Brewing A Unique World – with Igor Saavedra
8-String Bass Pioneer
Born in South America (Chile) begun playing bass at 22 years old. Now is considered by the most prestigious critics as an ambassador of the authentic South American bass culture and one of the world’s most innovative, respected, influential & virtuoso bassists, granting him as being a “Pioneer of the 8-String Bass” (since 1999) & “One of the absolute Masters on the Extended Range Basses field”.
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One of the most significant and important abilities to be developed by every artist, and by extension, by every musician is “Individuality”, and I mean by that, not just creating an original musical style, or something like that, but creating a whole world around ourselves.
AI – Hello Igor!, Thank you for taking some time to talk with me and the readers here at Andy’s World of Bass. Let’s start with talking about how you found a love for playing music, and your fascinating story of making the big life, and career goal changes, that brought a bass into your hands and a complete dedication to a musical path?
IS – Hi Andy.., It’s me who has to thank you for interviewing me at your great site. Well, in relation to your question, as you know my story is quite weird because I was 22 years old and had never seen a bass in my life.
I was in my fifth year at the University to become a PE teacher, and also I was a Wu Shu (Kung Fu) instructor with 11 years of training. I was getting ready to go to live to China to complete my higher martial arts degrees right after finishing college. I was also an athlete fully dedicated to Hammer throwing, in fact I was within the top 10 in my country. So that was my life, as you can see, completely dedicated to physical activity. I thought that my life goals and interests were very clear, and in fact it’s what I was feeling until I heard a bass for the first time.
It was around October 1987, and I was training Hammer throwing. It was 1pm and I was stopping my training to have my lunch, while walking on the campus I saw an ad stating “Today Jazz at Gym N#3 – Eidophone Group Plays Weather Report”. Obviously, at that point I didn’t know what it was “Jazz” and even less what was “Weather Report”, but I had nothing better to do except eating my lunch, so I went to that gym and sat on the floor out of curiosity. The first two bars just killed me, my ears were full with just one instrument. Ten minutes later around the middle of the second song I was literally crying, and all my life structure went crashing to the floor in a second. I knew what I really was deep inside, I was a musician, and even more, I knew I was going to dedicate my life to that specific instrument that was calling my full attention, “The Electric Bass”. Which, by the way, I didn’t even know its name, I found out it was called an electric bass guitar right after the concert, by asking the musician who was playing it.
Right after the concert, I rode my brand new racing bike that took me six months to assemble, and right outside the Campus I stopped and turned back, I looked into the main entrance and said good bye forever, and never ever came back. In fact, I completed the ritual with a Military Hand Salute, you know, that hand that you place to your forehead ;) A couple hours after that, since I had no money in my pockets, I just traded my awesome bike for a bass that I found for sale in the newspaper. If you are curious, that bass was a White Cort Steinberger 35” headless bass, but for me and my absolute ignorance in the field, that meant nothing.
I’d like to add that my bike was probably worth twice the money of that bass, but I desperately needed any bass on that very same day, because I was feeling that I had lost the first 22 years of my life. Later I learned that my previous Martial Arts & Sport career was and still is one of my most precious assets. It all started that day, an average of 17 hours a day of fully selftaught study, the rest is history ;)
AI – We met in London a few years ago, and have been great friends since, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you in many places around the world performing and educating at various bass related events. I’ve even been a guest at your home in Santiago, Chile for some delicious coffee and dinner! I’m a true admirer of your eloquent playing, and the highly individual style you have created. Will you please share a bit about your concept of right hand plucking, and the way you are able to execute a broad scope of music styles, and techniques with smooth efficiency.
IS – First of all, let me thank you for your words which I really hope to honor. I remember that day we met, it was at The London Bass Guitar Show 2013 and it was an absolutely great event where both of us were featured artists performing our respective concerts and clinics. I also
recall there were great bassists on the roster like Nate Watts, Jonas Hellborg, Dave Ellefson and Wojtek Pilichowski.
We’ve been great friends since then, and as you said, after that we’ve visited at tons of bass shows around the world. It was also a pleasure having you at my home when you came to play a concert to my country. I’m glad you liked my coffee, since that’s one of the main passions in life, and if you have had any complaint about my coffee that would have ended our friendship forever hahaha…!!
Going to your question, my right hand technique is one of my most precious assets in terms of musical identity. The other personal assets in terms of identity are: being considered the pioneer of the 8String Bass ERB ( extended range bass) , and the MicRamp ( a large smooth pickup surface, containing multiple unexposed coils) which now everybody sees in so many bass instruments around the world.
My right hand technique emerged back in 1990 out of necessity. To make the story as short as possible, I was practicing “The Flight of the Bumblebee” and I was trying hard to get it down, and execute it at the full original speed (168bpm) using the conventional bass pizzicato style without any kind of “forced legatos” to compensate for any lack of speed in the right hand. I was really getting it but in June 1990 I started to feel some pain in my right wrist and forearm, the pain started to increase everyday a little more, and I began to get really scared about it. Having studied to become a PE teacher, I was able to easily diagnose myself. So, I came to the conclusion that I was starting to develop tendinitis, which I needed to stop immediately so it would not become chronic.
That selfdiagnosis really scared the hell out of me, as I said before, so I decided to adjust myself to the situation by deeply analyzing the essential reason or reasons why that happened.
I concluded that it was a combination of three main factors 1) A lack of the necessary muscular relaxation to achieve that task. 2) A lack of the necessary psychological relaxation to achieve that task. 3) That the conventional Pizzicato Technique was not the most appropriate technique to achieve that kind of task, probably because it was not meant for me, or because I wasn’t meant for it, but definitely, because my PE studies allowed me to determinate in a very scientific manner that the conventional Pizzicato is indeed a highly inefficient technique in mechanical terms.
The explanation about this specific statement could take me about 50 pages, so I’ll just say here that the main reason for its inefficiency. Taking a single string as the basis for the analysis Due to the fact that for every one note we want to play we’ll need to make two movements in order to make it sound. A movement in physical and mechanical terms is considered and expressed as a “Vector” which has 4 main characteristics (that I won’t go into detail about here here of course) So, after two or three tentative names ideas, I decided to call my technique “Vectorial Synthesis Technique” or VST. The essential concept of VST is avoiding vectors or movements through technical execution, in order to get the most notes with less of the movements.
The spark for VST was that slight tendinitis that emerged in 1990, but I consider 1992 as the year where it all begun since it took me at least a couple years to understand its basic components. The MicRamp was a fascinating “byproduct” of VST, because I felt that it was absolutely necessary to complement this new technique with a device like that, and I thank Gary Willis for letting me play his bass, and for explaining to me what I needed to know and to understand about his Willis Ramp back in 1993. That allowed me to take it from there, and create the MicRamp in 1995.
VST has been an amazing adventure for me, mainly because it has allowed me to express what I need to say with my music, providing me with a consistent and comfortable system to do exactlythat. Almost25yearshavepassedsince1992andI’mstilllearningaboutandfromVST.
Now I’m finishing a very deep and consistent book (which is my second book) it will be simply titled VST “The Art and Science of Moving Through the Strings”.
AI – Musicianship is a craft requiring many layers of development and discipline. There are of course the elements of individual facility on our chosen instrument, and also the ability to effectively interact and collaborate with others. I find joy in it all, and try to always remember that art needs to evolve, not placing selfimposed limits on my appreciation and willingness to explore. What advice might you give to players regarding a healthy dedication to the craft, establishing a wellrounded musical appreciation and curiosity, and the ability to interact respectfully among other musicians?
IS – That’s a great question my friend. In relation to that, I have to say that in my opinion one of the most significant and important abilities to be developed by every artist, and by extension, by every musician is “Individuality”, and I mean by that, not just creating an original musical style, or something like that, but creating a whole world around ourselves. All of us have something to say, and that essential book inhabiting our souls is not less important or less transcendent than the one from others. In fact, nobody can share that essential book better than ourselves, so it’s always a real shame when artistic beings dedicate their lives to telling somebody else’s story. Personally, I don’t consider that I’m any better than others, but I’m certain that I was at least able to create “my own world” to express myself completely and fully through that world. As an example of that I created the technique I use, the theoretical frame (rhythmically and harmonically) where I move, the bass I play, the amp & cab I use to play, the absolutely weird string gauges I use, the concert chair where I sit, the MicRamp, etc., you know what I mean. Another important advice I think I could share here is that I’ve clearly noticed through the years that within the instrumentalists field the vast majority of the musicians have a clear tendency to be most of the time “trying to impress their audiences instead of trying to communicate emotions to and from them, and that’s so sad to see. I think that this behavior which could have been learned and perhaps “accepted” when we’re teenagers, is something that has the power to kill any artistic statement in just one second. It often calls my attention that there are so many grown up musicians around showing that sick and sad pattern in mostly every note they play.
In my opinion, in order to have a healthy relation with our artistic and musical environment, and with the musicians we relate with, we must focus on developing ourselves as human beings first, then as artists, then as musicians and really at the very last stage of this list, as bassists.
AI – Finally, please tell us all about your current projects, educational efforts and available products. What cool musical collaborations are you involved with this year, and touring? Where can come see and hear you play?
IS – This year has been great, my album Organic Bass 1 has had amazing reviews in many Bass publications from various countries, so this year I’ve been teaching master Classes and playing my Bass Solo Concertos in many countries like the US, Germany, Chile, Argentina and soon Israel and again going back to the USA. Playing solo concertos is literally my life, and what I enjoy the most.
While in Germany I had the amazing pleasure a couple months ago to tour with the great Phil Jones himself, just he and I from train to train and from hotel to hotel, and I can tell you that I had one of the best weeks in my life..!! Phil Jones Bass amplification has been my amp sponsor for the last 3 years having already produced a signature amp & cab under my name, the first
dedicated ERB amp & cab ever made in planet bass, and the first signature amp ever made by the brand. It was an amazing project, we worked really hard for months and the results are already out, I have endless gratitude with PJB for having done that!!
At the same time, this year I have I dedicated a little more of my “artistic time” to perform in my country since this is not something I do very often due to my schedule, I think that sometimes is very necessary to share what you’ve been learning with your people and with your own culture. Also on 2016 I’ve been preparing my second album “Organic Bass 2” which will keep the same concept as the first. Which means, just pure bass with no effects, no loops, no potentiometers (never had any for the last 20 years), no preamps, no equalization, and without any kind of sound editing. I think that the material is quite ready, but I’m holding off on the recording until my new RMI bass is ready. In this context I’d like to say that RMI is an amazing Bass company from England who signed me as an artist in May 2016, and we’ve been working hard since then in order to come out with the best version of Octavius ever made (for the readers Octavius is the name of any of my 8 string basses). Octavius 4.0 by RMI should be ready around October this year. I want to specially thank Mark Ramsay for being amazingly professional and for giving me such a unique place at his company, you’ll understand what I mean if you click on www.ramsaybass.co.uk . At the same time I want to thank all of the people at Nordstrand Pickups, my pickup sponsor for the last 10 years, for building again such an incredible pair of Custom DC8 pickups specially made for the MicRamp of my RMI Bass!
Also in the second half of 2016 I have an amazing new “soon to come” signature product through La Bella Strings ( also my sponsor for more than 10 years) They will be releasing a brand new line of ERB strings. This will be the first ERB string line ever made by a major string brand and the flattering thing here is that the whole line will carry my name. So what can I say, but sendingallmylovetoLaBellastrings andspecificallytoLorenza,Richard&EricCoccoforthat. I’d like to specially thank the sponsors I haven’t mentioned in the context of my answers My deepest gratitude for Wittner Metronomes and Tuners, GruvGear, Mey Chair Systems and Analysis Plus Cables.
Finally, I want to thank you so much for this interview Andy, I always feel your love and appreciation of my humble work as a musician, and that respect is mutual. I just turned 50 last month and I still feel that I know nothing and that there’s so much to learn everywhere that I don’t even know from where to start every morning. Being that is so hard to do, I came to the conclusion that my main goal as a professional must be getting at least a little better than the day before, I think this should be the minimum duty for any artist, and if possible trying to get a lot better than the day befor,, but if that isn’t possible it’s ok to grow at least a little bit, but not less than a little bit..!!
I invite you guys to find out more about my available products (book, album, gear, etc.,) and what I’ve been doing lately and what I will be doing in the future at www.igorsaavedra.com and at my social media.
* Photo Credit: Sebastián Domínguez Photography
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