What is the primary role of the bass player?
The bass working with the drums adds depth to the foundation. When the bass and drums lock together, the result is solid platform on which to build the rest of the song.
So in practice what is the best approach?
A good starting point for church bass players is to hold the root note of each chord in the song. Try and be firm and lock it with the kick drum. As a song intensity builds it will often be appropriate to play more rhythmically, but make sure that it’s working with the kick drum, and try and stay with the root note, rather than arpeggiating and having too many passing notes. ‘Less is more’ tends to be the best policy where bass is concerned, although there will be times when bass fills and embellishments will be appropriate.
An even bass sound (from the guitar and amp) that has enough high frequency content to give clear definition to the notes is more useful that a very bassy and woolly sound.
What qualities make a good worship bass player?
A good sense of rhythm and the ability to play in time and lock with the drummer (who is hopefully also solid rhythmically)! Also Discipline to keep it simple most of the time and not get too ‘carried away’. A good working knowledge of chord structures in every key will be invaluable.
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What about using different notes in the chord (inversions)?
It can be very effective to use inversions - e.g. playing a B or D when the chord is written as a G. This is sometimes written in the chord chart as an 'essential' part of the song arrangement, but there are other times when the bass player can use inversions even if they're not officially written. It can give a real freshness and lift to the arrangement if used appropriately. Just make sure that the keyboard player and anyone else who might be playing low notes uses the same inversions at the same time to avoid muddy clashes. The same goes for 'pedalling' where a bass note is held or repeated while the chords change on top.