Ask Willis - February - 2001

Hey Willis,
I have three random questions.
1. How do you determine whats the appropiate amount of watts you need for a show according to the watts of the PA.
2. what are the qualities of a 18 inch speaker, and a 10 inch speaker.
3. How many watts would satisfy 20,000 people (just curious.)

3 random answers:
1. According to the National Soft Drink Association, the following is the caffeine content in mgs per 12 oz can of soda:

Afri-Cola 100.0 (?)
Jolt 71.2
Sugar-Free Mr. Pibb 58.8
Mountain Dew 55.0 (no caffeine in Canada)
Diet Mountain Dew 55.0
Kick Citrus 54 (36mg per 8oz can, caffeine from guarana)
Mello Yellow 52.8
Surge 51.0
Tab 46.8
Battery energy drink -- 140mg/l = 46.7mg/can
Coca-Cola 45.6
Diet Cola 45.6
Shasta Cola 44.4
Shasta Cherry Cola 44.4
Shasta Diet Cola 44.4
Mr. Pibb 40.8
OK Soda 40.5
Dr. Pepper 39.6
Pepsi Cola 37.2
Aspen 36.0
Diet Pepsi 35.4
RC Cola 36.0
Diet RC 36.0
Diet Rite 36.0
Canada Dry Cola 30.0
Canada Dry Diet Cola 1.2
7 Up 0

2. Intel was making an experimental chip (which is no longer produced): 80170NW - Electrically trainable Analog Neural Network (ETANN) It has 64 'neurons' on it - almost fully internally connectted and the chip can be put in an hierarchial architecture to do 2 Billion interconnects per second

3.  Bigfoot learned to disguise himself as a weiner-dog in the late 1970's, and then as a wild chicken. Then bigfoot was run over and discovered the road-kill disguise. And, using this disguise, he travelled undetected throughout North America during the 1980's. Then he started to use the weiner-dog and wild chicken disguises again because his previous disguise was starting to smell bad - plus the road-kill disguise had a cable-tv outlet and bigfoot was tired of trying to find a place to "plug-in". Then bigfoot "undisguised" himself and went to California, and elsewhere. One of bigfoot's forefathers - named Bigfootdamus - used to stare into a bowl of Kokanee beer and see the future.

Hey Willis
I just got a fretless bass for Christmas and while deciding what I could practice, I decided to pull out the Gary Willis Collection book and see what I could do. Boy, was that a mistake! Not only was I dealing with an extra string, but I was also dealing with a lack of frets, plus some really hard stuff to play! Anyway, I was checking out the Face First transcription and have a few questions:
The chord changes at letter G during the 'board solo are interesting and I don't understand how they work. I mean, I understand a little bit about chord functions, but what exactly is going on here? I see a couple of 2-5-1s, but for the most part, I am lost. Could you help me out by maybe stepping through the changes with me?

On these same changes, the extensions are pretty well defined (for example, the first chord is a C9sus4add13, and I see a Db7#9b13 in bar 5):
1) As a soloist, how do you make sense of all of this structure? Do you just think diminished licks the whole way through, or what? I know that you should just use your ears when playing, but the changes seem so specific that it looks like a lot of math/thought went into it.
2) As a bass player, what are you thinking about here? The transcription shows you playing lots of roots and 5ths. I can't imagine you could fit anything else in there considering the tempo and feel of the tune, but what if you played it at half-time, let's say, like when you get to letter H?

Just call me "Grinch"--he-he.....
The chord changes at G are the same as the "chorus" of the tune which is called "Keybd. Fig.1" that you can see at D but is the main theme at the end of the tune. What ties the chords together is the repeating ending melody. Without that melody, you might think the harmony is fairly unrelated but the melody "glues" it together. Like you said, there are a couple of ii-V's but the rest of the chords just move wherever they want to. Although it's pretty challenging, the idea with any soloing is to develop ideas through changes. One thing that is confusing is that for the book they wanted the changes to reflect the voicings that I wrote for the keys. The soloing changes are actually much simpler than what got written in the transcription book. Here they are in a much more "math-less" form, and some suggested blues key centers. As far as playing bass over them, you're right, there isn't time to fit in much except to get from one place to the next.

Hey Willis,
Do you know what a gripmaster is?
What is your opinion on it ?

Is a gripmaster one of those squeeze hand exercisers?
Strength is the last thing you need to worry about for electric bass. Most people squeeze too hard with their left hand and play too hard with their right. Relaxation and efficiency are the real keys to playing fluidly on electric bass

Hey Willis
I like to experiment some when it comes to the sound of my bass playing so by now often use boxes like octave, wah, and an envelope/autowah-thingie called MeatBall by Lovetone (heard of it?). Here is the thing, I was wondering what kind of an envelope filter or wah you frequently use on TT albums since Thick and Bent. (Track #1) How much does it cost and is it hard to get?

I used to have a MeatBall. My bass solo on the title track of "Thick" is dueling envelope followers. One side is the MeatBall, the other is my Lexicon MPX1. I don't think you could tell me which was which....which is why I just use the MPX1 now. In addition to the envelope following, it does the best octavering and really good reverberating as well. I don't know how much they cost now but they shouldn't be hard to find.

Hey Willis!
I'm a young, Norwegian bassplayer who have spent the last weeks transcribing,analyzing and practicing the "Jalapeño"-song from your "Thick" -album. I really enjoy the way the melody fools you at the beginning of the song. It took me a long time to get that down. Your bassplaying is also really great here; I get a kick every time you lock into that groove on the faded guitar-solo. And your solo... I love solos that don't loose the groove. Anyway, I'm having some trouble figuring out some of the chords. There seems to be a kind of chromatic approach especially at your solo, some kind of dominant7sus-thing, but I just don't get the hang of it. Can you help me?.

Thanks for the E and the kind words.
Good to hear you're being constructive and industrious up there in the Norwegian winter.
Here's the chords for the solo

If you think G#minor over the Emaj7 then you'll get the chromatic motion you mentioned.
Same for the Abmaj7-think Cmi7 and you have the Bmi-Cmi chromatic motion.

Hey Willis
Can I set a ramp on my Fender American Jazz Bass?
If i the answer is yes where i can buy it? How much does it cost?.

Sorry, You have to make one yourself. They're not for sale.
If you're good with tools, they're fairly easy to make.
Otherwise, you get one free with every Willis signature bass you buy;-)

Hey Willis,
I feel lately that my technique is in a rut and I'm just not developing as fast as I would like. I think I know how to practice after 14 years and I always try to relax, play with a light touch(i even have a custom made ramp) and use right hand damping. I have been working on some pretty advanced stuff from Anthony Vitti from Berklee. Its a book called the Finger Funk Workbook. Its a collection of grooves in the style of Gary Willis, Jaco, Paul Jackson, Rocco and other greats. I always try to be aware of exactly what my hands are doing (especially my right hand) and play slowly and deliberately. I just feel like Im stuck at the same tempo and have not been able advance a whole lot. I try and practice between 2 and 4 hours a day. Am I just being impatient? Did you get frustrated ever during your development years or have you always been bad?:-)
Also, my right hand fingers get a little stiff during the day. Not extremely stiff and there is no pain at all. Is this bad?

Sounds like you're headed in the right direction. Stiffness in the hands is not good if you're trying to play. But if there's no pain, I guess it's OK.
I'm not sure what to tell you as far as the speed thing. One thing I've discovered recently with another student was that the left hand was holding things back. Your left hand has to be anticipating the next note you're going to play so the ideas can flow. Even if you're playing slower you need to have this anticipation happening so that there's no gaps between the notes. This helps the feel quite a bit as well. You really have to clean up your right hand to get it efficient and in the habit of being ready to play whatever is next. Try playing things like Donna Lee or Freedom Jazz Dance at a slower tempo but have all the notes connect smoothly-no gaps. See if that helps.

Hey Willis,
Congrats on the rock/sci cd.. sounds great...but...... would love to hear a litle more composition in there 'bout do a one side composed thing, and improv your guts out on the other..? best of both worlds...but, then again, are'nt you guys already doing that....hehe  
ok,..also whats it like ( being who you are and the position your in with a great band and all) whats your daily scheduel , like morn get up and ride, afternoon practice, etc..ok, so for my do you approach soloing over chords..... do you just see the chord types pass by..? or have you broken it down more than that..ex..( up a maj 3rd, down a 4th, up a 5th..etc) and you just know where you are by following that pattern....? i'm just asking cos i know you write some ( major ass kicking ) changes..

Thanks. Although we jammed the initial tunes in the studio, you don't really know how much composing we did afterwards....and I'm not tellin'.....;-) It's the best of both for us, 'cause we come up with stuff that just wouldn't happen for us individually when we sit at home in our little home studios for hours, weeks, months on social life, no sleep, nothing but frustration.... somebody stop me.....
I wish I could get up and ride, but we just got yet another snow so it'll be at least March or April before things melt and dry up around here.....
I know where I am on the neck because the pattern is under my hand but it encompasses the whole neck. I know that sounds a little abstract but the geometry of the neck is the whole basis for the Fingerboard Harmony book I wrote. Once that's internalized then it's on to the vocabulary thing. I just try to see and or hear the ideas. One or the other will happen first-seeing or hearing. And I just try to react to that. That's a major simplification but it's still a language/vocabulary thing. You really don't start communicating well in a language until you've internalized things like the meaning of words, grammar, tense, conjugation...Once you've done that, then the ideas can become your focus, instead of the individual parts of the language.