How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

Auto Pilot

I have a bass student that’s in the 9th grade. He recently asked me, “How do you get good enough to play on the stage in the worship band at Acquire The Fire?” (He had just been to one of their conferences.) I told him to Google this question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer is the same. Practice.

This morning, I was going through my journal from last years National Worship Leader Conference. I came across the notes I had taken at one of Norm Stockton workshops. I remember Norm talking about how to play on auto pilot. That’s when you know your instrument so well that you can play with freedom and precision. When I meet with a guitar student for their first lesson, I always stress this point: You will make faster progress if you practice at least 15 minutes a day than if you practice for 1 hour, once a week. Norm would call the benefit of a daily practice regimen is that ability to go on auto pilot.

I’ve written these Norm-nuggets down from my journal here below. They are tried and true for any musician, not just bassists. Please share this with your worship teams. I give all the credit to Mr. Stockton.

  • Diligently invest in the gifts God has given you.
  • Consistent practice every day.
  • Auto pilot happens with 15 minutes a day, not 4 hours every other Saturday
  • Bass = Infrastructure
  • Don’t conflict with the groove
  • Groove = Feeling of consistent/reliable forward motion in music
  • Pursue a passion for the groove
  • In the band, everybody’s responsible for the groove.
  • Groovicidal = not grooving
  • Playing with a Click = Eating your veggies part of music
  • Your internal sense of time is not calibrated.
  • Woodshed with a Click. Period.
  • The 100% Rule – If you play in a quartet, that 100% is divided by 4
  • If your part sounds like 100% of the music, you’re playing too much.
  • Dynamic contrasts make the music say something.
  • Avoid musical schizophrenia.
  • Emotive playing!
  • To avoid “groovicidal tendencies” – the bass player and drummer need to play together. Practice grooving together!
  • Play with intensity at a low dynamic level.

A note to worship leaders, music directors, and pastors… send your bass players to Norm Stockton’s new bass teaching website, Art of Groove. Subscribers can have unlimited access to all of Norm’s teaching, including his 60-lesson bass curriculum all for $10 a month! That’s ridiculous! Makes me want to quit playing guitar and grab my bass!

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