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Applied Techniques With Igor Saavedra: How to Approach the Teaching/Learning Process on the Electric Bass

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Meet Igor Saavedra

One of the most complex things to decide in relation with this topic is to decide whether the bass is mainly a rhythmic or harmonic instrument. This is an absolutely crucial matter for a bass teacher in order to clarify how he is going to approach the teaching/learning process of the instrument with his students. It would not make sense if the teacher thinks that the bass is let’s say “white”, and he teaches everything about it as if it were “black”, if you know what I mean.

Historically speaking, when Paul Tutmarc invented the Electric Bass around 1934 (some say it was Les Paul, but this would be matter for a different article), he created “the thing” in order to solve some of the problems that were inherent to the Double Bass, for example, its lack of portability, and the size/volume ratio. This is how the electric bass started to gain its terrain in the Double Bassists field. Remember, the Double Bass originated in the classical field, and this means that its concept, or its “reason to be” mainly centered on the harmonic world instead of the rhythmic world. Its main role was to collaborate with the roots for the myriad of chords that a classical piece can contain. Of course this started to change from the beginning of the 20th century when Jazz appeared strongly on the scene, but this change of concept was not completely developed. As I see it, and this is only my humble opinion, that situation led us to two main streams for an assumption of what the instrument was about. On one side, the Old School that thought (and still does) that the Electric Bass is primarily an harmonic instrument, and on the other side, the New School that has no doubt that the Electric Bass is mainly a rhythmic instrument by definition, that can also play cool notes (if the player allows this to happen).

When I arrived in the States in 1995, I was hired as the bass professor for the California Music Studio of Los Angeles for more than 4 years. The first thing that caught my attention was realizing my approach to the teaching/learning process of the instrument was “not” wrong, as many people from my small Latin-American country (Chile) felt. (One of the reasons I left).

From day one, (1988) I assumed that the Electric Bass was a rhythmic instrument in the first place, and that I could do whatever I wanted with it, the only condition being not “stammering” with my rhythm. Said another way, the point was not to loose the groove, no matter what. This was a concept everybody in my country thought was a bit crazy, but getting to know the right people in the US reaffirmed my thoughts and my beliefs.

I always tell this short story to my personal students, generally in the first class, and I do the same on my clinics.

Imagine two different bass players that go to an audition to get in a band. The first one has a $10.000 14 string bass, amazing technique (he even uses his left hand “pinky”), monster slap chops, ultra speed, stunning tapping, this guy in fact knows all the harmony, scales and chords that a human being could know… I forgot to say that he also is a master sight reader and that he has perfect pitch. This first guy has only a “tiny little” problem, because, well, nobody’s perfect, he has no groove at all, and by that I mean that he can’t keep up with the tempo, or create a foundation for the band.

On the other hand the second bass player has a $200 dollar bass with only two strings left (E and A), and he had an accident when he was a kid and sadly he has only one finger on each hand. Besides that, this guy doesn’t know really any music theory or chords or scales, in fact he doesn’t know the name of any of the notes on the instrument, and of course he can’t read music. To make things worse, this guy has a poor musical ear. But this second guy has one only ability and that is his amazing groove and impressive sense of time keeping and rhythmic awareness. The only thing you have to do is to tell him the root and the “available notes” he has to press with his sole left hand finger on the fingerboard and you are all set.

The question that remains is: Which bass player will you choose if this is an absolute emergency.

For me there’s no doubt about the decision, and this will be to choose the second bass player, because even though this example is an exaggeration, I’ve been in circumstances that have got really close to this, and I feel, think and believe that there’s nothing more important than a bass player with a solid groove.

What to do then? How do we begin teaching the instrument?

The answer is quite simple: Start with a focus on the rhythm, and forget about notes, scales, chords, key signatures, advanced techniques, speed, super expensive and multi string basses and everything else. Make the student understand and experience what time and feel are, so he won’t confuse it with tempo, or the beat. Teach him how he can enjoy subdividing the time and getting the special and specific feel of each subdivision. Help him with his muscular and mental coordination in order to develop a sense of groove, and to put his life and soul into this specific issue. In the beginning, keep the technical and harmonic information at a minimum, and focus almost 100% on the rhythm. Whatever time it takes, it will be completely worth it, trust me on that.

When I got back to Latin-America in 2000, not much had changed regarding this matter. The Electric Bass was still viewed as a harmonic instrument in the first place, like many people in the US (old school mainly) still do. It has been a struggle to convince people about this concept, in fact I’ve been writing a series of three bass books, and it’s no coincidence I started by naming the first one “Applied Rhythm for the Electric Bass Vol. I” (it’s only in Spanish for now, and was released in 2008). The following books related to technique and harmony, and will be released in 2010 and 2011. This is my way to formalize my thoughts about how I see the instrument.

A good question that surfaces is: Are there any great bass players out there that think along the same lines as myself? Well, a couple months ago a student lent me a Victor Wooten clinic from 2008 that focuses on groove that is called Groove Workshop. The only thing that I’m going to say about it is that even though Victor is not the same style of player as myself, I was very moved when I saw it, because I felt that this video validated the approach I’ve been following for the last 20 years. Victor is an amazing bassist, and also a great teacher, and after watching this particular video, I felt that I could speak through his words. I recommend this DVD a thousand percent to any bass player who wants to really understand what the Electric Bass is really all about.

Those examples, and the outcome I got after a very deep analysis confirms to me again that the bass is first and foremost “a rhythmic instrument”, and that this should define the concept and execution of a Teaching/Learning approach.

Hope you enjoyed the article, and watch for my next one: “Tips for the Modern Bass player”.

Bass CDs

New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

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New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

The Chilean bassist, producer and sociologist, Ben Mortiz, celebrates the launch of his latest studio work, “MORENO” an album that mixes jazz, soul, and funk following the characteristic Latin style of  Mortiz. The artist completely produced the album under the label “Fallen Lab Records” in the south of Chile.

“MORENO” brings deep and smooth sounds, expressing a sophisticated and elegant Latin vibe. You will find meditative harmonies and joyful melodic voices. The record’s core is the human vibration that Mortiz feels from the Latin American music. The Caribbean rhythms and strong Latin percussions are the musical glue in every song that emerges with the force of the electric bass.

“MORENO” creates a real connection between corporal reactions and mind sensations, always in reference to the originality of Mortiz to fuse modern and classic Latin sounds.

For more information, visit online at danielbenmortiz.com/

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New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Dual Compressor/Effects Loop

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New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Duel Compressor/Effects Loop

Step Into X2C With Phil Jones Bass Dual Compressor/Effects Loop…

Phil Jones Bass latest pedal innovation is the X2C Dual Compressor with Dual Effects Loop for performance and recording. The X2C incorporates advanced compressor circuit technology and provides comprehensive tone control with a dual crossover feature which divides the signal into frequency bands ranging from 100Hz to 500Hz, ensuring exceptional clarity and dynamics in tone refinement. 

With insert jacks on each band, the X2C unlocks limitless creativity, enabling players to use various FX pedals for custom tone sculpting. Additionally, it functions as an electronic crossover, ideal for driving high-performance, 2-way bass rigs.

PJB’s Dual-Band compression design is more flexible than standard single-band compressors and provides a more natural and transparent sound. It also provides greater control over shaping and managing dynamics where standard compressors affect the entire frequency spectrum of an audio signal.  

PJB’s dual compressor enables the player to shape specific frequency ranges of an audio signal which allows for compressing the low frequencies while preserving the high frequencies, or vice-versa. Treating the low-end with a dedicated band also allows for heavy compression without affecting the midrange frequencies, which carry the attack of the sound. 

Effects can be plugged into the insert jacks on the X2C and controlled separately. As an example, the lows can be adjusted separately for an overdrive pedal while the highs can be controlled for a chorus. 

Dividing the audio spectrum into fundamental frequencies and harmonics is also effective in the enrichment of slapping techniques. The low frequencies can be compressed without changing the dynamics of the “slap”. By controlling the low frequencies and focusing the attack on the slap the amplifier will sound louder while avoiding overloading of the amp or speakers. The low band can be compressed without the harmonics being affected. In addition, the send jacks can go to different amplifiers/speakers for a bi-amplification set up.

Compact and potent, the X2C embodies studio-grade excellence, setting a new standard for dynamic processing in an uncompromising, portable pedal. The street price is $359.99.

Visit online at www.pjbworld.com

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Bass CDs

New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

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New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

CATTANEO, TIM LEFEBVRE AND ANDREA LOMBARDINI PRESENT ‘HYPERSPHERE’ EP
The members of Buñuel, David Bowie’s band and a prominent electronic artist are united and have releases their first collaborative release via Freecom Hub.

Hypersphere is an EP created by CATTANEOTim Lefebvre and Andrea Lombardini. Following their conceptual milestone, a dream team of bass players and multi-instrumentalists created fragments of music, coexisting and complementing each other individually and altogether. Having been playing with CATTANEO since 2016, Andrea Lombardini describes the process of their work as “strong musical connection”. Starting with the fully improvised set featuring drum-machine and pedal effects. “Some of Paolo’s keyboards are homemade and he has very unique sounds” – explains Andrea. Getting Tim Lefebvre to produce the EP, the duo simultaneously started another vehicle of their collaboration.

Moving their work organically, three extraordinary musicians managed to reach an almost-perfect balance between sounds of guitar and bass with electronic instruments. Morphing together, numerous guitar riffs, loops of synthesizers. Dominating electronic sounds get united with a rock take, depicting dark moods and ethereal landscapes. All these elements work in tandem to create something new each time.

Order Hypersprehere here.

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Bass Events

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey

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Milt Hinton Institute for Bass sSummer Camp in New Jersey

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey…

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) will host the Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass, an exceptional summer music education program for teens, in residence at Montclair State University, in July 2024. Unique among music camps, the Hinton Institute is designed to support intermediate and advanced bass players ages 14 through 18, for a week of expert classes, performances, ensemble work, studio sessions, lectures, workshops and more. The camp will run from July 14 through July 20, 2024Registration is open December 16, 2023, through  June 7, 2024for more information on applying to the Milt Hinton Institute, please visit njpac.org/hinton. Student musicians will be required to submit a video of themselves playing two performance pieces during the application process. Need-based tuition scholarships are available.

Peter Dominguez, acclaimed bassist and Professor of Double Bass and Jazz Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison, will serve as the Institute’s Artistic Director.  An extraordinary faculty of professionals from the music world — including Rufus Reid, Ben Williams, Luis Perdomo, Jeremy Smith, Sam Suggs, Martin Wind, Marcus McLaurine, Bill Moring, Mimi Jones, Emma Dayhuff, Diana Gannett, and Bill Crow — will  focus camp instruction on bass performance techniques and ensemble playing in a range of musical genres including classical, Latin and jazz. 

The camp is named for Milt Hinton (1910-2000) a prolific jazz bassist, studio musician and photographer whose career intersected with many of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. The Institute has been held biennially since 2014. It joined forces with the Arts Center this season in part to draw a larger faculty of professional bass players from among the many musicians living and working in the New York City area. Notable guest artists from the region are expected to visit with campers as well.    

“We’re very pleased to have this program be part of the larger vision of NJPAC and its extensive Arts Education offerings. The work being done by the Arts Center has a significant social impact” said David G. Berger, a lifelong friend of Hinton’s, whose Berger Family Foundation helped support the camp.  “That would have been extremely attractive to Milt. He wanted everybody to be involved with music — old and young, men and women, all colors, all creeds. Long before it was popular, that’s the way he lived his life — he welcomed everyone.”

“I grew up in the jazz festival business, and there was no one whose artistry matched his heart  better than Milt Hinton,” said John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC. “He was a brilliant bassist and he also was a brilliant human being. He was the heartbeat of any band he played in and he exuded a kindness that to me exemplified the spirit of jazz.”

Known as “the dean of jazz bassists,” Hinton played with jazz greats from the early 1930s on, performing with Jabbo Smith, Eddie South, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Erroll Garner, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many others. Hinton also recorded with pop superstars including Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler and Willie Nelson. Hinton also toured extensively, and in 1993, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship. He was also well known for his photography, through which he documented seven decades of jazz history. Hinton was renowned for his willingness to mentor young players; a scholarship program in his name was established by his friends and admirers on his 70th birthday. After Hinton’s passing, the Institute was conceived as a way to continue his work in supporting younger bass players. “Two of Milt’s favorite words — ‘cohesiveness’ and ‘sharing’ — are at the core of this week-long Institute that brings together emerging bassists who often are the singular players in their own community and school ensembles,” said Artistic Director Dominguez, (whose own career was advanced when he became one of the first winners of a Hinton Scholarship Competition  in 1981).  “To be a bass player is often to focus not on being a soloist, but on musical collaboration — making other musicians in an ensemble sound better. Bass players are the soul of ensemble playing, and to develop these young souls through arts education programming at NJPAC is both an honor for us and an important responsibility,” said David Rodriguez, NJPAC’s Executive Producer and Executive Vice President — and himself a well-known professional bass player.

The camp will be housed on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, where students will live, study and have the opportunity to take part in multiple performances. “Bringing the prestigious Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass to the campus of Montclair State University marks an exciting chapter for the College of the Arts, reinforcing our commitment to providing exceptional opportunities for young musicians,” said Daniel Gurskis, Dean of the College of the Arts. “With NJPAC as our partner, we look forward to creating an environment where passion meets skill, fostering a new generation of accomplished and versatile bassists. We are confident that the Institute will become a beacon, attracting talent from diverse backgrounds who are the future of bass music.”

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

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