The Latin Bass Issue – Iván Barrera
Iván Barrera, Bass Player and Musical Director for Pop Singer, Franco De Vita…
BMM Please share with us a little of your personal background…
IB I was born in Mexico City and have lived there most of my life. Both of my parents are musicians, and so my brothers and I were surrounded with music. We all pursued musical careers; Javo plays the drums, Abraham plays the piano and Jonathan plays the saxophone.
Throughout my life I have studied many different aspects of music, including Classical harmony and composition, Jazz theory, improvisation and instrumental technique. My main instruments are electric bass guitar, upright bass and violin.
In 2011 my first solo album was released and included both covers and original songs in various musical styles covering Jazz, Funk, Rock, and Chamber music.
BMM What was your first bass, and how did you come by it?
IB It was a Fender Precision Squier Bass. At age 6, I had shown some interest in a bass that I saw one day at my house, but my father waited and bought me my first bass when I was about 11.
BMM Tell us about that very first day you had a bass in your hands.
IB Although I didn’t even know how to tune the bass or play one single note, it was a very exciting experience. I remember that the first thing I played was an octave exercise that my dad taught me.
BMM As a bassist born in Latin America, do you find this to be an advantage or disadvantage?
IB Nowadays I consider that I was very fortunate to be born in Latin America because I became familiar with many different rhythms, styles and ways of feeling and understanding music in this part of the world. When I was younger I used to think that I would have liked to be an American musician because of the influence and admiration I had for so many great musicians from the US. Gradually I realized that my country and my region have given me a lot, from a musical point of view.
BMM What are your main musical and bass influences?
IB John Patitucci has been very influential on my career; he is an extremely talented and versatile musician. After I started listening to what he was doing on the bass, I studied his methods and transcriptions. I even bought his signature instrument.
Lalo Carrillo is another important inspiration. He is mainly known as the bass player in Luis Miguel’s band. I remember that his bass lines opened new doors for me. By listening and studying his approach, I improved my phrasing, my dynamics and many other aspects of my playing.
Some other bassists that influenced my playing were James Genus, Travis Carlton, Abraham LaBoriel and Argentinian great Guillermo Vadala.
BMM How do you define the music style you play?
IB I listen to and like to play all types of music. I love traditional and contemporary Jazz, Classical music, soundtracks, Funk, Rock, Metal, Pop and traditional Mexican music.
BMM How important is reading and studying music theory?
IB They are extremely important. Reading music can be compared to reading any language, like Spanish or English. When someone knows how to read music he can perform someone else’s ideas and improve and widen his musical horizons.
Studying music theory lets us understand the rules and how music works. It is necessary for becoming a complete musician.
BMM What do you consider the differences that technology and the Internet have made for you as a musician, compared to the previous generations that didn’t have these tools?
IB Getting valuable information for learning music was a daunting task before the Internet. I have heard that some Jazz students used to share the few albums they could get, and some of them would listen and study the ideas of one album for many months.
The era we are now living in, with a wide availability of videos and resources, is an enormous privilege for every music student. Nowadays there is a closer and up-to-date contact with the latest albums and learning methods. It is very cool that in the twentieth century, it is not crazy to consider taking a lesson online from one of our musical heroes.
I have had the privilege to tour around the world and have met excellent musicians everywhere. I think this is because valuable information is much more available right now than ever before.
BMM Tell us about your gear.
IB I am currently sponsored by Fender, SWR and DR Strings. I have a 4-string American Standard Jazz Bass, a 5-string American Deluxe Jazz Bass and a 4-string Precision Bass Reissue based on a classic 60’s model, which is the one that I use the most in recording situations. I normally play through the Redhead combo or the Headlite amplifier, plus the Goliath Jr. cabinet. I am currently using Extra Life strings.
BMM Who are your favorite Latin American bassists?
IB I can think of dozens of great bass players from this region of the world. Just to name a few: Oscar Stagnaro, Igor Saavedra, El Papa Pastor, Guillermo Vadala, Abraham LaBoriel, Agustín Bernal, Aaron Cruz, Pepe Hernandez.
BMM Please leave some motivational and encouraging words for the next generation of Latin American bassists.
IB New bassists from Latin America should be proud of the great diversity of genres in the region and the way the music is felt there. If they study all aspects of music and have a good attitude towards music and colleagues, I am certain that they will be very successful.
Visit online at ivanbarrera.com