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Swamp ash and the road to "the Willis touch"

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Wilbyman, Jan 25, 2005.


  1. Wilbyman

    Wilbyman

    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Guys-

    I've been practicing tonight on my lowend, which is swamp ash with a maple board. It's my first bass with this configuration and I feel like I'm learning how to maximize its effectiveness everytime I play it.

    When I first got it, I tried to use my back pickup "Jaco touch", which is to say I dug in quite a bit. I was attempting to articulate with staccato punch. It just wasn't happening. I wasn't getting the alder "punch" necessary for that playing style (driving with your right hand, i.e. every note articulated with a pluck).

    Over the last few days I've realized that the instruments responds so fast and is so resonant that you can play with an incredibly light touch. Thus, I've moved my right hand up a few inches (toward the middle of the PU's) and lightened my touch considerably. The tone is so much better, and I feel like my articulation is better as well. I think I understand the "Willis touch" thing now. I never really did before. I think alot of it is faciliated by his use of a swamp ash body. I don't think my other instruments are resonant enough to get going with such a light touch.

    It's cool! It's so neat to discover a different way to play these things. I'd be curious if anyone else has a comment about these pieces of ash and their sound. (Gary sounds, not Marcus sounds!)

    Will
     
  2. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Hey Will...............time for a ramp! :D
     
  3. Wilbyman

    Wilbyman

    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Definitely! I think it will make it easier to maintain the light attack, fer sure.
     
  4. I'm a fan of ash, alder, and mahogany for body wood. I know what you mean about the alder punch thing, there really is a difference, to my ears anyway. The only bass I've had that is similar to what you're describing with the ash body is a Zon Sonus Special fretless. That thing was a mwah machine. With a light touch it had a response like you're shooting for, only when I played it harder it just had more mwah. I couldn't escape the mwah.. :eyebrow:
     
  5. Wilbyman

    Wilbyman

    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    You know, I was thinking tonight that I wish I could experiment with the lighter touch on an ash fretless, of which I have none. Did you prefer the sonus special to the Roscoe fretless'? (I know this is a source of neverending contention on talkbass). I'm not in the market, just curious.

    BTW, you guys probably know I like my avodire Smith. I also like alder and to a lesser extent mahogany, but I think it depends on the bass. I think I could be a swamp ash guy if I can get the technique down.
     
  6. Well, its been a while, and I've never thought of comparing the two, as I owned them at seperate times. But based on my memory of what they sounded like, I would probably purchase the Roscoe fretless. The spanish cedar + diamondwood really sings. The sonus special seemed have too much low mid bark for me, and was too much of an in your face type of tone for my liking. Perhaps a different pickup config may have been better for me with that Zon. The roscoe has the fretless sound I hear in my head.
     
  7. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    toms_river.nj.us
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    I LOVE fretless ash basses... you're welcome to try mine out if you head east at all. (maybe give me a lesson or 2 while you are out this way!!!)
     
  8. Wilbyman

    Wilbyman

    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    And you've got a really great one, James!

    I'd love to try your basses out and trade some licks. I used to date a girl from...where the hell was it...Berkley Heights. Nice little town. She was a nightmare. :p

    Will