Ask Willis - May - 1999

Hey Willis,
I Have got a little question and i would be very thankful if you'd answer. I have got a bike and it seems to have become a pissing station for the dogs of the nighborhood. How canI put and end to it ?!?

Hey Pissing Station Manager
A lot of people don't realize that dogs are very perceptive, and even quite gear conscious.
A long time ago Scott Henderson used to have this beagle "(Moose" RIP) and he used to use a Peavy combo guitar amp. Moose hiked his leg on that Peavy every chance he got. When Henderson finally switched to a better system (Mesa Boogie) he had me build him a pair of speaker cabinets. (like a Marshall, but in stereo).
Satisfied that his owner finally had a decent rig, Moose never pissed on my cabinets or any of the subsequent gear that Henderson has used.
Obviously, you've got a piece of crap for a bike. The neighborhood dogs are just trying to tell you to get with it.
I gaurantee that a new or late model mountain bike with front suspension (min. "3 travel) will put an end to the not-so-subtle messages the "gear-hounds" have been leaving. Of course, if you invest in a decent bike, you won't be leaving it out where anyone, including the dogs, will have access to it anyway.

PS, if they've managed to target the hubs, you might want to get the bearings repacked. Or you could by a new bike and leave the old one there as a decoy.

Hey Willis,
I wanted to ask you how you have started with playing music, I mean I have a teatcher for about one and a half year and we skipped the part of just playing songs out of books, but we, after I learned to read notes started with jazz music right away, and this involves a lot of theorie and a lot of moments that you think you didn't have learned anything, but than later on it seems to get a place into the whole picture. Now my question is, is this way of playing a good way to get started, I mean, during this process it seems to go really slow, and I think it is a very long way till you think that your free in making music, and you can play the way you want.
Have you got some ideas for me to speed up this proces, or just some nice things to do, so that you stay happy while practicing this stuff?
Thanks BJ

Hey BJ,
I'm not sure whether that's a good way to start. The way that I learned music was by ear first. I learned how toplay and create on bass and guitar (without a teacher) before I ever learned what the notes were. Then, eventually, the theory was just the "label" for what I understood that worked musically. Reading & Theory are OK, but they're not as important to me as the immediate connection between what you hear and what you play. If you have that connection going, then you can always be learning and creating, independently of paper or books or even teachers.
In order to "stay happy" I'd say learn about whatever inspires you. Take your favorite piece of music and figure it out. I mean, everything about it. The melody, bass lines, harmony, even drum grooves.
The stronger your ear gets, the more you can learn about music on your own.

Hey Willis,
does the Gary Willis Collection music book have transcriptions of all the guitar parts to those songs, in addition to the bass parts? are the guitar parts in music notation, or notation and tablature? or just chord diagrams?
thanks. SA

Guitar this, Guitar that, Guitar parts, Guitar tab....
'Careful, your 6th string is showing. Played any solos lately?
Suffering from SWD? (solo withdrawal syndrome)

OK enough, already.
Yeah, there's guitar parts galore, solos, comping, etc.
The keyboard parts are mostly the ones with just chord symbols.
Now, buy my book and go play with your whammy bar.

PS, turn down.

Hey Willis,
I dub thee, very "funkified". Your type of finger funkin' proves to the world that you don't have to beat the hell out of a bass to lay down the groove. In your case it's some serious groove too. I'm grateful that you're doin' what you're doin'. Your lines have given me much to work on. THANKS!
I would like to know what you listened to, emulated, etc., when you started puttin' the funk stuff together. At this point in my playing, I work hard to transfer what I hear to the neck, but would like to expand my melodies, ideas, etc.
Also, can you talk about some of the "real jobs" you may have had over the years to support yourself while you worked on music, or is it still to painful?
I love your playing, your teaching, the website, the books, oh stop already. Thanks again!

Thanks M.E.
Yeah, I used to beat on my bass. I think we all probably did, lucky for me it was just a phase I went through.
Francis Rocco Prestia is still the man I probably spent the most time checking out on the funk stuff. I got a lot from Paul Jackson with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters and Anthony Jackson. Even when AJ plays on pop records he pulls out some cool, unpredictable stuff.

Real Jobs?...No problem, I've got plenty to fall back on. Here goes:
UPS (truck loading & stacking, not driving)
Railroad Crew (that's right, driving spikes, the whole deal)
Pre-Fab Rail Manufacturing (operating a "jack-hammer")
Flower Shop (mostly delivery, sorme arranging...really)
Construction (framing, etc.)
Fork Lift operator
Pipe Thread Protector Biz (sorting & stacking)
probably a few more less-intersting ones

Hey Willis,
Can you run down your current signal chain from the Tribal Tech European tour? Although you're not an "effects guy" every time I see the band or read about you there's something new. Thanks.

Hey GR
Right now it's a pretty simple rig, here's how it works:

Hey Willis,
Thanks for the concert in april 17 in Fashing, Stockholm.
1) I saw that you are using a Lexicon and I wonder what effects you use from that, and if you use it for your basic sound (as in all the time).
2) If you can't afford a Lexicon what effect or multieffect would you recommend for versatility and
good sound?
3) I teach bass at a high school in Vetlanda (about
350 km south west of Stockholm) and I wonder if I should advise my pupils to go directly towards fusion
music, or if it's a better way to do the blues and jazz stuff first.
Yours sincerely

Thanks Mats,
1) I use the Lexicon mostly for reverb and octave. I use the pedal that's on the R1 to mix the amout of effects to suit the music and the room. I EQ the low end out of the reverbs so that they work with bass. The octaves are pretty versatile. The octave down works great and I use a 5th up and an octave up together to get the "slide guitar" type sound for "Somewhat Later". Another one I use is the pitch controlled by the envelope so if I play any note loud, the pitch dips really low, and as it decays it gets higher. Or a soft note will produce a high pitch. It makes for a cool percussive effect.
2) If you can't afford the MPX1, I'd suggest participating in a variety of criminal activities until you get the kind of rig you need (Willis Signature Bass, full EDEN rig, Lexicon, Sure, Monster Cable, etc.) Just don't give up your music career.;-)
If you're not up to a temporary life of crime, the Lexicon MPX100 looks like a good alternative to the MPX1.
3) As far as your students, I definitely would have your then learn the origins of blues and jazz before trying to combine them into fusion.

Hey Willis,
i am fairly proficiant in the 2-finger walking bass picking style, but i want to get into a 3-finger picking pattern full time, like ~~*(Les Claypool)*~~ from primus. but since I've played so long in the 2-finger mentality, i cant seem to get the three finger stuff down. Any suggestions or can you poijnt me in the right direction before i form some bad habits? Thnx man.

Hey Man,
I have no idea how ~~*(Les Claypool)*~~ uses 3 fingers.
The hardest thing to do on bass is to cross strings going up. I'd recommend switching to 3 to solve this problem. I've had students switch in 2 weeks and other people take 6 months. The main thing is to completely focus (that means visually, too) on you're right hand when you work on it. Otherwise, don't worry about it. As you work on it, over a period of time, it'll eventually become subconscious to the point that some things will be as natural to play with 3 as 2. When you do make the decision to stick with 3, you're skill will drop a bit but then after a while, you'll be farther along than if you had stuck with 2.