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Ask Willis

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Meet Willis

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.

—-

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.

—-

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.

—-

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.

—-

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.

—-

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.

—-

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

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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 @zonguitars @shukerbassguitars @bite.guitars @adamovicbasses @mayonesguitars @bassbros.uk @capursoguitars @overwaterbasses @saitiasguitars @ramabass.ok

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

New from Elrick Bass Guitars, Headless Series added to Custom Lineup…

Elrick Bass Guitars is excited to announce the addition of a headless option on hand-carved series bass guitars. Initially previewed on the 2023 Gold Series SLC MkII bass of prolific solo bass practitioner and educator Steve Lawson, a headless bass option is now available to all. According the Elrick, “The excitement surrounding Steve’s MkII SLC bass at 2024 NAMM confirmed that the time is right to add a headless option to our extensive range of custom options.” To date, Elrick instruments have only been offered with traditional headstock construction but, in response to market demand, custom features will now include a headless option in 4-, 5- and 6-string models.

Headless bass guitars share these features with the traditional headstock series:

24 frets + zero fret
exotic wood top
hand-rubbed oil finish
2-way adjustable truss rod
custom Bartolini pickups
custom Bartolini 3-band preamp
fully shielded control cavity
Hipshot bridge
Dunlop Straploks
Elrick Fundamental strings

The headless option can now be selected when submitting custom order requests via the form on elrick.com, contacting the Elrick Sales Office directly, or working with your favorite Elrick dealer.

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Gear News

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Gear News

New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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