Ask Willis - August - 1999

Hey Mr. Willis !
1. Sorry about my bad english.
2. Does buying dogs and bycikles help my playing ?
3. How tick or tinn ( what gauges ) is the GHS- GW string set????
4. I bought your signature bass, and it is realy comfortibble to play,
sounds great, and weights nothing.
Thank you !!!!

No problem. Sorry about my bad:______________(insert your language here)
There's documented proof that the benefits of having a dog are a lower overall sense of stress and blood pressure levels. However, bombing down the backside of a mountain on a mountain bike tends to raise one's blood pressure levels. 'Would be difficult to calculate the net effect on your playing.
The GHS progressives I use are 45-65-85-105-135.
'Great to hear about the bass, thanks.

Hey Willis:
I need your advice so as to avoid a potentially horrible situation.
I'm dating a girl that, well, I don't know how to say this. I think she has . . . BASS ENVY!
The other day, in the midst of a serious conversation we were having, she brought up my bass (it's a beautiful sunburst 5-string) and how she had, so far, avoiding defacing it. This came up after I accidentally marked her Khakis with a hiliter and she was very upset. Does the fact that she even brought up defacing Annie, that's what I call my bass, mean that she might someday actually do it? What is motivating her? Do I need to get some kind of restraining order? I mean, Annie has never done anything to her, and I'm afraid that this is an omen of things to come. Has this ever happened to you?

Unfortunately, there are women out there as unstable as a 6-string bass neck made of balsa wood with a cardboard truss-rod. To equate the value of a pair of khaki's (no doubt due to the recent Gap commercials) to the somewhat priceless "Annie" (not quite priceless, since it's not a GWB1) is indeed a bad omen. I'm afraid darker days could be ahead. Take care that "Annie" doesn't end up like the pet rabbit in "Fatal Attraction".

Hey Willis:
Would you mind explaining what is happening with the time in your tune "Stagger" from "No Sweat". I mean the difference between the melody and the rhythm section.

Although I didn't consciously do it this way, I discovered afterwards (trying to figure out how to write the chart) that the melody is in a half-time shuffle pulse and the rhythim section is a double-time swing feel. Here's the first bar:

Hey Willis:
I had a couple questions on the Willis bass:
#1- as a beginner, is fretless beyond me? I'm aware of your fretted bass,but maybe it's better to start with the fretless?
#2- one vs. two pickups - why?
#3- 2-3 configuration - allows a tighter E,B string while keeping 34"scale? What's the word on 35" scale basses?
#4- the ramp (great idea) matches curvature of fingerboard? rather than pickup?
#5- how does the bolt on neck help with the low note tone? (makes it lighter - ie light bass/light neck)?
Thanks JM

JM, here's a "couple" of answers:
#1- I'd have to say that you're better off starting with a fretted. Maybe put off fretless until you're pretty confident with your playing and you feel like you want to start doing more with the notes than a fretted will allow you to do.
#2- The right pickup in the right place is all you need to get a great "fingers" sound,
(no thumbing on fretless, right?) Front pickups can add some low end but usually mask the overtones of a well placed rear pickup.
#3- I've found that the extra tension on a 35" fretless doesn't allow the strings to "breathe", especially the upper strings. Even though the old Jazz bass was 34", the G-string tuner was way out on the end and made for a lot tighter G string than headstock configurations like the one on my bass. A 35" scale does help tighten up the lower strings so a 2+3 combo is the best of both worlds. (plus, no way could I relearn the extra spacing on a 35" and stay in tune;-)
#4-Actually, the ramp and surface of the pickup match the curvature of the fingerboard, so you really don't notice the transition from the pickup to the ramp.
#5-That one's a mystery to me, but I have heard lots of theories. We did try a glue-in neck joint on this bass but it resulted in a lot more compressed sound (acoustically).

First I want to say that your website is very cool... I really learned a lot of things.
Now, here's my interrogations...
I possess two basses, a YAMAHA TRB6 II and a YAMAHA RBX 360. The RBX was black (that was before the operation)and it seemed "lifeless", so, by a sunny afternoon, I took a screwdriver, a can of stripper and a sander and I undertook to "resuscitate" my gloomy and dark bass. So I put off the neck, the bridge, the pickups, etc. Then I putted some translucent paint and a lot of varnish on the body and the nut. But, when I was painting the nut, I looked at the neck and... HAAAAAA!!! It was curved! And I do mean CURVED! I've never had any problems with the neck before (in 3 years). Is the curve due to the release of tension? Will I be able to replace it, utilising the truss rod? (I read the "bass setup manual" and it said that only a quarter or half turn a day was recommended ; If I'm lucky, I'll maybe finish the job before Christmas eve...)Another question (a less-important one), will the new paintjob and the temporary neck and bridge removal change the overall sound of my bass? Another very non-important question : my dog is constipated. It takes him about 15 minutes to get it out... What can I do?
Thanks a lot Willis!

p.s.I'm sorry if You encountered difficulties reading this message, I sleep during my english classes...

That's OK, I sleep during my brain surgery classes...
If the strings are going to be off for a long time, it's a good idea to loosen the truss rod tension until they're back on. If the "back bow" is still there after the strings are back on , go ahead an loosen the truss rod some to let the strings pull the neck back straight and then tighten the truss rod back up to to proper adjustment since the neck is having trouble "remembering" how it used to be adjusted. The "quater or half a turn a day is better for fine tuning, but you need more drastic measures to get things back to the right adjustment.

The main thing that influences the sound of a bass is the construction, (neck-thru
or bolt-on, with bolt on sounding better), body woods (lighter is better) pickup type and
pickup placement (Bartolini of course and good old Leo Fender seemed to get the placement right on the Jazz bass.) .
In order to put a heavy finish on a bass, a sealer that really penetrates the wood is applied and you can't remove that. So probably removing and repainting the external finish won't change the sound much at all if a lot of sealer was used.

Doggie doo or Doggie don't,
Since your dog is probably not fond of salads, I've heard that rawhide might work in a similar fashion. I'd recommend consulting a vet before listening to too much of my advice. Although, 15 minutes is a long time if you don't have a magazine to read or something;-)