by The Awaken Generation Team
Okay let’s start off with something easy. What was your journey like as a bassist?
Oh I’m not really a bassist… I’m a keyboard player right? I started playing in church as a bassist when I was 12 or 13 because no one else wanted to play bass & I really hated it.
Because it was boring?
Yes, because it only had four strings & I only played one string at a time (laughs). But about four years ago, I started becoming very interested in bass.
It’s funny the way it started because it was a complete accident. There was a need for bassists in my church- then again, there’s always a need for bassists in churches. I was in a rehearsal & the worship leader suddenly asked me to play because the scheduled bassist pulled out last minute. So I tried & I sounded good because I understood the concept of bass guitar. I knew how to “lock” it. I never sat down & learnt it formally. I just applied music & band dynamic fundamentals that I already knew.
What are some simple things that bassists miss out?
Sometimes bassists miss the most bassic (pun-intended) things. They go straight to learning funky grooves or slapping without even knowing what to look out for in a band setting. For example, simple things like reinforcing the accents of the kick drum or paying attention to phrasing. I don’t blame them for not knowing these things because I think no one ever highlighted it to them.
So why is AG introducing a bass stream next year?
I think it’s really answering to that obvious need that churches have – the need for solid bassists who really take ownership of the role. Most of the time, people are just “assigned” to bass because maybe they can play guitar & there is no one else fulfilling that role. & so I think we wanted to start the bass stream to raise up bassists who TRULY understand music, who can use that instrument effectively & not just play notes. The church needs bassists who take the instrument seriously & who understand how crucial their role is.
What can prospective students expect next year besides understanding their role as bassists?
We’re going to explore band arrangement, playing techniques, chords & the relationship between chords so that they can fill-in properly. Also, I intend to teach bassists to lead through their instrument because I really believe that bass guitar has the power to change the dynamic in a song – you’re in charge of the harmonies! You can change the colour of the progression with just a simple inversion.
Some people say that bass isn’t a very “creative” instrument. What do you have to say about that?
What do you mean?! (fake angry face)
I mean, people always say that oh, there’s so much space to create on a keyboard or a guitar but I see bassists play the first two strings & that’s it…
No no, there is actually a lot of space. There is so much frequency to explore but you must know where & when. Inversions, pedal points, counter-melodies… Again, it comes back to knowing your instrument well & knowing what to look out for. For example, when I play with a drummer, I know they have different nuances in how they play their fills. So I try to figure them out & accent my groove accordingly to match them
So what are the requirements to get into bass stream next year? It’s not that hard right?
Ah, we are looking for people who can play the guitar just to make sure that they can do basic things like press a string, play some chords & be rooted rhythmically.
Any last message to prospective students of AG Bass Stream next year?
Maybe some lame bass jokes?
Lame? Oh, you mean my high-level jokes? They are strictly for my students only, so you will have to enroll to hear them!
Raymond Hernandez is the resident Keys & Guitar Mentor at Awaken Generation & soon-to-be Bass Mentor. Besides being a talented multi-instrumentalist & music director, he also enjoys creating excel spreadsheets & thinking up of “high-level jokes” to tell to his students every week.