It’s always good to review the basics. A lot of the people that I meet don’t know some of the basic requirements of being a bass player. It’s always good to be mindful of these things.
As they say, old habits die hard. Consistency in volume is a much-appreciated habit to develop. You should always try to play at a consistent finger pressure (+ or – 10%)! In situations where the front-of-house engineer really likes to “ride” the mix, always give him 98% of your loudest volume during sound check. One of the worst things that can happen to a front-of-house engineer is to have two or three beats of painfully loud bass notes during a service because the bass player was “holding back.” That will probably get you turned off in the house mix or smashed (compressed) beyond recognition from that point on.
An important part of choosing the bass notes that we play is somewhere deep in our subconscious, bass-part composition process. Always think of a bass line as a part for the whole song. Keep in mind that a good, consistent bass part can take almost any great worship song to higher emotional levels during worship time. One approach that usually works is to begin songs playing in a higher register, as songs generally start “small” and finish “big.” Try saving your lowest notes for the last chorus. Lower notes used at the right time can really move things in the Spirit.
Whenever there is unity in the foundation, everything is going to ‘feel” better.
The drums and the bass have to be on the same page musically; the level of anointing in the music will be much higher. Whenever there is unity in the foundation, everything is going to ‘feel” better. If the drums and the bass don’t agree on a kick pattern in a song it can cause a lot of confusion, which leads to a very unsettled feeling for the worship leader. I’ve been in a few situations where the drummer hasn’t done his homework. It makes for quite a struggle that no one can quite put his or her finger on! When the bass player has a good relationship with the drummer, in certain musical situations (i.e. vamping or free worship) they can both be led to spontaneously change feels, moods, etc. This can be quite inspirational to the worship leader and to the congregation.
Learn to write charts! When you can, keep a few extra pieces of paper in your chart book for those times when an unannounced song that you don’t know is played. When this happens, see if you can let the worship leader play the first part of the new song by himself. This will give you time to write a quick chord/number chart. If you are an iPad user, keep your apple pen at hand and a sketch pad app running in the background.
Dictation (writing charts by ear) is a skill that is rarely acquired without practice, but is an extremely rewarding skill once it is developed. And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have perfect pitch to do it. You just have to be a good listener and be familiar with intervals.
I am sure there are several books on the number system, but if you have taken music theory at some point, you probably already have the knowledge that you need. All you have to do is consider chord analyzation and you’ve learned the number system. Just change the Roman numerals into numbers. For example: if you are in the key of A, then A is the 1 chord, D is the 4 chord, E is the 5 chord, F# minor is the 6m chord (the 6 chord is always “minor” unless noted). So there is your 1-4-5-6m song. This is SO easy to learn. Once you practice this in all keys for a while it soon becomes second nature.
All the musicians in the worship team share the responsibility to pay close attention to signals given by the worship leader. You have to watch their eyes, hands, and body language to discern what he or she wants to do next. As you learn their hand movements, it’s pretty easy to tell where they’re going chord-wise (I like to be in a position where I can see their left hand). As for dynamics, if the worship leader wants to bring the music down and you’re not watching, it may cause a huge train wreck or severely frustrate the worship leader. Either of those mishaps can hinder what God wants to do at that point in the worship service.
Remember, the worship starts at a “higher level” when everyone in every position on the worship team plays with excellence and sensitivity (especially the drums and the bass). Take the basics to heart and be a better musician!