Ask Willis - June - 2000

Hey Willis,
Are you aware that the Japanese Ibanez catalogue has a picture of you smiling?

Thanks for bringing this problem to my attention. Please accept my apologies.I've spoken to the proper authorities at Ibanez and the catalogue designer has been punished and demoted. "Zero-Tolerance" guidelines have been introduced for the catalogue and the artist's expressions will be strictly monitored in the future. I thank you and Ibanez thanks you.

Hey Willis, Two questions: Who were your favorite/most inspiring bassists? What was your first bass?

Of course, like most everyone, I was introduced to what's possible on bass by Jaco, but Rocco Prestia, Anthony Jackson and Paul Jackson were big influences as well.
My first bass was a Vox Panther bass. It was a short scale, student model.
Here's a picture of one.

Hey Willis,
I just got your book and i wanted to tell you how GREAT it is.!!!!!!!! organized, well put together,
easy to follow and productive.i like this book alot!!!!!! i play guitar and am very serious about transcribing.
some of the other ear training books i have lack the organization that yours does. i think i will finally get some
where with this one. just one question..........if i fail in one of the tests should i just keep doing the test over ??
even if i remember the answers???

'Glad to hear the book is working for ya.
Instead of immediately re-taking the test, try going back at least 3 or 4 exercises
and tests so that you're better prepared. By then hopefully you'll have forgotten
the answers. I put up duplicate pages of the ones that have written answers for so you can print them out and take those as many times as you need to:

Hey Willis,
Do you think that a fretless bass should be lined or unlined?

Definitely lined.
Even with fret lines, you still have to compensate for where you are on the neck.
Check out my bass set up manual. The intonation section shows where your finger has to be in relation to different parts of the neck. Even with lines, you have to adjust your finger postision. At first it's hand-eye coordination (the reason for the lines). Then later that becomes muscle memory.

Hey Willis,
GHS Progressives are a stainless steel string, no? You use those on your fretless??
I was under the impression that the best thing for a fretless bass was nickel beacause it is softer???
BTW, on your Signature bass, you have three strap pins, why???
Thanks in advance Willis.

Hey Danny,
Actually, no. They're an alloy wrap over a stainless core. Kind of the best of both.
2 reasons for the extra button. I always had my back strap button even with the top of
the bridge, the bass seemed to balance better there. It was Ibanez's idea to add a 2nd button
so that when you leaned the bass against an amp, it wouldn't topple over....the best of both....again.

Hey Willis,
Having read some of bass magazines I often hear well known players talk about the "Real Book"? Can you tell me what that is (I guess it's a book of standards)? Do you know who the author is and where I could get it, preferably over the internet (I'm in Australia)?

Technically, the REAL BOOK is illegal. Most copies you find are bootlegs. It's basically lead sheets to hundred of tunes that are considered "standards". Learning and studying these standards are a big part of anyone's jazz and harmony education.
Try this one, it's legal:

Hey Willis,
I have a little question. When I use the right hand muting technique (the one where you place the side of your palm on the strings by the bridge) Itend to get a clicking noise in the attack of my note. Listening very closely to your recordings, I've noticed that you don't seem to have any fingernail issues. I tried clipping them far far back, but that didn't work either. any suggestions?

It could be your nails, but if you don't get that sound when you play normally then that's probably not the problem. You might be hitting the string against the pickup. In that case, either you're playing too hard or your pickup is too close to your stings. If playing softer doesn't work and you still get the sound, try lowering the pickup and see if that gets rid of the click.

Hey Willis,
I love TT's work and also your website! I'm a guitarist (don't hold it against me!) and I've been getting into the whole jazz and fusion side of playing. What i've been doing is I've been trying to play over changes, this is the procedure I use:
1. Pick a song and then analyze what key it is in.
2. Then I write out above each chord on the chart the notes in the chord ed. Em7 = E G B D. This is so that I can follow the changes with the notes I play.
3. I then record the Chords and solo over them using the appropriate scale making sure that when the chord changes I follow it with the note I'm playing.
My problem is this: It sounds forced and it sounds like I'm too concerned with making the change then making music! Any tips would be much appreciated since at the end of the year I'm auditioning for some music schools.

Hey Hans,
You're forgiven for being a guitarist, I was one once myself;-)
As far as playing over changes, I'd maybe try something else.
Your goal should be that the neck should "look" different every time a chord or key changes. Instead of working on complete tunes and trying to keep up with the arpeggios and scales of every chord change as it comes along. Isolate: Start by looping the first 2 changes. Work on playing over those 2 changes in all the different places on the neck so that no matter where you are, you're comfortable with the shapes and your hand can "see" the changes and get to the critical notes that give you the sound of the different chords. Do this with every pair of chords that comes up in the tune or try it with groups of 4 chords. You still don't need to be playing the tune all the way through. When you're comfortable with all the different 2 or 4 bar sections of the tune all over the neck then start playing the whole tune. By then you'll definitely have it memorized and you can be looking at the neck (something I definitely encourage) to "see" the changes and not a piece of paper.