Bass Guitar in Worship Music: Kevin Justmann

Starting this week, we will be rolling out a series of blog posts that pertain to the technical, theoretical, and ideological sides of playing in or leading a worship team. This week, Kevin Justmann shares his perspective on what bass players can do to add to their worship team in the most excellent way: 

- Know the music.  I know this sounds simple, but I know many bassists (myself on occasion) who will walk into a set thinking they can wing it.  It only requires 1 note at a time, right?  While the average audience member probably won't notice, the average musician will, especially the worship leader.  If you want to get asked back, know your stuff.

- Go with the flow.  Is this contradicting my first point?  No.  Know the music well enough to change your runs, riffs, and fills on the fly.  If the worship leader is building back into the bridge unexpectedly, fill into the minor 6.  If he or she's settling down and trying to hit the last chorus a cappella, don't hold on to that riff you had planned on.

- Simplify.  It's wonderful that you can play the Sweet Emotion bassline in this worship song.  (I'm talking to my 7th grade self.)  But does it fit?  Does it add to the group dynamic, or does it shift the spot light to the bass player?  Remind yourself the point of the songs you're playing.  If/when you get lost in the music / reflection / worship, don't stifle your musical worship by playing quarters on the roots, but don't attempt to steal the show.

- Don't be boring.  Again with the contradiction, amiright?  Not so much, either.  Boring and simple are not the same.  Have you ever heard McCartney's Abbey Road basslines?  Those are simple and breathtakingly perfect at the same time.  Fill as much as is appropriate.  Challenge yourself.  Add a passing note into the first verse that ties a bow on the intro without being gaudy.

Good worship bass is nuanced.  Simple, but not boring.  Rehearsed, but not scripted.  If you play something that the worship leader doesn't like, don't be offended; come up with something better.  It's never about the bassist anyway.


Check out Kevin's playing on our record Because of Christ