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Role of bass in modern/ contemporary Christian music and the 'groove' factor

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  • Role of bass in modern/ contemporary Christian music and the 'groove' factor

    Ok, as a bass player, I have a couple questions to bounce off you fine people

    As I listen to a lot of newer Christian music, I like to listen to the different parts. One thing I can't get around is the bass parts- almost all of what I hear is pounding out root eighth-note stuff played with a pick- no dynamics, no groove, no interaction with the song other than a metronome.

    Why is that? Meaning, when those of you who write & produce, what do you see the role of bass as being?

    When you are writing, what thought do you give to the bass- do you leave it for your bass player, producer or do you come up with something specific, or is it more an afterthought?

    I have listened to a lot of iconic and talented bass players like James Jamerson, John Entwistle, Paul McCartney, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, Vic Wooten, Geddy Lee, Stu Hamm, Sting, Jack Bruce, Randy Jackson, et al. that incorporated bass as an integral part of the song. I learned from players like these how much a lively bass part with some hooks and runs locked in with a great drum groove can add so much life to a song.

    And no, I am not threatened/worried/jealous/ etc. I am just wondering what's driving this migration. The bass can be such a pivotal part of a great song and so many iconic songs I grew up with had a rocking groove either driven by bass or is partnership with a great drummer.

    Even in the Christian world of music, outside of Toby Mac and Israel Houghton, not too many artists seem to be putting out songs with a good groove- at least they aren't getting a lot of radio play.

    I'd like to see a bass player like Vic Wooten in one of the mainstream bands that brings dynamics and groove back in, much like Lincoln Brewster did for guitar solos.

    Anyway, enough out of me for now- so what has been some of your experiences with the bass in the scope of what you do?

    Mike
    If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

  • #2
    I am actually a bass player.. Though as a worship leader, I play guitar. The bass is easily the instrument that I play the best though. I'm with you.. I'm more of a groovy player. For a number of years I played bass in a Ragge/Fusion band.. And obviously in Ragge music, the bass kind of carries the show. I am personally a fan of very complex bass lines.. Victor Wooten is one of my idols. I will also say that Norm Stockton is on the list of people who inspire me too.. Though, since I've started to listen to Lincoln Brewster (who norm plays bass for) I haven't played a lot of bass. Once upon a time, as a worship leader, I led from the bass.. Which according to every musician I ever did a concert or conference with, that was very rare.. The reason I now play guitar is because we had lost 2 of our guitarist in 1 year, so I needed to step up.

    I think I may know the reason for the lack of groove that you speak of.. Simply put.. From my experiences any way.. Bass players are hard to come by.. In my band, our bass player wasn't even a bass player before he stared playing with us.. He was a cello player, and I handed him my bass, and gave him the famous Jack Black line from School of Rock "this is a bass, it's like a cello, you turn it to the side, and CELLO you've got a bass." His bass lines are very basic, but, it gets us by. I would assume that other people may be in similar situations, and this is why we see a lack of groove in the bass line.

    I could be totally wrong.. I know in my situation, that is why.. And I do know there are a lack of bassists, so, I think that's the problem.


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    Last edited by chrisburke; 03-23-2012, 07:23 PM.

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    • #3
      i agree. more bass!
      I have been hooked on 7's on 7 onsirius radio lately..... man talk about bass grooves! The 70's laid em down man!

      Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang and such.... bass lines from HEAVEN!
      MORE BASS LINES PLEASE
      I didn't mean to be inaccurate, but I wasn't trying to be precise.

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      • #4
        My husband is a guitar player turned bass player. These are the thoughts he shared with me: Bass players are sometimes hard to come by. Typically the bass player is a guitar player that is filling the hole. With that said, the person playing bass would naturally follow the rhythm guitar, which is easiest to play an eighth note rhythm on the root. The other issue is that a lot of the modern worship songs do not lend themselves to bass grooves. My husband said he has tried to come up with bass lines other than the typical eighth note rhythm, but the style of the song would not allow much wiggle room for a groove bass. Sadly, the eighth note bass rhythm is the modern style in today's worship music, just like the heavy U2-style delay on the guitar.

        Personally, I would LOVE to hear more bass grooves in our worship music. Bring it on! :-)
        Melanie Siewert, Christ's Servant
        BLOG: http://www.worshipvanguard.blogspot.com

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        • #5
          My son has been the bassist in our band.

          Not being a bassist myself, I think that I did what many people do, overlook the bass player as that knuckle-dragger in the back holding down the tonics.

          When he began to take off after listening to many of the bass players that you listed above, I really noticed a difference! He now plays similar to Jamerson & it gives me an opportunity to play much more simply on guitar. He has so much groove covered that I don't have to do much.

          While I used to overlook bass, I am now inclined to think that it is one of the most important roles in the band. The unfortunate reality is when a band has a great groove, no one seems to know who it is that is primarily responsibility for that groove; the bass player.

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          • #6
            I would say that if you have a firm grasp of musical theory, you can still groove in modern worship.. That's not to say your husband doesn't.. But I can get a pretty good groove going on just about any song, because I know where things are going, and can hear notes in my head before I play them.. But, I also have perfect pitch, which helps a LOT


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            • #7
              I wouldn't base (get it) my opinions of modern worship music from what's on the radio. Yuk.

              There's plenty of stuff with good grove, and if you really want to have fun, listen to some urban gospel. Stuff like Ty Tribbett, Fred Hammond (who is a mean bass player) and Mali Music. They'll groove your face off.

              I think a lot of songwriters don't know how to write good basslines, and don't want to leave it up to someone else to do it. Personally, I love a good bassline. Our team traditionally lets our bass players get as funky as they want, and bass is an integral part of the sound.

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              • #8
                Interesting feedback-

                I see the point about finding good bass players and about guitar players standing n the gap, so to speak. Naturally, many take the approach of 'rhythm guitar lite' and give something very basic- and throw in the 'catchy pop tune' approach of building the song around the chorus, that doesn't help either.

                Part of the situation I see is looking at bass teachers- many are guitar teachers that teach bass- teaching about either 'guitar lite' and making cool riffs and solos that mirror the guitar parts without much groove, or the metronome without much groove. It's hard to find an actual bass teacher.

                The thing I like best about bass is it's so versatile. You can play in almost every genre, every movement, every flavor of music and not get bored. I also like the fact that I get to blend the rhythm section in with some nice fills and tie it into the melody line.

                [/QUOTE]I think a lot of songwriters don't know how to write good basslines, and don't want to leave it up to someone else to do it.[/QUOTE]

                I think that does have a lot to do with it- either don't know how or don't want to because it's all about the catchy melody and everything else is just support for that.

                I agree about the urban gospel stuff- there is some great stuff there. It gets me jammin for sure. Hopefully some more bands/songwriters pick up on it as not just an 'urban gospel' thing and bring it back into the mainstream again.
                If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

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                • #9
                  This is simple... modern worship music isn't written by bassist. You can make the same case for the piano (few exceptions), drums (few exceptions), etc. Modern worship is written and produced by guitar players. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. The focus isn't on making instruments stnad out, they are focused on the words and overall tone of the song. Could a great bass lick really benefit some songs? Sure! But it's just not the top focus when writting worship music in todays genre.

                  This is neither good nor bad.
                  Lov'n Jesus

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                  • #10
                    Steensn has a good point. However I still want better bass lines in todays music. The bass and drums rule the music. Guitar and keys should fill it up and compliment it more so than what we are doing. With that being said; todays music sounds good! Better bass lines will make it better!
                    I didn't mean to be inaccurate, but I wasn't trying to be precise.

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                    • #11
                      These have been my thoughts for several years now and i'm glad other worshipers are noticing this as well...don't get me wrong, I love the style contemporary worship has developed these past few years, but I feel the bass is always sacrificed or underdeveloped.

                      I'm the worship leader at my church, though I don't "lead" worship unless the main pianist is not in town or if it's a youth-only thing, and bass has been my main instrument since I was 12 (now 28). Fortunately at our church the musicians are given creative license (can someone honestly tell me if this is a Hispanic church thing because I rarely see this at other churches) to be led by the Spirit on their particular instruments....and let me tell you I let the bass fly! Most of my favorite music and bands are secular so I have a lot of influence in different styles from the 50's onward. I hardly, if ever, listen to secular music anymore but the influence is there and I let that pour onto my worship role. We groove, harmonize, attempt complex melodies, and just flat out jam for the Lord. Our worship can be very spontaneous though it always starts out structured.

                      I can see how some non-bass-playing worship leaders wouldn't know how to write bass lines or might actually restrict the bass to simple rhythms, and that can be a good thing if the bass player is inexperienced. However, with an experienced and Spirit led bassist the music and worship environment can really reach amazing levels. My own style is like a John Entwistle meets Billy Sheehan trying to do Victor Wooten haha...

                      Also an important part of having grooving bass is having a drummer that knows how to groove with the bassist and/or stay in the pocket. This gives the bass freedom to weave in and out of the rhythm; creating many of those nice grooves.

                      - A fellow minstrel to the King

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by chipshot0701 View Post
                        Steensn has a good point. However I still want better bass lines in todays music. The bass and drums rule the music. Guitar and keys should fill it up and compliment it more so than what we are doing. With that being said; todays music sounds good! Better bass lines will make it better!
                        I don't know if I'd go as far to say they rule the music, but in many music genres, they certainly 'drive the bus' so to speak. In the church world, a lot of people still approach it as the 'leader and the backup band' mentality were the leader is driving the bus and everyone else follows along.

                        Part of it goes with the territory, and 'it is what it is'.

                        I think there is still a stigma that if the music is too 'showy', it's all about the player's egos and not about God. (which is another source of a double standard- a singer that sings 5 octaves is a talented blessing, but a guitar player who can play like Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton, or Angus Young is a showoff and 'bringing attention to themselves and not God', regardless of persona- lest I digress...)

                        Who knows- maybe the next 'thing' in praise music is the Clapton style blues licks or the Gilmour style solos...
                        If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mike on Bass View Post

                          Who knows- maybe the next 'thing' in praise music is the Clapton style blues licks or the Gilmour style solos...
                          Lincoln Brewster is definitely paving the way for it!


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                          • #14
                            Phil Keagy meets Lincoln Brewster- that would be sweet
                            If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mike on Bass View Post
                              Phil Keagy meets Lincoln Brewster- that would be sweet
                              **wipes up the drule**


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