Applied Techniques With Igor Saavedra: Tips for the Modern Bass Player – Part Two

Applied Techniques With Igor Saavedra: Tips for the Modern Bass Player – Part Two
Igor Saavedra

Meet Igor Saavedra –

After many years of experience, mistakes, experiments, and conclusions, I think I have something to say…There’s no better master than experience itself. When you experience something, it’s more likely you’ll never forget it. So read on and try to remain prepared for everything that might come.

There are tons of tips I’m able to give you, so this series will be divided into 3 or 4 articles at least. Process each one of them for your own benefit.

11) A Battery can turn into an undesired MUTE feature.

Always include a battery tester and replacement batteries with your gear. It doesn’t have to be a huge tester, just a simple one. Consider changing your instrument batteries every 2 months no matter how much you use them, and never leave your active bass connected because the cable plug closes the circuit and discharges the battery. In relation to effect pedals, I’d recommend using a good power source. Digital effect pedals can easily consume an alkaline battery in 2 hours, which many times is less that the length of a gig, and can become a very expensive way to power up. If you insist on using batteries, always use alkaline batteries. Another option is rechargeable batteries, and make sure to use the most powerful rechargeable batteries.

12) Instrument cables must be changed every two years.

Depending on use and brand, instrument cables must be changed on average every two years. It’s pretty embarrassing to suffer from sound cuts and strange noises in your signal due to the condition of your cables. It’s also worth your time to learn how to fold them so not to damage them. Ask any good sound engineer or roadie and he’ll explain that to you in a couple of seconds.

13) Gig bags and their plastic accessories.

Never use a gig bag that has plastic accessories for the belts…here’s a quick story. I was in Santiago, with my gig bag on my back waiting for the subway to come, when suddenly the plastic where the hangers of my gig bag passed through collapsed and my bass felt down like a stone. My bass neck was on the subway’s track while the body was barely resting on the subway platform. I had about 5 seconds before the train arrived—close call. When I told my friends about this accident, I realized that I was not the only victim. The problem is that plastic is more likely to accumulate stress and suffer from material fatigue. All that bouncing movement when we walk starts to accumulate on every plastic accessory where the weight of the instrument rests. From that day on, I always used metal accessories on my gig bags and nothing has happened in more than 12 years. If the gig bag you are going to buy, or that you already own has plastic accessories…Change them!

14) Use gig bags that “compress” the bass.

Continuing with gig bags, always try to use the type where your instrument is a little bit compressed on both sides and doesn’t allow the instrument to move. Choosing the proper bag for your instrument is something that has to be taken seriously. If the instrument is not compressed, there’s less protection.

15) Wash your hands before grabbing the bass.

This is a simple but important tip. A serious instrumentalist always takes care of their sound in every detail. A dirty, greasy, or sticky string detracts from your sound and your performance. Washing your hands before grabbing the bass also adds to the life of your strings.

16) If all the strings are low or high in pitch for a period of time, don’t adjust with your tuners.

What happens here is that if all your strings are slightly higher, your neck will be convex a little bit. And on the other hand, if all the strings are slightly lower, your bass neck becomes concaved a little bit. This generally occurs when you travel a lot and there are altitude and humidity differences within the cities you are visiting. Make the proper adjustment with your Allen wrench on the truss rod, and then make the final adjustments with your bass tuners and you’ll be all set. That way you won’t be increasing the alteration of the setting and calibration of your neck.

17) More about Straps.

It’s important to talk about the optimum length of your instrument strap. Choose any strap length you want, but consider that if you choose a length that makes you play  with your bass in a lower position live than the one you use for studying, it will detract from your performance…things will feel and play differently. I’ve presented this to my students for years.

18) Here are some tips on setting the volume and EQ for your amp.

a)   After plugging in your instrument and turning your amp on, set the input gain level at approximately 50% with the master volume in zero.

b)   While playing with the standard touch set the master volume to the desired volume.

c)    While playing with the standard touch equalize to your desired taste.

d)   While playing with the standard touch move the input gain till making the clipping led to blink slightly. From that point, while playing with the standard touch, lower the input gain a little bit till the clipping led stops blinking.

e)   Finally, while playing with the standard touch, set the master volume to the desired level.

19) Choose the proper cable connector that goes into your bass.

If you have a bass that has the jack on the bottom (facing the floor), I suggest you choose a 90° or “L” connector. This connector will be much more user friendly in that position because it won’t be making contact when you sit down (which also happens to a slight degree when you are standing up). This happens because a regular straight ¼ inch connector is much longer than a 90° one. If your jack is on the front of the bass, the normal connector is the way to go.

20) Turn off your cell phone!

I know this last tip sounds a little funny, but trust me, it deserves your attention.

Many of the tips I suggest come from my own personal experiences. I remember 20 years ago when I was playing live on television with an artist, and placed my cell phone on top of my amp and forgot to turn it off. Somebody called me, and we could do nothing but continue to play. This was embarrassing, as well as seriously irritating to the director. Bottom line…Turn your phone off.

This is all for now my friends. I’ll see you on the next: “Tips for the Modern Bass Player”, Part Three.

Igor Saavedra.

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Igor Saavedra

It's amazing that Igor was not into music till he picked up a bass for the first time at the age of 22 in 1988. From then, he started an impressive and completely autodidact and self-taught learning trough all his career. Since year 2000 Igor has shared on his HUGE spanish language website his world of innovation and knowledge. So, if you want to contact him or find the complete information about him you can visit EXECUTION EXPERIENCE - Regardless of the enormous list of more than 100 top chilean frontmen artists and groups from all musical styles with whom he has played from 1988 to 2008, and that you can know about on his website, Igor Saavedra has recorded more than thirty CD's on this 20 first years of professional musical career, and from 1996 (that's only one year after arriving to the USA), he has played with a great variety of musicians from many different musical styles and countries, but mostly with prominent international Jazz and Fusion musicians like Bob Sheppard (Saxophonist for Chick Corea, Mike Stern and Tribal Tech); Hanz Zermuhlen (Keyboardist for Air Supply and Frank Gambale Group); Fareed Haque Quartet (Guitarist for Sting, Joe Zawinul, Garaj Mahal, Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval); Tom McMorran (Keyboardist for Tom Scott, The Rippingtons and Robben Ford); Ramón Stagnaro (Guitarist for Hossana, Alex Acuna, Alejandro Sanz, Abraham Laboriel); Jim Paxson (Drummer for Robben Ford, Stanley Clarke, Alanis Morissette); Jan Fabricky (Drummer for Marc Antoine and Karen Briggs); Jean Marc Belkady (Top L.A Scene Guitarist, GIT teacher); Miucha Buarque (Famous Brazilian Bossa Nova diva); Antti Kotikosky (Guitarist who recorded with Vinnie Colaiuta); Marcelo Berestovoy (Guitarist for Ricky Martin, Selena, Daniela Romo, Bebu Silvetti, MI teacher, featured at Guitar Player Magazine); Robert Incelli (Saxophonist for Oscar D'Leon, Poncho Sanchez, Otmaro Ruíz); Enzo Villaparedes (Trumpetist for Joan Sebastian and Richie "Gajate" García); Walfredo Reyes Jr. (Drummer for Santana, Cristina Aguilera); Joe Bianco (Drummer for Fahreed Haque), The Atomic Dandelions (Electric Mandolin Trio); "Amir" (Drum teacher at the Eubanks Conservatory of Music and Arts in LA, CA); and many more...... - 1997 Becomes probably the first electric bassist in the world that recorded the original version of Rymsky Korsakoff's Flight of the Bumblebee, note by note, at original speed, with pizzicato (no pick), and without any tapping or trick. Is fair to say that Manowar bassist Joey De Maio recorded a completely adapted and simplified version some years before. - 2000 Returns to Chile and rapidly establishes his name again on the chilean scene. - 2001 Becomes the first Chilean bassist who performed, being an Official Endorsee, in a Booth at the 2001 NAMM Show in Los Angeles, USA. In this case it was Gallien Krueger's Booth. - 2003 Becomes one the two only Electric Bass players to be featured on the chapter "End of the Century Scene" from the book "The History of Jazz in Chile", written by the musicologist Álvaro Menanteau. This book is considered the most complete book ever written concerning the history of Jazz in this country. - 2008 Becomes the first chilean bass player and probably the first Latin American bassist to be featured on a special full page interview in one of the two most prestigious bass magazines in the world. This is the british "Bass Guitar Magazine" Igor was featured on issue number 35. - 2010 Igor Saavedra has had official sponsorings since 1989 (only one year after picking a bass for the first time). Now he is officially endorsed by the most prestigious bass brands in the market, like Mark Bass, Nordstrand Pickups, La Bella strings, and many (chilean) local sponsors, like Luthier Claudio González, Rudy Bags, Groove Electronics, and many more..... TEACHING EXPERIENCE - On 1991, which was slightly more than two years after having taking the Electric Bass for the first time (mid of 1988), he becomes the Bass teacher at the "Roberto Lecaros Jazz Academy", which was the most important Jazz School in Santiago de Chile in those days. - Has performed more than 50 Clinics and Master Classes. - Has performed more than 200 workshops. - Has had more than 400 personal (private) students in Chile and the USA, many of them bass teachers and top professional bass players while studying with him. - Has worked and participated (sometimes also playing) in clinics of musicians like Jeff Berlin (1990), Walfredo Reyes Jr. (2002), Gregg Bisonnette (2002), Marty Friedman of Megadeth (2003), Gary Willis (2004). - 1995 to 1999 Head Teacher of the Electric Bass Department at the "California Music Studio" in Los Angeles USA. - 2006 From this year he has been columnist and teacher for the N°1 Electric Bass magazine in spanish language in more than 15 editions. This is the European (Spain) magazine "Bajista". In addition to that, Igor was featured in an special interview named "Latin American bassists" with other 2 top Latin American bass players. The other two bassists were the great argentinian bassist Guillermo Vadalá (Fito Páez), and the outstanding mexican bassist Gerardo "Lalo" Carrillo (Luís Miguel). - 2006 His website was chosen "Bass Web of the Month" by this prestigious european bass magazine. - 2008 Published "T.G.E.S Rhythmic Applied to the Electric Bass Vol. 1." through JC Sáez Publishers. This is the first volume of a series of 3 books that will be edited by JC Sáez Publishers. Soon "T.G.E.S Vol. 1." was officially acquired by the School of Music of the "Universidad Católica de Chile" as a teaching material support that was destinated especially for the Department of Percussion. This book is being distributed in all Latin America and Spain. Soon wait for "Applied Technique for the Electric Bass Vol. 2." that will be released at the end of 2009 and "Applied Harmony and Improvisation for the Electric Bass Vol. 3." that will be released at the end of 2010. This three books will configurate one of the finest educational bass collections in the world ever made for the Electric Bass. This amazing trilogy will offer more than 500 pages of Bass knowledge and deep analysis of all aspects that have to do with the Electric Bass. INNOVATION THE FOLLOWING IS A RESUMED STORY OF THE "IGOR'S MIC RAMP" AND THE "SYMMETRIC BASS FINGER SWEEPING." - 1992 The birth of T.G.E.S, or "Structuring and Synthesis Global Technique" (in english), born when Igor discards the conventional right hand technique for the electric bass guitar, and creates the "Symmetric Bass Finger Sweeping Technique, and Vectorial Synthesis" which allows you to do things that would be almost unthinkable to do with the traditional technique. Since this year Igor was and still is the first bass player in the world to use and document the symmetric bass finger sweeping technique as a steady baseline technique. In fact...., he uses it not as an extra resource, he uses it for everything he plays (Walking Bass, Latin Tumbao, Pizzicato Funk, etc...). He created this finger technique applying the original concept developed for the picking technique by the great guitarist Frank Gambale. You can hear now great bass players that applied this concept some years after Igor created it, like Franck Hermanny for example, who sometimes uses it for performing his super fast runs. One of the main differences is that Igor worked in getting a sound that can not be differentiated from the standard pizzicato, so he can use it 100% of the time getting always all the benefits from it. - 1997 Develops a theoretical and technical concept based on the T.G.E.S. concept about which he begins writing a series of three books. - 1999 Invents and starts using immediately on his basses the "T.G.E.S Mic Ramp." or the "Igor's Mic ramp", which is a height regulated wooden ramp located in the area of the pickups, under the strings, and CONTAINING the pickups. The regulation comes from four screws attached FROM THE BACK of the bass to the ramp, which is obviously a more esthetical and refined way to do it. You can take a look at the offical posters from different brands made in year 1999 and year 2000 that are on this myspace's photos, and also on the video from year 2000 that is also featured on this myspace, SO YOU DON'T HAVE ANY DOUBT ABOUT IT!! This idea is a hybrid, derived on the one hand from the "Willis Ramp" invented by the great Gary Willis, which is a wooden ramp that was originally glued to the body and that later on had adjustable front screws, and that goes under the strings and BESIDE the microphones, and on the other hand derived from the pickups occupied by the "F Basses" which were, and still are, covered by a wooden casing that follows the design of the body. Igor shared his invention (photos and specs) with the world's bass community when he inaugurated his personal website on year 2001. This invention only started to be used by other players 6 years after its website releasing, and 8 years after he invented it. As an example, on year 2006 approximately it was included in electric basses made by AC Guitars, Le duc, Rickie Lugo and Nordstrand Guitars (brand that endorses Igor with it's great bass pickups), and then more and more professional bass players started to install it on their basses or getting basses that already included it. One of those bassists is the prominent French Bass Player Hadrien Feraud. It's precise to add that Igor created the "Mic ramp" first of all to optimize his technical system, "T.G.E.S." In fact, he also invented its name. - 2000 Is still the only Chilean bass player that uses the 4 finger pizzicato technique, developed before by the great Matthew Garrison, incorporating this technical resource to his technique T.G.E.S. OTHER INNOVATIONS - 1991 Becomes the first Chilean professional bassist playing with a six strings bass guitar. - 1997 After experimenting with tons of different string gauges and waisting tons of money buying different string sets, also mixing brands to get the proper one (all that before being endorsed), Igor comes up with his crazy string gauging that many people knows him for. His 8 string bass is tuned (from high to low), F-C-G-D-A-E-B-F#, and believe it or not, the string gauges he uses are 0.20-0.25-0.35-0.50-0.60-0.80-0.100-0.125 He is convinced than a lighter gauge, mostly at the lowest strings, brings a much full of harmonics and a much deeper tone. Also the string is much more "expressive", so you can bend it easily, get better vibratos, and get much more sustain from it. It's simple physics for him, and he has explained the concept and physics fundaments many times on his Master Classes and articles..... Just listen to his samples and videos and you'll agree on that. - 1998 Creates the "Virtual Cabinet", which is a system of removable supports placed below an electric bass cabinet that has calculated perforations and internal pipes that are facing the front of the cabinet. The supports live an approximately 1 foot space below the cabinet, which is loaded with an 18-inch speaker facing the floor, which generates a camera that disseminates extremely "Sub-low" frequencies. This "Virtual Space" or "Virtual Cabinet", allows the full system to be much smaller than the usual. This makes it extremely portable and increases incredibly its size-sound ratio. The Virtual cabinet was even more than that, as it also included two 2 X 10 + horn cabinets and a 3 unit rack that you could mount and dismount from the system, which was in fact "A cube" when fully mounted. Igor Saavedra designed and built in the "Virtual Cabinet" in USA along with Jaime Pavez, a Chilean architect and a friend who lives in Los Angeles, California. This invention was brought to Chile in 1999 and used for several live concerts with his band. You can look for them on some of his youtube videos performing at the Escuela Moderna de Música in 1999. - 1999 Developed a simple and effective concept called "Rear Truss Rod Access" or RTA that was and still is implemented in all his basses. With the RTA you are able to access the Bass truss rod without moving the strings to insert the allen wrench. - 2000 Becomes probably the first Latin American professional bassist playing with an Eight Strings Bass Guitar. - 2001 Launches the first professional bassist website in Chile, and one of the firsts in Latin America. - 2005 Developed and implemented a simple and efficient system to turn off and on the tweeter through a footswich for live applications, so you can use it in any bass cabinet and not only on equipments that bring this feature from the factory. - 2006 Becomes the first chilean Electric Bassist to have it's own signature bass strings model. Those are the "LA BELLA IGOR SAAVEDRA SIGNATURE BASS SINGLE STRINGS". He was also probably the first bassist in Latin America to achieve something like that. - 2010 "Artist of the Month" on , sharing this honour with bassist like Jeff Berlin, Hadrien Feraud, Alain Caron, Tom Kennedy and Michael Manring. Visit Online: (Spanish) (English) (English / Spanish)

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