In this episode, Worship Artistry bass instructor Daniel Ornellas and Pro Worship Bass Player Ben Davis (Kari Jobe, By The Tree, Steven Curtis Chapman) talk about growing as a musician and practicing well. Jason and Dan also talk satire, T-Rex's and Orangutans. They also answer a question on blending band styles and sing some Incubus. You won't want to miss it. Read below for the transcription of the best questions from the live webinar. We've got a podcast only Twitter account now so follow us here.
What resources do you use (besides WorshipArtistry!) to develop new techniques that help you mimic legends?
Ben: I don’t even know if this is a qualifying answer because it’s a unique thing, but the bass player at my church, his name’s Gary Lunn. Any bass players out there, you need to look up Gary Lunn.
This guy is unbelievable. He’s a monster and he is a great, great man, too. I get to watch that guy on Sunday and if he’s not there and I’m in town, I’m playing bass there. It’s just great to be able to rub shoulders with a guy who literally is a legend. I don’t know if this is a real answer but If you can get a hold of a legend, do that!
I was making notes here while we were talking, and one of the things I wrote was “mentor.” Put your pride out with the trash and go find the guy at the church who you know is better than you, even though you just don’t ever want to say that. [If there’s] a guy at church that’s better than you and it bothers you, instead of letting it bother you, you should hang out with that guy. Tell him how awesome he is. If you’re the guy that’s really good, make sure you don’t come across like the guy that’s really good. Especially in a church setting, raise up the young ones, and pat them on the back when they do a good job. Create a community of bass players that can serve the church together. I got on a soap box there, but it’s because I wrote the word “mentor” on my sheet here, and I have a really good one.
Daniel: When I was in South Africa and we didn’t have a lot of international bass players coming through, my favorite player was a guy called Abraham Laboriel and he was an inspiration to me, even getting into bass when I was younger. He’s real flashy and I was the kid who loved to be flashy. (I should have been an electric guitar player but I ended up being a bass guitar player!) Abe came through town playing with Ron Kenoly at a worship event and I was watching him on stage and he was so inspiring and it was crazy because it was the first time I’d seen someone really great playing. Afterwards I went up to him and he said to me, he said “you’re a bass player!” I said, “How do you know?” “You were just watching me the whole time!” So then he took his big five-string fretless acoustic bass off and said, “show me something that you play.” I was like “no, no!” I was freaking out, he said, “please play me something.” The thing about it was, he was the number one core session bass player in LA, he played at all the presidents’ inaugurations, he’s played on everybody’s records, and he was still asking the little white South African dude to show him something. That idea stuck with me forever, that he still thinks that I might be able to show him something just blew my mind. When you think you’re a legend, you don’t look to other legends anymore, and that’s your cap on how much you’ll ever learn. If you still think, “I can learn from anybody,” you can still grow because you don’t consider yourself a legend. I think that’s a good starting point because you can learn from anyone at any time and, like Ben’s saying, put the pride away. Look for anyone to learn from. You might learn one little thing that just changes the way you play. I met someone who was just starting to play acoustic guitar. They picked up some chord that I’d never heard before. They played it for me again and I said, “that’s a rad chord!” They learned it by accident and within a few seconds I’d picked up something for myself from an absolute beginner.
Jason: Keep your eye on people who are doing great stuff, too. When I first started guitar, I used to joke, “this has ruined concerts for me!” I used to go and just listen to the band. Now I go and stare at the guitar player, trying to decode everything he’s doing. Mentorship is so huge. As a kid, it means so much to you when that guy in your church who’s really good at it, gives you a little wink and says, “that was pretty nice, man.” Or, that same guy says, “maybe tone it back a bit.” You take it with so much weight. As you become a better player too, be willing to mentor people, remember that kid inside of you, and be generous with the people around you. Daniel, you talk a lot about hospitality in worship. Instead of knocking some guy for getting it wrong, take the moment to say, “hey, let me show you this.” Not being domineering and taking over them but just being willing to play that role in their life and allow those people to do the same with you. People are the greatest resource. That probably is the perfect answer. Everything else, I don’t know… Google!
Free Song Tutorials Are A Click Away
Do you guys have a good method for teaching newbies to practice charting by ear?
Daniel: Take the most simple music. For example, let’s use old U2 records or somewhere where the bass is really prominent. Edge really soundscapes over the top of the bass and then there’s drums and then there’s Bono. You can hear the bass lines really clearly, especially in the old records for U2. Sunday Bloody Sunday is… [imitates bass line] you can hear those lines, you can hear those notes really clearly. With Or Without You is four notes and it’s all eighth notes, and it’s the same as Blessed Be Your Name or 20,000 other worship songs. You learn those lines and you can hear those by ear. Don’t try to pick out the stuff with a 26-piece band and try to pick out those parts because it’s just too hard. We'll do that for you on Worship Artistry. You need to start with the songs that are easier to hear and easier to play. Definitely some worship records are easier than others. Strangely enough, Chris Tomlin, the way they mix his music, the bass is quite far back, so it’s kind of hard to pick out all the parts. But there are records out there where the bass stands out more. Paul Baloche is like that. You can hear the bass line more prominently. If you can hear the bass line, hear the movements, then slowly but surely work your way through them. If can’t play by ear at all, then do some ear training to be able to play the same notes on the piano. Hit that note on your piano and see if you can hit that same note on your bass and learn to hear which notes are which on your bass. Like Ben was saying, if you learn which number of the scale they are, a one chord, a four chord, a five chord, then it becomes easier to write those things up.
Ben: I love teaching people about the Nashville Number system. It starts first, though, with music theory. So you want to learn your chords, you want to learn your key signatures, you want to know your scales, and once you know that, which is the beginning of things anyway, you learn that within that scale, you learn that each note has a number. The more music theory you know and if you can throw in Nashville Numbers on top of that, that helps anybody if they’re charting. It’s key, the only way we do it here in town.
Ben, you mentioned that you were building a new pedal board. What's on it?
Ben: I have it all sitting right here. This is my newest little guy. A guy out in California is making these things. Go to nobleamps.com. It’s a tube DI. I leave it totally flat. I’ve been on the road since 2001 and this is the first time that my pedal board is putting out the tonal quality that feels like the signal chain in my studio when I’m doing sessions. For the first time, this has taken the quality of the session and bringing it to your pedal board. It’s a tank. After I got this, my pedal board was destroyed on a flight. Four pedals were broken and this one was perfect. If I haven’t sold you yet, it’s your power supply because it powers six more pedals. This [Timmy is] what I use for my drive: most know it as a guitar pedal, but the Timmy is a great drive pedal. I don’t run this direct. This doesn’t go to the DI, it only goes to the cab. I run two lines so that the guy out front can have control of how much drive I might be sending, or how much clean he wants. And that’s another relationship thing you build too with your front house guy. Tuner: I’ve got the classic SansAmp, 3-channel. This is my little tiny, throw-it-together board. The 3-channel SansAmp, this only goes to the amp. Octave: I’ve tried every octave pedal out there. This Boss OC-2 just seems to be the one. Compression: the bass compresser by Origin Effects in England.
Daniel: Do you have a direct box you’re going to first?
Ben: The Noble has my direct line, then out of that, I have an A-B splitter, it splits my signal, class-A wiring, good clean, that way I can send stuff to the DI and stuff to the amp. I’m playing a Tyler Amps bass rig.
Jason: So let me double-check. What’s your signal chain?
Ben: The octave and compressor hit everything. So the signal chain would be: bass, tuner, compression, octave, the Noble DI, then I basically send everything to the cab, mic’ed up. A JDX box by Radial goes between your head and cab and skips the ambient noise from a mic. It takes signal from head, and reverse impulse from speaker cab, sending you a super-clean, [signal]. If you had it mic’ed up in the studio, you can have that live with this JDX box.
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