Ask Willis - August - 2001

Hey Willis,
As a fellow bass player, how do you keep your dogs from begging for food from the dinner table?

Mmmmmm....dinner....OK, in most cases, as we all know, a peaceful dinner and dogs don't usually mix. Plus, they say it's bad for dog to eat scraps. Anyway, a peaceful dinner with the dogs outside in the yard (staring through the screen watching your every move) is more like it. If you're a really good disciplinarian, the sit-stay will work for a while but human food is just sooooo much better than that crap we dump in the bowl day after day after endless day on end. Maybe, just maybe, if you goat least a couple of weeks of eating meals in their presence and they get nothing (how cruel) they might lower their expectations. Unfortunately this technique is sometimes undermined by the occasional gravity storm "oops how'd that get there". Sometimes your best hope is some sort of healthy compromise..good luck.

Hey Willis,
I'd like to thank you and your Tribal Tech members for your music. Because I listen to it every single day ,from Spears to Rocket Science and from Bent to Tore Down House, my boss got me my own office. (guess he noticed that I work better with good music) Now he can hear his Rammstein music again....thanks for all your music...I really enjoy it EVERY day...

"Hey boss, I'm thinking of getting a new 5000 Watt-THX-DOLBY 5.1-Surround Sound-home theater system for my office....about that raise....".

Hey Willis,
I've been playing bass since I was 14 (25 now), but stopped playing 3 years ago 'cause of complications of college and work. Anyway I'm ready to pick up my strings again, and wanna go on to fretless (exclusively) but I AM a little nervous about intonation, as I played fretted exclusively before and the one time I tried a fretless bass I really SUCKED. Any thoughts on jumping on the fretless bandwagon?

Great to hear you're thinking about a comeback. I'm still a little nervous about intonation myself. Maybe you've heard this before but some good advice I heard once was that to be good at something you have to be willing to be bad at it for a while. It's one thing to be bad on a fretted but as you know, to be bad on a fretless....well, let's say it's not for the faint of heart. There's no such thing as a schedule or a time in your life when you should already have this together or that. Here's what I found out not long after taking up fretless. If you do all your practicing on a fretless, a fretted is pretty damn easy....Maybe practice fretless in private, play fretted in public and make the switch whenever you feel you're ready.

Hey Willis,
I've been reading your book about ear training. It's wonderful and great! But now I've encountered some problems. I did ok about those intervals (i'm at chapter 3), i could easily play the intervals my ears hear, but i feel difficult to play the 3rd and the rest of the notes from any line that my ears hear. I've got to stop and 'think' the interval of the 2nd and 3rd. It's really annoying and feel unnatural and takes alottatime. Am i on the right track, or should i stick to the book?

Thanks...Anytime you find yourself slowing down, in this case "unnatural and takes a lot of time", focus on the problem itself, don't try to move on too soon. Maybe back up a chapter and get more detailed to make sure you're prepared. Or get creative and make up your own exercises that focus on the specific intervals you're having trouble with. Use the previous types of examples but record your own versions that zero in on your problem.

Hey Willis,
I started to play the Bass when I was ten years old. Dad bought me a Gibson EB short scale and an old heath-kit amp for my birthday. My life changed forever at that point. I have put the Bass down though (5 years ago). I always felt like I wasn't good enough, or I would never be that good. I am pretty good though, although my serious playing days seem to be over. It would take a lot of discipline to get where I was.
My favorite solo of all time was "Water on the brain" by Jeff Berlin. I learned that solo inside and out. I never had the basic musical knowledge to make up stuff like that on my own. I want to go back and do it right. Would I have to get some fundamental training so I can write stuff like what I hear you play?
I am 33 now, I want to resurrect this old bassist. I won't be that "great player", I realize this.
My main question to "Ask Willis" is: What do you think man, is there a time when you are just too old to get "it" back? My self-esteem rode so heavily on my playing, I need to get it back again. Where does one start from here? (Gary Willis tablature?, lol!).

That's a tough you definitely had your playing together if you could pull that one off. Maybe it's better that you look at it like "your serious playing days are over". I hope my "serious" playing days are over as well. Music is simply expression and communication... and it shouldn't always have to be "serious" and to me, most of the time it should be fun. If you're playing and studying music for the right reasons then your self esteem can come from your dedication and love of doing "it" and not necessarily where people think you are as a player and technician at a given moment. As far as fundamental training, I'd have to say the best composition lessons I ever had were transcribing the things that communicated to me. You already have that experience with transcribing solos so you know what's involved there. I'd have to say the only thing there is to "get back" is the willingness to learn and improve. I have to remind myself of this a lot. Everything else will fall into place if that's your starting point.