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tobiewharton

Christian Praise and Worship Players

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Hi all,

I would be really interested to hear about the experiences of those that play bass in church worship teams and with praise choirs etc. Besides Norm Stockton's input on the matter, I've found very little public discourse surrounding bass as an instrument for worship.

Cheers,

Tobie

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I play bass occasionally for our worship team at church.

I first started out in the band as a bass player only and it was a mega steep learning curve but improved my playing a lot. I always remember the first practice where i was handed a sheet with chords on in G for a song i'd never heard and told by the worship leader: " we play this in Bb".. * Starts the song.... :o This sort of thing whilst very uncomfortable to start with, seriously improves your command of an instrument IMO (Well either that or you get thoroughly frightened off... not to sure if its good.... worked for me in the end though)

The worship leader and his wife had lead the worship thing in our church for years, within a year of me joining said church (and becoming a Christian i might add) they had to move away to be closer to their family so Mrs TK (who plays keyboard/piano) and I were asked to take over... much steeper learning curve... :o :o

I basically had to learn how to play a guitar pretty fast. Whilst i have done it a few times, it is pretty hard to lead with bass IME. Much more difficult to control song dynamics etc... + the whole singing thing is much harder with bass ...(well it is for me anyway)

We had a great time doing it and really got properly involved in the whole church family as a result. Having recently started a family and now with 2 very young kids we handed our leading of the team to another couple. We still both play in the band though less regularly and i still lead worship once every month or 6wks or so.

I'd recommend it from both a spiritual and musical standpoint. Have fun :)

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Most, if not all, of my bass playing currently is in the worship team at our church. Lots of Worship Central, Hillsong, Planetshakers, Jesus Culture type stuff. I must say, I do love playing bass in worship and it's such a different think to playing in a band. Over the years I've experienced most of the things that Tommy describes, including playing at a church where you never knew what key the worship leader was going to launch off on - and without the help of a "This one's in Bb" either. It certainly is good for ear training and the ability to play on the fly. Similarly having to play an acceptable/interesting bass line to a song which has just been thrown at you with only a chord sheet to go on.

Plus the format of the band can vary so much from one week to the next depending on who is available. You can imagine drums, bass, keys, two guitars one week and then bass, keys and a flute the next... Arranging songs for those sorts of variances and shifting your role within the band to cope is an interesting challenge.

You're right though, there is a bit of a dirth of good online forums for worship bass players. I've tried a few general worship forums over the years but many seem to fizzle and there's the danger of folks holding rather to closely to their opinions/preferences and dressing them up in spiritual clothing. That never ends nicely. So sad.

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There are some good resources but they may take a bit of searching.

Paul Baloche has some good resources on youtube. He talks about individual instruments and how they fit and the general context of worship.

Basically, you are playing pop songs. So in principle treat worship the same way.

I'm been doing worship (drums and bass) for 25 years! It's my main gig.

So my top 10 tips for worship bassists are:[list=1]
[*]Listen to the leader and follow their lead [sounds so obvious but ...]
[*]You are serving the Lord and the congregation first - always remember this
[*]Keep it 90% straight and simple. There's no harm in a little embellishment and runs etc but DO NOT OVERPLAY
[*]Take great care over your dynamics - verses medium volume, chorus up a bit etc.
[*]Listen, listen and then listen again
[*]Learn when to stop playing. It sounds brilliant when the bass cuts out for a section then comes back in on the chorus etc.
[*]You will play with musicians with a wide range of ability, learn to be gracious and encouraging with those less able. [This is still where I most often go wrong]
[*]Find a good drummer and KEEP him/her close. You will never sound good with a bad drummer!
[*]Some vocalists and keyboard players will slow down at the end of a phrase. This needs to be handled with tact.
[*]Enjoy yourself and smile. There is nothing worse than looking at the band and everyone is sad or bored.
[/list]

There, all that advice for free. It's hard earned believe me. I'm still not gracious enough with some musicians that overplay, or can't keep time, or won't listen or play too loud or have to play every single note in every single bar. Calm ...

Peace
Davo

Edited by Davo-London

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Hi Tobie,

Just thought I'd add a recent experience here
I'm not a particularly religious sort of person myself - though I respect the rights and thoughts of others who are - whatever religion they may be

I play regularly in a local folk club, which is located in the Church hall. Several regular church members attend the folk club
It's a real community spirited club, and the hall itself is used for many local community events and functions

A few of us from the club have been playing charity events, including a couple of Townswonen's guild fundraisers, and a couple of gigs
at a local old-peoples home. The old folks at the home have really loved our visits, and enjoyed what we play for them...

However, a church event recently really made me question why I play for free, and whether it is appreciated.
Several of the folk club members (2 of whom are regulars at the church, and help out with basic maintenance and laundry etc)
had volunteered to play some Christmas carols at a fund raising Christmas Fair, held in the Church hall

on arrival, several of the regular church group all but physically accosted us, when my wife & I arrived!
They shouted that we were not to get in the way, not to move anything, and told us there was no way we could bring in all these amplifiers & equipment. I only had a tiny, portable bass combo and my bass!
They repeatedly and aggressively told us that we were to come and just sing for them, whilst standing outside We couldn't get a word in edgeways, and the more I tried to tell them that we only had 2 guitars anyway, and there was no way they'd hear us
and what's more - it was raining heavily! - the louder and more obnoxious they got!

I turned away and said "Merry Christmas to you too"
and my wife said "Thank you for such a Christian welcome!"
Later they complained that we didn't sing for them!

This has made me question playing for any such group at all, and generally given me a bad feeling about playing charity events Certainly, I would not play for that particular church group again. And this was the church my parents and most relatives were Christened in, and/or married in.

I'm sure this is not the sort of "experience" you were asking for - but I'd say, approach such events with caution
As some people just can't understand why you need an amplifier, let alone what a bass is
.... or why you may not wish to stand outside in the rain!

Edited by Marc S

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[quote name='Davo-London' timestamp='1450780871' post='2935750']
So my top 10 tips for worship bassists are:[list=1]
[*]Listen to the leader and follow their lead [sounds so obvious but ...]
[*]You are serving the Lord and the congregation first - always remember this
[*]Keep it 90% straight and simple. There's no harm in a little embellishment and runs etc but DO NOT OVERPLAY
[*]Take great care over your dynamics - verses medium volume, chorus up a bit etc.
[*]Listen, listen and then listen again
[*]Learn when to stop playing. It sounds brilliant when the bass cuts out for a section then comes back in on the chorus etc.
[*]You will play with musicians with a wide range of ability, learn to be gracious and encouraging with those less able.
[*]Find a good drummer and KEEP him/her close. You will never sound good with a bad drummer!
[*]Some vocalists and keyboard players will slow down at the end of a phrase. This needs to be handled with tact.
[*]Enjoy yourself and smile. There is nothing worse than looking at the band and everyone is sad or bored.
[/list]
[/quote]

I think numbers 3. to 10. would be valid for non-worship bass players, too... OK, maybe not 7. :D

Edited by discreet

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[quote name='discreet' timestamp='1450785823' post='2935813']
I think numbers 3. to 10. would be valid for non-worship bass players, too... OK, maybe not 7. :D
[/quote]

You're my non-worship bass player :mellow:

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[quote name='Billy Apple' timestamp='1450792357' post='2935902']
You're my non-worship bass player :mellow:
[/quote]

Quiet admiration from a distance is fine. :mellow:

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[quote name='Marc S' timestamp='1450782375' post='2935772']
on arrival, several of the regular church group all but physically accosted us, when my wife & I arrived!
They shouted that we were not to get in the way, not to move anything, and told us there was no way we could bring in all these amplifiers & equipment. I only had a tiny, portable bass combo and my bass!
[/quote]

:(

In every walk of life there will be a percentage of people who are clueless about the logistics of a given situation, but really feel the need to share their "wisdom" anyway. They just cannot stop themselves. This exists in Churches just like it exists in clubs, weddings, pubs, halls, festivals and anywhere else I have gigged. I have played in Churches for the past 30+ years. There has been an awful lot of support and now and then sone situations where I have just raised my eybrows and then deffered to whoever was running things that day, or dealt with it myself if I was nominally in charge. Some people just love to have their say. My experience outside Church has been exactly the same.

I am sorry that you ran into the wrong people in the wrong place. I hope that you can see them for people who were clueless, massively over-excited and lacking in social graces but not representative of the Church as a whole. I am not dissing them as individuals, I do not know them or their situations. My guess is that they were excited beyond belief and slightly anxious about their planning. People really struggle to understand that an event can happen slightly differently from how they percieve it and it will still be ok. A bit like a song in Church can be done in at least 3 different styles and it will be ok whichever one is chosen.

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Davo's top ten tips are spot on. Good worship bass players are good bass players i.e. good listeners, sensitive to the mood and dynamics, locked in with the drummer, adding power and energy when required.

There is more variety in Christian worship music the uninitiated might think. It's come a long way since Thora Hird and Cliff Richard. Bands like Rend Collective have written some great worship songs with a folky, rootsy feel, and bands like Gungor are simply excellent musicians and songwriters, and so talented they defy any label. Worth checking out if you have never heard them.

Sorry you had a bad experience, Marc S. Some folk are threatened by anything that isn't done they way it was when they were children. But in my experience many more want to see some life, spark and energy in their churches. We did a gospel choir gig in an ancient cotswold church to a largely grey haired audience. At the end, an elderly lady said to me, 'Good stuff. That's the most life this church has seen since about 1740.' :)

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I grew up playing praise/worship bass - it was my main gig for roughly 10 years. it taught me to listen and be sensitive to the song, which has been invaluable on numerous gigs since.

I stopped doing it because I kept encountering xenophobia (borderline racism in some instances) and homophobia and bigotry.

Edited by paul_5

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Worth a watch. Somes the praise leader forgets there is a whole band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNi32F62wi0

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I ran the worship team in my church for 15 years.
God called me out of the team about 3 years ago.
The biggest thing I taught the team was about being yourself and not trying to reproduce slavishly what someone else has created. God made us who we are, and our purest worship comes from our connection with Him informing and leading us in bringing the congregation into the throne room.

The 'top ten' above is a great manifesto

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You may want to check out the Worship Players section on [url="http://www.tdpri.com/forum/worship-service-players/"]TDPRI[/url] (Telecaster forum). Obviously it's not bass-oriented, but there may be a lot of stuff shared that will still apply to you.

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It’s great to read about your experiences guys. I have had similar experiences in my own worship team and alongside occasional frustrations, have certainly developed as a player in this ministry context.

Davo – thank you for an excellent list of tips, with which I agree whole-heartedly. It’s amazing how 10 is so often overlooked…

One thing I would add is that whilst the majority of music used for praise and worship is constructed around a pop format, there are some instances where it isn’t. Some gospel styles for example, often involve extended breaks, impromptu modulations and changes in time signature and as such effective communication by the MD is vital. In my church, we use the Nashville Numbers System as there’s no music and often no rehearsal. This has proven invaluable.

What I’m particularly interested in though, which I didn’t make terribly clear in my original post, was how members of worship teams have experienced the act of worship whilst playing bass. I also lead vocally and find this experience can be more obviously expressive, both as a worshipper and as a leader. Less often, I play guitar as accompaniment or on the worship team. The guitar seems to lend itself to expression (melodically, for example) more readily and thus it too offers a different experience to playing bass. Now I don’t believe that the bass offers anything less as an instrument of worship, in fact quite the opposite, but that perhaps people aren’t always seeing it as such and certainly not talking about that enough. I suppose I just don’t subscribe to the ‘simpler is better (or even essential)’ tagline for Christian bass playing, as per Gelfin’s link. Surely, creative expression should be encouraged, but not at the cost of distracting others. I would be really interested to hear your thoughts…

Tobie

Edited by tobiewharton

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I am not a Christian, never really been and I can't say I know of a single one of my friends who is a christian... so it may come as a surprise that in 2008 I auditioned for a worship band. :blink: :lol:

Well, I didn't know it was a worship band. They didn't say. I was looking for a band to join, they told me they practice at this church near where I lived and didn't think much of it as many churches use their grounds as a sort of community centres around here. I asked for recordings or anything they would want me to prepare and they said no, just show up with my bass. They did not mention the worship aspect at all.

So I showed up, and immediately I realised what the situation was. I felt tempted to turn around and leave but... I was there, they expected me, why not go through with it.

Band leader and guitarist was a bit of a tyrant from the way he treated his band, but he wasn't extreme and the band sounded good, so hey, if that works...
I was handed a few sheets with lyrics and chords written along the lyrics and "let's start with song X, 1, 2, 3, 4..." and we started!
Songs I never heard before, but largely pretty predictable structures, so all I had to do was scan the sheet for the chords before starting, and go with it. Play simple initially, and try a bit "prettier" playing as I became more comfortable.
The band was two guitars, three female backing singers I think, keyboard, a guy doing various percusion bits, and a 12 year old drummer who was pretty cool.

I had a good time.
They offered me the gig but I declined because the worship aspect really isn't for me... but if I were a Christian, that would have been a pretty cool band to join. The atmosphere was welcoming and nice, and what at first seemed like a tyrant bandleader... I suspect he just held the reigns of the band tight but he was probably a cool guy too, or the other members wouldn't act so relaxed around him.

I would not leave my "usual" gigs, but having something like this in addition to a more standard band sounds great to me... if you're into worship. It's not an area I know much about, but over the years I have encountered a good number of worship bands/players and there's a lot of really good stuff out there, musically. I can imagine it would do a lot of good to help develop further as a bass player.

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[quote name='tobiewharton' timestamp='1450885242' post='2936720']
It’s great to read about your experiences guys. I have had similar experiences in my own worship team and alongside occasional frustrations, have certainly developed as a player in this ministry context.

Davo – thank you for an excellent list of tips, with which I agree whole-heartedly. It’s amazing how 10 is so often overlooked…

What I’m particularly interested in though, which I didn’t make terribly clear in my original post, was how members of worship teams have experienced the act of worship whilst playing bass.

Surely, creative expression should be encouraged, but not at the cost of distracting others. I would be really interested to hear your thoughts…

Tobie
[/quote]

Funny, the No11 I was going to add to Davi's excellent 10 commandments was always give 100% to your performance (it's an offering to God and he deserves no less) but never let it become a performance. Be a worshipper on the stage leading the rest of the congregation into worship and modelling your worship to them. Now that can be a hard thing to get on top of but for me it's vital in a worship context. I often remind our team that when they are playing they are ALL worship leaders, not just backing musicians or backing vocalists and while they need to follow Xana, our worship leader, they should also be listening to the Spirit and aware of their position leading the congregation into worship.

It can be such a temptation just to play and perform and most of the people I've played with have needed to work through that t one extent or other.

I think that they overplaying comment really valid. That's not to say you shouldn't be creative but it's knowing how and when to step out. It is a principle that applies equally to all playing situations though, not just worship music. Play with a purpose and if the best thing for the song is straight 8 notes on the root at some point then play those with 100% commitment. Sometimes that is what is needed. Sometimes it is wigging out. But wig out for a reason and in the right places. When we play Let Praise Awaken the instrumental bridge section bass line is slathered with funk wah and manic octaves but that is what is called for at that point. For the verse and chorus it is solidly holding down the riff, maybe with some conventional wah added here and there that is needed... The way we play it, anyway. The right playing in the right place at the right time. On Jesus Lover Of My Soul it's largely roots with the appropriate walking passing notes that works for me. Dead basic but, hopefully, in the pocket with the drums.

There's a particular Hillsong track which we do that annoys me every time I listen to it (name escapes me right now). The bassist seems to think he's a budget Rocco Prestia. It's a constant 16 note groove (in the ungrooviest way possible) all over the scale the whole way through - and to my ear it really doesn't fit and really ruins the recording. When we do it my line is still trying to be groovy but with more dynamics and fewer notes. For me it fits the song much better. All too often you hear players trying to fill every space with a note. Sometimes that is just what is needed (sounds awesome in What Is Hip?) but not everywhere. One is creative, the other indulgent - and it can be a very fine line. Then there is the style where ever fourth bar has to be punctuated by a fill... By the end of a song that can just sound annoying.

As you say, creativity but in context and respecting the Spirit, the song, the moment and the worship leader.

On music, I'm using OnSong on the iPad. Really versatile and love being able to transpose on the fly when using ChordPro format songs files...

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Wise words Trevor. Appropriate, creative expression, yes; distracting performance, no. I wonder whether the notion of every team member being a leader (as an example to follow) gets lost in translation. Perhaps bass, amongst other instruments, can be undervalued in worship as a result of that.

Tobie

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It is a complex and varied thing. And it may vary in its nature from context to context. The overarching philosophy that you're not there just to play notes you are there (individually and as a team) to lead the congregation in and into worship should, I think be universal. But still there will be an authority structure in the team (and the church) which must be respected within that.

However, depending on who is on each week I find my role as bass player subtly changing. One of our electric players is amazing but lacking in confidence so I find myself mentoring and encouraging him as part of the role. If we've not got drums for some reason and the acoustic guitar player is not able to do it I find myself playing more rhythmically and signalling the beat and the drive of the song from the bass. Other times the whole team may be looking to me for musical cues (esp when we don't have an experienced or confident keyboard player). And those things can take a multitude of forms - the way I play, choose notes and strike the strings, looks and nods and bass neck gestures, mouthing timings (1 2 3...). These days I often don't realise that I'm needing to do it.

I guess that the dynamic in every team is different. Our main worship leader is a singer so sometimes the team needs, in effect, an MD to rally and corral the troops. I guess that it helps that I'm one of the more longstanding team members and on the older end to the teams age spread too...

Edited by TrevorR

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Also, for us, I think it really helps that both our worship leader and senior pastor understand how a band works. So they understand what the rhythm section is there for and the role it plays, the strengths and limitations of different instruments and the inter band (musical) dynamics that make for a successful ensemble piece.

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[quote name='TrevorR' timestamp='1450898126' post='2936871']There's a particular Hillsong track which we do that annoys me every time I listen to it (name escapes me right now). The bassist seems to think he's a budget Rocco Prestia. It's a constant 16 note groove (in the ungrooviest way possible) all over the scale the whole way through - and to my ear it really doesn't fit and really ruins the recording. [/quote]
Salvation is here?

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[quote name='xgsjx' timestamp='1450965895' post='2937456']

Salvation is here?
[/quote]

That's the fella! Much prefer leaving the bass line more room to breathe when I play it!

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[quote name='paul_5' timestamp='1450813554' post='2936154']
I grew up playing praise/worship bass - it was my main gig for roughly 10 years. it taught me to listen and be sensitive to the song, which has been invaluable on numerous gigs since.

I stopped doing it because I kept encountering xenophobia (borderline racism in some instances) and homophobia and bigotry.
[/quote]

You were playing in the wrong church my friend. I completely understand your situation as I also encounter on a regular basis congregations who display the disgraceful facets that you found. Please don't think that all congregations are like this. It's always better to try out a church first before you commit yourself. Don't let it put you off playing in church!

Edited by Hutton

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