The Best Of "Bill's Science Corner"

By BassPlayer ,

THE OCTOBER ’92 ISSUE HAD THE 14th—and final—installment of “Bill’s Science Corner.” I was sorry to see it go. What a trip it had been working on that column with Billy Sheehan . . . .

After I interviewed Billy for the cover story in BP’s premiere issue, I got the idea of asking him to do a regular column. But instead of the usual instructional fare, I wanted a short, lively Q&A that would run up front. The concept was simple: readers would send in questions, and Billy would answer them. He loved the idea.

I sorted through the questions and looked for the most interesting ones. (And, uh … occasionally we made up one.) I sent them to Billy, and a while later he would call to give me his responses. I’d record our conversation, and then transcribe and edit Billy’s answers for publication. Most of the questions were serious inquiries about gear or technique or performing, and Billy got really good at giving concise answers to those. But many of Billy’s best responses were the funny ones. Herewith, some of my favorites

When I play my bass while I’m naked, it feels cold, but when I’m wearing clothes, it doesn’t. Why?
Eddie Current
Oneonta, NY

That has to do with thermal conductivity. Humans, being warm-blooded, can retain body heat with layers of clothing. Without clothes, the instrument conducts heat away from the body. But, in a live situation, you’ll fi nd that your crowd reaction will be much higher in direct proportion to the lack of clothing, depending on your body hair and height-to-weight ratio. You may also need to figure gender into the equation.

October ’92Does wearing Spandex help you play faster? If not, what’s the deal?
Dirk Starr
Eugene, OR

Actually, Spandex only makes you look faster,because it’s worn by so many sprinters and bicycle racers. Also, according to the latest psychological research, if the audience sees you dressed like an aerobics instructor, it affects them subconsciously. They suddenly feel tired, and, voilà, your licks seem faster.

I know it’s a good idea to practice with a metronome, but will it help my timing if I sleep while listening to a metronome through headphones?
Trent Opaloch
St. Albert, Alberta

Absolutely not—in fact, it may hurt it. The headphones will annoy your girlfriend, and she’ll cut you off. With your resultant anxiety, your band will notice you rushing and lagging all over the place and will throw you out. Then you’ll be home at night alone, suffering from metronomeinduced insomnia.

What’s the difference between a riff and a lick?
Mark R. Konzen
Matteson, IL

Riff: Derived from “refrain,” a short phrase repeated over and over. Lick: Derived from “cowlick,” an uncooperative lock of hair that sticks up as if a cow had licked your head. Therefore a lick should make your hair stand on end.

I’m confused about ohms. I’ve got a 2x15 cabinet with two 8-ohm speakers. Does this mean I should say “Ohm” 8 times when I meditate before playing? Or should I say it 16 times?
Dennis E. Hill
Williams AFB, AZ

I called the Ohm Shopping Network, and one of the ohmboys there said “Ohmigod” would be a fitting mantra in this circumstance. The correct number of repetitions can be determined by an ohmmeter, but don’t mistakenly use an ’ome-eater. (That’s a termite.) The preceding has been a series of extremely bad puns. Sorry.

I practice with a drum machine every night just before bed. Even though I unplug it when I’m done, I can still hear it going “tap, tap, tap” all night long. It’s driving me crazy. What can I do?
Edgar A. Poe
Boston, MA

Learn some songs by Raven.

In the Bill’s Science Corner photo, you bear a striking resemblance to Garth Algar from Wayne’s World. Are you related?
Bobby Schallau
Palos Verdes, CA

Yes, but not to each other.

When I shut off my amp, I get a loud “POP” from the speaker. I’ve tried turning down the volume on both my bass and my amp, but that doesn’t seem to help. What can I do?
Nathan You
Lake Placid, NY

It’s hard to say, exactly. I suggest contacting the manufacturer or taking the amp to a repairman. I used to have a loud, annoying pop, too, but my mom divorced him.