18 Fretless Questions: Will Lee
1. FB: At what age did you start playing fretless bass, and how long have you been playing?
Will Lee: I probably started at age 20 – another Jaco-inspired bassist. That was 30 years ago!
2. FB: What influenced you to play fretless?
Will Lee: Of course, the incredible Jaco Pastorius.
3. FB: Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
Will Lee: Actually, I took a couple of upright lessons at the University of Miami while there, but you don’t wanna hear me on upright!
4. FB: Who are your main fretless bass influences?
Will Lee: Again, Jaco. But also Pino Palladino has played some memorable things. In fact I used to have a board tape from a live Paul Young concert in NYC that someone laid on me and Pino was fierce! Also I would say Steve Bailey, but he’s on such a high level of artistry with the 6 string that he’s just untouchable – check out his pitch – it’s a phenomenon.
5. FB: Who is your favorite fretless bass player and why?
Will Lee: And now, back to your host Jaco Pastorius – Jaco pretty much invented fretless (or at least the reason to try playing it). I did quite a bit of hanging with him. He did everything with major intensity, including trying to be the best, looking for new information within those four strings (he made melodies with harmonics when it was unheard of), comping, or just hanging out!
6. FB: Do you play Stand-up, acoustic, electric, or all? Which do you prefer?
Will Lee: I play mostly fretted electric and am quite challenged by it still. I use acoustics for learning stuff & practicing and sometime in the studio, but rarely.
7. FB: What was your very first fretless bass? Do you still own it?
Will Lee: My first was a Fender Precision-turned-Jazz bass that luthier Woody Phifer filed down the frets on. I still use it always and it’s my only 4-string fretless.
8. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass you’ve ever played?
Will Lee: I had a couple of Pedullahs that were like glass, absolutely brilliant instruments. One was stolen and the other one…………..?
9. FB: What fretless basses have you owned, which do you still own?
Will Lee: In addition to the P-turned-J bass, I have owned the 2 Pedullah 4strings and I still have a Pedullah 8-string fretless as well as a Carvin 5-string fretless.
10. FB: What types of strings and fingerboard combinations do you like?
Will Lee: I love round-wounds with a rosewood fretboard.
11. FB: What playing styles do you use – finger, thumb, or pick (or other)? What do you like about those styles?
Will Lee: I use everything – I’ll even hit the strings with a pencil sometimes – it sounds great!
12. FB: What bands/projects have you played fretless bass in/on (list as many as you like)?
Will Lee: Joe Cool (often seen on BET from a Japan concert), various artists – John Tropea, Carly Simon, etc.
13. FB: What is your favorite song you played fretless bass on (studio or live)?
Will Lee: I kind of dig a song with Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight called “Love Is”.
14. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass riff you’ve written (if different from above)?
15. FB: What would you say is unique about your fretless style?
Will Lee: I still need to look at the markers (I call ’em “training wheels”).
16. FB: Are you still actively playing fretless bass?
Will Lee: Sure!!
17. FB: Do you have any basic advice for bass players looking to take up fretless or those who are currently playing?
Will Lee: Yes – I stole this from Steve Bailey – try practicing with the lights off so you use your ears more. Also it’s better to play along with something that has a fixed center of pitch, so you can see if your pitch is accurate!
Cheers, Will (:?D)
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