Ask Willis - March - 1999

Hey Willis,
I have a problem playing well and executing difficult passages in rooms with
bad acoustics. how do you deal with it. Thanks Dean

Hey Dean
Room acoustics are kind of hard to dial in. You have to figure out a way to adjust your sound if things are too
boomy. Basically, if you can find the control on your amp, locate somewhere around 50 hz (a really low frequency)
and turn it down. You don't want to weaken the bass sound so much as eliminating all the "boom" associated with the low notes.
Another problem sometimes is that the "boominess" comes from the PA and not your amp. Isolate your signal so that it's still going through the PA but not your speaker. You might have the soundman (person) roll off the 50-100 Hz off the bass and kick drum out of the PA and that should clean up the bottom end in the room.

Turning up the mids or treble on you instrument usually makes the sound unbearable to play with so make sure
that that option is eliminated in the PA as well. Just subtract the boomy ultra-lows and that'll make it more manageable.


Hey Willis,
I've seen you and Scott use the "Dr Scholls Volume Box" live a few times. Is it low or high impedance? Post preamp? Did you make it? I want to try it. Please give my best to Scott. Thanks and best - Chip

Hey Chip
We use it differently. Henderson's is used for volume, but I don't know if it's post or pre. I use mine for mixing effects.The latest version for me is the Lexicon R1 pedal controller. I replaced the TAP switch (i never use delay) with a potentiometer that's wired to one of the "external" jacks of the controller. It's assigned to mix whatever Lexicon MPX1 effect I call up. Having a horizontal knob lets you see the amount of effect dialed up and it's easier to make sublte changes to the mix.
BTW, (just in case I haven't dropped enough brand names on ya) I use the Visual Volume pedal.


Hey Willis,

Jake (8 years old): What's "ask willis?"
Dad: It's where you can ask willis questions.
Jake: Who's willis?
Dad: Someone who you can ask questions to.
Jake: Is he famous?
Dad: Um. Let's ask willis.
Jake: Okay. Hey willis, are you famous?

Willis Who? Tribal What?


Hey Willis,
I have a problem, when the bass player (me) starts to solo, the instruments that provide a harmonic structure stop playing and subsequently I usually start to get lost in the changes. In order to keep up with the changes, I usually end up building solos based around the roots. This makes for an un melodic solo, and the inability to completely say what I want
...HELP!!!

"drums stop.....very bad.......bass solo....." (old joke)
I'm guessing this is an old tradition that started with the old unamplified upright basses. Old habits die hard.
Basically, you have to discuss the situation beforehand and explain that you'd rather have some accompaniment
behind your solo. One thing that helps from the drums is tell the drummer to go ahead and use the ride cymbal on your solos like they do on every other solo.
As a last resort, you could demonstrate to the other band members what it feels like...lay out.


Hey Willis,
I've been working on soloing lately and was wondering if you had and tips. I can think of shorter phrases but connecting them into one cohesive solo with a definite direction is not easy for me.
Thanks for all the great music and for anexcellent site!...David

Thanks David,
First, I'd recommend recording your practicing and listen back. You need to become more familiar with your own vocabulary. The more you listen to your soloing, the more you'll be able to edit and improve your vocabulary. You'll decide about phrases you play that you like and some that you never want to play ever again. You'll eventually learn to recognize when you're about to finish a short phrase and add more to it that makes it more interesting or connects it better to the next idea. Mainly get your ear and imagination more involved by actively "listening" when you're practicing.