TuBe or not TuBe?

Hey Willis, I’m looking for a good direct box for recording projects (bass).  I know that you use, or use to use, the Retrospec Juicebox.  Before that I think you were using the Eden Navigator for a while.  Both of them use a tube.  Do feel this is of particular importance for you?  What do you think your tracks would sound like if you used a high quality non-tube DI?  I’m not sure whether or not to go the tube route.BTW heard there’s a new T.T. album in the making.  Awesome! Thanks, Lee Puckett Hey Lee, Yep, we did basic tracking for a new TT CD earlier this month. With our different schedules and the distances, it’ll take a while to finish. We’re expecting to release it before the end of the year. Actually, my last 3 CD’s were tracked with a “high quality non-tube DI” – Slaughterhouse 3, Actual Fiction and Shaman. Starting with Apogee’s Mini-Me, then the Apogee Ensemble and now I’m using the TC Studio Konnekt 48. I’ve always advocated recording with as little processing as possible so that you’re free to go back and manipulate the sound as needed. Once I moved to Europe I didn’t have an accurate way to evaluate the Juicebox going through a voltage converter so I decided to simplify. Now, with plugins, it’s possible to add subtle “warmth” type distortion only as needed but it’s never been central to the sound I’m going...

What About Five?

Hey Willis, I play a Fender four-string fretless jazz bass and like you I love the expressive possibilities and nuances I can obtain. What about the five-string bass? Does the low B string solve a particular problem: e.g. playing in D, or being able to reach down for the fifth while in G? Do you have to mute the B string constantly with your thumb when playing on the upper 4 strings? Thanks, Dean Hey Dean, Yes, Yes and Yes. The move to a 5 was very natural for me because when I played on a 4 I always played as low as possible. I always found myself on the E string when grooving in G or F. It makes the band and sonic spectrum sound bigger. When I first got a 5, the new available register was like an effect, or toy but eventually I tried to seamlessly incorporate it into my playing. There are plenty more benefits – grooves that used to have to be played on the A string – even in C or Bb – sound much bigger and beefier on the E string while still including notes that you would have used with a 4. Dead notes coming from the string below sound much thicker when played off the B string. It took me a few weeks to get a handle on how to keep the B string quiet when playing on the D & G. On a 4, if you never move your thumb off the pickup or E string then your A string will ring when you play in the D &...

Make A Difference

G’day  Willis, I am enjoying your website heaps, thanks for sharing your wisdom. My question is about right hand speed. My current understanding is the faster you want to play, the lighter you have to play. Is it as simple as that? What are your thoughts? Thanks, Wayne Hey Wayne, You could say it’s as simple as that. But really, there’s a lot of advantages to playing lighter: fatter sound, wider dynamic range (more headroom), lower action, less fatigue and finally, yes, you’ll be able to play faster. One of the biggest advantages is to be able to influence the music. If you’re playing hard all the time then when it comes time to bring some idea you’re playing out that could have an influence on the direction of the music – you’re not going to be louder and your ideas won’t have any effect . Increasing your volume within grooves or at critical moments allows you to make a difference in the...

Stay In School mmmmkay

Hey Willis, I am 16, and I have been playing a 4-string fretless Ibanez for about a year now. You are one of my four main influences, along with Jimmy Haslip, Rocco Prestia, and Jaco Pastorius. I am not very good at anything scholastic-y or business-y, but I CAN play the fretless bass guitar. My dad is a musician. Should I follow his footsteps and go professional? Do you have any other helpful advice for me? Anything would be highly useful and greatly appreciated. Thank you, Miles Hey Miles, It sounds like you have some good things going for you – first of all a cool first name, plus some great influences 😉 I’m sure you can list your dad as an influence unless your at that rebellious stage like every teenager goes through – rejecting all things related to parents – If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s still likely. IMHO I think you’re too young to make the kind of pronouncements and judgments about yourself that you make. Of course I’m reading between the lines here, but you say that you’re not good at scholastic or business things. Unless there a lot of factors that I’m missing (bad school system, bad teachers, subtle undiagnosed learning disabilities) it seems like you’re asking for some approval to blow off the educational opportunities that are currently in front of you. Since I don’t know your situation first hand, it’s possible that yours is a legitimate request so I’m not just going to repeat to you the tired old line of “stay in school”. But, one of the most important attitudes that...

Clean Getaway

Hey Willis, I just started to study your 3 finger technique because I think it will help me get past my issues with string skipping and general bassplaying. In the string crossing exercises, I noticed that when I play an A open string with the 1st finger and I mute it with the 2nd finger that’s laying on the D open string, my D string makes an almost inaudible sound because I lift the 2nd finger from it. (But I’m kinda neurotic about it though) I can’t figure out how to keep the D string Quiet. Should I worry so much about this or should I just ignore it ? Thanks, Jose Hey Jose, If you make a subtle adjustment to the trajectory of your 2nd and 3rd fingers as they move, you’ll be able to keep the D string quiet. Check out the slight upwards direction the 2nd and 3rd fingers take before they start the movement to the next strings. (the audio was kind of messed up from slowing down the frame rate so I added the woodwinds for some suspense) Clean Getaway.mov Runtime 0:19 View count...

Don't Try

Hey Willis,  In light of disturbing facts like this, your “rant“, the fact that Scott Henderson can’t tour the US and make money, aside from “Don’t try,” what recommendation would you give to anyone coming up trying to play music that resembles at all what you are doing?  Get a music degree and teach on the side?  Tour your ass off in Europe?  Become a studio whore? Thanks, Joe Dammit Joe, I was having a nice morning up until your question with all these “disturbing facts ” landed in my InBox . . . “stupid reality” (spoken in my best Homer voice). After some reflection and not a little despair – I would have to answer yes to all of the options you mentioned and probably yes to any others that could come up. It might be best to start out with a worse-case scenario and work back from there. Unfortunately, the worse-case scenario is already happening. The concept of ownership of music has pretty much been blown out of the water. Sure, there are still plenty of conscientious souls out there who buy enough music that it gives the illusion that the machinery of the old recording industry is still functioning. But how music and media in general is consumed has changed drastically and will continue to change even more rapidly. “Don’t Try” There will alway be people who create – because they have no choice, it’s their nature and they can’t function any other way. So I don’t feel I’m doing a disservice to anyone by telling them “don’t try”. If that person has the capacity to...

My Favorite Things

Hey Willis, first of all I think you’re probably the most influential bass player in the world after Jaco, and every new project just blows my mind again! OK, my question is about all your other abilities (web designer, video editing, re-inventing stuff, etc…) because I’m also into almost all these things, and also I’m a father of 2 little sons. It’s really hard for me to maintain a routine when I work 8 hours a day in an office. How could you do all that so well?!! -Thanks, Nicolas Hey Nicolas, Thanks for your kind sentiments but we all should be congratulating you and asking how you can be into all those things while working an office job and being the father of 2 boys. I don’t have either of those responsibilities so I’d say that puts me at an advantage. Still, I struggle with trying to find the time to do the things I want to. The only advice I could tell you from my perspective is don’t worry about a “routine”. If you find yourself doing one thing, by choice or because it’s higher on your list, then go ahead and enjoy it and don’t let the fact that you’re neglecting some other thing that you also want to do get in the way of enjoying what you’re doing right now. Except, of course, if you’re supposed to be picking up the kids or on your way to work. Life’s too short for a routine – let yourself enjoy what time you have for things and get to the rest when you get to...

VB-99 interface

Hey Willis, How do you send signals from your bass to the V-Bass and other midi devices? Do you mod your bass’ bridge to send the signals via piezo? Also, I’ve noticed that you don’t have the controls for switching banks and controlling the volume also. Have you just bypassed that interface and handle it directly from the v-bass? I have the Graph Tech Ghost piezo system installed and it integrates nicely with the VB-99 so everything is done from there. The VB-99 lets you choose whether you’re using the Roland GK-3B or a piezo system. I’ve moved the 3 controls (the 2 switches and the GK-Volume converted to a switch) to the side of the ramp. I’ve assigned those controls to send midi-note messages to Ableton Live which then get interpreted to activate scene up, scene down and scene launch events. I’ve already got plenty going on with the FC-300 on the floor plus a few more things so it makes critical scene switching less...

String Tension

Hey Willis, Is there any way to setup the bass to get a softer string tension (using the same strings gauge/brand/model)? Unfortunately, there’s not a setup adjustment that will assist you in violating some universal laws of physics. Without changing the actual length of the string (including the part from the nut to the tuner or decreasing the amount past the bridge) about all you can do is go to a lower tuning and learn how to transpose everything. Check out the 2nd question here and see how changing the length affects...

sharp attack?

Hey Willis, I have been playing for 17 years, and play in church and a Christian Rock Band, I have been using a custom made copy of a spector monarch bass, bart pic-ups, active electronics.., well being a finger picker, I am having trouble getting the sharp attack that some of the newer songs require, I really don’t want to have to keep making adjustments on the head for every set, it there some way I that I can keep the warm buttery smooth sounds, and then have the sharp attack for the harder rock numbers? Would learning how to slap with confidence help? Tired of being in the rut, its not a groove but a rut. These young kids and their newer songs . . . OK, to keep both kinds of sounds without altering your amp settings means you’ll have to make changes with your playing technique and bass adjustments. The first thing to do is try playing closer to the bridge with your right hand. There’s more tension closer to the bridge so be careful and don’t condition yourself to play there all the time. You’ll lose some dynamic range by playing with the same (extra) intensity all the time, but there’s definitely more attack to be had. Second, if you’ve got a 2 pickup config – balance your sound more to the back pickup and see if the extra mids help. Of course, new strings always help, too. Slapping is a possibility but I can’t tell you if that sound belongs in the tunes your talking...

why fretless?

Hey Willis, I’ve searched through all your great Q&A, but cannot find an answer to a fundamental question, why do you like to play fretless instead of fretted bass? – thanks, Doug Hey Doug, Good question, actually. Back when I was playing a lot of bebop and jazz at North Texas State I went for a fretless because I couldn’t get my fretted bass to function or feel like it belonged in that music. And I knew there was no way I would ever be interested in upright. I played both for more than 15 years until it became obvious to me that fretless was what I should be doing exclusively. There’s just a lot more expressive possibilities, especially after the note...
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