Having a wide vocabulary of bass grooves is invaluable, whether playing live or in a studio environment. The term ‘vocabulary’ is appropriate as it truly equates to having the broadest range of possible expressions, so that the one that perfectly articulates the moment can be contributed to the musical conversation or worship time. This list of grooves is obviously not all encompassing, but is a good starting point!
When trying to decide what grooves to play in a particular song’s various sections, it’s important to keep in mind that there are rarely ‘right vs. wrong’ musical choices, but much more commonly there are ‘more effective vs. less effective’ musical choices. The factors informing those choices include things like the cadence of the vocal in that section, song tempo, overall emotional statement, and desired musical feel, etc. These considerations are usually subjective, but our discerning faculties can be calibrated through regular and critical listening to well-crafted music played by great musicians.
By the way, it should be noted that there are many phrasing options that can dramatically alter the feel. For example, in Groove A, changing the half note on beat three to a quarter note, followed by a quarter note rest on beat four, allows room for the snare drum hitting the backbeats and conveys a bit more groove than the exact written part. Experiment with note duration; it’s amazing how something as simple as how long you hold out a note can so profoundly affect the overall feel.
We’ll continue with more next time. Happy woodshedding!