole life. In a lot of the smaller churches it isn't uncommon to see some really young kids filling empty spots on the worship teams.

    Think about how good you would be if you had been playing 3gigs + practice each week since you were old enough to hold a bass.

    I agree though some of these guys are just insane.

  17. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    I very much agree here. I recently had a church gig where we had practice every Thursday, I had 3 services on Sunday and there was a guranteed extra performance at least 3 of the 4 weeks during the regular work week. PLUS, I was practicing at home practically every night some new tune that was on slate in a few days or weeks. So I was in practice & play mode quite often - and half the time I was forced to learn stuff on the fly and follow the organist on the foot pedals. My ear training was really sharp. That's a must!!

    So just being in that environment which is very "on demad" makes you a good player as opposed to just being in a band with a set list that might not change too often, practicing once a week and not touching your bass in between. I'm not in a position to keep ut the Gospel pace at the moment (wife is in school, kids in school and daycare, plus my regular 9-5 day gig and San Francisco area traffic!!) so I'm WAAAAY out of practice. I might not touch my bass or even look at it for 5 or 6 days! and it shows when I do pick it up. I'm ashamed at how my skill have slipped.

    I was recently talking to one of the more revered area players who acknowledges that he spends easily 3 to 6 hours a day just practicing.... and he's been doing that for the last 8 years!!! So it's no wonder why he can do that voodoo that he do so well.
  18. Yeah, i imagine, on the right day, that Atomic Music shop might even come close to resembling 'Namm' in January. You could be standing around talking to the most unassuming guy and then find out he's such and such bassist. I know i was standing aroung watching a real nice guy debating with Preach on buying a Gallien Krueger head. About 3 weeks later i went to 'Mirrors' and saw that the same dude was Raheem Devaughn's bassist, and homeboy was up there killing it, with his 5 string Fender active deluxe jazz bass and his Gallien Krueger head. But that sorta thing happens everywhere, i suppose. When i attended 'The Bass Collective' in Manhattan in 2004 (what a waste of money) the surrounding music shops (Rudy's, Manny's, even that Guitar Center off Ave of Americas) had some monster players in there as well.

    I started playing bass in 2002 and in 2003 i was in the Guitar Center up in Rockville Maryland trying to get my strings lowered on a Warwick Corvette, when i met 1 of the most nastiest but humbliest young players, ever. I was up at the counter and could'nt get a good look at him initially but i can remember praying that the guy lowering my strings would lower them quicker so i could get over to the bass section and witness this guy up and close. Just the manner and feel in which he played, deeply, deeply affected my nervous system and almost had me in tears. He commanded that much respect.

    I knew he was young ( he said he was 21) but the amount of playing that he had done and his experience with the bass from a very tender age, is exactly what Bryan G & Mario were bringing out. Come to find out he (at that time in 2004) was Karen Clarke Sheard's bassist. He said his name was Kenny but that everybody calls him 'K-Bass'. He stated that he was endorsed by Cort Guitars and i went home and looked him up, which he was. He tapped out the complete melody to 'Ribbon in the Sky' by Stevie Wonder and told me that was how he won his endorsement with Cort.

    He ran through a grueling schedule with me that he played on within the gospel circuit. Not only that but he (was/still is?) a full time college student at Bowie Sate College (here in Maryland) where he was majoring in music. He invited me the following day to come to some church function to see him play, then to come out on Friday to see him, as he was Dru Hill's bassist. (when they performed at his college) I had to decline both thimes but exchanged phone numbers with him instead.

    I've met only one other guy in my entire 4 years studying bass playing (my closest friend) who plays in the same manner as him.
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Raheem sat in with us (The Sound Poets) last week at Bar Nun.

    There are a lot of good players in this area, most of whom (fortunately) have a decent head on their shoulders.
  20. That's tight Brad. I cannot wait for Raheem to release his next album. His style resembles D'angelo's but differs, in that he does'nt seem to play that 'i'm a semi celebrity, so let me play this tortured genuis, recluse role' like d'angelo.

    Raheem seems real approachable and appears to recognize his limitations. (as all modest men do) It also seems that he does'nt know, or simply chooses 'not to play the game' to advance his career but he is certainly a hometown favourite.