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Music or Gear… What Do You Want to Become, a Bass Player or a Bass Proprietor? It’s Time for YOU to Weigh in! by Meet Igor Saavedra

Meet Igor Saavedra –

First of all I wish you a superb 2011, full of music and happiness!

That being said… I think this article doesn’t need to be really long…. it’s about focusing on the problem and putting it on the table for discussion.

I would like to tell the English speaking bassists that read my columns, that I’ve had my Spanish language website up and going for more than ten years. In fact this website is maybe the first Spanish language website made by a Latin American professional bassist and has been really popular through the years.

I’m not sharing this short story to brag about my site… the reason why I mentioned this is because in those ten years I’ve had a successful section named “Ask Igor”, which has been the equivalent in Spanish language to the “Ask Willis” section on Gary Willis’s site.

On 2007 I answered my one thousandth question… but suddenly something happened and I lost every interest in continuing to answer questions for helping musicians…. And there was a strong reason for that.

Since 2005, approximately, I noticed a suspicious tendency on the questions that were being submitted to my website. How is that? Well…. What I noticed was that just one out of every ten questions being made was about “Music”, and the rest were just about “Gear”. So in general terms the questions were something like:

  • “What’s your opinion about this Bass?”
  • “Between this Bass and this other Bass, which one is better?”
  • “If I change those pickups on this bass would that make it sound better?”
  • “How should I have to connect my pedal board?”
  • “Please recommend some strings for slapping?”
  • “I have this Bass head and this Bass Cabinet… are those compatible? If not what you suggest me to change?”
  • “How do I have to equalize my amp for tapping?” ….Etc.

There’s nothing wrong with the questions, and I think they are completely legitimate, and I always answered every question until I realized, as I said before, that 9 out of 10 questions were just about “Gear”. This made me think a lot, because the questions were coming from all Latin America and Spain, which has been my main audience, and the same happened in every country. The first thing I did was to write a notice on top of the “Ask Igor” Section, saying that questions about gear won’t be answered anymore.

Incredibly, the amount of questions dropped down about 80%…. and even more incredibly, within this remaining 20% that was still being submitted, 9 out of 10 questions were still being made about gear! So nobody was reading the notice on top of the page or they just didn’t care at all. What I did on 2007 was to stop answering answers altogether…

That was the most successful Bass Q&A Section in Latin America, but it lost all sense for me, so the counter stopped on question N° 1.032, and who knows if I will continue with that section in the future…. let’s see…

After that experience, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons that made the future musicians focus on something which is not the really important thing… and I concluded (Just my opinion here), that this is due to the type of society we are living in… a society based on “consuming” and in “having” instead on “being” or “knowing”… a society where every individual usually prefers to “show what he has”, instead of “showing what he knows”, and if he wants to “show what he knows”, probably he will be doing that just as a means to be able to make good money and later have even more to “show what he has”… and not as an ending in itself.

So what to do?

One possibility is that all the people who focus their attention on gear instead of music already know so much about music that they really don’t need to be asking anything to anybody who supposedly knows more than them about the topic when it comes to choosing what kind of doubt they want to solve, so it’s a better choice to use that opportunity to know more about gear… but I guess that’s not the case 99% of the time… don’t you?

I think problems like this didn’t occur 500, 300, 200, 100 or 70 years ago in the same proportion as now, and that was because in those years “things” were not so common and available and because of that not so important, so musicians in those times mainly focused on what was obvious…. and that was “Music”.

I believe individually, we are not strong or important enough to make a difference just by itself in making the young and upcoming “Musicians” change this undesirable and disproportioned habit, but I’m sure that if more and more people put this discussion on the table and proposes ideas and points of view to stress the fact about which are the real important things for a musician to focus on, that will make a big difference in the future.

I’ve been doing my part about this specific topic since 2007, and now I’m doing it again with this humble article… who wants to collaborate with me on this subject? Please leave your comments below and let’s start a dialogue…

See you in the next month’s article…

Igor Saavedra.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Álvaro de la Barra

    January 6, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I think that today, to most people it’s easyer to buy something good than to do something good, for two reasons: 1 – there’s a lot of money and products available, and 2 – with globalization, to compete as a bass player has become overwhelming. Between the two options, it’s easy to choose the first one to the people who use music as a tool to be identified.

    On the other side, the ones who really feel music deeply, hear the call, and the questions they’ll make will be oriented to music.

    It’s not a bad thing to be an instrument collector or to admire technology, in the role of a spectator. But the ones who feel music deeply, they will feel called to be protagonists, and their interest will be oriented to creation, to acquire tools that let them create better and more comprehensive work.

    Of course, creating takes more sacrifice than contemplating (or being contemplated), but the awards are of a superior cathegory. In the case of a “bass propietor”, it’s the bass that’s being displayed; in the case of a musician, it’s him (or her) the object of display.

    Being Something is more than Having Something, because it’s internal.

    This is my idea. Greetings

  2. Andreas Farmakalidis

    Andreas Farmakalidis

    January 7, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Hi Igor,
    Great Article.

    I just want to say that the job of each marketing professional (in every field) is to influence consumers toward purchasing their organization’s product. To do their job, they have to have a good idea about what makes people want to buy and consume. Most often, their focus is on why a consumer would choose a particular brand of a product, at a particular time and place. Social science research, primarily from psychology and sociology, forms the basis for the standard marketing view of consumer behavior.
    However , this phenomenon created a “consumer society” which is focusing on the materialistic aspect and they tend to forget that the important thing is the art of making music.

    I like talking about gear , however we must not forget that the important thing is bass playing and making music in general.

  3. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Thanks Andreas…

    I Completely agree with what you say my friend…, those are the reasons for this to happen…., the big question is if there is any effective solution that we, as professional musicians, can provide for this situation… Unfortunately I think that this is a huge social tendency that is almost impossible to reverse just by ourselves…., we can help a little bit, but in reality HUGE social changes need to be made through decades or perhaps centuries… I know it’s not an optimistic point of view, though is very realistic…., anyway we must do what we think is right regarding our duty as teachers or role models.

    Cheers,

    Igor.

  4. Mike

    January 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Hello,

    Your article sums up my personal sentiments very well. I think the only way to getting aspiring musicians to shift their focus to art instead of consumerism is through making music that inspires. If those of us who play music as a form of personal artistic expression use the instruments as the means to get that expression out into the air, then the music we create will perhaps inspire others to do the same. But after all is said and done, a person can only do what they do, and keep on doing it, whatever their passion may be.

  5. Álvaro de la Barra

    January 8, 2011 at 2:20 am

    I think that today, to most people it’s easyer to buy something good than to do something good, for two reasons: 1 – there’s a lot of money and products available, and 2 – with globalization, to compete as a bass player has become overwhelming. Between the two options, it’s easy to choose the first one to the people who use music as a tool to be identified.

    On the other side, the ones who really feel music deeply, hear the call, and the questions they’ll make will be oriented to music.

    It’s not a bad thing to be an instrument collector or to admire technology, in the role of a spectator. But the ones who feel music deeply, they will feel called to be protagonists, and their interest will be oriented to creation, to acquire tools that let them create better and more comprehensive work.

    Of course, creating takes more sacrifice than contemplating (or being contemplated), but the awards are of a superior cathegory. In the case of a “bass propietor”, it’s the bass that’s being displayed; in the case of a musician, it’s him (or her) the object of display.

    Being Something is more than Having Something, because it’s internal.

    This is my idea. Greetings

  6. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 8, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Nice words Mike…, thanks..:!!!

  7. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I agree with you Álvaro…., I like Gear too…!!…, there´s nothing wrong with it, but we don’t have to forget that the instrument is just a Mean.., and not the End… Unfortunately in my opinion this is not what ‘s happening nowadays…, and this is getting worse and worse as time goes by….

  8. James Pickens

    January 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Because of the availability of gear and information, the role of gear in someways have become it’s own “technique” Many today have spent and heard so much on how using a certain brand or pedal can change their approach. Unfortunately, the search for this has omitted the concept of developing skill and technique which is transferable and will have a greater value long term.

    As a society we have rewarded flash and haven’t given value to substance. I have a friend of mine who is a great guitarist. We make the joke that he gets more credit when he plays with his teeth than when he plays great solos over jazz standards.

  9. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Hi James…!

    It’s great what you tell us here…, maybe your friend is now looking for the newer Titanium Implants so to change his natural teeth replacing them for the most advanced brand of artificial ones…, maybe he’ s going to get G.A.S on teeth implants and discussing about that on different guitar forums…, hahahahaha…., who knows.., world is upside down now, so we can expect anything really…

    You mentioned Skill and Technique, and I just want to add that even Skill and Technique are unimportant if we compare them with what is “To understand the Theory, the Esence and the Meaning of a beautiful and sublime Art named… Music”…

    Cheers…!

  10. Hans Engelmann

    January 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Hi Igor, First of all, thank you to bring us the possibility to debate with you about this, i really notice that most people don’t really care about study or to be better as a musician, the only reason to be is to achieve more and more equipment and soon replace it and waste money, this is the thing that make me quit forums, because they really don’t care the music itself.

    I think, there’s some people who is able to do both, I remember me doing questions about equipment because it’s so expensive and diverse that it’s impossible to know really what is better than another, for example, first I have the misconception that tubes are better than transistors and in my opinion it’s false… it’s a taste issue.

    I believe anyway, this kind of things are part of education, mature or something, soon or later people discover that this kind of things aren’t necessary anymore, but it’s fact, we need to live with this until someone writes a complete article about all kind of stuffs, anyway there’s something helpful like tunemybass.com or basstasters.com

    My best wishes to you, sincerely

    Hans Engelmann

  11. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

    You are very welcome Hans…, thanks for sharing your opinion…!!

  12. Chalo Trejos

    January 11, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Let’s Talk music then! He he.
    I agree there’s a lot of gear to choose from, fortunately, but it’s in the end a matter of taste. But… so is music! As there is commercial products competing with “luthier boutique” stuff, there are kiddy pop songs competing the airtime with more “elevated music”, but comes to a matter of taste. I would say that every musician should make the music he likes the most, or feels that he should make.
    A thought on this: Don’t you feel it’s time for a new revolution in music?. All known generes are evolving constantly, but it seems sometimes that no new revolucionary genere is being created and evolving, like rock n’ roll or jazz did in their appearance years.

    Igor, soy de Costa Rica y hablo español, en caso de que quisieras compartir información conmigo en nuestro idioma.

  13. Álvaro de la Barra

    January 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Sometimes this situations looks like having a Hummer and using it only to go to the supermarket.

  14. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Chalo…, well…, big social changes generate new and relevant music styles like Jazz, Blues, Rock, etc.. so as I see how social changes are being produced nowadays, I take for granted that something new will come soon.., but the real music substance I’m talking about goes way beyond music styles…, I’m talking about the content itself.., I’m talking about Music Theory, like Rhythm, Harmony, Agogics, Dynamics, Music Phylosophy, basis of Technique, etc…

    Un abrazo Hermano…, un gusto saludarte a ti y a tu bello país en el que tuve la suerte de estar de pasada una vez…, me encantaría poder ir nuevamente para allá y poder tocar y compartir con los músicos costaricenses…

  15. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Hahahahaha…., that was a great example Álvaro…!!

  16. le_ste

    January 12, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Hi Igor and all

    Great article here, I think there is another way to look at it: All that gear available makes one’s tone quest harder to achieve than before, when you had three basses and two amp to choose in the shop, and 2 of these three bass were “-put the brand you want here-” ones.
    If you put in parrallel than major part of musicians we can see as guide, or models, are endorsed by gear makers, that’s adding some confusion about choice.
    Add now all the information available on the web, and forums in which ones are pretty sure that their bass is the best on earth and want that everybody’s agree, and you are now lost in the bigger fog you can imagine 🙂
    So, this poor one isn’t certainly the biggest part of musicians; there are a lot of proprietors behaviors as you said, but i think it can be one of the cause ones became proprietors: they don’t know how they want to sound, and will try and try wihtout finding the way, caught in the idea that the only way to find is changing gear….
    How to change it ? hard to imagine. Musicians who already have hard times to live from their music wil not let down endorsers opportunity for evident reasons. Magazines that have hard times to survive will not let down gear adds for evident reasons. The only way i see now is invite a lot of people to become bass musician magazine readers; in which interviews are deeper ones i ever read in magazines, and when artists talk about music rather than their gear. Thanks to Jake and you all for that !
    There is other place on the web like allaboutjazz.com (for those who like this music) and i think it must exist other place like that for others musics, we have to find it and talk about it in bass forums in order to save fellow bassists of GAS :))
    And for evident reasons: go out listen live music. That must be the biggest way to be driven in a good direction (at least for me 🙂
    Thanks igor, and continue to give us great advices 😉

  17. Igor Saavedra

    Igor Saavedra

    January 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Hi le_ste …!!

    I agree with you…., we are really practically saying the same here…, well…., as you said, one of the solutions is to avoid forums or pages where GAS is the main topic…..

    Let the “dilettantes” take care of their bussiness with GAS…, while we take care of music…!!! 🙂

    Cheers,

    Igor.

  18. Chalo Trejos

    January 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Aww! I wanted to bragg about all the awsome stuff I own. He he.

    One thing that many of us bassists don’t always agree is the “Groove Pocket”. My former classical teacher didn’t know of this, he simply urged us to follow the metronome, or the director, just on the beat. One colleague told me to be “ahead” on jazz, “On the beat” in rock, and a little behind in Pop. Not necessarilly. I feel it with the drummer most of the time. If I play with someone in the likes of Dennis Chambers, I would play behind, but someone like David Grohl, woiuld go to play ahead. If the drummer don’t have a clue of this but but have good tempo feel, go with him right on the beat.

    New topic? Maybe?
    Chalo

  19. ChrisMiami

    June 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Chalo, Hello!

    “Ya cain’t hold no groove if you ain’t got no pocket!” LOL I think you hit on the very thing I was going to mention: musicianship and music itself are harder things to inquire about, their being so much more experiential than anything else. It’s so hard to put into words, even harder to put into the *right* words for everyone. Probably why musicians learn by apprenticing individually rather than in classes of 1,000’s…

    Gear, OTOH, is really what is suited to Q&A style interaction.

    So, we express our ideas and feelings about music AS music; our experience and musicianship in articles and interviews; and build shared knowledge of gear and technique in Q&As.

    As to questions, one I’ve always had is: how do people play so damn fast? And: how do you keep things so quiet between the notes?

    Chris

    PS: Sorry for making the thread a zombie, but frankly I think it’s a good thing to continue a good conversation over years and years… 🙂

  20. Eric Hochberg

    July 14, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Good article on tendonitis and injury. Your first two points are really important and were key to my own recovery. I wrote about my experience with physical injury from a different angle here:

    http://doublebassblog.org/2007/07/this-new-bass-painful-journey-essay.html

    Look forward to part 2.

    Best, Eric

  21. Chalo

    July 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Reminds me of a concert we did with our “rock bands” backed up by the National Philarmonic Orchestra in our country. After sound check, three of the “rockers” who had played upright bass in our youth, asked permission to “jam” with the orchestra’s beautiful Pöllman basses. Big mistake, we ended up with our hands in a lot of pain at the show in the night from strain of playing them without “training” on them for such a long time.

  22. Chalo

    July 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Is there an age limit?
    In my 40’s, far from feeling that I’ve learned everything I need to make a living playing the bass, I sometimes look back and feel that I’ve been cheating to the audience. My recordings from when I was 19 years old were “plain usable”, later on had very good and bold ideas going on during my 20’s, but scattered all over the place without sense of style. Suddenly my technique was corrected a lot when had a master class (with someone you know) which changed a lot of what was I doing, embracing a wider approach to the bass, and so on, I have not stopped learning in more than 30 years, but, everyday I feel that I have much to learn yet. Am I being obsessive? Should I start just enjoying what I’ve learned so far and teach it so the younger and bolder can take it from there? Where to draw the line?

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