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Why an 8 String Bass by Igor Saavedra

Why the 8 String Bass…

I just realized that after all the articles and columns I’ve written in my life, that I have never yet explained the exact reasons why after having played 4, 5 & 6 string basses I jumped directly into an 8 string bass, skipping the 7 string Bass altogether (and have not moved to a 9, 10, 11 or 12 string ERB). In this article, I will share with you the reason and why I encourage people to try going for an 8 String Bass.

Igor-Saavedra-Bio-Apr2013I’m humbly aware that many people consider me as the ‘8 string Bass Pioneer’, so in relation to this sort of ‘label’ I think is fair to consider that in reality, nobody can assure there wasn’t any other crazy bassist like me in any other place of the world who might have experimented and made an 8 String bass at the same time or even before me.

Having that said, what might make the substantial difference, is that since 1999 I’ve dedicated my entire heart, brain and soul exclusively to developing the 8 string bass as the instrument itself as well as the 8 string bass playing technique. From the first day I had my first 8 string, I fell in love with it and committed myself completely to it.

For the last 15 years it has been exclusively about the 8 string bass for me, and for that reason I really prefer when people call me the, “8-String Bass Pioneer” and not “The 8-String Bass creator”, because having invented it is something I really can’t assure, but what I’m sure about is that I must be the first dedicated 8 string Bassist, and for that obvious reason the most experienced one. Also, it’s quite important to add that words like, “First dedicated” and “Most experienced,” are just historical facts, which by no means are synonyms for, “The Best 8 String Bass Player,” or silly adjectives like that, which don’t apply for any true artistic context. At the same time I’d never value myself in any form because I think that I should be the last person in the world to do that. I consider myself just an eternal, “Bass Apprentice,” so for that reason I study and practice many hours every day.

Why not go lower?

The answer is really simple… The 8 string bass is tuned from high to low F-C-G-D-A-E-B-F#, as you can see the standard 4 string bass is right in the middle. I don’t add an extra string below the F# at 23,125 Hz because that F# is the last audible open string you can have if you want to keep the standard bass tuning in descending 4ths. The following lower string should be a C# and that note will need a lot of subwoofer technology ‘to make you feel like you hear it’, but in fact the 17.32 Hz of the fundamental harmonic of that C# are below the hearing range of 99% of normal people, so what everybody will be really hearing is just the second harmonic of the note; these are the objective reasons I have for not going below the F#. The most important question in relation with this comes, in my opinion, from the other side, and that is…. Why stopping on the E at 41Hz and not having a bass that is able to reach the lowest audible possible open string note if we keep the standard bass tuning in 4ths? So that’s why in my opinion the F# at 23.125Hz must be the lowest starting point for what I call. “My perfect Bass”.

Why not go higher?

Regarding going higher, the reasons are also quite simple. First I want to mention that the 24 fret – 4 string bass high register sounding range is perfect and enough for me, but I like how that sounding range (mostly the middle and higher notes) sound on the central part of the fretboard, so on the 8 string bass, I can have that sounding range between the 5th and the 14th fret; in there every middle and higher note sounds sweet, crisp & clear and is also quite comfortable to be played in a vertical disposition, which doesn’t happen with a 4 string Bass but begins to appear a little bit on a 6 string bass.

If you take a look at any of my videos you’ll see that 99% of the notes I play don’t go over the 14th fret of the F string, which is a G=392Hz. But the objective reason comes here. Any open string over the F=174.61Hz (keeping the standard tuning in descending 4ths) like a supposed 9th string, which will be a Bb=233.08Hz, is almost impossible to be wound, and needless to say the situation gets much more complex in the case of a high Eb or a high Ab. That’s also one of the main reasons why the G string of an electric or acoustic guitar doesn’t have any winding. In my opinion the winding makes a huge difference in the sound. If you have an unwounded string, the sound of an electric or acoustic guitar appears immediately and the sound texture of an electric bass string is lost right in that moment… so it’s right there where I set the limit on the high register for what I understand as, “A Standard Bass Sound”.

Finally, setting this lower and higher string limits, and adding an extra fret, allows us to reach an outstanding 5-octave range in our 8 string bass. At the same time, we are able to listen to the fundamental harmonic of the lowest open string note, and if we play the higher string, even on the 25th space, we’ll be able to have that recognizable sounding texture that an electric bass has, due to the winding of all its strings; when these are combined with the extended scale/tension of the electric bass (33 to 37 inches in average), this gives the instrument its inherent and recognizable sound-texture that differentiates it from the sound of an electric guitar.

That’s why I call the 8 string bass, “The perfect Bass”. Please don’t misunderstand my quote; I’m just saying that it’s the perfect bass…for me (smile).

See you soon guys!

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