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Ask Willis

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Meet Willis
Ask Willis a Question | Read More Q&A

Hey Willis,

What’s up with that palm mute thing?

thanks,

Frank

Hey Frank

Since it produces a darker tone, it allows you to be more active without competing for the midrange territory of other instruments. Since the duration of the note is under control, you can use the lower register more without it becoming too boomy.

_________

from Gege251: about Installing a Ramp Part 2,

great video, thanks!

one question: is it necessary to use vinyl, or it’s just for decoration?

Hey Gege251,

Not? necessary – but ,unless you use an oily wood like rosewood or ebony, you’ll need put a finish or protect it somehow.

_________

Hey Willis,

I’ve searched through all your great Q&A, but cannot find an answer to a fundamental question, why do you like to play fretless instead of fretted bass?

Doug

Hey Doug,

Good question, actually. Back when I was playing a lot of bebop and jazz at North Texas State I went for a fretless because I couldn’t get my fretted bass to function or feel like it belonged in that music. And I knew there was no way I would ever be interested in upright. I played fretted and fretless for more than 15 years until it became obvious to me that fretless was what I should be doing exclusively. There’s just a lot more expressive possibilities, especially after the note starts.

_________

Hey Willis

In your YouTube video Progessive Bassics (where you look 12, btw), you go through a 12/8 blues bassline in F while adding dead notes on the upbeats. Are those notes deadened by RH or LH muting? I can’t even fathom RH muting on those exercises!

Thanks for this site. It’s a good thing you’re doing,

Glenn

Hey Glenn,

That would definitely be right hand muting. I realize you say that it’s hard to fathom but it’s quite possible. The main problem is rewiring the subconscious circuitry that you’ve conditioned to play without RH muting. If you commit to redesigning your technique, sure, you’ll suffer an immediate drop in ability and confidence but the reward will be that you’ll be able to surpass the limits that you are experiencing now. Yikes, I sound like some kind of new-age motivational life coach. Look, just take a hard look at how you dampen notes and then decide if you need to change it. If you do, send me an email: coach@lifeaffirmingfulfillmentthroughrighthanddampening.com

_________

Hey Willis!

I’m a jazz and session bassist, I’ve been playing about 20 years. I know that in order to improvise faster and more fluently you need to think and react faster so the brain has enough time to process the info. Do you have any challenging exercises or advice on how to further improve thinking ahead while improvising? Also any tips on keeping the concentration undivided are welcome.

Thanks very much, Greg

Hey Greg,

Sorry to report that unfortunately you’ve been operating under the wrong assumption about being fluent. It’s a language. Sure, to learn a language it has to be conscious with a lot of repetition. But the eventual goal and the eventual result is that it becomes subconscious. You don’t consciously think about the elements of language when you use them. For example, you don’t say to yourself “I’m going to interject a really witty adverb in combination with the 3rd person plural pronoun and that will really get my point across”. The elements of language become invisible to the speaker and the listener when it’s fluent. When I’m playing well, I have no idea what I’m doing in the moment – in a theoretical sense. Sure, I can go back and analyze the hell out of what I did but if I let those elements (labels) become conscious they’re just going to get in the way of any kind of fluency. I’m not saying you can just ignore them and learn play well. But the goal is to internalize the language elements to the extent that you can just concentrate on the ideas you’re playing and not the elements (labels) that make up those ideas. To put it another way, the more I think, the worse I play. If I could condense learning a language down to a few exercises or a bit of advice, it would make me a very rich man. Anyway, at lease I hope this helps you to start to look at it differently.

_________

Hey Willis,

I recently got a computer program that allows me to slow down digital recordings to half speed while retaining original pitch, so I started transcribing bass solos that I like. My question is: What is required of me to publish or otherwise reproduce or distribute these solos legally?

Thanks, Michaell

Hey Michael,

Thanks for considering the legal implications of music distribution during these times of piratebay and bittorrent proliferation.

Unfortunately I think it would be difficult. First you would have to get permission from the various artists, negotiate the percentages, get a lawyer to draw up a publishing agreement, and then once you’ve got an actual book to shop, you’d need either a book deal with a publisher or find a printer and distributor for it.

When do I get my complimentary copies? 😉

_________

Hey Willis,

How can I keep the fingerboard in good shape using roundwound strings on  my fretless bass.Just got it sanded up a month ago and it is already full of string marks. Thanks for your answer, Peter

Hey Peter,

What is the fingerboard material? If it’s ebony, it might last for years. If it’s rosewood, then odds are it will die a slow agonizing death without some kind of protection (polyurethane or epoxy). One thing that will help extend the life of an unfinished fingerboard is to play with less pressure in the left hand and also avoid any string bending. It’s fretless, so get your vibrato the way the pros do and don’t grind the strings into the unprotected wood. So unless it’s ebony and you develop a light left-hand technique (which requires rethinking your string height and overall setup) I’d recommend putting a finish on it.

_________

Hey Willis,

What pedals do you use?

Nico

Hey Nico,

I just use one big one 😉  The VB-99.

The live gear I use is here:

http://garywillis.com/pages/rest/gearlist.html

_________

Hey willis,

My bass tutor showed me your site and just wondered what your opinion of a the 6 string for heavy metal and which would be the best one to choose?

Tom

Hey Tom,

You’ve made a common mistake. Lots of people look at page 65 of the 2010 Ibanez catalogue and think that it’s the heavy metal bass page. Really, how would you know? And what’s more confusing is that Fieldy and I do have a lot in common besides just looks and gender. We both play 5 string basses and they’re both made by Ibanez. We both like good food and then of course there’s that whole whole breathing oxygen thing. Also, thanks to his recent lifestyle about-face, you can confidently say that now we both play concerts totally sober, so there’s that.

A 6-string for heavy metal? Maybe try here.

Interested in asking a question? Drop me a line here…
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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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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 @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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