Playing It Cool

Occasionally I feel the need to discuss something bass “head” related. There might be a need out there, like there might be someone who is reading this and feeling a little like they’re standing out in their field instead of outstanding in their field (or not). ‘Ya know what I mean? I know from experience that there are a lot of unknowns that crop up in the old “one-note-at-a-timer’s” club. Something tells me that I may strike a nerve or two in this article. Have a seat. 🙂

When I began playing bass at such a young age with my whole life ahead of me, I could not possibly have imagined the kind of musical, mental, and social situations that I would go through within a few short years. Looking back, it seems like every good and bad moment was a lesson in music, behavior, life, etc. I quickly learned that I would never stop learning. As I came closer to growing into my calling, I certainly made my share of mistakes (I still make them…I just call them what they are much sooner than before). I have been in several different bands and have been confronted with various relationship-type situations; musical, social, or spiritual. These can be a source of frustration or of tremendous growth, depending on how you view and move forward with them. These relationships can be classified as either as “iron sharpens iron” or “go find someone else to dull” experiences. You CAN learn from both experiences as long as you’re willing to humble yourself.

Rehearsals are where relational concerns can arise. Everyone has his or her own musical ideas about certain aspects of a song. It could be suggesting a melody line for the intro, a chord substitution in the second phrase of the verse, a dynamic idea to insert a short stop on the downbeat of the third chorus, etc. This is a part of interaction within a musical ensemble that is a dying occurrence, unfortunately, with the advent of home “pass around” recording (oops-which I do a good bit of!). Your suggestions may be excellent but when you have an idea, do not ever try force it. Ask politely if you can have an opinion and don’t be offended if your idea isn’t heard. Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” As for me, I’d much rather receive honor over humiliation. Humility is always the high road in every situation.

Bass players have a slightly more delicate, competitive (for lack of a better word) situation to function in. There is always only one bass player in a band or rhythm section. This tends to add extra responsibility on the bassist and greatly increases pressure on him, especially if it’s a paid position. That can increase a competitive spirit amongst the bass player pool within the church, the organization, or the existing musical “clique.” Feeling threatened can be a very unhealthy strand that can really weave a stronghold around a bassist’s mind and cause him to fail musically, socially, and spiritually. A good, daily scripture reminder should always begin with Phil 4:6-7. “ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Any problems with self-doubt can be overcome by simply standing on this passage and living by its words.

Everyone is different in personality and style. It’s always been my desire to (try to) be like David – “a man after God’s own heart.” The fact is, David was the only man in the Bible that was ever referred to in that manner, so I’d say my chances are probably pretty slim. :/ Still, I feel that if everyone in a worship team, a band, or on a recording session considered just the essence of some of these thoughts, many churches or functions would probably be much happier, more productive places. Some people are naturally kind and considerate of others first because of their own wonderful, God-given nature. This kind of person does not always become a musician because of the dreaded ingredient known as “melancholy“, which typically accompanies the creative ingredient present in that personality type. Most musicians and other creative types have egos that allow them to perform, but can also get in the way of good interpersonal relationships in a band or recording situation. Putting yourself first works in the business world but not so much in the Kingdom of God.

If you are playing songs for someone, you are serving them. So when considering the upcoming performance or recording, it’s not always a great idea to question or have an opinion about how they have already been recorded (or demoed) as it relates to the upcoming performance.

If you are playing songs for someone, you are serving them. So when considering the upcoming performance or recording, it’s not always a great idea to question or have an opinion about how they have already been recorded (or demoed) as it relates to the upcoming performance. If the artist/worship leader feels that there is a song that needs to be changed or “updated,” they will most likely ask for your opinion. When they do you should immediately ask yourself if making a suggestion is the most productive thing to do at that particular moment. Be sure to consider time constraints, the artist’s personality, etc. If you do offer your opinion, convey it in the most sensitive and inoffensive fashion possible. When others offer their opinions, no matter how “good” or “bad” you might think they are, always give everyone’s ideas a fighting chance by playing them with your best effort. People will respect you for it and they will want to know what you think. You will also gain new, REAL friends at a much faster rate. To sum up, if your opinion is wanted, it will be asked for, but if there is an issue that you absolutely can’t stop thinking about, ask about it privately, either on a break or after rehearsal is over. Always inquire about musical dilemmas in a “what if” sort of approach.

No matter how excited you get during a performance, do not overplay. There is no exception. Listen to what the drummer is doing and “lock in” with him/her. The last thing that you want to do is to draw attention to yourself. If you are asked to play a solo, then play your heart out, but be sensitive to the worship leader’s approval and to the audience’s reaction as you play. A good rule to keep in mind is this; if it’s not helping the experience in the room, then you should have the sensitivity to stop soloing. You definitely should be able to feel this! Keep your focus on God and all that He has done for you. Concentrate on the duties of your “post.” I guarantee that it’ll make you lay down that foundation just like you’re supposed to do.

The key to harmony within a band or worship team is to be the one who constantly listens for the next opportunity to get out of the way. Remind yourself that you want to be THAT person. If everyone sets out to do that, wonderful things would begin to happen in that group during worship, performances, or recording sessions. Blessings on the work of your hands!

 

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Gary is a session player/producer/writer in Nashville, TN. He plays for many recording session accounts, does home recording and producing, and attends Grace Church (gracechurchnashville.com) in Franklin, TN. Email him for questions, comments or scheduling at garylunn@me.com.

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