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Willis Takes on Your Questions

Hey Willis –
I’m Nazareno from Argentina, I’ve been study since I was fifteen, now I’m twenty one. I have found some mistakes in your Fingerboard Harmony book, which I will send you to complete the corrections you had already posted in your web. But I need you to solve one in particular. On page #48 in the box, you say that for the “Two Chord m7b5” the extensions are 1, b3, b5, b7, 9, b13. But studying the lines you create I see that instead of 9, you use the 11, is that ok ?

Also, in the “Five chord dom7(b9)” you put that the extensions are 1, 3, 5, b7, b9, b13. I think this is OK, but on page #57 in measure 6 (F7b9) I found that you didn’t use any extensions (b9, b13) on the strong beats, and when I try to use them, they really sound awfull, what is the explanation for this?
Well I hope not to bother you with this, and I promise to send you all the mistakes I find in the book, which I have to tell you have changed my mind about the way I look at the instrument. I really enjoy it a lot. I love your playing and music.
Best wishes for you,
Nazareno !

Hey Nazareno,
Thanks for taking the time to point out some obvious mistakes that we didn’t notice the first and even second time around. The mistake on page 48 should be corrected as 1, b3, b5, b7, 11 and b13 for the Two chord m7b5.
For page 57, it’s not actually a mistake. The exercise is to demonstrate shifting so I didn’t want to get too complicated by including extensions as. You’ll notice that there are no extensions on any of the other chords as well. But I did notice that the 4th bar is missing the Dm7 chord in the chart. Here’s a better example of what the line could sound like and it also includes those extensions on the F7b9 chord:
listen to it here:Ex 93 example use this for practice: Ex93 practice


Mr. Willis,
I have a fender P Deluxe. I have lowerd the strings as far as they will go without buzz on the higher frets.
How could I buy a WILLIS RAMP FOR MY BASS. I wanted to cover the back humbucking pickup.

Hey Anonymous,
Here we go again – “Mr. Willis”, while demonstrating a measure of education and respect, unnecesarily creates a feeling of distance and formality in these proceedings. The accepted vernacular is “Hey Willis” which is a common and informal way to address friends in the Southern part of the US. If you’re really going for formality, then take it all the way and address me as “Your Majesty” or “O Great One Who Has The Answer To Everything”.
Now, unfortunately, your question has been answered before. Here’s how it works. Go here:
Type in “ramp” and browse the 3 pages of search results that show up
The answer at the bottom of this page might interest you, as well as the one at the bottom of this page.
One more thing, the ramp doesn’t actually cover the pickup. If the pole pieces are a problem then use a hole punch on layers of electrical tape in order to build up the surface around the pole piece so that its sharp edge doesn’t cause you to lose skin.


Hey Gary,
My name is Bill, Went to college with Scott Henderson down here in Florida. I have an MTD K5 Bass with Nordtrand pickups and had heard that you might have a ebony ramp for sale that would fit my MTD. The distance between pups looks to be about the same as your 5 string. Let me know what you think. I reall don’t do a lot of gymnastics on the bass. I sit in the pocket most of the time but these Nortsrand pups have exposed posts and I rest my right thumb on the B string and am having a problem touching the post during hard playing situations.

Hey Bill,
Most people call me Willis. (see the first answer for pointers on how to address questions to yours truly)
While I have collected a few extra ramps from different bass design prototypes here and there, the only ones I have are made to fit versions of my Ibanez bass. Early on, Mike Tobias was offering matching ramps for his basses but since the setup of the ramp has to be done after the pickup height and string height has been adjusted to the individual playing style of each player, it became too much of a logistics hassle to continue.
So you probably realize that unless a bass is specifically designed for a ramp – which would be ummmmm, let me think . . . oh yeah, that GWB1005, or GWB35 from Ibanez – then you’ll have to get someone to build one, or do it yourself. That reminds me, the next time I get a chance to make a ramp for someone, I’ll be getting the video camera out.


Hey Gary,
I am the proud owner of Willis GWB1005 #6 made in 06 (I think) which is cool because I am William Crichton VI. Anyway.
I picked up a V-Bass and GK3B and am trying to figure out how you attached yours (when you were using it) without the clamp. It looks like you took the concentric EQ knob out and maybe secured it through the hole in some way. Anyway, any help is much appreciated. Your fan-Will Crichton

Hey Will,
Since it’s inception in 2001, I’ve answered approximately 350 questions, give or take a couple a dozen, and the overwhelming majority of them conform to the title of the feature: “Ask Willis” (emphasis on the Willis”, as in “Hey Willis”). If I wanted to be called Gary, I probably would have called it “Ask Gary”, don’t you think?

That’s interesting, I don’t know exactly the numbering system, although I probably should, since I have a GWB1005 #6 as well. Anyway, I still use the V-Bass but now it’s with a version of the Graphtech Ghost piezo saddles instead of the GK3B. Before we installed the Graphtech system, I did remove the knobs from the EQ potentiometer and hid it out of the way inside the cavity. Since I don’t touch the EQ otherwise, it made sense. On the GK-3B, just below where the 13pin cable plugs in is a hole you can use to bolt it to the bass through the hole vacated by the EQ pot. Use a “flat head bolt” so it won’t interfere with passing the cable into the connector. No damage to the bass and the missing EQ isn’t a problem since it has ‘perfect tone’ right out of the box;-)


Hi Gary,
My name is Yossi. I have a few basses which two of them are custom built by Michael Dolan. But I’m playing on an Ibanez RD808LE Road bass model from 1989 as my main bass. I really love the sound of it and I’m trying to get pickups for a six string bass with the same sound.
Here are links to the pictures and info –

Now for the question- do you know where and how can I get pickups with the same sound? I wrote to DeMarzio, to EMG, to Michael Dolan and I tried to find over the net for hours an Ibanez email, with no success.

HELP!!! 🙂

I’m aiming this question to you because you are indorsed by Ibanez.
Please reply, and thanks in advance!

Hey Yossi,
Except for me wanting to give you some greif about calling me ‘Gary’, your question doesn’t really fit into any general interest category or even an off-the-wall special interest topic that sometimes gets covered here. So let’s just say I’m feeling generous.
I did look at the picture of your 808 and if you want to get “that” sound, you’ll have to get pickups specially built. A big part of the sound of any bass has to do with the location of the magnets and coils that are sensing the string. Most 6-string pickups come in a soap-bar configuration with either 2 parallel coils or 2 coils butted up against each other with each one sensing 3 strings each. The sound you’re looking for involves a combination of the P-bass pickup configuration (offset) and a Jazz bass (single aperture) config in the rear. The only 6-string pickups that I’m aware of that have a P-bass type offset are from some Ibanez basses but unfortunately their offset is reversed so you won’t get the same sound. Since the sound you want for the back pickup comes from a Jazz shaped single aperture pickup, then any soapbar that has the parallel (wide) configuration won’t work either. If someone is custom building your basses, then you should be able to find someone to custom build the pickups. Or you can do what I did back when I couldn’t afford to experiment with store-bought pickups – learn how to build them yourself.


Hi Gary,
I just purchased a brand new GWB35 from Ibanez. Could you please give me some suggestions about the proper strings to install on my new bass. What strings do you use?

Thank you
Great fan of your musical gift

If I had a dollar for every time I have to answer “Hi Gary” . . . . . .
The GWB35 should come with D’Addario EXP’s. I like the EXP’s and think they’re far superior to that “other” brand of coated string out there. For the stage and recording I use D’Addario XL’s .045, .065, 085, .105, .135 with the .135 being the tapered version.


Hi Gary,
I just recently purchased a GWB35 and I would like to upgrade the
pickup system to a Bartolini. Could you please suggest a good upgrade set up for the GWB35.
Until I can afford a GWB1005.
Thanks ….Kim

What is it with you people?
How many times do I have to say it?
What’s so hard about typing “ASK WILLIS”?
The name of the feature is “ASK WILLIS”!!!!!!!!!
note to self: must be polite . . . potential GWB1005 customer is seeking advice. . .
OK, where was I? GWB35 pickup upgrade? OK, so even if the Bartolini pickup and electronics from the GWB1005 were available separately, you’d end up with kind of a mess since the cavity size of the Ibanez pickup would leave some unsightly spaces that would need to be filled and/or covered with a pickguard. And the pickguard solution would be complicated by the presence of the ramp. That cavity size just doesn’t fit into any of the standard Bartolini pickup profiles. If anything, (even though Ibanez wouldn’t want me saying this) I’d try experimenting with different electronics first. You might find a solution that will hold you until you graduate to the GWB1005.

*******Update – Correction**********
A reader named Chris alerted me to the fact that one of the Bartolini Classic Series Soapbar Pickups (BC5CBC, bridge pickup) along with the NTBT electronics would indeed fit and can be used as an upgrade for the GWB35. I’ll report back as soon as I can try it out myself.


Hi Gary,
I’d love to buy a copy of “Collection” but it’s out of print. If you have any copies around I’d be glad to buy one from you.
Please let me know.

That’s it. Get me Prince’s lawyers. I’m changing my name. It’syifrom now on.
Only questions specifically addressed to yi will be answered in the future.

After a few years with Hal Leonard, I learned about the ‘Vanity Book”. It’s a ploy they use to entice you to publish a legitimately educational book and I must say it worked for me. Unfortunately, their commitment to the future of most Vanity Books only lasts as long as its contribution to their bottom line. Which, in this case, wasn’t past the term of the first contract. I only have 2 personal copies of my “Vanity” project so I’m hanging on to those. Best of luck finding one and thanks for asking,


Hey yi,
I’m a novice bass player and the guys in the band (especially the guitar guy, formally a bass player) are always telling me to hit the bass harder. I just tell them that I’ll turn up the volume if they can’t hear me. “No that is not it” they say “just hit it like you have some balls”. Thank you for setting these geniuses straight. BTW I’m 57, playing bass for 1 1/2 years now making significant progress. It is amazing what maturity and practicing twice a day can do.
So no question just a thank you.

Hey George,
Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work keeping those guitar players in line.


Hey yi.
I was playing a handful of bass gigs over a couple of weeks in January, primarily playing fingerstyle with the 2nd and 3rd finger(I sometimes use my right ring finger for playing octaves). But not long afterward I woke up one morning and discovered my right hand was very stiff and inflamed. I could barely play Hammond organ at my church gig that following Sunday. Needless to say, I was disturbed. I took the usual precautions: ice packs, anti-inflamatory pills, rest. After about a week I attempted to play my bass again, but there was still pain in my right hand when I played fingerstyle. I noticed the pain was more pronounced when I plucked with the middle(3rd) finger. I haven’t seen a physician about this yet, I’d like to avoid it if I can. I remember Anthony Jackson saying he tried to switch back to 34″ scale basses because of a loss of hand strength, but as we all know that experiment ended in failure for him. He went back to 36″ scale. Do you have any pointers or advice on what I can do to rehab my hand?

By the way you were recommended to me during a discussion of my injury at [email protected]
Check it out if you get a chance. I’m sure the group would welcome your experience and insight. Give my regards to Tribal Tech also.

Hey Joe,
fMy approach to your problem isn’t something easily undertaken within the confines of this setting. If I had the ability to observe you in person, I’d try to find out about your posture, the angle of your right hand on the bass, how high the action is, how hard you play with your right hand, etc.
If you’ve actually damaged a tendon, then something like that might take up to 6 weeks of rest before you resumed playing. And even then, I would recommend very closely monitoring how things felt when you started back up. Injured or not, I’m a proponent of approaching the right hand in a very scientific way – observing, monitoring and questioning every possible micro-movement in order to eliminate wasted motion, eliminate tension and increase relaxation. Depending on your insurance/work situation, I’d be very cautious and see if you can confirm that an injury exists before you proceed.
A friend of mine had a mysterious pain that no amount of rest or technique adjustment would solve. Eventually, an MRI revealed a tiny cyst on a nerve in the right hand and it was so delicate that surgery was not recommended. Hopefully your problem can be solved with some cautious common sense and without surgery.


Would it be a bad idea to tune the GWB35 EADGC instead of BEADG? Would it have a negative impact in intonation?
From a playing perspective would you feel compelled to tell me not to do this; and if so why?
I look froward to your response.

Hey Todd,
I don’t think it would create any intonation problems, since the scale length and ability to adjust the intonation of each string wouldn’t be affected. From a playing perspective, it wouldn’t really make much difference either. But from a sound perspective, I’m compelled give you my opinion about the sound of a fretless C string: It kinda sounds like a cat. And I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean, I really love dogs but I have a passionate indifference to cats that’s almost matches their impressive capacity for indifference themselves.
Really, except for the 5 extra half steps that don’t exist on the G string, every other available note on a C string sounds much better if it’s played on the G string. So, if you can get over the sound problem, is it really an advantage? If I find myself unable to finish an idea because it includes notes above the high G then I’m usually able to get to that note with false harmonics. Problem solved. . . for me, at least.

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