I'd like to pick your collective brains a bit if possible. For one reason or another that I don't need to go into now, after a several year gap I'm probably going to start playing bass at my church. I've been thinking about the sounds and effects I might need. In completely non-christian circles I play in a post-punk/alt rock band (think Curve in their full pomp for those of you with a nineties indie background) where the bass sound is fairly full on - 5-string Stingray with valve overdrive, double compression, cutting massive amounts of mid and pushing as much bass and treble as the physics allow.
Given that my church has only acoustic guitarists leading, the supporting musos are almost all female backing singers with one keyboard player and a drummer with an electronic kit (which sounds anaemic most of the time), I'm guessing that my current set-up won't fit the bill. As much as various people here may want to, the full Hillsong type sound isn't going to happen any time soon.
The question I have to you all is any recommendations for effects set-up in this sort of band? I have a Line6 Bass Pod xt so no problems with availabilty of pedals, or alternatively should I just go for my acoustic bass with a little compression (the alt-folk setup I occasionally use in other circumstances)?
Grateful for any advice, especially from veteran worship bass players out there,
IMHO, leading worship is all about bringing a congregation to the point where *they* are *worshiping*. This means that your job is to suck people into the music without them becoming aware of your talents. Or to put it another way, the best worship teams make the best music without calling attention to themselves. You may be incredibly talented, but always remember the difference between a concert and a Sunday service. When Norm Stockton plays with Lincoln Brewster at a concert, it's different than when he plays on a Sunday with the worship team.
So in general,
1. Humbly find a place where you, the piano, and the drummers kick bass can co-exist without competing
2. Start with very little effects. What you may consider "little" may be what others consider "bass fuzz"
3. Place yourself firmly and humbly under the direction of the worship leader; look for what the sound is that the leader is looking for.
Very many thanks for your time and your insight. Taking your points from the top:
'I'm assuming your playing the Line6 straight into a DI box, which feeds straight to the sound board? (E.g., you are not controlling your own levels?)'
Oddly enough I was having this discussion with our soundman last week. We've got two venues, a smaller one we actually own which has a pretty decent sound system with sub-woofers, so I'll be DIing there. The hall we rent when we need the space to get everyone into one service has a small mobile PA which won't cope so I'll be using a combo there - an Ashdown MAG 300W 1x15 should work (turned down very low...)
'The Paul Baloche "Playing Less / Listening More" was very instructive to me and my team. I can recommend it.
I'll admit I don't know that one, but I've been working my way through the Musicademy bass DVDs as well as (oddly enough) Norm Stockton's set. One of the things I'd worked out from them is the need to dramatically dial back my playing style (root fifth should do fine for now, and we'll see if it needs to be developed from there), not having two extremely technical but very inspired electric guitarists and a monster drummer to keep up with takes a lot of the pressure off. I suspect that feeds into your next paragraph as well.
'So in general,
1. Humbly find a place where you, the piano, and the drummers kick bass can co-exist without competing'
I doubt I'll be working with the keyboard player much, we're on different teams, but totally with you on the need to tune the bass drum and bass guitar sounds so as they don't clash. The drummer doesn't generally change his sample set much so that shouldn't be too hard.
'2. Start with very little effects. What you may consider "little" may be what others consider "bass fuzz"'
Seems fair. The provisional set-up I came up with last weekend just had some compression, EQ and a very light chorus, I was wondering if there are other options out there.
'3. Place yourself firmly and humbly under the direction of the worship leader; look for what the sound is that the leader is looking for.'
That's going to be interesting. I don't know any of them from Adam, and the complement is returned. Looking at all the bits in Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin which talk about the need for personal relationships within worship teams, seeing how this develops over time could be instructional, hopefully we'll all be able to put in the effort.
While I'm not our regular bass player right now, I've been the mentor for our current player (as I've been vocally leading and playing guitar more lately.) Which version of the MusicMan String-Ray do you have? HH? We seem to have the most success Fender American Standard P-bases, as the dynamics are great. (Even better than the Fender American Jazz V w/ Active Lace Sensors I had for a while too.) Sometimes I feel the Humbucker pull the bass strings a little too much, compress the sound.
Our bass player recently bought the POD XT live too (as I have had great success with the guitar version). While we've done some funk style songs with Bootsy Collins auto-wah/envelope filter, and even some heavier stuff, but the best success has been with very vanilla 'Motown', James Jamerson type sound. It's where the American Standard P-bass with the volume and tone knobs on full.
I find that the sound complements acoustic guitar and a little basic electric. It's a got a little dirt, but not offensive enough to cover up the piano, yet punchy enough to carry a great bassline (like most great motown songs). Somewhat clean (not full of effects, chorus, or delays), but not overpowering. (Like the great basslines with My Girl -Tempations or I Heard It Thru the Grapevine - Gladys and the Pips). Low-tech, but very memorable.
Not 100% sure how you'll recreate it with the MM string-ray. I think with the sub-frequency bass, either punk, or even that drop tuning style that Nickelback uses is just too heavy for those mellow 'sappy' songs. (Many church sounds systems can't even handle this properly through the house system.) It's like you got to be a good 'wing-man'. Be a good back-up guy, but not steal the show.
I think the best compliment that guys gave me on days I played was, that was a great set. I didn't even notice the bass, but it had a great groove. ;)