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Ask Willis: Willis Takes on Your Questions

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Meet Willis –

Hey Willis,
I was in Vitoria and I saw your shows with Triphasic. Congratulations . I was surprised by your show and music.
I’d like to ask about which program you use for video editing and the show live.
And for your Triphasic logo screensaver ?
I have a macbook pro 13′.
Thanks a lot
See you soon,
Manel

Thanks Manel,
I use Final Cut Pro for editing and Arkaos Grand VJ on stage. (I use a MacBook Pro 15″) The lettered logo is from the Shaman CD artwork illustrated by Oriol Malet
http://www.oriolmalet.com/portfolio
The blue background is from a pack of video loops from jumpeyecomponents.com. The triangle shape is a simple mask from a black and white jpeg and composited as a “difference” layer. It’s continuously looped throughout the whole show on an iPod Touch and I switch to it as necessary with the Roland/Edirol V-8 video mixer.

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Hey Willis,
First of all, let me say, that I’m a great fan of your playing. you’re certainly my biggest influence when it comes to fretless bass and I appreciate your very profound approach to the bass. I’ve got the GWB1 model and lately one of the neck screws seem to have worn out the corresponding hole in the neck. It ighten it for as long as I can and it won’t go tighter. Now i’m afraid that the bass hast lost stability/tone/sustain and I have since not assembled the bass again. What would you recommend I should do?
Furthermore, the neck pocket on the GWB1 seems pretty loose. On both sides of the neck joint, there’s a slight space between body and neck. I’d like to hear your point of view on bolt-on necks here because I heard that it doesn’t matter if the neck joint fit is tight. The more important thing is, however, that the surface of the neck joint that touches the heel of the neck has to be very tight because that’s where the vibrations are being transmitted.
Would you say that is correct?
greetings from germany,
Flo

So has it definitely lost sustain or do you just suspect it? Anyway, the first thing to do is fix the screw hole. Take a toothpick and trim a centimeter or so off of it and place it in the hole. Mark the length and trim it so it sits in the hole but doesn’t stick out. You could probably insert a 2nd piece as well. This should fix the stripped wood and get the screw to working again.
For the neck joint itself, I haven’t had the opportunity to experiment a lot. However, with Ibanez, we did try a prototype with a glue-in neck. Everything else about the bass was the same. When I first listened to it I though the pickup was defective or something because the output was about half. It turns out that the bolt-on neck joint is kind of a “black box” of technology that nobody has been able to definitively figure out. Still, something about having a less-than-perfect contact between the neck and the body gives it the ability to resonate the way we want it to.
It also makes sense that it’s more important that the back of the neck makes good contact with the neck pocket. And that the sides are likely not as important.
Let me know if fixing the screw hole makes a difference in sustain or (acoustic) output.
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Hey Willis
I’m trying to learn Say Never from Actual fiction and transcribe your solos.
And i just wondered how you think when you improvise over the Eb69 and the Db69 part of the progression.
Håkon.

Hey Håkon,
It’s a fairly simple progression (for the readers: all 69 chords |: Bb C | D Bb| //// |Bb C |D Bb| //// |Bb C |D Bb |Eb Db| Bb //// :|)
Since the chords keep moving – getting your ideas out of one particular sound helps. For the Eb and Db part there are a couple of things that work. Bb minor (dorian) will be correct with both chords, although you probably are aware of my aversion to thinking about scales. Another thing that works is Cmi pentatonic – works naturally for Eb and give you a #11 over the Db. I try to approach improvisation like a language so I usually do better the less I think. To speak a language fluently means you have to think about it so much that it becomes subconscious – but that’s an answer for another question.
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Why does your signature bass have a string spacing of 16.5mm? I had your signature bass (older one, made in Korea), what a great bass!!
David

Hey David,
I think it was for the production year of 2004 that the bass was manufactured in Korea and the basses from that run were outfitted with a different bridge that had the slightly smaller string spacing. ‘Turns out I preferred the 16.5 and we switched back to that when production returned to be hand crafted Japan.
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Hey Willis,
I have had the GWB1 for nearly a year (got it second hand) in Flat Black finish and lemme begin by saying that I totally love it! I play rock/pop covers and the use of fretless in a rock context gives me a different approach to things that I’m sure fretted bassists don’t have. It’s my only bass, by the way.
I’m curious to know why your new GWB1005 series isn’t offered in black or the corresponding fretted versions. For the former, is it due to the thicker finish’s effect on tone? And for the latter, is it just due to demand and supply?
Thank you for your time!
Sincerely,
Yong Xi

Hey Yong Xi,
Good to hear that the bass is working for you in those diverse situations. The Flat Black finish is on the GWB35 – so that’s probably what you have. The GWB35 is made with a basswood body. Basswood doesn’t have much of a grain to look at so a clear or stained finish just doesn’t work. It’s true that painting a GWB1005 would require extra sealers and finish that would compress the tone quite a bit. But, I can special order you a fretted version of the
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GWB1005 (only available through me) . Send me another email and I can give you the details.

Hey Willis,
What is the decision process for using extensions like a 9th, #11, or a 13th instead of a regular 7th chord? Is there voice leading involved or is it more a matter of a “denser” chord? I know “because It sounds good” is a legit answer but I was hoping for some insight on the subject of using chord extensions.
Thanks,
Kevin

Hey Kevin,
On a regular, functioning (means it’s part of chords that are in the same key) 7th chord, the decision process goes something like this:
Do I want to keep my job and play with this band again?
If yes, go on to next question, if no, then play whatever you want.
Are there “style” constraints that, if ignored, would get me fired (or at least not called for the next gig)?
If yes, then go on to the next question, if no, then play whatever you want.
Does the context of this song allow me to be creative with my note choices while still fulfilling my role in the group?
If yes go on to the next question, if no, then in the famous words of Ron Carter “just play the letters, not the numbers”.
If you’ve got this far, then the answer depends on your role: soloing or reinforcing the harmony.
In either case, the natural 9 and 13 are safe bets to work while still allowing you some degree of creativity in soloing or a support role.
The #11 you mentioned is not diatonic and should be reserved for soloing – It’s often necessary in soloing to use non diatonic chord tones to create interest and tension. The natural 11 is an obvious bad choice because if its conflict with the major 3rd sounding an interval of a minor ninth below. All circumstances require an understanding of voice leading since often your extensions need to be resolved by your successive note choices. Some situations even allow you to alter the 7th chord’s extension (b9, #9, #5, etc) and so you have to be even more conscious of voice leading and how your extensions should resolve.
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Hi Gary,
Im preparing for an admission test to attend a jazz course at university here in lisbon (Portugal) and i met a teacher who works there… at a gig and he told me that they really value the ability to effectively walk on jazz changes, thats a big one for them… ..the thing is its really to difficult to emulate the traditional walking on the electric bass …i got your book fingerboard harmony and im a huge fan of your work on Allan Holdsworth “None too Soon”, can you give some info on how to become a little more efficient on playing walking bass on electric ?
Thank you
Sérgio

Hey Sérgio,
Eventually, the book will give you a global approach to harmony that will let you create really smooth, efficient walking bass lines (as well as smooth solo lines, fills, etc). Remember that the “feel” that you’re trying to create has very little do to with the physicality of the acoustic vibrations of a acoustic bass (big wooden box). Upright players in a jazz setting actually have it easier (harmonically) since the pitches are less discernible and the notes decay rapidly. Effectively walking over jazz changes involves a few different skills that you may not be able to develop in a short period of time. First, you need to be able to analyze the harmony immediately. Once you’re able to diagnose the different kinds of chord sequences and key changes then it makes it easier to connect your lines to become more efficient. Having a subconscious vocabulary for what happens in a given key and putting your hand in the best position to play in that key is another goal of the book that, of course, takes time. Another thing that really helps is memorization. The quicker you are at memorizing and not having your eyes glued to the paper, the more you’ll be able to listen and interact musically with the band. Other things like having a good sense of time, tone, form (the structure of the song) and style are also very important but are still difficult to improve rapidly.
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Hello Gary!
Hope all is well with you. 9 months left on my course and I’m out there into the big bad world of music. I’m pushing real hard to develop your technique properly, and I know you say about buzz with left hand muting. If for example you were to play the first 7 notes of teen town, how would you personally go about muting the strings once you’d played them? I’ve tried slowing it right down and using my middle finger to dampen both the A and G when I do the octaves and can’t get the speed required from the damping finger.
Would be great if you can point out anything I might have missed, trying to keep my playing free of left hand buzz and darn open strings ringing as I’m playing a fretted 6.
The books are great by the way, fingerboard harmony and 101 bass tips so far. I’m hoping Santa will bring me some more! =P
Thanks
Joe

Hey Joe,
One of the ways to see if the right hand damping is working is to do what you’re talking about: slowly play every note of a phrase short and damped with the right hand. In this case I would play all 3 of the low C’s with the first finger and the upper descending C, Bb & A all with the 3rd – each finger dampens its own note. The last g could be played by the first or 2nd finger. BTW, this is starting with the C on the E string and avoiding the open G.
Best of luck with Santa and graduating to the big bad world.

Bass Videos

New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

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New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

Spector Launches Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II…

Spector Musical Instruments expands their celebrated Woodstock Custom Collection with the Volume II series – a breathtaking series of 12 handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bass guitars, each one masterfully designed by members of the Spector team. Crafted in the Spector USA Custom Shop in Woodstock, New York, these works of art go beyond musical instruments and expand the boundaries of Spector Bass design.

Spector’s iconic design lays the foundation for the Volume II collection. Each bass showcases a unique vision, including the selection of tonewoods, electronics, captivating finishes, and intricate design details. The collection highlights Spector’s commitment to craftsmanship and artistry and the individual people and stories that make up the team.

“The Woodstock Custom Collection was such a huge success, and we had so much fun with it that we couldn’t wait to do it again,” said John Stippell, Director – Korg Bass Division. “With Volume II, we’re expanding on everything we learned from the first collection, as well as pushing our design and Custom Shop team even further. These basses are a testament to the inspiring talent, creativity, and skill of every person on the Spector team. I’m excited for all of these basses and love how they tell the unique stories of all involved.”

Visit online at spectorbass.com/

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Bass Videos

New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model

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New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model

Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model…

After playing a limited edition Dingwall live with Duran Duran, John Taylor has launched his
Dingwall Guitars production model, loaded with a Rupert Neve Designs preamp and
Rio-inspired graphics.

Dingwall’s major launch for 2023 was the limited edition Rio Dream Bass, featuring an
innovative Rupert Neve Designs onboard preamp. A year later, the range has been bolstered
with the Canadian company now offering unlimited access to its continued collaboration with
John Taylor of Duran Duran.

Dingwall CEO Sheldon Dingwall says the basses are a response to Taylor’s upfront bass style.
“John’s bass playing with Duran Duran really imprinted on me how a bass should fit into a band mix. The combination of tastefully busy syncopation, his punchy tone, and tight performance immediately drew my ear. His basslines have always had a special combination of energy and elegance.”

The John Taylor Signature model follows the formula of the limited edition Rio Dream Bass,
combining a lightweight Nyatoh body with three neodymium pickups to produce what Dingwall deems “wonderful playability and tones that display a rare clarity and refinement.” The JT Signature model also updates the Rio Dream Bass with a range of new colors; Metallic Black, Primrose, Cranberry and Seafoam Green, as well as a new 5-string variant.

Other specs include a bolt-on Maple neck, a Pau Ferro multi-scale fingerboard with the ‘Rio Eye’ inlaid at the 12th fret, and Dingwall’s new ‘Minimalist’ bridge. The headstock sports lightweight tuners and a Rio-inspired graphic that complements the body stripes, designed by longtime Duran Duran collaborator, Patty Palazzo.

Finally, an onboard preamp designed and configured in collaboration with Rupert Neve Designs, whose studio consoles have long represented the pinnacle of high-end audio engineering, promises a clear voice that balances punch and sustain. “Duran’s breakthrough single, the title track from 1982’s Rio, was originally recorded on a Neve console, so the history was already there,” says Sheldon. “But the team at Rupert Neve Designs absolutely nailed the tone.”

Like the Rio Dream Bass, the JT Signature has also been configured to Taylor’s own personal
specifications. “It all started when I was in Toronto about six years ago,” says Taylor. “A friend
showed me a Dingwall bass on his phone. I loved how it looked and immediately said to my
tech, ‘You’ve got to reach out to these guys!’”

For further information on the range options, head to dingwallguitars.com

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Bass CDs

New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

Killing Bees Racing Towards Ruin out May 10th via Tonequake Records.

There are some records where the first note grabs you and doesn’t let go. Before the first lyric is sung, Killing Bees pull you into Racing Towards Ruins via the sheer power of TONES, MAN, TONES. Brown-note bass reverberations and gut-punch kickdrum snap the listener out of daily reverie instantaneously. Together, bassist/vocalist Nic Nifoussi and drummer Ray Mehlbaum (both of Automatic 7) and producer Andrew Scheps (Mars Volta, Audioslave, Adele) have crafted a piece of art that fuses low-rock minimalism, post-hardcore aggression, and SoCal throttle rock urgency into, well, a real ass-kicker. 

The bones of Killing Bees began their calcification when Nifoussi started a high school punk band called Automatic 7. They signed to BYO Records upon graduation and soon found themselves in need of a new drummer. Enter Ray Mehlbaum. Tours with Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Face 2 Face, Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines, Unwritten Law, Youth Brigade, DOA, and others followed, as well as a deal with A&M Records. A&M got bought by Universal, the band moved to Vagrant Records, cut a new record, toured, then broke up. 

“Eventually, Ray and I decided to start a two-piece band” explains Nifoussi. “I was trying out a new sound using 2 amps and an A-B switch. Overdrive through one amp and playing a lot of chords to get a guitar-like sound. After years of playing together, we were already tight and used to writing together. The songs came quickly and easily.”

Via Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, the band had come to know Grammy-winning producer and engineer Andrew Scheps. Though originally recommended as a producer for Automatic 7, when the band played him the Killing Bees songs, he loved the concept and the trio got to work on their self-titled debut. Following the record’s release on Guano Loco/Loose Fang Records, “we played a bunch of shows and eventually started writing the new record in our North Hollywood lockout” says Nifoussi.

Recorded once again at Scheps’ studio, drums and bass were recorded live, the only overdubs being vocals and some bass and accordion textures (Nifoussi is an accomplished accordionist). “We tracked the two together over 4 or 5 days and everything you hear was played live by talented humans, not put together after the fact.  I think that live energy is what makes the record so compelling!” says Scheps. “Andrew wanted to challenge us. We came in wired towards traditional songwriting – he wasn’t interested in that” explains Mehlbaum. “He encouraged us to think about instrumental bits that would drive the tune, as opposed to the sing-along chorus of a traditional song. As a drummer, he kicked my ass. I remember him saying “we’re gonna turn the click off. I want you to go completely ‘out of time’ then come back in.” That’s some crazy shit! But I fucking loved it.”

Thematically, the record deals with the dangers of love and politics in equal measure. As Nifoussi puts it, “if there’s a takeaway, it’s to be careful with who you love… and vote into government.” So, Racing Towards Ruin. A concise, compelling listen, arresting at first blush, and deeply moving upon completion. A modern rock record (not a modern-rock record), unrelentingly heavy and sonically immaculate. And loud. Super loud.  

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Gear News

New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin

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New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin

Bass Hammer Plugin…

Nembrini Audio launches the Bass Hammer plugin which is engineered for advanced bass tone sculpting. Modelled on the Aguilar Tone Hammer* which is renowned for its tone shaping flexibility, the Nembrini Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting, comprehensive EQ adjustments and versatile cabinet simulations.

The Nembrini Audio Bass Hammer plugin has been designed to infuse discerning musicians’ digital workspace with the legendary tonal characteristics and dynamic versatility of its hardware counterpart. The new plugin delivers all the distinct organic warmth, detailed midrange control and adaptive tonal shaping the Tone Hammer* is famous for in a flexible digital format.

Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting to transform a signal’s EQ curve and gain structure and alter the behaviour of the MID parameter.  The Graphic EQ has six bands enabling nuanced shaping across the bass frequency range. Plus, the four selected bass guitar cabinets, four carefully selected microphone emulations and a parallel D.I. signal with console compressor offer users plenty of scope to explore ambient reverb blending.

Introductory prices of $29.99 for the Desktop version (regular price $137) and $9.99 for the IOS form (regular price $19.99) are available until 30th April 2024. Bass Hammer is PC and Mac (VST2, VST3, AU, AAX) compatible and requires a FREE iLOK account.

To find out more and download the Bass Hammer plugin please go to nembriniaudio.com/products/bass-hammer-bass-amplifier or
apple.com/us/app/bass-hammer/id6480058361Video

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

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Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore…

I am always impressed by the few members of our bass family who are equally proficient on upright as well as electric bass… Edmond Gilmore is one of those special individuals.

While he compartmentalizes his upright playing for mostly classical music and his electric for all the rest, Edmond has a diverse musical background and life experiences that have given him a unique perspective.

Join me as we hear about Edmond’s musical journey, how he gets his sound and his plans for the future.

Photo, Sandrice Lee

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facebook.com/EdmondGilmoreBass
instagram.com/edmond_gilmore/
youtube.com/channel/UCCYoVZBLXL5nnaKS7XXivCQ

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