Ask Willis - April - 2000

Hey Willis,
Since I got here (Puerto Rico) my bass started to get green stains in the frets , its like a fungus or something I don't know if its the weather. I would like to know what do recommend for that kind of stuff.
Thanks man.

It's probably just a little corrosion from the humidity or something. It's a pretty easy fix. You'll need some quality masking tape, 320 grade sandpaper and some #00 and #0000 steel wool. (easy to find at the local hardware store)
First you'll need to tape over the fingerboard but leave the frets exposed.
Here's what it looks like starting with 1 fret:

Make sure and cover a few frets on either side of the ones you're working on.
Actually, you'll probably want to do all the frets. If not, only some of them will look shiny and new.

Use the sandpaper to work the corrosion off. Sand parallel with the neck, it'll end up looking better. Then use the #00 steel wool and then the #0000 to buff the frets to a nice shine (also parallel to the neck).
Don't even try a household cleaner or anything with ammonia or bleach. That'll ruin the fingerboard wood.
If you wand to clean the fingerboard ocaisionally, use some rubbing alcohol. That'll dry out the wood so use some regular lemon oil to keep the fingerboard from drying out.

You are a great inspiration. I am tryin to transcribe your solo on the track 'It's only music' (bent). Is it possible to get the changes?? Are you going to publish a new book with charts for your solo stuff??

Thanks for the kind words. Here's the chart for It's Only Music.
There's no plans for that book right now. Maybe you can bug Hal Leonard into doing it;-)

Hey Willis,
I've got a G3 350 and I'm really temped to lay down the bucks for the new 500mhz G4. Should I take the plunge?

You'd see a pretty good speed bump if you went with the 500 but nothing like the speed you'd see if you were using applications that are optimized for the Altivec engine. If you're using a lot of apps like Logic Audio, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Director 8...etc. But the list of Altivec accelerated apps is pretty short compared to the all the13,000 Mac software titles.
Make sure you'll be using some of these apps and it'll be worth it. Otherwise, the next 4-5 months will bring faster Macs and more accelerated apps.

Hey Willis,
I'm Crys, I play the bass at my church and I've never had a lesson but I would really like to know how to jazz certain songs up when there's a pause in between words and things. Is there anyway you can send me some kind of lesson or something that will help me become an awsome bass player?

Hey Crys,
That's exactly how I got started, playing in church and no lessons. The main thing is to develop a vocabulary for getting from point A to point B. Just isolate those transitions and figure out a bunch of different ways to create momentum that gets you through those sections. Learn enough of them and eventually the right fill will just come to your fingers...just like in a language. When you know a language well, you don't have to think about things like spelling, grammar, verbs, nouns..etc.

Hey Willis,
I have been moved and inspired by your playing and writing since I first came accross a copy of Dr. Hee (about 10 yrs ago - nobody here new who you were then...what a find!) in the library of the music school I was attending. I have been fortune enough to make my living the past few years playing bass and playing (for the most part) in enjoyable musical environments.

The question I have is one that has been blown off by past bass instructors and some fellow musicians. I can't play fast enough with my right hand! Sure, I can satisfy the musical requirments of the gigs I'm on, and yes, musicality doesn't come directly from technical ability...but it really sucks when I can't build a solo to any real peak, or execute a short 16th note burst in an 'up' funk tune because my right hand can't keep up! My technique is clean and efficient with both hands, my right wrist is pretty straight, I've practised, studied and gigged long enough that I'm not usually getting hung up on the mental "what am I going to play next". My question is this: did your right hand speed always tend to keep up with the rest of your musical development or was there a time when you wondered whether you would ever be able to execute your ideas at the tempos that you and some others now do so seemingly easily? Do some of us have inherently faster fingers or do some just figure out how to make them work better than others? Any comments or ideas?
Thanks JR

Thanks for the kind words JR. Yikes, that's a tough one because it sounds like you're doing all the right things. The most important thing is to relax. If you're playing with any tension at all, left or right hand, and then you try to play fast, then that tension will be magnified and will slow you down. Make sure that you can play really relaxed and make real sure you stay that way as you gradually increase the tempo. Also, try practicing in a mirror. Extra movement, the kind that can slow you down, is more noticeable from a distance. One thing that's happened over the years is that now when I play faster, I end up playing softer. The natural instinct is to tense up and try to muscle your way through, but over the years I've learned to back off of the physical intensity as the muscial intensity increases.

Hey Willis,
I purchased one of your 5-string fretless basses about a week ago and I love the sound and playability. I haven't played much fretless the last 6 years or so and I'm wondering which if any effects do you prefer when you perform live. I enjoy your sound very much and could use some suggestions in this area.

I don't use a whole ot of effects when I play live, mostly an octaver or some reverb (ocasionally some distortion). Here's my setup:

Except for the distortion (Boss FZ-2) I get everything from the Lexicon MPX1. I modified the R1 foot controller so that all the effects can be mixed in real time. That way, you're not stuck with a preset mix of reverb or octave and you can adjust it as the music demands.

Hey Willis,
I have a Fender Jazz Deluxe. I raised the pick-up height 'cuz I like to play on the pick-up, but I get alot of clipping and peaking at times. What do you suggest to stop this from happening?
Also, any plans to come out to N.Y. any time soon?
Keep groovin' man.

Hey Josh,
Don't play so hard....
Actually, unless the string is actually hitting the pickup, you shouldn't have any distortion or clipping. You may not have the gain structure set correctly on your gear. Make sure the input gain is up enough on your amp so you're not overdriving the amp.
If you end up having to lower your pickup but you still want the feel of playing over the pickup, the you're a candidate for a ramp.
But why go to the trouble of building your own, just buy a Willis Signature Bass;-)
There's talk that I might be at Bass Day in Oct. but nothing's confirmed yet.

Hey Willis,
Is the ramp an Ibanez exclusive or can it be used with other basses? I have a G&L 2500 5 sting with two humbucking pickups with what seems to be enough room between the pickup and the neck.
Also, I'm interested in trying your open position. I have a problem with the B & E & A string or strings ringing when I play on the D & G strings with the thumb trailing one string behind method. Any thoughts?
thanks for your time

Of course it can be used on other basses. I've probably built a couple a hundred ramps for all kinds of basses. But like I mentioned, why go to the trouble? Just buy a Willis Bass
Here's how I dampen those strings when I play on the D and G:

It's from a similar question from June of last year.