Bass Player Health

Getting Rid of Tendonitis for Good by Igor Saavedra – Part 1

Getting Rid of Tendonitis for Good by Igor Saavedra – Part 1
Igor Saavedra

Getting Rid of Tendonitis for Good by Igor Saavedra – Part 1…  I’m sure many of you know that I started very late in music when I was 22 years old. Before that magical day in my life when I felt in love with music and with Electric Bass, I was studying at the University to become a Physical Education Teacher.

I’m mentioning all this because what I have to say regarding the topic of this month’s article doesn’t come only from my experience as a Bass player, but also from having studied that career for more than four years before suddenly quitting it so to become a professional musician… which obviously is something that I don’t regret at all 😉

When I was just starting as a bassist back in my country, I was aware that I was really old to start with a life project from zero at that age, so for the first three years I was studying almost 17 hours a day! Anyway that was something very good for me because very soon (within those first three years) I started playing with many important artists in my country.

While being on the third year of having started playing music, that’s when I was about 25 years old, the alarm lights started blinking…. While studying very hard I felt a really bad pain and swelling on the back of my right hand and wrist, and I immediately knew that a tendonitis was starting its process and that I had to do something immediately or if not everything was going to become harder to solve. In fact, this situation was the genesis of VST (Vectorial Synthesis Technique), which is the Bass technique I’ve being developing for the last 20 years. Don’t worry my friends, in this article I won’t try to convince you to turn to my technique (Maybe I will do that in another article though – hahahaha)! What I want here is to help you and to give you hope if you are in trouble with the tendonitis issue, sharing with you what I consider the best solutions you can apply in order to get rid of that problem FOR GOOD!

What I told you about happened to me back in June 1990. In that moment I did a profound analysis on the exact reasons that caused me that problem and to my surprise I found all of them in a couple of months… then I did my homework and went about solving them one by one… it took me almost a year but like in “Man v/s Food”…. MAN WON!

So having passed 21 years after this “event” I can literally tell you that I got rid of my tendonitis FOR GOOD, and that you won’t have to go to the whole tedious and long process of finding all the exact reasons and solutions to get rid of the problem… I already did it for you a long time ago and because I love you guys I just want share this with you. J

In this two article series I will use the same method that I used with last month’s article, which is going straight to the point sharing what I consider the 10 most important tips to learn and to apply regarding this matter.

Here you have tips 1 to 5 on Getting Rid of Tendonitis for Good…

1) Mental Relaxation

As many philosophical schools propose “All is Mental”… and I agree 100% with that. What you always need to do, is to leave your problems behind and get into the proper mental state “right before” grabbing your instrument. Just think and connect with nice and cool things, with love, with beauty, with light and good energy, and the most important, you must keep like that all the time while you are playing and not only before. If there’s not any toxic muscle tension because of your proper mental state, no opportunity for tendonitis.

“Never grab your Bass to relax through playing it, you should do that before grabbing it, that’s the main mistake many people make.”

2) Physical Relaxation

The body is what we call “Matter”, and that matter is obviously affected by our thoughts, so besides the fact of thinking and connecting with cool things before grabbing your Bass you also must concentrate and focus on your body. You must feel any part of it and mostly the areas directly involved with the execution of your Bass. Get rid of any “Isometric Contractions” which are the muscle contractions that don’t produce any articulation movements… we usually don’t notice it, but anytime we are tense this contractions affect many of our muscles, mostly the neck and the back muscles, which eventually transmit many of those tensions into the exact muscles we need for playing our instrument. As I said on the first tip, you must keep your muscles relaxed all the time while you are playing and not only before. If there’s not any toxic muscle tension because of your proper physical state, no opportunity for tendonitis.

“Before grabbing your instrument, sit for a couple of minutes and relax every muscle in your body, but certainly and mostly the specific ones you’ll need for playing.”

3) Right Position of the Articulations

This aspect has a lot to do with avoiding unnecessary isometric contractions. In general terms I suggest to you very simple things to avoid. Don’t over bend any of your articulations (mostly both wrists), if you do so the muscles will be in a constant over extended and over contracted position creating tension, which generates no work. The correct articulation positioning avoids you to relax your muscles and tendons. If there’s not any toxic muscle tension because of a proper articulation position, there’s no opportunity for tendonitis. J

“When you over-extend any muscle or group of muscles (e.g. wrist extensors), you are over contracting the opposed ones (e.g. wrist flexors), a double problem with just one action.”

4) Minimum Size and quantity of your Movements

Each time you go into practicing technique pay a lot of attention to the “size” and “quantity” of your movements. Regarding “quantity”, this is something much more complex and long to address for an article like this. “Quantity” aspect has a direct relation with the fundamentals of my Vectorial Synthesis Technique or VST, so having that said and resuming by saying that “is better to avoid any unnecessary movements”, I will focus now on the “size” of that movements.

You should try to stay as close to the strings as you can with both of your arms hands and fingers with no affecting the sound and the capability of accelerating any movement. In other words, a good thing to develop is to be able to accelerate as much as you can at the smallest distance possible. Ideally you should be able to place the tips of your fingers (from both of your hands) at 1mm from the strings at any time, so that will be the distance they’ll have to move back and forth. In that case the mechanical efficiency will be optimal, a lot of notes with almost no effort, less than .00001 miles traveled for a whole song!

“The smaller the movement the most efficient it is and the more relaxation it produces… No tension no possibilities for tendonitis.”

5) Minimum Strength on your Movements

The basis for this aspect is quite similar to the one related with the size and quantity of your movements. It’s very usual that musicians, due to many reasons, have the tendency to over press and over pluck the strings when it’s really not necessary. One really funny thing is that due to motor coordination reasons when a student is told to e.g. “Release pressure on the fingerboard’s surface”, immediately starts to play extremely soft with the right hand and when we tell the student to recuperate the volume and the “touch” on the right hand (not much, only what’s necessary) he/she immediately starts to over press the fingerboard again.

It’s very important to achieve independence in both hands allowing them not to “infect” the other with its duties. In terms of strength, each hand and finger must be able to do exactly what is required completely independent from the other, if so there won’t be any toxic muscle tension because of an excess of strength applied while playing, no opportunity for tendonitis. J

“If the technique is proficient, the strength needed to play an instrument shouldn’t be more than the one needed to caress your baby, any more strength than this is just a waist of energy and an invitation to injury.”

Applying the minimum strength while playing is a factor that doesn’t only depend on you but it also depends on the instrument itself. This is something that will be addressed in next month’s issue, in the second part of this series, which will be containing tips 6 through 10.

See you then folks!

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Bass Player Health
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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