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Willis Takes on Your Questions : Ask Willis

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Hi Willis,

I watched your Setup Advice video (at www.ibanez.com/Feature/willis) and noticed that some of the statements you make are contradictory to those given in your Setup Instruction Manual:
‘”to set up the intonation on a fretless, you have to make a decision of where you want your finger in relationship to the fret line, to be in tune. Pretty much most people do it dead centre.

I learnt the hard way that even though I prefer my finger here [indicating behind the fret line], it creates problems up and down the neck: it makes it more difficult to play in tune. You’ll have an easier time playing in tune if you set it up dead centre”. I personally find it much harder to play in tune if a bass is set up this way: for me, the necessary compensations don’t come naturally the way they do when I play as if I have frets (of infinitesimal height). It would be very helpful if you could explain how you came to decide to set the instrument up so differently, presumably quite recently.
Niklaus

Hey Niklaus,
It’s true about the discrepancy between the recent video and the older setup manual but I haven’t changed how I intonate my bass. A couple of years ago when Ibanez decided to hand-build the GWB1005 using master luthiers, it was an opportunity to rethink the design and I was determined to see if I could solve the problem. I did a lot of experiments – relocating the nut, moving the bridge – etc. The final result was that if you want to use the lines on a fretless as a reference, then you’ll get the most consistent relationship by intonating the bass with the line directly in the center of your finger. At the time (some 20+ years ago) I was still switching between fretted and fretless and I was determined to try to take advantage of the muscle memory that I had built up by playing fretted just behind the fret, so I intonated the fretless the same way. What I didn’t realize is that it throws off the whole scale length of the fingerboard and creates the inconsistencies. Around that same time, I had noticed a company called Novatone making swappable magnetic fingerboards that had the lines on a fretless with independent lines for each string with lots of variations in the fret lines from string-to-string, so I assumed that these discrepancies were normal. So I taught myself the wrong way to play in tune and have been doing so ever since.
As for your own inclination to compensate for this kind of setup – well, if it ain’t broke . . .
But if you’re just starting out, make it easier on yourself and put that line down the middle!

_________

Hey Willis,
Just to say first that I have been using the light touch along with your 3 finger technique for quite a while and I love it.
My band is always recording stuff in a home studio and every time I record some bass lines (I go direct to the interface) some there is always the problem that there isn’t much volume output from my bass (passive). I love the sound of the pickup that I’m using, and to be honest I don’t want to play hard (I don’t think I’m playing too soft) or use a preamp (at least the ones I tried colored the sound too much). A friend said to go for a bass booster before the Audio/MIDI interface. What do you think of that, any other suggestion?
P.S. Triphasic rocks man
take care
Franklin

Hey Franklin,
A passive bass will have to go through some kind of preamp to get the level high enough for recording. It’s true that preamps can color the sound. Most interfaces have a mic-pre that will get your level up high enough for recording. These don’t usually affect the sound that much – and unlike a regular bass preamp – since they don’t offer any EQ and there’s less chance of altering your sound. I’ve gotten good results with TC Electronic’s Studio 48 and before that I was recording with Apogee’s Ensemble.

_________

Hey Willis
I’ve been a fan for a long time and have adopted your right hand technique and many of your other tips and tricks over the years.
With that said, I’ve watched you play many times and have always commented on how well you utilize/capitalize on how you traverse the fretboard with your left hand.
Do you have any suggestions/exercises on moving to different positions on the fretboard? I ask this because when I have transcribed some of your music and then see you play it later on I notice that your fingering is usually different (more economical) than mine.
Peace and good grooves,
Gerry

Hey Gerry,
That’s actually kind of a trick question – My vocabulary for bass is built on how I look at the fingerboard. Which is explained in glorious detail in my Fingerboard Harmony for Bass book. So how I visually organize the fingerboard influences the possibilities for the ideas I have access to. So, I have been able to maximize what’s available under my hand but moving to different positions is what helps to keep things from feeling static. One important aspect of this visualization is to develop the ability to immediately “see” what’s in the next position up or down the fingerboard. One of the most obvious ways I try to get people to work on this is to limit yourself to 2 strings. Even if I’m only using 2 strings, my hand is “seeing” the underlying harmony as it moves. So there’s a method to arriving at these positions but getting to where you can use them fluently involves more than just a few exercises.

_________

Hey Willis,
What program do you use for video?
Also , you run Logic Pro onstage… right?
What audio interface do you use while on stage?
Deveran

Hey Deveran,
For video I use Grand VJ by Arkaos running off a Mac Mini.
Onstage I use Ableton’s Live 8 on my MacBook Pro. A dedicated midi track in Live gets sent through an Ethernet connection to the Mini.
I use Logic Studio and Final Cut Studio at home for Audio/Midi and Video production.
At home and on stage I use TC Electronic’s Studio 48.

_________

Mr Willis,
A while back I had opted out of ordering your “sure grip” machine heads while waiting for my bass to be built.
Now I am ready to purchase; however, I can’t seem to find them anywhere. Is my only option ordering the whole set of tuning machines from Ibanez?
(Part #2MH1GWB23B)
Any assistance is greatly appreciated.
Banden

Hey Branden,
The individual (knobs-only) packages are no longer available.
The options available now include the machine head:
2MH1GWB23K complete set (2-left, 3-right)
2MH1GWB23K-L for the left side
2MH1GWB23K-R for the right side

_________

Hey Willis,
Im a regular two finger-pluckin player. I’ve spent a lot of time working on my right hand alternation, muting etc. Its become almost an obsession of mine, the whole point being that I want to be the boss of my fingers and not the other way round, it bugs the hell out of me when im trying to play a difficult(for me) line and my right hand just starts doing its own thing. I need help, I know. What I keep coming up against is a simple little thing: when I play a descending line that starts with my fretting-hand pinkie my right hand wants to pluck the first note with its middle finger, and whenever I start a line with my FH index the right hand will pluck with its index. Now I know that maybe my Mom dropped me on my head when i was a baby, but please tell me that this is a natural reflex? Or if you had to overcome this obstacle at some point while developing your technique?
Thanks,
Steve

Hey Steve,
Good to hear that the right hand is almost an obsession. Honestly, I’ve never run into this specific problem of right hand mutiny: LH 4 causes the RH middle to start or LH 1 causing RH 1 to start. It’s true that as soon as anyone starts concentrating on the left hand, their right hand will revert to what ever it’s learned. I would say that you should probably be a little more scientific in training your right hand. And definitely slow things down while you’re at it. The only way to change learned subconscious motor skills or create new subconscious motor skills iis to slow thing down and make everything hyper-conscious. Try playing everything you normally practice (slowly) but using strict alternation: Start everything with only 2 or vice versa. Since you’re only dealing with 2 fingers on the right hand, you should teach yourself the option to start everything you know how to play with either finger – and continue be obsessively scientific about it.

_________

Hi Willis,
Do you make your own straps (as described in 101 Bass Tips)? If not, is there an off-the-shelf strap you would recommend?
Do you think strap design matters very much?
Niklaus

Hey Niklaus,
I do make my own straps and still use the one pictured in the 101 Bass Tips book. I’ve been talking with Planet Waves about developing an adjustable version of the strap from the book. Hopefully it will eventually become available. Meanwhile, I’m not aware of anything that’s manufactured with that much width. The extra width definitely helps distribute the pressure so, to me and the people that have tried and made their own, it definitely helps.

_________

Hi Mr. Willis,
I just wanted to ask you, what type strings you use on your fretless bass.
I just ordered a set of Labella ” Deep Talkin’ ” Black Nylons for a 1994 Ibanez SR506TT (you were the feature artist in that 1994 Ibanez catalog cut for it) that I converted to fretless. I didn’t want to put an epoxy coat on the fingerboard, because I wanted that natural wood sound. I think, but I am not sure, that the fingerboard is ebony, it is very hard and brittle like ebony but I am not sure. I have a set of Labelle on my string bass (made in Germany in1823) and was just what your thoughts were on string selection as a professional player might be.
Thanks
James

Hey James,
If the fingerboard actually is Ebony, then you can get by with using roundwounds (if you’re carefuly about your setup and technique) without a finish.
I use D’Addario XL’s (.045, .065, 085, .105, .135-tapered) and the finish on my GWB1005 is ebonol (synthetic)

_________

Hi Gary,
I’ve got some questions for you. I didn’t see on your last videos the Roland GK-3B. Don’t you use it? I have also a Roland V-Bass.
Thanks
Attila

Hey Atilla,
It’s definitely there – but I think it looks much nicer now. I’m using the Graphtec’s Ghost System. It uses piezoelectric saddles and the rest of the internal are tucked away inside the bass. The VB-99 has a setting now for piezoelectric saddles to accomodate this kind of system.

Bass Videos

Gear News: Future Impact V4 Guitar & Bass Synth Now Available in the U.S.

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Future Impact V4 Guitar & Bass Synth

Future Impact V4 Guitar & Bass Synth Now Available in the U.S….

The Future Impact V4 is an incredibly versatile pedal with an exceptionally wide range of sounds. In addition to producing synthesizer sounds such as basses, leads and pads, it can function as an octaver, chorus, flanger, phaser, distortion, envelope filter, traditional wah-wah, tremolo, reverb, etc., and even has a built-in tuner. It can also drive external synthesizer gear via the optional CV/Gate. As such, it can potentially replace an entire pedalboard of dedicated single-effect pedals. 

The very powerful signal processor of the Future Impact V4 is able to replicate the various oscillator, filter, amplifier and envelope generator blocks found in classic synthesizers. In addition, it contains signal processing blocks more traditionally used for processing the sound of an instrument such as a harmonizer block and audio effects such as chorus, distortion and EQ. These architectures complement each other in a very flexible way.

Check out this short video with new sounds:

The Future Impact V4 has a completely new hardware platform with numerous enhancements, some of which are:

– 32-bit ultra-low-noise analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters
– New app-based software architecture 
– Vastly advanced pitch tracking based on 30+ years of experience
– Hard Sync between oscillators to open new sonic worlds
– On-pedal edits that can be saved into program memories
– Total compatibility with all previous Deep Impact and Future Impact patches

Setting the standard for the bass guitar synth pedals since 2015, together with an enthusiastic community and long line of great artists, the Future Impact V4 is the guitar synth platform for the next decade. 

For more information, visit online at pandamidi.com/bass-guitar-synth

Exclusive U.S. distribution by Tech 21 USA, Inc

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July 8 – This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @bqwbassguitar @anacondabasses @ramabass.ok @gvguitars @dmarkguitars @fernando.petry.bass @bassnsoulgear @chris_seldon_guitars @overwaterbasses @officialspector

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New Gear: Cort Introduces the New Artisan C4/C5 Deluxe Bass Guitars

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New Gear: Cort Introduces the New Artisan C4/C5 Deluxe Bass Guitars

Cort Introduces the New Artisan C4/C5 Deluxe Bass Guitars…

Cort Guitars creates instruments that musicians love to play. The Artisan Series is for the bass player who knows the value of playing a tone-rich, affordable bass guitar that can hold up the back end. Cort Guitars launches the next phase of the series: The Artisan C Deluxe.

The Artisan C Deluxe was created with the serious bass player in mind. It is a bolt-on beauty made of lightweight poplar that allows for ease of playability with all the robust tone Cort basses are known for. The Artisan C4 and C5 Deluxe boast a pristine Hard maple neck with jatoba fretboard, 24 frets with White Dot inlays, and a 34” scale length. One more feature is the 18mm string spacing at the bridge on the C5 making playability a breeze for all styles.

This workhorse of a bass guitar comes in an array of gorgeous colors: Candy Red, Candy Blue, and Black, all tricked out with black hardware to easily stand out on stage and in front of the crowd. Bartolini® MK-1 pickups pack a punch with unparalleled clarity. A Markbass® MB-1 preamp controls Bass, Mid, Treble, Master Volume, Pickup Balancer, and an active/passive switch to manage all of the grooves and low end. The MetalCraft M4 Bridge offers better body contact and transfer of tone. Its dual-string loading system makes for easy string changes, either from the top or through the body. D’Addario® EXL165 strings complete this stellar instrument.

The Artisan C Deluxe is the go-to bass for any bass player looking to upgrade their instrument in looks and playability. No matter the genre, the Artisan C Deluxe outperforms the competition. To see the Artisan C4 Deluxe and Artisan C5 Deluxe, visit www.cortguitars.com.

Artisan C4 Deluxe Street Price: $449.00 USD
Artisan C5 Deluxe Street Price: $499.00 USD

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Bass Videos

Working-Class Zeros: Episode #4 – Boutique and Vintage Basses, Dress Code for Summer Gigs

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WORKING-CLASS ZEROS With Steve Rosati and Shawn Cav

Here is episode 4 of WCZ, we discuss boutique and vintage basses in the working-class gig world, as well as navigating the heat and dress code for outdoor summer gigs. Plus another installment of ‘Sure it’s awesome but, is it necessary?’

These stories from the front are with real-life, day-to-day musicians who deal with work life and gigging and how they make it work out. Each month, topics may include… the kind of gigs you get, the money, dealing with less-than-ideal rooms, as well as the gear you need to get the job done… and the list goes on from there.” – Steve the Bass Guy and Shawn Cav

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Jul 1 – This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @adamovicbasses @jermsbass @astluthier @cb_basses @officialspector @marleaux_bassguitars @lecomptebass @ramabass.ok @mattissonbass @mauriziouberbasses

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