The GWB20th

Celebrating 20 years of signature basses, in January 2019 Ibanez announced the release of my GWB20th limited edition model. An instant classic, the “Tequila Sunrise” sunburst finish graces the body, ramp and headstock of this fretless 5-string. Also commemorated in this edition is my long relationship with Aguilar with the inclusion of the DCB pickup and the OBP-2 preamp. The bass has an ash top, ramp and headstock with a resonant basswood body and an ebony fingerboard. Unique features are, of course, the finish which hasn’t been seen on any of my previous basses, the adjustable ramp and the triple wing tuners that have been there since the beginning.

Ibanez GWB 1005 - Gary Willis signature bass

The GWB1005

Instead of trying to make this bass more affordable, Ibanez has decided to make it perfect. From the beginning of the GWB signature series, starting with GWB1 and recently the GWB105, I’ve always played the production, not custom, version of this bass. However, over the years I’ve occasionally found it necessary to make subtle modifications such as filing nut slots to sometimes not-so-subtle modifications like sanding the surface of the neck. I’ve always happily made these modifications myself for a couple of reasons. The first is that I expect that I’m one of the most particular players around when it comes to how a bass sets up and plays and that these kind of details are peculiar to me and not the kind of thing the rest of the bass world would necessarily notice. The second is that I’ve learned that there are limitations to factory production that prohibit the kind of super-fine attention to detail that I give my personal instruments. But all that’s changed with the GWB1005. Hand crafted from start to finish in Japan by master luthiers with over 100 combined years of experience, I can say with confidence this is the perfect bass. I haven’t had to do anything to it. The attention to detail is impeccable.

There are a few changes from the previous versions: The first thing you’ll notice is the black headstock. In addition to the black headstock color, you can see that the signature is missing from the headstock. I realize that as bassists we all are striving for our own “voice” and in the back of my mind, I always thought that it would bother me if the only way I could get the sound I wanted was to play a bass with someone else’s name on the front of it. So now the signature is on the back electronics cover and is my actual signature – and yes, my hand is tired. It also gives the headstock a much cleaner look.

The next difference is in the adjustments for the string height, ramp and the pickup. Instead of wood screws, we use brass threaded inserts to accept the hex-head adjustment screws for the ramp and pickup. These screws allow for very precise adjustment of the ramp-pickup setup (a critical playability element of this bass). For this adjustment and the string-height adjustment, we provide 2 special-purpose pivot-top hex-head adjustment tools. A single tool handles both the ramp and pickup height adjustment while the smaller second tool handles the string height.

Another subtle difference is the switch to the larger shaft tuners which makes cutting strings unnecessary. And we’ve also returned to the original, slightly larger string spacing (by a few millimeters) bridge. New for this year is the inclusion of a hardshell case.

The rest of the features remain the same but still deserve mention. Custom Bartolini pickup and electronics – Proprietary lightweight Sure-grip triple wing tuners – Select light ash for the bolt-on body design – 3 piece maple neck with ebonol fingerboard – Deep cutaway for complete access to the 24th fret – 2 Strap pins on the body to stabilize the bass when it’s leaned against an amp – The decision to play a fretless bass is not a casual one.

I believe that the care and attention the Ibanez gives this bass shows that it takes your musical choices seriously as well. Thanks for listening.

The GWB35


As far as I’m concerned, this the 2nd best fretless bass made on the planet (see GWB1005). Pro-level features with an entry-level price. Where was this bass when I was starting out? Same exact physical dimensions as the GWB1005 – important if you’re interested in transferring your muscle-memory intonation skills to the next level.

Light – resonant basswood body – Slotted bridge for quick string changes – Ebonol fingerboard with lines – Like the GWB1005, the ramp is contoured to match the radius of the fingerboard – Proprietary lightweight Sure-grip triple wing tuners – Deep cutaway for 24th fret access – Black satin “stealth” finish – I’ve played concerts and recorded CD’s with this bass – In the right hands, it comes very close to being the real thing – see for yourself.

GW signature

Gary Willis