Connect with us

Willis Takes on Your Questions


Willis Takes on Your Questions

Hey Willis,

Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” What’s your take on copping other peoples styles? I mean, we all have this desire to find our own voice. But if I want to sound like myself, why do I need to learn how to play other people’s stuff? How much copying do I have to do?

Hey O.C.,
Unless you’re born some kind of freak-prodigy-genius, you probably don’t sound like one of the “greats” on the instrument. My philosophy is that you have to travel “through” influences to arrive at your own voice. The concept of avoidance just won’t cut it. If you avoid playing thumb, avoid playing fretless, avoid using harmonics avoid using a 5-string, etc. Eventually, you’re not going to have many tools left to express yourself. Learning what great players have done on the instrument is part of learning the vocabulary of the instrument.

Develop a big enough vocabulary and eventually you’ll have several choices for how you want to express yourself musically. How you uniquely combine those choices could eventually become your own “voice”. The other side of the aviodance issue is: how can you truly choose to not sound like someone unless you know their playing intimately? That’s what I mean by traveling “through” an influence. Once you know exactly how to imitatie someone, it becomes much, much easier to make the choice to NOT sound like that player. The more influences you go through, the more options you’ll have at your disposal for how to express yourself. As far as how much copying you have to do – I have to ask: How good do you want to be?


Hey Willis,
You seem to be the perfect person to answer this…i recently found a lot of free time in my schedule outside of bass playing. most of this time has been spent on a mountain bike. Do you have any tips on stretches, or exercises to keep the wrists limber. If I do more than 10 miles, my wrists end up feeling tight and weak. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I would also like to say thanks for all the licks I’ve managed to steal over the years, I probably owe you some money somewhere…
Hey Nick,
Contratulations on your newly found free time. I was lucky to get to ride a lot this summer but haven’t had any time to ride since the beginning of Sept. If you’re having a problem with tight wrists, it could be a few things. First I would start with your suspension and brakes. If you don’t have really good fork with plenty of compliant travel up front, then your front end is going to be bouncing around all the time and you’ll be squeezing the bars hard for control and hanging on for dear life. That tension will get to your wrists right away. Unfortunately nice, plush front suspension doesn’t come cheap. The next thing to look at would be the brakes. Properly set up disc brakes will allow you to lock up either wheel with just one finger, thus alleviating more pressure and tension from your hands. A disc brake setup is cheaper than a top-of-the-line fork but the combination of a great fork and disc brakes can probably solve most of your problems. Finally, I’d look at your posture. Over the years, the generally accepted “normal” riding position has evolved from a really stretched out “racing”-type position to the current more upright setup. This can be accomplished by using riser handlebars up front, using a shorter stem and possibly a short stem that is also angled up. This will put less weight on your hands and allow them to relax more. You shouldn’t have to do any wrist or arm stretching before you ride. Feel free to check back in if these solutions don’t work.


Hey Willis.
First, I must say i am a big fan, since i was 13 yars old…now i am pretty old, 29 ;let me tell you that because of you I’ve been playing fretless for 12 years almost!.
I saw you on TV when you were on tour here in Chile with Tribal Tech (what a great show!!). The most curious thing is that your gig was shown in open TV in prime hour. I’ll never forget that.

My question is why did you switch from a single coil (as you used in the Chilean show), and then to a humbucker since the Ibanez GWB1?Well, hope you are fine. Hope to see you again here in Chile. Big hugs from an old fan.

Hey Rodrigo,
Thanks for the kind words – wow, imagine: “Ladies and gentlemen stay tuned – after the Tribal Tech concert we will join the season finale of Lost (already in progress)”.
Actually, the single coil you mentioned actually was a hum-canceller custom made for me by Bartolini. Once I had the opportunity to come up with a new pickup, we made it fit the shape of the ramp and Bartolini was able to magically make a 3-2 humbucker internally and still we were able to individually control the internal proximity of the magnets to control string-to-string balance. He’s a rocket scientest, ya know.


Hey Willis,
On this video :
You have three knobs, I know there 1 volume and two in one bass/treble knobbs. What is the function of this knobb ? middle range like on aguilar obp3 or else ?

ps : I have a GWB 1005 (and in a few days a GWB 2 TKF that makes me so happy)
thanks for all…

Hey Matthieu,
That would be the GK volume control of the V-Bass. I’m using a V-Bass setup with Graphtech’s Ghost piezo-saddle pickups and the internals installed in my 1005. Congrats on the 1005 and GWB2 . . . enjoy.


Hello Gary,
Just purchased a used (like new) GWB1005.? I have only played a fretted bass, but always wanted a fretless.? WOW, love the sound, even though I am still trying to find the notes.? But, it’s getting better every time I play it.?
My question: Will the round wound strings destroy the fretboard?? I love the bright, clear sound from them.? But, I worry about wearing deep grooves into the ebonol fingerboard.? Do the ground wound strings sound very good??
I heard some of your playing for the first time this week also, you are really one of the most enjoyable bassist ever to listen too.
Hey Pete,
It’s “Hey Willis”. The Gary moniker was retired a long time ago. Again, contrats on the 1005 and knock yourself out with the roundwounds. There’s two things that will help prevent wear and tear on the fingerboard. First is that you should never achieve vibrato by pushing and pulling the string across the fingerboard. I had to learn that one myself. Your vibrato should come from “rolling” your finger parallel to the string. The other thing is that you should use as little pressure as necessary to play a note without it buzzing. Any extra pressure will only result in fatigue, lack of mobility, tension and a greater chance that you’ll wear the strings down into the fingerboard. Another thing that helps is to turn up the amp and play softer. Playing softer will allow you to set up the action closer – so you’ll require less pressure to hold the string down on the neck and reduce the likelyhood of grinding.


Hey Willis,
I was wondering if I can purchase the Ramp seperately? I could’ve sworn they were for sale on the website some time ago? Please let me know. Thank you for your time.
Best Wishes,
Hey Jeremy,
There’s an outside chance that you could order a replacement ramp from an Ibanez dealer but it would only fit the bass that it was designed for. I’ve personally made hundreds of ramps for students/friends over the years but each one has to be custom fitted to the particular pickup layout for the individual bass. If you’re pretty handy with a fixed belt sander or don’t mind a lot of hand-sanding, you can make one yourself. Of course, the ultimate solution is to buy one of my basses. (sorry, coudn’t resist)

More in Latest




To Top