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Hey Willis,
On my GWB1 basses I play with EXL D’addario strings but not with the exactly same gauge.
I’m using the EXL 170: 045 – 065- 080 – 100 – 130
Is there a big difference in sound between the EXL 165 and the EX 170 or is it only a comfort reason ?
And after how many hours or days of bass playing do you change your strings ?
Thanks for all,
Alex

Hey Alex,
I think you would notice an improvement with the difference being the 085, 105 and for me I use the 135 b-string.
It’s a common misconception that smaller strings will improve the action and playability of a bass.
Here’s what happens:
There’s less tension on smaller strings. Since they are looser, they vibrate in a wider path.
Because their vibration path is wider, it’s necessary to raise the strings to prevent buzzing.
Raise the strings and they’re farther away from the pickup and have less output. Which means,
you have a tendency to play them harder to get more sound – which, in turn, makes them buzz, etc.
A bigger string has more tension and and allows you to actually have lower action because
it’s vibration path is smaller and is less likely to buzz. The bigger string is more for the pickup to “see”
so you have more output – plus it’s closer to the pickup for more output as well.
At a certain point, more tension prevents a fretless note from attaining that characteristic fretless “buzz”,
since it’s not allowed to “breathe”. So I find the 045, 056, 085, 105, 135 balances all these factors.

I’ll generally change strings after about 3 concerts – 6 hours of playing.

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Hey Willis,
I wanted to ask how you cleanly articulate some of the fast low notes in your solos.
I’ve tried to play fast passages the B string and I noticed it gets really muddy.
Does that have to do with your right hand technique?
Also, do you like to add reverb to your bass when playing expressive melodies like a ballad?
If so, what type of reverb to you go for?
Thanks,
Aaron

Hey Aaron,
There’s a lot of elements that go into getting a good, articulate sound out of the B string.
Let’s start with the b-string itself. The D’Addario .135 I use is a little bigger than most but check the above
answer for the effect size and tension plays in getting tone.
Next, one of the unique aspects of my signature bass is that the string to string balance is weighted
towards the b-string. Its magnet is closest to the surface of the pickup so it’s the loudest string.
This allows my right hand to not have to compensate to get notes on the B-string to speak.
The headstock on my bass is configured 2+3. This allows us to move the tuners another 3/4″ away
from the nut, resulting in a longer string and load-bearing tension.
Finally, the body is a bolt-on, light Japanese Ash which reenforces low frequencies but still has the
right balance of grain properties that don’t make it “mushy”.
Of course, you still need technique, but having all these advantages doesn’t hurt.

Depending on the amount of sonic space available – I usually start with some kind of clean sounding Plate reverb,
about 2 – 2.5 seconds, no early reflections and full diffusion. The real key is to EQ the reverb itself. The low frequencies
can quickly become muddy. I use a high-pass filter at around 450hz to make sure the lowest notes don’t go rumbling around.

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Hey Willis,
Did you attend Northern Arizona University
thanks,
Kevin

Hey Kevin,
You mean the Fightin’ Lumberjacks? High altitude Flagstaff, Saturday afternoons at the Walkup Sydome?
Nah, I went to North Texas State University.

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Hey Willis
I’ve been watching videos over and over and I can not slap correctly, read through your Ask Willis database but to no avail. Every time I slap I get a clank sound instead of the the sound I was aiming for.  What can I be doing wrong?

Hey Johnny,
You’re about 20+ years too late 😉
My slapping ability reached its peak around 1985 and quickly died once I started writing my own music.
Anyway, I can only guess that it could be a setup problem with your bass. Most (fretted) basses, if they’re reasonably set up will produce a decent slap sound – and at least give you something to start with. Try out some friends’ basses or even some in a music store.
There’s plenty of slap instruction floating around the interwebs – make sure to eliminate the instrument as the problem first.

—-

Hey Willis!
I went to gig that you played several years ago. During the gig the drummer was sometimes screwing up the time a little. And I think at a certain point you got tired of that and decided to start playing “your own” time. Man it was so rock solid that you could hear that every note that wouldn’t be played with you would be wrong. Now my question is could you tell how you’ve developed this amazing sense of time and do you maybe have some exercises to develop this? Thanks in advance for your time.
Greetings,
RB

Hey Roald,
Hmmmmmm, I guess I wasn’t very discreet with my attitude that nite 😉
I would say that I got the most improvement in my sense of time by working with the minimum necessary.
A long time ago, I discovered that the “hearbeat” of a drummer was his hi-hat. Kick drums, snares, accents,
crashes – etc; all of those can and should be unpredictable but what always remains constant is the hi-hat.
The other thing is that the hi-hat is most audible in between the beats – even if it’s always playing you pretty much
only hear it in between bass drums and snares, etc. In the context of the drum kit – it’s also kind of soft.
So I recommend trying to imitate that experience when you practice. Program a drum machine to only play hi-hat –
but only put it on the “ands” (the 2nd of every eight note pair). And also turn the volume down. As well as being more
realistic, this gives you the responsibility to provide the downbeats and back beats while still listening in between for how to adjust (if necessary).
Nowadays it’s possible to practice almost any kind of feel with an audio or midi of a full-on, perfectly mixed
drum groove. But then you become dependent on a perfectly mixed, perfectly played groove for your sense of time and feel.
By eliminating all but what’s necessary, you can develop a sense of time that other musicians can rely on.

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Hey Willis!
Just a quick note to say thanks very much for all your time replying to our questions!
I’m getting on really well now with the Ultimate Ear Training!! Thanks for writing that one!
I know you like the GS112 cabs, in fact, I have the very two you played at the Mansons clinic in Exeter where we met a couple of years ago.
BUT I am struggling for volume! Do you insist on me getting a 3rd 112 or have you tried the GS410 and don’t like it?
Should I go for the GS410 or should I get that 3rd GS112??
My Eden wt550 WILL run a 2ohm load, but I always thought the more separate cabs you have, the tone quality drops with all the connections involved.
All the best,
Rob

Hey Rob,
Thanks for the email and great to hear about your progress.
The tone quality drop you’re concerned about doesn’t come from the additional connections but in how
hard you make the amp work. Even if it’s only one cabinet, if an amp is working close to the limit of it’s abilities,
the tone and responsiveness will suffer.
Since that 300 watt WT can handle it, I would definitely try a 3rd GS112.
The 3rd cab will be closer to your torso so even if the system is only a little louder, you’ll perceive more volume.
Also, you could try putting a couple of 1/2 wood strips between the GS112’s and turning them on their sides.
This will get them even higher and could help focus the sound where you want to hear and feel it.
When I use only two GS112’s with my DB750 – it’s fine for most of the night but still there are some moments
where that 3rd cabinet make all the difference.
The problem with adding a 410 is that once you start mixing cabinets, then you run into differences in efficiency and unless you have a separate amp for each cabinet, getting the right balance between them will be extremely difficult.

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Hey Willis,
I have a question about  my righthand technique which I could not extract completely from your video and U-tube clinics etc. I play with two fingers and the question is: If play an eight note bebop line over 2,3,4 or even over 5 strings, does the right hand fingering change each time you change to another string when the line is descending? For example somewhere on the G string to a place on the low B string? In other words do you rake always when you play a descending line in whatever kind style, groove and line etc? Also, if you play ascending, do you start with different fingers (from a two finger players perspective). I mean do you play an ascending line starting with the first finger but also with the second? In other words, is it the way you play descending the reason to play ascending, starting with the first or second finger of the right hand?
Thanks and greetings from Rik

Hey Rik,
For descending, yes, it’s always raking with the first finger to cross strings descending.
For ascending (crossing strings going up) I always play the first note on the new string with the 3rd finger.
I never “cross up” my fingers. In order to take advantage of the 3rd finger, it’s always is resting on next string up and is ready to go.
My descending technique is no different than anyone else’s. The hardest thing to do on bass is to cross strings going up. That’s what the 3rd finger takes care of for me.

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Hey Willis,
Been a fan for many moons.  I recently purchased a GWB35 and I love it. I put in a Bartolini preamp and that made a big difference. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the Bad Boy (GW1005). I have a small problem with the fretlines. When I got the bass, they were sticking out a bit just like microfrets. I had a very good luthier smooth them out and it was fine. Now I have the odd one creeping up again. Have you come across this and what can I do about it if this is recurring?
Kindest of regards,
Marco

Hey Marco,
Sorry to hear about the fret lines not staying put. I haven’t seen this problem on the GWB35 or the GWB1005.
I’d try just a tiny amount of super-glue to hold them down.
If any of it spills onto the fingerboard – use some fine sandpaper (500+ grit) to even it out.
After that, you can get the glossy look back with some 00 grade steel wool.

—-

Hey willis,
Can you explain a little bit more about strong beat-weak beat concept..especially in 16ths?
Thanks,
Reno

Hey Reno,
The strong-weak beat thing comes from choosing notes in a line that will create harmony.
In any duple or binary note pattern (half notes, quarter notes, eights, 16ths etc) the first note should be a note from the harmony while the 2nd functions differently depending on what kind of line you want to produce. It’s possible to only move in half steps or whole steps from one note to the next while still satisfying the harmony in this manner. This produces very smooth lines and can work in soloing, walking, grooving or playing a fill. A very basic example of quarter notes you can try is here:
http://garywillis.com/pages/lessons/fbh.html

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David Keefe

    April 10, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Hey Willis:
    I hsve been playing for 17 years, and play in church and a Christian Roc Band, I have been using a custom made copy of a spector monarch bass, bart pic-ups, active eletronics.., well being a finger picker, I am having trouble getting the sharp attack that some of the newer songs require, I really dont want to have to keep making adjustments on the head for every set, it there some way i that I can keep the warm buttery smoothe sounds, and then have the sharp attack for the harder rock numbers? would learning how to slap with confidance help? tired of being in the rut, its not a grove but a rut.

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