How To Beat The Bass Amp Blues

Get the volume without blowing the sound mix.

One of the most difficult things to navigate when playing bass in church is that it is often difficult to hear yourself play without getting so loud that it ruins your sound for the sound guy. Here is how to beat the bass amp blues.

We have all been there. You get told to turn down until your tone sounds like a ghost's breath! The obvious solution is to start sand bagging the volume during rehearsal and then crank it for the service. Ha, just kidding but you know you've done it. There are other ways but they really depend on what your monitor situation is. Here's what I do.

In Ear Monitors

1. If the venue is small then the obvious solution is to skip the amp altogether. It's okay. You'll be fine.

2. If the PA system is so small that the bass can't go through the system I use a bass amp but I get help from the sound guy so the amp simply reinforces the sound. Make sure it plays in the right direction to get good coverage rather than blasting one person in the front row and when it comes to the eq, you'll want to avoid the smiley face shape that's all highs and lows. Instead, bring up the mid range, otherwise it will sound like a lobster is playing bass!!

3. If the sound system can handle bass I often play with my Sans Amp pre amp as a Direct box and set up my tone before sending it to the sound board. The key to this approach is having quality ear buds that create a good seal and have a nice bass response. That way my mix doesn't mess with the front of house volume at all.

Avoid the smiley face eq and become friends with the mids for a clearer bass tone. 

Wedge Monitors

1. If you are in a small venue try use a small amp and make sure that you stand far enough in front of the speaker to allow the sound wave to form. Otherwise you will totally miss it.

2. If the PA system is so small that they can’t put bass in the system, well...just do what I said in the last section.

3. A little bit softer now. The lower the stage volume the easier it will be to hear your low frequencies so gently encourage your guitarist to turn his amp DOWN!!!


Most importantly, whether your venue or system is large or small, listen carefully to the sound in the room and try play to the room. 

Daniel Ornellas, worship leader in the band "The Worship Republic" is originally from South Africa. He moved to the US with his band Tree 63 and has toured and recorded with numerous worship artists. He produces records and lives in Nashville with his wife Samantha and their two kids and is the bass instructor for Worship Artistry.

How To Beat The Bass Amp Blues

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In ear monitoring

Survivable if you have decent in ears or even resort to headphones. Cheap ear buds are a mess for bass, and you will lose your will to live if you are playing fretless in that context. Definitely coordinate with band leader and mix folks as to getting a in house tone that works. A band that sounds good overall tends to enhance the worship experience for the congregation and the band. The congregation gets distractions or excuses removed and the band usually plays with more joy when they like what they hear.

Bass Volume Blues

Good info on the 'blues'!
I use Audio-Technica headphones ever since we got onstage individual monitoring systems. I can set all other volumes and then push the bass over the top of them so I can hear what I play.
My problem is the house sound. Our sub-woofers are 2-18" JBLs. The system has all sorts of power so, that is not the problem.
When we are practicing, if I take off my headphones while playing, it sounds like the bass is being played thru some little speakers. There is probably enough volume but the tone sounds like low strings on an acoustic guitar. There is very little depth and even less presence to the sound of the bass.
How do I politely tell the sound crew to push up my tone/presence without sounding conceited or bossy?