Ask Willis - November - 1999

Hey Willis,
Great QT mov. of the smoking amp. I got a good laugh, but then it all turned bad when I thought could this be an isolated incident of speaker fry or..... a conspiricy...? I upped the resolution of said dramatic footage and slowed the speed down, there it was, a shadowy figure behind the drum riser just before the explosion. Who, What, Why, I hacked my may into the reservation desks (their only NT servers) of several international hotels. Sure enough a Smooth Jazz, Artist/Rep conference at the Sapporo Ramada!!! Whoa, that was a close one, You guys are lucky to be alive. Hope the rest of the tour went great. I tried contacting Oliver Stone but he's not returning my phone calls. hmmmmmm

I knew something was wierd when we was snowing with the sun out.??
Luckily, I was able to post the footage on my site before the authorities tracked me down in Tokyo, confiscated my camera and later returned it to me with the data erased.
We later heard rumors of a 2nd gunman behind the mixing board....

Based on the web picture I offer an answer to the question "what key is this in". It appears to be an F7th.......rather thin.

It raises the question as to whether the performer should have his pay docked as there two fingers not being utilized. This conduct should be noted and not allowed to happen again. From all appearences there are 2 fs and an E flat depressed. Credit should be given for playing an octave.....but it seems incredable that the first and middle fingers are not being used. I leave final judgement open depending on what the left hand was doing at the moment the picture was taken.

Under any other circumstances, it would be a lame voicing, indeed, but let's consider the events leading up to the voicing in question, your Honor:
OK, lets see....
stay up very late the night before packing then get up at 6 in order to leave for the airport at 7. Arrive at airport at 8, 2 hrs before the 10am flight for customs and check-in. 11hr flight then an hour clearing customs and colllecting luggage and gear. An hour and a half train to Tokyo then a 30 minute subway/walk to Shinjuku where we wait 45 min. in an office for the gear and suitcases to arrive. Do a short soundcheck then attend an hour and a half reception and/or wait in a classroom until it's time to play 2 tunes then what calculates to be somewhere around 24 hours after waking up, play a jam-session version of an F blues and operate a camera at the same time....helluva voicing if you ask me;-)

Hey Willis
Explain your process of learning the tune Countdown. Time and reality check has kept me from digging into this one, except some quick notes based on your playing on None Too Soon. Play with the original? Aebersold? Whatever way,
it's very nice. Perhaps I just need to spend time with it...

I used to know Countdown but I've since forgotten it. 'Don't want to sound like a commercial but the system I use for memorizing tunes is in my fingerboard harmony book. It involves the function of the chords instead of the letter names. It allows you to memorize tunes and be able to play them in any key....oops...there I go again, sounding like a commercial. Anyway, your question really needs a longer answer than I could put in an email or up on my site...maybe I should write a book.....Doh!...there I go again..
somebody stop me,

Hey Willis
Do you have any special warm-up excercises for both hands before you either start performing or practicing?

I don't warm up. I know it sounds wierd, but I don't do anything. If you've seen me play, you probably noticed that I don't use a lot of force when I play. I've learned to play relaxed so there's nothing to get "loose" beforehand. Of course, it took years and a lot of mental conditioning to get to that point. Now, it definitely comes in handy since most of the time, the travel schedule usually never affords much time before the gig anyway.

Hey Willis,
I've been playing for about 13 years. In that time, I've learned a lot of theory, but don't feel as though I utilize it. I usually find myself paying a lot of octives, and fifths. How can I get myself to apply more theory? I try to "think" as little as possible when I play and do a lot of question and answer stuff in reaction to my own lines, as well as my band mates. I just feel as though I play the same things all the time and I'm frustrated by the fact that I can't seem to translate the information in my head to the fretboard. Help!

The idea is to "think" so much when you practice that the things you're working on become subconscious so you don't have to think about them when you're playing. There are a number of ways you can force yourself to apply more theory (imagination) to your playing when you practice. Try playing a walking blues bass line with no roots on beat one of every bar, for instance. Or include a correct extension (9th, 11th or 13th) on a strong beat (1 or 3) of every bar of a blues. The more you get comfortable with these as practice concepts, then throwing them in on a gig (where appropriate) will become easier. It's great that you're using the "less is more" approach as far as thinking when you play. But, the more you get connected with the results of "thinking" when you practice, the more creative and imaginative you can be when you play.

Hey Willis,
I'm the one who wrote you a while ago to ask you som questions on your right-hand technique. It's not something what you do automatically after a couple hours of practicing. I started to practice it on a standards Anthropology, all the things, ... . It works out fine when I'm walkin'. It gives you the opportunity to do string skipping and it's a very good technique for playing octaves an so on. It also gives a totally different 'feel' than when I played just with my Index and Middle. Is it because I hold myhand differently(?) (My hand is in a slight angle as I'm
beggin?- silly comparison but the palmof my hand is a bit upward), don't know but now I often let my hand rest on the strings (and so dampen them).
The only problem I have is in playing some theme's, for instance anthropology. Sometimes I lose it... and get all mixed up. I won't start talking 'bout my soloing. I'm a bit lost now, you know. The right hand just often won't do the things I want to play.
So it's not yet a fluent thing I do automatically. But I feel it's a much better one than the one I used before. I hope I'm doing the right thing not to change to my old habbits when I'm playing, but it's not always fun to know what you want to play but not be able to play on the moment. That's the only frustration. But I hope to get the hang of it soon.

'Good to hear that your working on your right hand to that extent. Of course, if you started playing with 2 the traditional way, then 3 fingers is not 'natural' but the hand position you mentioned "begging" has more of a relaxed-straight wrist posture which is actually more relaxed than the way most people play with 2 fingers. It's hard to tell you when you should make a complete change over to 3 fingers. Since you started playing with 2 fingers, that's something you do subconsciously. You have to think about it (a lot) to get the 3 finger technique going, so, of course, It will take some time (and probably some confusion) before the 3 finger technique is subconscious. Just realize, that when you initially make the switch, you won't be as fast or as fluent as you were with 2, but eventually you'll be able to play the same things just as well, plus you'll have access to a lot more with the additional finger and the extra strings and crossings it makes available. Don't feel like you have to force the 3 finger thing if you're not ready. If you keep working on it, it will occur to your subconscious that you can play with either technique, and that will be the time to make the switch.