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Speed… an End or a Mean? by Igor Saavedra

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Meet Igor Saavedra –

It’s incredibly interesting how two persons who are studying and putting into practice the same topics, at the same time, might be experiencing something that is completely different.

Musicians and bassists that have a tendency to play faster than the average or faster than most of their colleagues have frequently been criticized. One of the reasons for this is that these “fast runs,” most of the time, have the tendency to sound out of musical context and can be technically deficient… in other words, the musicians that have this tendency are usually trying to say more than what they are able to say properly. But watch out, because this is not always the case!

I think that this expressive manifestation (playing fast), should not be discussed lightly, but rather should be subject to at least one simple, accurate and objective analysis. For me, the first thing is to be able to clearly differentiate the two kinds of subjects that are often interested in playing fast. In this article I’m proposing two classifications as follows: The “Pure Sprinter” and the “Fast Musician”.

1 – The Pure Sprinter

This is the one who likes speed “per se”, that means, this guy doesn’t really care too much if he gets this adrenalin rush from speeding on a bike, car, skateboard, plane, playing on his PSP, or who knows… maybe playing a musical instrument.

In my opinion there are two types of Pure Sprinters who play music.

a) The Self Assumed Pure Sprinter:

This guy enjoys the vertigo of speed, but he understands that this fact doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good musician; He really doesn’t care too much about music, he enjoys the speed experience and that is it. He might be also pursuing some commercial purposes… remember the rock bands of the 80’s?

b) The Self Fooled Pure Sprinter:

This is the one who doesn’t necessarily enjoy too much the vertigo of playing music fast, though he swears that this fact in itself transforms him, as if by magic, into a superlative musician. He thinks that his musicianship is directionally proportional to the speed he is able to achieve. This is the worse situation in my opinion, because this guy thinks that he is a real musician, but he is not.

2 – The Fast Musician

This is the one who likes music in the first place, indistinctly from the way he chooses to express it. Speed is just one of these ways, so for him speed is a mean to enhance the musical discourse, but will never be an end to itself.

In my opinion there are also two types of Fast Musicians.

a) The Decontextualized Fast Musician:

This is the one who, even though will never put the speed as an end to itself, on the other hand will not hesitate to push the throttle if his guts ask him for that. He will not worry too much if this action will be suitable for the musical context or not. In other words, this guy likes to play music “fast”.

b) The Contextualized Fast Musician:

This is the one who, apart from the fact of being able to understand the speed as a mean, while having the technical ability and the necessary knowledge, also knows when is the proper moment to play fast, always putting the needs of the musical context over his personal needs.

I hope these lines will serve for you to recognize which of these four guys you are listening to in any moment, and with just a little attention it will be crystal clear after a couple of minutes. Needless to say, they all have the merit of at least having spent many hours and years developing a skill, but this ability will have many nuances in terms of real value and consistency.

In my opinion, the most significant and prominent of all these subjects will always be “The Contextualized Fast Musician”, because he has the necessary characteristics to be able to locate speed at the proper place, just as a mean, for which he must have the necessary abilities if the situation and the musical context requires to deliver. This “Contextualized Fast Musician” eventually earns his right to get rid of this denomination, and be called simply, “The Complete Musician” (With the understanding that he is also meeting all the other features required).

There is nothing wrong with developing speed skills in music, the problem arises when it aims to be an end in itself and not a mean that will further enable the performer to play music fast without any problem if he wants, because his physical speed limits (muscular and neuronal) and his musical knowledge are far above what is required.

So what for?

I think that I’ve expressed my opinion very clearly on this article putting the speed as a mean and not as an end, but there’s a little exception to this “rule.” What’s the point in playing fast? Well, speed is a part of life as slowness is… life is like Ying and Yang and all the opposites are always communicating and harmonizing, and obviously both are always necessary, so that means playing fast is also necessary.

Playing slow ballads is cool and I love it, but for some reason people assume that a musician that has the tendency to play slow or mid-speed music has to be more “musical” than a musician that has the tendency to play fast. In my opinion, this is just a construction made up by the sum of opinions of many people through the years that have not had the luck of having heard good “fast” music or musicians, or maybe by frustrated musicians that have not even being able to achieve a valid aspect of the music spectrum which is to play fast, so to be able to transmit effectively human feelings and experiences like anxiety, hesitation, dizziness and many more.

As I said, a Complete Musician also has to be able to transmit this feelings effectively, as long as they are able to achieve a fast harmonic mental process and obviously to achieve the technique needed to transmit those ideas on the instrument.

All of us know that being able to play slow eventually helps to be able to play fast, but you don’t have to forget that being able to play fast also helps to play slow. How is that?

Let’s say the legal limit on the highway is 90 miles per hour. A good example is the feeling you get while driving a Ferrari Enzo at 90 miles per hour (The car is capable of going at 220 miles per hour). Compare that feeling to the one you will get driving a Ford Escort (nothing against that car) at the same 90 miles per hour. (This car is able to go at a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour)

Suppose both situations are within the legal speed limit… so both situations are “legal”, so nobody is going faster than he should. While you are driving the Ferrari your maximum speed is way above so the car is completely “relaxed” and is not being forced at all in any way; Needless to say that what is happening to the Ford Escort is quite the opposite.

We might choose to try and achieve that Ferrari feeling while also being a respectful driver, driving at 45 miles an hour when we are on the city, at 90 miles per hour when we are on the Highway, and if we are in Germany driving at the Autobahn where there’s no speed limit we will just love to drive whatever speed we want and enjoy the ride. With this I’m trying to express that we should always be considering the musical context we are in, so to be able to decide if we are going to play fast or not.

For the musician, the audience is able to feel very easily if you are close to burning your engine, because your face and your gestures, and mostly the music you are playing will always show what’s happening with you. We don’t want to transmit uncomfortableness to our audience, so if we are going to have to play fast we want them to feel that adrenalin rush without suffering. If we want them to experience pain, suffering or something like that, we must use a “voluntary” musical tool.

When studying music I always tried to practice taking into consideration that I wanted to be “musical” in the first place. In terms of technique I wanted to achieve the maximum efficiency and the maximum relaxation possible also while trying to get the best sound I could… that was my trip. What happened eventually was that without even noticing I was able to play sixteenth note lines over 300 bpm on my bass. I have never played at that speed in any musical context because I haven’t found the musical reasons to do that, but I can tell you that just knowing and “feeling” the potentially achievable speed has helped me to play at the usual fast speeds without suffering at all (physically and emotionally), and I think that all this happens for the reasons I’ve mentioned throughout this article.

Finally, is up to you… all I’ve said here is just my opinion about “The speed issue in music”, and is based on my personal experience. I suggested taking the speed as a mean and not as an end, but I’ve also mentioned what I consider just the only case in which speed might be and end in itself, but always relating it to the musical context.

Let me know what you think!

See you guys on my next article…

Bass Videos

New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

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New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

Spector Launches Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II…

Spector Musical Instruments expands their celebrated Woodstock Custom Collection with the Volume II series – a breathtaking series of 12 handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bass guitars, each one masterfully designed by members of the Spector team. Crafted in the Spector USA Custom Shop in Woodstock, New York, these works of art go beyond musical instruments and expand the boundaries of Spector Bass design.

Spector’s iconic design lays the foundation for the Volume II collection. Each bass showcases a unique vision, including the selection of tonewoods, electronics, captivating finishes, and intricate design details. The collection highlights Spector’s commitment to craftsmanship and artistry and the individual people and stories that make up the team.

“The Woodstock Custom Collection was such a huge success, and we had so much fun with it that we couldn’t wait to do it again,” said John Stippell, Director – Korg Bass Division. “With Volume II, we’re expanding on everything we learned from the first collection, as well as pushing our design and Custom Shop team even further. These basses are a testament to the inspiring talent, creativity, and skill of every person on the Spector team. I’m excited for all of these basses and love how they tell the unique stories of all involved.”

Visit online at spectorbass.com/

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Bass Videos

New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model

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New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model

Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model…

After playing a limited edition Dingwall live with Duran Duran, John Taylor has launched his
Dingwall Guitars production model, loaded with a Rupert Neve Designs preamp and
Rio-inspired graphics.

Dingwall’s major launch for 2023 was the limited edition Rio Dream Bass, featuring an
innovative Rupert Neve Designs onboard preamp. A year later, the range has been bolstered
with the Canadian company now offering unlimited access to its continued collaboration with
John Taylor of Duran Duran.

Dingwall CEO Sheldon Dingwall says the basses are a response to Taylor’s upfront bass style.
“John’s bass playing with Duran Duran really imprinted on me how a bass should fit into a band mix. The combination of tastefully busy syncopation, his punchy tone, and tight performance immediately drew my ear. His basslines have always had a special combination of energy and elegance.”

The John Taylor Signature model follows the formula of the limited edition Rio Dream Bass,
combining a lightweight Nyatoh body with three neodymium pickups to produce what Dingwall deems “wonderful playability and tones that display a rare clarity and refinement.” The JT Signature model also updates the Rio Dream Bass with a range of new colors; Metallic Black, Primrose, Cranberry and Seafoam Green, as well as a new 5-string variant.

Other specs include a bolt-on Maple neck, a Pau Ferro multi-scale fingerboard with the ‘Rio Eye’ inlaid at the 12th fret, and Dingwall’s new ‘Minimalist’ bridge. The headstock sports lightweight tuners and a Rio-inspired graphic that complements the body stripes, designed by longtime Duran Duran collaborator, Patty Palazzo.

Finally, an onboard preamp designed and configured in collaboration with Rupert Neve Designs, whose studio consoles have long represented the pinnacle of high-end audio engineering, promises a clear voice that balances punch and sustain. “Duran’s breakthrough single, the title track from 1982’s Rio, was originally recorded on a Neve console, so the history was already there,” says Sheldon. “But the team at Rupert Neve Designs absolutely nailed the tone.”

Like the Rio Dream Bass, the JT Signature has also been configured to Taylor’s own personal
specifications. “It all started when I was in Toronto about six years ago,” says Taylor. “A friend
showed me a Dingwall bass on his phone. I loved how it looked and immediately said to my
tech, ‘You’ve got to reach out to these guys!’”

For further information on the range options, head to dingwallguitars.com

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Bass CDs

New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

Killing Bees Racing Towards Ruin out May 10th via Tonequake Records.

There are some records where the first note grabs you and doesn’t let go. Before the first lyric is sung, Killing Bees pull you into Racing Towards Ruins via the sheer power of TONES, MAN, TONES. Brown-note bass reverberations and gut-punch kickdrum snap the listener out of daily reverie instantaneously. Together, bassist/vocalist Nic Nifoussi and drummer Ray Mehlbaum (both of Automatic 7) and producer Andrew Scheps (Mars Volta, Audioslave, Adele) have crafted a piece of art that fuses low-rock minimalism, post-hardcore aggression, and SoCal throttle rock urgency into, well, a real ass-kicker. 

The bones of Killing Bees began their calcification when Nifoussi started a high school punk band called Automatic 7. They signed to BYO Records upon graduation and soon found themselves in need of a new drummer. Enter Ray Mehlbaum. Tours with Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Face 2 Face, Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines, Unwritten Law, Youth Brigade, DOA, and others followed, as well as a deal with A&M Records. A&M got bought by Universal, the band moved to Vagrant Records, cut a new record, toured, then broke up. 

“Eventually, Ray and I decided to start a two-piece band” explains Nifoussi. “I was trying out a new sound using 2 amps and an A-B switch. Overdrive through one amp and playing a lot of chords to get a guitar-like sound. After years of playing together, we were already tight and used to writing together. The songs came quickly and easily.”

Via Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, the band had come to know Grammy-winning producer and engineer Andrew Scheps. Though originally recommended as a producer for Automatic 7, when the band played him the Killing Bees songs, he loved the concept and the trio got to work on their self-titled debut. Following the record’s release on Guano Loco/Loose Fang Records, “we played a bunch of shows and eventually started writing the new record in our North Hollywood lockout” says Nifoussi.

Recorded once again at Scheps’ studio, drums and bass were recorded live, the only overdubs being vocals and some bass and accordion textures (Nifoussi is an accomplished accordionist). “We tracked the two together over 4 or 5 days and everything you hear was played live by talented humans, not put together after the fact.  I think that live energy is what makes the record so compelling!” says Scheps. “Andrew wanted to challenge us. We came in wired towards traditional songwriting – he wasn’t interested in that” explains Mehlbaum. “He encouraged us to think about instrumental bits that would drive the tune, as opposed to the sing-along chorus of a traditional song. As a drummer, he kicked my ass. I remember him saying “we’re gonna turn the click off. I want you to go completely ‘out of time’ then come back in.” That’s some crazy shit! But I fucking loved it.”

Thematically, the record deals with the dangers of love and politics in equal measure. As Nifoussi puts it, “if there’s a takeaway, it’s to be careful with who you love… and vote into government.” So, Racing Towards Ruin. A concise, compelling listen, arresting at first blush, and deeply moving upon completion. A modern rock record (not a modern-rock record), unrelentingly heavy and sonically immaculate. And loud. Super loud.  

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Gear News

New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin

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New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin

Bass Hammer Plugin…

Nembrini Audio launches the Bass Hammer plugin which is engineered for advanced bass tone sculpting. Modelled on the Aguilar Tone Hammer* which is renowned for its tone shaping flexibility, the Nembrini Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting, comprehensive EQ adjustments and versatile cabinet simulations.

The Nembrini Audio Bass Hammer plugin has been designed to infuse discerning musicians’ digital workspace with the legendary tonal characteristics and dynamic versatility of its hardware counterpart. The new plugin delivers all the distinct organic warmth, detailed midrange control and adaptive tonal shaping the Tone Hammer* is famous for in a flexible digital format.

Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting to transform a signal’s EQ curve and gain structure and alter the behaviour of the MID parameter.  The Graphic EQ has six bands enabling nuanced shaping across the bass frequency range. Plus, the four selected bass guitar cabinets, four carefully selected microphone emulations and a parallel D.I. signal with console compressor offer users plenty of scope to explore ambient reverb blending.

Introductory prices of $29.99 for the Desktop version (regular price $137) and $9.99 for the IOS form (regular price $19.99) are available until 30th April 2024. Bass Hammer is PC and Mac (VST2, VST3, AU, AAX) compatible and requires a FREE iLOK account.

To find out more and download the Bass Hammer plugin please go to nembriniaudio.com/products/bass-hammer-bass-amplifier or
apple.com/us/app/bass-hammer/id6480058361Video

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

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Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore…

I am always impressed by the few members of our bass family who are equally proficient on upright as well as electric bass… Edmond Gilmore is one of those special individuals.

While he compartmentalizes his upright playing for mostly classical music and his electric for all the rest, Edmond has a diverse musical background and life experiences that have given him a unique perspective.

Join me as we hear about Edmond’s musical journey, how he gets his sound and his plans for the future.

Photo, Sandrice Lee

Follow Online

facebook.com/EdmondGilmoreBass
instagram.com/edmond_gilmore/
youtube.com/channel/UCCYoVZBLXL5nnaKS7XXivCQ

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