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Zander Zon

Three years after producing his acclaimed debut as a solo bass guitarist, Zander Zon returned with his second session, Saturn Return, in April 2013. Included on his latest 10-track collection are six new compositions for unaccompanied bass guitar, three orchestrations, as well as an inventive adaptation of Johann Pachelbel's classic Baroque work, "Canon In D." Having emerged only a few years ago through his captivating video performances on YouTube, today Zander is recognized as one of the most notable contemporary solo bassists who continues to explore new sonorities through altered tunings and expand the repertoire of solo bass music.

In this interview, Zander discusses Saturn Return, composing with altered tunings, his future plans, and more.

Can you tell us about the concept of your latest solo project, Saturn Return?

Zander Zon The title refers to the times in a person's life when the planet Saturn returns to the same place in its orbit that it was at when the person was born which occurs roughly every 29 years. Some people believe it also represents a time of important change when significant choices present themselves. This was exactly what I was going through during that time in my life as I was experiencing some really important changes and transitions personally, professionally, and musically. The idea of a Saturn return was something that interested me. Plus, the title seemed to fit in well with this album's pieces as the initial compositional ideas I was working on really changed a lot over time.

How would you compare the tracks on Saturn Return to your prior recording?

With this album, I definitely wanted to show development as a composer and explore different timbres and textures. Along with the seven solo bass pieces, there are also three multi-track orchestrations. On one of the orchestrations, "A Whisper In Time," I'm playing the electric cello, "Music Box" features some piano, and on "Oracles Of Her," I'm using various distortions, echoes, and choruses. As a result, this album probably has more variety of sound than Sonorous. However, like Sonorous, I've aimed to keep the focus on melody. When I compose, most of my energy goes into trying to create melodies that hopefully have an emotional impact on the listener. I'm one of those people that is really drawn to the melody of a song so I really want the melodies I create to be ones that people want to come back to and ones that evoke emotion.

What equipment did you utilize during the recording process?

The instruments I used were my Zon VB4 bass strung with D'Addario piccolo strings (.020, .032, .042, .052), an NS Design electric cello, and a Roland FP-7 electric piano. For recording, I went through a Smart Research DI box into my Apogee Duet and into Logic. For the effects on "Oracles Of Her," I used my Boss GT-10 pedalboard, and for the reverb on all three orchestrations, I created the parameters using ArtsAcoustic. For the reverbs on the solo bass pieces, my mastering engineer used an amazing unit called the TC Electronic Reverb 6000.

Did you employ a different tuning for each composition?

I didn't use a different tuning for every track but almost every track. Even though I was using altered tunings, most of the tunings were actually transpositions of standard tuning because they were still in fourths.

My track-by-track tunings, from lowest string to highest, are:
"October Starlight" - G-D-B-D
"Chimes" - C-A-C-E
"A Whisper In Time" - D-G-C-F
"Heartbeat Lyrics" - B-E-A-D
"Elements" - E-A-C-E
"Oracles Of Her" - A-D-G-C
"Canon In D" - B-E-A-D
"Kinetic" - Db-Gb-B-E
"Music Box" - Bb-Eb-Ab-Db
"Constellation" - C-F-Bb-Eb

Where can your recordings as a solo artist be purchased?

They can be purchased at iTunes, Amazon, or CD Baby. If you'd like the physical CD, please visit Bassline Publishing.

How do altered tunings influence the way you compose and play bass?

Altered tunings greatly expand the possibilities. By tuning your bass in different ways, you can play chords and harmonics and create sounds that otherwise would not be possible. Altered tunings allow you to not have to think about compositions a certain way. There isn't a set way of going about it because your tunings can always change. Each time you're in a new altered tuning, something opens up and the creative potential changes.

Zander Zon To bassists interested in experimenting with altered tunings, what would you recommend to get started?

I'd recommend just changing the tuning of one string. For example, drop the E-string down to D or C. After exploring that, keep the E-string on C and drop your D-string to C. Start off with small changes to individual strings and then go from there. With even minor changes, it can really make a difference to the types of chords and harmonics you're able to play. I'd also recommend trying out open tunings where each open string is in the key that you are playing in such C-G-C-G if you're in the key of C or G. The possibilities really open up because every open string can be utilized.

Do you follow any particular process to familiarize yourself with a new altered tuning and figure out where specific notes are located?

I mainly just experiment with the tuning. I try not to think about rules or theory too much and think mainly about what is sounding best. I'll probably start off by hearing what the harmonic chords sound like at the 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th frets. I might then try to figure out the hand shapes for different chords with my lowest open string then my second lowest open string and so on. It's basically a combination of trying different shapes and patterns but also having an idea of what type of sound you're looking for.

Are there any plans to release a book of transcriptions for the new tracks similar to your last release, Sonorous?

I have had a couple discussions with Stuart Clayton, the owner of Bassline Publishing, about this. Nothing is currently planned, but there might be something happening further down the line.

Besides playing solo shows, do you ever play standard bass parts with any bands?

At the moment, composing and recording solo bass is my main interest and passion. Plus, it's all I really have time for.

Now that Saturn Return has been released, what do you have planned for the rest of 2013?

I'm going to be making YouTube videos for all the compositions on the album. Plus, I want to continue improving on the cello and start composing on fretless bass as well.

Selected Discography

Saturn Return
Solo Recordings
Saturn Return

Holiday Rumblings - Songs Of The Season By Zon Artists


For more information on Zander Zon, visit:

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