The Birdsong Basses
The Birdsong Guitar
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PO Box 1745
Wimberley, TX 78676
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Greetings fellow travelers, here is the latest report from the
We've been shooting videos again for the Wingfeather Workshop
channel on YouTube - bookmark
https://www.youtube.com/user/WingfeatherWorkshop and keep checking
it in the days to come.
In addition to the usual cutting and routing and oil finish rubbing
and assembling of any given week, over the past several days I worked a
lot with turquoise. It was "Turquoise:30" as we say... time for
turquoise! One of my favorite things to do is pack natural rustic wood
character with crushed turquoise. I start with small pieces of the real
stuff and crush it myself (starting with consistent pre-packaged powder
doesn't give the effect I like), filling & gluing it in layers. When the
oil finish hits it and the wood around it, the colors richen and the
blue stone just glows. Also shown are the headstock logos happening in
the lap steels I make. Love this stuff!
Saw our good friends Nimai & Taraka in Austin with their ongoing
world-touring artrock psychpop band Prince Rama. First Jamie & I hit
Koriente, a wonderful little Korean fusion hole-in-the-wall downtown.
After some veggie & hummus rolls, noodle sauté bowl & a Saint Arnold
amber, we walked over to the venue where Prince Rama was just starting
their set. To hear them from the street outside was a thrill; I've known
the sisters since the beginning of their music adventure, and they're
part of a family I owe great debts of inspiration to... so it goes both
ways. It was great to see them rock the joint and hang a little after
the show before we all hit the highway to our what's nexts ~ they
towards the next gig, Jamie & I back out towards the woods.
Speaking of which, had a plumber come out and he showed up in Joe
The Truck's brother! Who is Joe The Truck? A very important member of
the team from the beginning. Joe is a big orange '74 Dodge. It's not
every day you see another, let alone one pulls up your driveway!
His father bought his new in 1976; 15 years ago I bought Joe from the
son of its original owner. We salute you John the plumber and
your bronze brethren!
This weekend's "Special Deal" will be up on our Facebook page shortly
(nudge, nudge - I want more of you to be watching us over there instead
of just here) and has to do with a Shortbass. What's that? Go check it
Birdsong Guitars 1,277 like this (And like us, and follow us...) Have a great weekend!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: John Scofield Bump; Grateful Dead Movie
soundtrack disc 3; Bill Evans Trio at the Village Vanguard;
Kenny Burrell On View At The Five Spot.
April 10th & 17th
While I'm steadily working on Birdsongs (always the priority since
2004), I'm always working on other things. researching through doing
what I do - working with recipes of wood & wire - and manifesting
variations and new ideas, some to be Birdsongs, some to be others, some
FOR others... and some with no agenda at all but to have the experience
gained in doing it "that way" one time or finding out how something
looks or performs in its real form. You on that side of the screen may
see this as "The tomato garden" with these amazing little tomatoes that
tickle your taste buds and appeal to the ways you appreciate seeing such
tomato gardening done... but others are led here by other trails with no
idea about the whole "tomato" section of this little garden. "You build
Birdsongs too? What are they?"
Birdsongs in final assembly ~ a maple &
mahogany guitar, walnut Fusion, figured-top fretless "Double Fusion" and
special order Fusion with Cortobass pickups in wenge & mahogany... all
to fly the nest in the next week or two!
Our world today is one of specialization. "I am this," "I
perform that task." This is what we are. We all have our interests and
aptitudes and some even line all of it up into their living. Much of the
time it still comes down to one office, one degree, one branch of the
tree that is the focus. "I specialize in this area." Here it's a little
different - yes, there are common traits in everything done here (for
example the instruments primarily have natural finishes, a certain
aesthetic to the wood & working, passive electronics, many
behind-the-scenes processes... they're electric, they all have
strings...) that may transcend their tuning or branding. But I view my
job as "Helping the music to happen."
Here's a wild one FOR SALE ~ 2015 Especial
lined fretless ~ rustic Texas pecan, turquoise, woodburned cowbow-style
barbed wire around the edge... the works. "Full dress." Call
512-395-5126 or email
That leaves a wide patch of earth to till. It could mean many
different kinds of doing, a variety of manifestations in sound or wood
or word. In some capacity, I do all of it. You come up with a way music
can be assisted into becoming and I've probably been involved with it.
That's what I'm here to do - that's what I'M a tool for. Bringing it
back to musical instruments, it shouldn't be a shocker that there's a
wide variety of bass & guitar making going on in the main workshop (and
the others that help me in helping all of this to happen)... there's
Birdsong of course, but also SD Curlee USA, Texas lap steels, D'Aquila
guitars, Hy5 basses, and the whole Shortbass thing. One-offs?
Prototypes? Stuff without names yet? That's a talk for another time...
Ok, one picture. Here's a non-Birdsong
prototype - but to short scale guitars what the Cortobass is to short
scale basses. The Super24 guitar. Wonderful little instrument... stuff
like this starts in my notebook, then manifests slowly. A lot never make
it to this production-ready state, this one did. I've loved 24" scale
guitars since the '80s and designed & built my first in '97.
What will happen with this? Who knows; for now it's
another song in the pile.
Very briefly, Birdsong is the mothership and priority... the
vision for it, built around a particularly well performing short scale
bass re-think called the Cortobass, solidified in 2004 and here we are
together now. As it grew, I revived a company whose instruments I loved
- SD Curlee. Dating back to the mid 70s and dormant for a time, I
gave their cool but somewhat crude old musclecar basses a needed
re-engineering and, instead of going the mass production import
"reissue" path, committed to elevating them into boutique levels of
craft and making far fewer. Not a decision made from current popular
businessthink formula, but that's not the agenda for every decision
around here. Sometimes you just do the right thing and have some fun and
bring what you can to something worth doing. The next batch of SD
Curlees includes a couple of new models and a site update, all being
worked on now.
SD Curlee's 2015 neck batch coming together.
Texas lap steels are my vision of what one of these things
should sound like. If most lap steels are traditionally bright and
twangy tonally, maybe having a Patsy Cline voice to them, then mine are
the Aretha Franklins in the room. If that doesn't say it I don't know
how to... now give them a unique look with varying amounts of Texas and
"deco" and - as with everything we do - hand build them in small
workshop batches, and there you have it. D'Aquila Guitars (www.daquilaguitars.com)
grew out of my love for solid body jazz guitars... that part of the
garden has looked a few different ways over the years but like us all it
has found its way and there's always one or two of them in process;
perhaps the whole years' production.
A batch of Texas lap steels
~ next we rout and finish prepping the fretboards, then on they go! A
full listing of what these are is at
Hy5 is a Birdsong spinoff, originally our 5-string model. A
5-string short scale with a really good B? YES, since 2007. As a little
corner of Birdsong I didn't feel it could shine as brightly, so it
became its own thing. Birdsong's continued flight means I still haven't
been able to push the fives as they should be (there's only so much of
me to spread around), but I have done the latest evolution in body
styles and we're working on a better site... in addition to a few of the
basses, two of which are spoken for. I partially spun it off to consider
finding the design, name and patent a bigger home. These basses are
great by design and a smaller, lighter, easy playing 5 that sounds great
could have more of an audience than I could ever serve. I have that
recipe! Someone could jump right into things with an already developed
and market tested instrument and make themselves a living, or a company,
or even an empire if that's what they wanted. I'd still talk to
interested parties about Hy5 the company... but for now I still talk to
clients about Hy5 the BASS and lovingly build a few at a time. A
songwriter can look at an album and say "That's one of my best songs, it
came together really well." That's how I feel about the Hy5.
An original 2012 Birdsong Hy5 currently for sale ~
this was a special order, fretless, handmade ebony eagle bridge, lined
fretless... time for it to find a new home, on consignment by the
original owner. Please call us at 512-395-5126 anytime or email
Info on the new Hy5s:
The Shortbass - well there was a point in Birdsong's climb
where I wasn't personally getting as much sawdust on myself as I had
enjoyed. So on the side I distilled my ideas about the electric bass
into their simplest whole and made a few. I figured they could also
serve (again, as opposed to a cheaper import) some people who just can't
swing a Birdsong and don't need the options or extras. Over time word
got out and folks who love Birdsongs picked 'em up as another flavor and
lots of folks who love the Shortbass come over here for a Birdsong. Same
scale, pickup, neck & ethos - simplicity done to a high standard...
Shortbasses in finishing ~ from here it's
So as much as you see going on over on the current builds
page, that's really only half of it! I've never won a lottery but I have
scratched off the "doing what I love for a living" ticket. Stands to
reason I should treat that the same way - it's all seed. I won a lottery
of good seed and fertile ground. Now what can I make of this?
Time to grab a tool and make something happen!
On behalf of all the hands involved, thank you for being a part of
this garden around us.
Check out Birdsong Guitars on Facebook for this weekend's super deal
(nudge, nudge - I want more of you to be watching us over there instead
of just here)... play nice and we'll see you in two weeks with another
news page update (taking next week just to work). Have a great weekend!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: "The Art of Sax" box set (jazz), Van Halen's first
two albums, John Scofield.
The one and only Maggie Mae. You are what you eat, and
she evidently eats cuteness and love.
This one goes out to Will Holland ~ raised a cold one to you, buddy.
Hope all is well.
Happy couple-of-days-passed April Fool's Day everyone. That's a big
day for me, almost as big as the July 4th anniversary of Birdsong's
launching years back. So this time of year I'm even more grateful, more
reverent, and more incredulous at how a thumbtack holding up a business
card on a drug store bulletin board for two years in the '80s 2,100
miles away is literally what this all ties back to... could the thread
be any thinner? Good God. I can't even imagine things going down
any other way and me being ok. None of this was scripted out, you know?
I just knew to follow the music wherever it took me. And take me
it did! So how does April 1st factor in?
lefty rainbow twin-humbucker Cortobass flew over the pond
On April 1st of 2000 I set myself free to again cast my lot to the
wind. Four years earlier I had aimed the stubby little hood of a white
Dodge van named "Spirit of The Wind" (known at that time also as "Home")
back towards the east coast where events resulted in my opening of a
music shop. With the passing of the shop keys on April Fools Day to the
next hands, I then pointed the even stubbier hood of a far more square
box van, a 1972 Ford named "Blue Moon", back down the road to the Texas
Hill Country. This was the time of incubation for the seeds of the
garden I now know as my life. Big changes in myself, big changes in
life. The 1st was day one of a new chapter and I've been counting since.
So Aprilius Numerunus is a big anniversary of sorts for me. I had no
idea what was ahead other than a piece of land and something to do with
music. I had no concept that life and all that had been and all I'd done
would coalesce over time into the cohesive whole it all feels like
today... just that there was a V8 under my right foot, a highway ahead,
and somewhere down it - home, meaning, purpose; the then-next chapter -
and it was time to show up so whatever was waiting could happen.
Two lefties shipped in the same week... that's a record!
If one is lucky and blessed in some combination, the diminishments
of time are outpaced by the lessons of a life truly lived, so one finds
their balance at an age still vital with possibility and connected to
the world around them in which they navigate. I found my
springtime in the summer and I plan to ride it in.
Lefty standard Fusion went to New Jersey
Spring is continuing to bloom very rapidly as it does here. I looked
down the path and saw purple flowers and the wild turkeys are in the
woods. Last night I made my springtime soup. It's the same kind of soup
I always make, I just feel a little different making it... because it's
the beginning of spring and I'm here and you couldn't trade me the
wildest imagined results of any of the dreams along the way that faded
and changed for today's little workshop in the woods, and these basses,
and you. And let me tell you ~ that makes for one hell of a bowl of
soup. I make it a little spicy with fresh Jalapeno pepper and maybe a
little Sambal Oelek (look it up - the world is at your fingertips),
believing to wake up the taste buds is to awaken other areas of
perception as it spills over. Sort of a "Free your mind and your ass
will follow" only ass first as I have come to know it in reality. It's
lunchtime, and I've got a spoon and a bowl. Life is amazing.
Check out Birdsong Guitars on Facebook for this weekend's super deal...
and make some music and a moment or two this weekend. I appreciate you!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Dub reggae and Grateful Dead live stuff.
Spring has sprung for real here in the Texas Hill Country woods...
after what felt like months of chilly gray & rain all of a sudden the
birds are in a nesting frenzy, little flying ones of all manner from
tiny moths to owls can be heard and seen going about their little
business, everything's in bloom, the skies are clear blue and the Texas
sun feels glorious on the skin. It's "dining room on the porch" season
to the soundtrack of birdsong and the occasional distant frog.
Cap'n Scott (a little ragged from a busy week) with some
In-between the glorious sunrises and spectacular sunsets a small
hairy man, covered in wood chips and sawdust, powers on towards an
ever-shifting goal. Building instruments at this level is like a buffet
that doesn't look like there's an end to as there is with a meal; you
eat, you're stuffed, you're done. We joke at the table of a great meal
about eating until we keel over, just pitch off the chair or faceplant
into that third bowl of spaghetti. I relate in a wood-and-wire way.
Clear skies this morning too!
Craftsmen I've known have spoken reverently about departing with the
spokeshave still in their hand the way true die-hard rockers want to
kick the bucket onstage at a gig. Making basses (and guitars, and lap
steels) out of tree feeds me in ways far deeper than literally providing
the food. It's a deeper buffet for the heart & soul, a feast of
connection to that greater and nature and tools of good vibration, and
the ripples inward and outward of all of it, to and through you and out
into the great ocean of "is."
Rosemary (this has been blooming for a while but I just
couldn't find the thyme...)
That's what I wake up to, plates - little mountains - of this to
taste every day. My focus is pace & rhythm and to keep going. I spread
seeds where I can, leave a little apple where needed, and keep walking.
There have been times when life felt like a kidnapping and long, slow
suicide slide... but those were (thankfully) quick and fleeting detours,
as no matter what the scenery it was still my hands on the wheel. The
tolls to get back on the main road again? Heh heh, everybody's got those
and they're all different and in the moment they seem unpayable. But we
find a way to find our way, don't we?
Bright yellow flowers? That's just vine by me.
This is what springtime is. Tuning into that way; becoming that
walk; turning into something greater. I'm blessed to have this work to
do in this little workshop, the hands that help (that are attached to
some great folks), the sanctuary... I feel like I wake up in church,
work in a temple, and my plate stays full of delicious things to do for
really special people. Go as you want & do as you will, but for me I'm
on the perpetual spring program whatever adjustments it asks of me. I'm
gonna ride this wave 'til we crash on the shore. I can only tell you it
hasn't crested yet and I'll be sure down the line to build yours first!
But surf's up, buddy, and we're on the board.
Cactus... not just a great band from the '70s!
It's 8:44AM and I've already crossed a couple of things off the
list... including this time spent gathering my sometimes scattered
thoughts onto the page (or screen, as it is) here, hopefully to inspire
and share a good few moments with you. Whatever the weather where you
are, the sun is shining somewhere and it's time to go water the garden.
Oh my... this flower
appears to have a big, fuzzy nose!
Have a great weekend - don't forget about the Facebook
super offering of the week, happening sometime over the weekend... go
find & follow the Birdsong Guitars page and don't miss out!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Springsteen Born To Run; Alice In Chains
Jar of Flies; The Cult Electric; Dean Martin Greatest Hits
Been working steady to Born To Run in the woodshop and
episodes of the Thanks For Giving a Damn podcast by Otis Gibbs on
Soundcloud in assembly. No big "listening to" list this week, it's just
been great musician interviews and "The screen door slams... Mary's
dress waves... like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio
plays..." You know, Shakespeare for the east coast blue collar dreamer.
Just getting in touch with my roots, engrained deep inside long before
the luthier gnome in the woods thing happened. When I was 17 you
couldn't play me a Springsteen album... now it really makes me feel. One
of my favorite albums of all time, and the "Making of..." documentary of
it is fantastic too. That and right now I have a dub Reggae compilation
CD on. Music = food. Yum.
I'm starting a special deal for those who like us enough to
follow us on Facebook; I post up there during the week as well as
Fridays and I'll be doing "Weekend specials." What does that mean? Well
go there and like us and watch what we're up to! THIS weekend I'll spill
the beans here too because everyone should know. From the posting of
this to Sunday night Birdsong is running a SALE FOR NEW CLIENTS.
Anything & everything is 10% off if you've never ordered an
instrument from us before. You're hanging in, waiting for the right
time... it's NOW.
10% off for
all NEW CLIENTS this weekend. There's a double deal too... but
you have to go find us on Facebook or call for that!
Here are some cool pictures of the week...
||Actually a picture from last week that I just pulled off the
memory card. Sunset in San Marcos, TX over my late friend Kent
Finlay's bar, the legendary Cheatham Street Warehouse. Joe The
Truck and I were parked at the studio across the street for an
all-night mixing session.
||This is what we shoot for in a neck pocket! They're bolt-on
but we fit them individually like they were destined to become
one piece, which they are in my view as a
tonal-vibration-string-influencing machine. It'll get its
screws, but this is with NO screws. Necks are completed slightly
oversized for the pocket and then they are shaved to fit. VERY
different than factory line assembly or kit parts builds.
||Ahhh, the "Grateful Dude" guitar. Builders have influences
too, just as we do as players. One of mine is Doug Irwin who
made some wild guitars for Jerry Garcia in the '70s - '80s. Some
take influences and copy; I just sort of use them as a marinade.
I took the Birdsong guitar and let it soak in this marinade and
this is what's coming out as a special build for an old friend.
||A shot from the routing bench of a special order Fusion with
Cortobass pickups & control plate... this body is now in
sanding. A fully rounded-over picture is on the client page. The
body is wenge & mahogany, with cocobolo magic to follow!
||Definitely a rare bird, a lefty Fusion coming together. I do
love walnut, I tell you what.
||My buddy, hanging out on the couch in assembly by the
computer desk. She likes to sit up on her butt as human-like as
possible... sometimes I think she's mocking me.
||Here's one to watch on the client page... this is even
wilder than it looks. A 15-piece glue-up of Texas mesquite,
wenge, bloodwood, figured walnut, rosewood and a mystery wood.
It only looks like seven straight on for now, but the walnut is
actually topping "wings" of the mystery wood as part of double
layer tops and backs.
||The world knows these ladies as psych-alt-Eastern-trancepop
band Prince Rama, we know them as Nimai & Taraka. The Larson
sisters are two very inspirational beings in perpetual artistic
creative mode and out doing it. Here Taraka is mesmerized by the
fire and Nimai is checking the tour itinerary. In Austin for
SXSW, they graced us with a visit to catch up, talk much music,
travel and food, and show some TLC to a rather roadworn Ibanez
guitar that's now ready for the NEXT year on the road. Godspeed,
||Here we see the pickup trim on a Fusion coming to be. I've
selected and trimmed two small pieces of rosewood with opposing
grain and marked them. Then they get worked, sanded and a finish
||...and there we go! This feast of walnut and rosewood is
ready to string & set up.
||And today we had a visit from Alex, also in town for the
SXSW music fest with his band The Go Ahead, playing in Austin
tonight & tomorrow afternoon.
Here he is checking out one of the instruments for sale, a
consignment Hy5 fretless 5 string. He couldn't believe how big
it sounded... nobody's prepared for it. He played a Fusion, a
Cortobass... you know, it never gets old watching someone play a
Birdsong for the first time! By the way, that bass (pics in
inventory) is 10% off too!
Have a great weekend - don't forget about that
SALE, call anytime...
Captain Of The Ship
Being as we're a workshop not a factory, we're a bit more used to
working around the weather (mostly temp and humidity) than in a climate
controlled facility. The past month has been cold and rainy... more gray
than I've seen in years. As a general rule, I don't glue up under about
mid-50s or work the wood or finish when it's really humid. Just doesn't
go as well. Those days are rare here in south central Texas, it can
pretty much be 60 tomorrow no matter what's going on on any given
"today" and we're not known for extended periods of Seattle-like foggy
drizzle. Usually. The assembly, display & office cabin is where you'll
find me on non-shop days, putting instruments together, wiring,
stringing up, doing the site updates, or catching a nap on the couch
after working some odd batch of hours. So what to do when the hardware's
not here yet, the pickups are on order, and it can't be a shop day? Well
if you're me you go record an album.
So Monday & Tuesday down in San Marcos' Woodshed studio we layered
onto some previously sketched basic tracks, and Wednesday we mixed. And
mixed. And mixed. See, I don't do it halfway... it's 16 songs. "We" is
me and my favorite engineer Russ. Russ is young, skilled, has great
ears, and over time has learned to trust me in the moment. "Ok, loop
that djembe out for two minutes before the song starts. I know there'll
be no count-in, I'll end on the note it starts on and we'll just stitch
it together. Watch me for cues." And in 15 or 20 seconds I'm improvising
an intro lick. He knows I know exactly what I'm doing and how this all
works, I just can't turn the knobs & push the buttons in this modern
So despite the fact it's me playing everything, layer upon layer, that I
don't convey my ideas in bar numbers and percentages like he does and
the fact that it's still being arranged as it does down, we work fast.
He stopped questioning me in about 2011 ~ I think it was the time I told
him I was coming in to "Demo some songs" and 45
of them later said "Hey, why not go for 50... we're already almost
there." This time, after finishing the mixing at 3:30AM and crashing on
the studio couches, I do think I pushed it when I woke him up at 6:45
and said "Hey, since we're already here, let's cut an album!" Hell, I
had two notebooks with me, that's more than enough. C'mon, let's
take that summit, you know? We're THERE.
Coming home in the blue zone... not
quite as Thursday morning to me as it is to
that other guy...
In reality though, the crappy weather bought me this much time in
this moment and I needed it. I had to get this one done. It's called
"It's Morning Somewhere" and, as they used to say when it was tape,
"It's in the can!" I'll post some stuff when I can and keep you updated.
So with about my usual sleep behind me, I drove Joe the Truck the 45
minutes home and had a great breakfast. It was warming up, it hadn't
rained, the sun was coming out. FINALLY! F this whole past month, onward
we go. So I waltz into the shop, perfect day, rough cut pieces & parts
of glue-up projects stacked ass deep and waiting, and hit the switch on
the jointer. That's the tool that squares & levels the edges about to be
glued & clamped. Nothing. So I commenced to all the jigglin' and tappin'
and testin' one does with old machines in such a moment. Nothing. So I
go grab the spare, the original little jointer from the first shop. I
guess I knew when to pull that one out of service & upgrade; it fizzled
after two seconds with a rather flaccid fart. And not even the kind of
fart you'd be proud of, maybe tell someone about later complete with
some kind of demonstration. Just a sorry-ass, half-hearted, weak little
"boofffff..." like the one (there's always one) on the lawn chair half
passed out at the party. That kind of fart. It didn't even lift a
24 hours later The Allman Bros. are on, the sun is out, I'm covered
in sawdust, stuff is glued up all OVER the place, Maggie is sunning
...there's a shiny new jointer now also covered in wood chips...
...and the old two have been decommissioned and stripped of
useable parts. For example, the metal front plate on the bigger one will
make a great gauge panel for one of the old car projects.
I've stopped to type this, now I'll go rout some Fusions. Life
changes fast even when you're takin' it slow, ladies & gents. So kick it
up a notch. Don't waste any time. Have a plan B for the moments that go
"booffff" like some somnambulant party crasher and if that doesn't work
then saddle up and go off in search of another solution. That's progress
when nothing else is possible. No matter what life throws at you or what
the day does to your plans, make it so that entropy has to work like a
sonofabitch to derail you completely. More often than not he'll
just head on down the line to an easier target.
Back on my head (and I'm working on through the weekend, so call if
you need something),
Captain Of The Ship
Allman Brothers The Road Goes On Forever; Scott Beckwith
It's Morning Somewhere (you have no idea how happy it makes me to
GREAT BASS ALERT: Time to find the home of this unusual tri-color
Birdsong Cortobass. It's been used in-house for testing, never gigged,
never sold. 2014, two scratches on the back, the rest as new. This
fretless is much more balanced & comfy than most long scales AND better
designed & made than most other SHORT scales. Mahogany, walnut & maple
that looks like some kind of flag - make it YOUR flag! Thick rosewood
board for a lifetime of music making, trimmed out in black with
tapewound strings... and if you don't think it's one of the best
sounding ~ feeling ~ playing basses you've ever played, send it back.
FREE shipping in the cont-US on this one (but we ship worldwide).
Would be $2050 & 6 months, SALE $1795 with case! 512-395-5126
Had the privilege of working on a really good Pbass. I don't do many
repairs anymore but still fit them in for local friends when I can.
Regardless of how good a good one of these is, all that kept going
through my mind while working on it was "This is such a TRUCK compared to a Birdsong." It's
SO big... (Insert choir of voices in your mind... "How big is it?")
And lastly but certainly not least, this week the world of
songwriters and Texas music lost a legend - a great man who taught those
of us lucky enough to be taken under his wing the craft of word and the
art of rhyme, how to navigate a life of stages as well as the stages of
a life. The list of people who rose to fame from the somewhat funky
stage and sometimes stern advice of this character include names many
would know; you can Google all of that. This moment is about him. Kent Finlay was 77 and
that was more shocking to me than his death - he transcended mere
personhood to where, in the 26 years of our conversation, I never once
equated him to a number. I had no idea. Though
it's hard to mourn a man who did it his way and just about kicked bone
cancer twice, who left a legacy of literally thousands of others
all rippling the pond with his teachings, who never lost his sense of
humor no matter what this world threw at him, whose business card said
simply "Kent Finlay, Dreamer"... I will. See, I can trace my whole adult
life - who I am, what I've become, where I am locationally and all THAT
has brought me, and that last bit of fine-tuning-type-raising that makes a man from a
and a teacher out of a gifted but wayward soul, to him. On the Mount
Rushmore of my life this man's face would be chiseled.
Many years back in Todd Snider's apartment
San Marcos, we talked about how "Kent will make it through someone
else..." That he had devoted his best to nurturing and providing for
those he took under his wing. Whether the Cheatham St. stage or the old
van bench in his music room, you sat in his world and became something
better. I look back now and realize WE all made it - in our own ways,
some to a life of stages and others
through the stages of a life - through HIM. I can only speak for myself,
but I can say for sure - if Kent hadn't have been Kent, I wouldn't be me
today. I don't really have any lines in my face,
but when I do they will be a roadmap of a life lived as who I became
having met Kent at 19. I moved to Texas to sit at his feet and learn
about songs and never stopped dropping in to the Hallowed Ground of
Cheatham St. Warehouse to talk about songs or the rest of what I
absorbed from being around him. I have "written some life" thanks to
him, and "lived me some songs." I paraphrase one of his there, but it
became more than a song to me. And he will be carried through the paths
of uncountable lives as so much more than the man with the couch, the
stage, the ear, or the missing line for the last verse he was to so many
of us on this path. In lieu of tears, go write a song.
Go tell a mentor what they mean to your life...
Captain Of The Ship
Grateful Dead Dick's Picks Vol. 15; James Brown 20
All-Time Greatest Hits!; Bob Dylan Street Legal; Jerry Vale
I Have But One Heart; Kyuss Blues For The Red Sun; Neil
Young Tonight's The Night.
Hi everyone! Just too busy to spin a yarn on here this week. Next Friday
we'll return to our regularly scheduled program. Be well, thanks for
being with us... have a great weekend! ~Scott
February 18th (Wednesday, I know!)
UPDATED FRIDAY (CLIENT
and INVENTORY pages too!)
************ CHECK INVENTORY FOR
WHAT IS AVAILABLE CURRENTLY *******
Slipping an update in a little early this week,
as there's news and I'm going to be very busy the rest of this week.
Not too busy to talk with you if you need me of course, or if you want a
great little bass out of any of this fine native Texas wood I scored
yesterday ~ yep, that's right, I snuck out, chased down a lead, and
scored some PERFECT Mesquite as well as Pecan and even a one-piece
body's worth of Escarpment Cherry (Sold).
Now by "Perfect" I mean perfectly IMperfect... just enough natural
character to speak of its rustic nature, maybe pack with crushed
Turquoise, and the Pecan has varying degrees of figure & spalting...
it's ALL gorgeous. The Cherry? A beautiful clean piece with grain that
centers a wavy chevron figuring and a color I can't capture. It's all
beautifully milled and with a few passes through my planer this
afternoon - ready to build!
Pecan (and the last Pecan bass I made...)
I don't have room to be a wood collector so these boards will be
blanks very shortly and ready to be YOUR next bass! I also have a couple
of builds started for inventory and some nice looking but less spalted
Texas Pecan body sets aside for cutting & glue-up too. One of them could
be a one-piece! Here, mangia...
An Especial that'll get trimmed in Tamarind, a Fusion the same, and
those Pecan halves (and whole) I was talking about. I'll update Friday
with more pics. MEANWHILE if you want something crafted from any of this
please do call or email, even if we just get you in line and figure out
the specifics later. I don't always have such perfectly buildable wild
like this and I'm immediately starting on some for patient clients
who've been waiting for the next Mesquite (etc.) score... I could start
on something for you too!
Friday... here's some of what's going on and
some of what happened this week, some
are client builds, some are available - best to contact for more info.
Email or call (even over the weekend, any time is fine) for more
specific info. 512-395-5126.
Ok, back on my head...
Captain Of The Ship
Alice In Chains Jar of Flies; Frank Sinatra The Very
Good Years; The Beatles White Album; Grateful Dead
I've always loved Fridays of 13, from the old days of my friend (and
now famous "dirty car window artist") Scott Wade's absolutely legendary
Friday The 13th parties on up to right now. Hey, whether 13 is a good
number for you or not, it's FRIDAY!
These are special days.
Well, every day is special if you wake up on this side of the dirt -
it's a grand opportunity we're not entitled to receive or guaranteed to
get. But I got it this morning and you got it this morning, we won this
little lottery together and here we are. Friday the 13ths I try to take
some time and be creative. Big updates happening in the Hy5 5-string and
SD Curlee worlds (those are other things we do - the short scale
5-strings and refined, updated classic medium scales with heritage back
into the mid 1970s)... templates for new models, updated sites, just
planting for Springtime you know. You'll see all of that soon.
Around here it has been a week
of fantastic weather and much progress, with a couple of beauties
flying the nest. Here's the one that seems to have made the rounds
pretty good from our Facebook page:
Always nice to get an email from a happy new owner!
Out next week
hopefully will be Walnutian glory... a Fusion headed to Nashville
and a Bliss headed to New Jersey Guitar & Bass Center (www.newjerseyguitarandbasscenter.com
one of very few retailers we're hooked in with - you can order through
them or see what they have in stock or in progress). This will be your
chance to pickup a Birdsong with no wait! And a Bliss too - hand
carved scroll horn and all. There's only a handful of those. Here it is
Didn't get to some of the planing and blank glue-ups on my list but
that's happening next week along with a quest for some Texas woods...
Mesquite, Pecan, and who knows what. Up for building is a very cool
bass, Sadhana #057. I'll be posting about this one as it happens up on
Facebook (Find, like & follow us!). It's an "X" or "special order" build
with the soapbars from the Corto2 and lots of colorful wood. The body
pieces have all been dimensioned and it's time to start putting it all
together. This will be a stunner, I promise!
There are lots of small pieces
made in the workshop - here are a few "sets"... finished Cocobolo
trim for a rear routed Fusion, "Woodcraft package" pieces for a Cherry
bass (that's where I make stuff from the cutoffs of your instrument for
you to give as gifts or put in special places in your world), and just
cut out Rosewood trim sets for a Bliss and a lefty Fusion... so much
There is this common illusion amongst chest-thumpers of the self
made man. I can't see how such thing exists... it doesn't in my world. I
get a lot of credit for these little instruments but I want on this
auspicious day to share the light, spread the love, and thank Jamie,
Brady, Jake, Steve, Dax & Taryn, Don, Jim, Tina, Camera Chris and others
in the circles that radiate out like ripples... out through connections
(Like Billy, who I've ordered accessories from through three companies
each since my pre-Birdsong "Music Shop" days) into suppliers (like Jason
at Hipshot who has treated me like gold since day one), and all those
beyond my reach out into the work & transit every single board and
screw requires to become a part of something bigger. The efforts from
the roles these people (that's an important thing to remember - these
PEOPLE) all play in this dance actually wash inward to me so I can get
it all together and present our highest work outward to YOU.
I might be the mirrored shades of this operation, it's my notebook
scrawlings & sketches that may come to life, my signature may go on
important papers and I may end the day with sawdust in places you don't
even want to think about... but to sit here and claim it's all me and
mine, as if any of this would happen without those beside & behind me or
you in front of me, well, that would be VERY short-sighted & shallow on
my part. So a big thank you to the friends on my side of the screen
whether I've met you or not, wherever you are you are appreciated and
your service is respected. I'll keep doing my best with all of what you
all give, and present something beautiful, meaningful, and inspirational
to all these good folks who read my little words and play my - OUR -
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Grateful Dead Grateful Dead; Prince Rama
Top 10 Hits of The End of The World; Foo Fighters The Colour and
The Shape; Easy Star All-Stars Radiodread; Aerosmith Toys
In The Attic; The Cult Electric.
Well today was nice but it sure didn't warm up like I'd hoped this
week. Am I complaining? Haaeeelll no. I talked with a client up in
Yellowknife Canada, and the day it was too cold to work in the woodshop
I was STILL eighty - that's eight-zero - degrees warmer than he was. It
was 40 here. Do the math on that one. Makes your nuts climb just
thinking about it, huh? Yes, it does. He was thrilled 'cause it was only
minus 16 the day before, nice and mild. Sixteen below zero. He must be
made of something different than me. It's all a matter of perspective.
Did I get a bunch done on the other days? Heck yes! This is what I'm
here to do; might as well make something happen. Look at the client
page, lots of good things happened. I still get excited watching these
instruments come together, even when I look down and it's my hands
putting them together. I walk into the woodshop like it's a temple.
Assembly? It is a temple. You can think I'm a little nutty but while I'm
working on one I stay in a place of deep gratitude and thank it (more in
the way I touch it than verbally, though that happens too) for allowing
me the great honor of bringing it to be. To someone watching I might
look like I'm just working away. Yeah there's that incense burning and
my lips might be mumbling but that's not all that unusual for around
I'm very "Here now"... I think that's how I got here. To think this
very line I'm typing and you're reading now seeded as a misguided dismal
pursuit of perceived stardom that failed itself into a music shop 2000
miles away where I built my first and each step brought me here over the
course of thirty four years of music, 46 in this body, and who knows
what else... for cripes sake, lemme just grab this screwdriver and pop
this pickup in, you know? I can't chew that much. It's all just a series
of nexts isn't it? But I am here, it has been a journey, and this is a
climb not many make.
Even though it's a small company (deliberately) there is a steady
stream of high quality work coming out of it. It's not because we have a
million dollars in tools; we don't. We're just honed and clear and time
has made us good at what we do. There's no short cut for that, but that
also means you can start the journey with borrowed basic tools and a
corner of a garage. Then you just keep at it. I just kept going -
walking - climbing. That's the second most important thing! The first?
Begin. The main thing is to start, then to walk it - to live & breathe
it (you'll absorb SO much being immersed in the culture with "beginner's
mind"), and THEN worry about having all the right tools.
It's the same climb I set out to do with stars in my eyes and a
hundred watt stack, but shaped and decorated completely differently (as
am I), with answers as rewards for questions as a young man I didn't
even know enough to have. But I do have some now. And I ended up in a
very different place inside & out. Perspective... I chatted with a
client (by the way, your Cherry woodcraft is almost done) about getting
started doing what I do. On behalf of anyone in any pursuit that's a bit
down the path from where you are, don't think you need everything we
have to begin. Because you won't begin where we're at. I am certainly
not the same sack of tools I was ten years ago... I couldn't be me now -
then. Let alone the 28 ago in the picture. It grew to this. I honed to
What I have and what I do should only matter to you in that it
inspires you to do something. That something itself will take you on the
journey that will become your next chapter. Or four. You gather the
tools as you go, and you're prepared for the next step by the ones you
had to take to get to that one. Just start walking. Use my humble little
star as a general navigational aid and begin the path to what it will
look like for you down yours.
I'm am here if you need advice on routers or templates though.
Clamps? Wood? Not a problem! Vibrational transference and the
transmigration of the soul? Well, I'll do my best.
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Grateful Dead Grateful Dead; Al Caiola
Italian Gold; Headstone Bad Habits; and a recording of
Branford Marsalis' quartet performing Coltrane's A Love Supreme.
Started the week off Sunday at an estate sale with complex layers of
feelings about it. Of course this is way out in the country, so it's not
the suburban organized and sometimes high-falutin' affair full of china,
designer items and itemized knick-knackery one might expect if that's
what the picture brings to mind. This was the last weekend of more of a
yard sale-like thing that's been going on for a month or more. It was my
From the workshop of this old WWII hero I pulled this plaque; it
now hangs in mine. It felt strange to be picking through the scattered
remnants of a great man's life but I knew whatever I adopted would be
coming somewhere to be used, revered both for what it is and what he
was. Who are we possibly going to replace this guy with? Are there any
three of us with - combined - what this guy was made of? I don't know.
Some days I think it'll take me another trip around just to gather the
suds he probably had in his twenties.
In addition to a few tools I bought last time (a ritual of
respect towards fallen elder craftsmen, to keep their tools working...
...here's one of his clamps now in service at Birdsong), this time I
scored some great obscure albums. I'm pretty sure he didn't listen to
them but he did gather them and I was detecting an order they were in...
maybe something to keep him busy? Happy to have them... here are a
This is one of the best early '70s "Raga rock" melding of East and West
I've heard. A great album and very rare to come across... especially in
the rack of a 93 year old Texan.
The George Benson Cookbook
This is just smokin'. I dig Benson's early stuff almost as much as I dig
his signature Ibanez guitar from the late '70s - '80s. If anyone HAS an
Ibanez George Benson, Japan made from that era, any finish, I'm up for
some trading! Especially in natural.
Speaking of natural, I do the occasional build where I start with
slabs of tree, rough milled with the bark still on. To me this is a pure
thing, like it would be foraging for your food. I might not have cut &
slabbed this Pecan tree, but I bet I met the guy who did. Stuff like
this generally air dries for a long-ass time before we start building
with it. This stash has been around for a few years and is becoming the
back pieces on a variation of the Birdsong guitar. Working with this
stage of wood rather than dimensioned planks to begin with is both
challenge and treat. Lots of planing, cutting, trimming, more planing,
more measuring... but even the parts I can't use show hidden beauty;
signs of life. This was a tree; it lived a life; other beings lived on,
around, and in it. It was food, it was shelter, it was shade. And now
what's left of it is in my hands to work into something useful and
Watch it "become again" on the client page... this is the "Grateful
There were other albums I got at the sale; some good Blues, some
great old Country, a couple of worn but listenable Moby Grape albums.
All in all a good little haul. To me it's like bringing home groceries.
The record player is where Birdsongs are assembled, wired, strung &
tested. Most of the time if I'm in here, something cool is spinning at
33-1/3. In the woodshop? Well, the music constantly plays there... and I
do mean constantly for the most part. I like to leave a CD on low on
repeat even after the lights are turned off and the door is softly
closed for the evening. I just don't think the music should stop in
One of the CDs that's been going in there is Alice In Chains' Jar of Flies... there are a few gems from the 90s that really stayed
fresh and brilliant to me. I pretty much live in the 1970s with
occasional forays into the '80s but my interest in what was going on was
still alive and well during the '90s. Soundgarden's Superunknown
comes to mind, as does Flies. I dusted this CD off and put it in
days ago... I don't forget why I keep it during the occasional CD
purges, but I do lose touch with just how great an album this is until
its turn comes around again. Though it's technically an EP with only 7
songs, I consider it a complete work... there is nothing on it that is
superfluous and nothing more needed to be said.
On that note... I'm out for now. Tune in every Friday for some
words from behind the workings here at the Little Shop That could from
yours truly, master of ceremonies, captain of the ship, and nutty
A reminder to find Birdsong Guitars on Facebook and give us a like -
I post pictures & stuff up there during the week too, and if you aren't
watching you're missing out on some fun! I'll be posting some artsy
shots from the workshop over the weekend.
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Grateful Dead Workingman's dead and Dead
Set; Alice In Chains Jar Of Flies; Mad Season Above;
Louisiana Red Sings The Blues; Shanti Shanti; George
Benson The George Benson Cookbook; Modern Jazz Quartet At
Music Inn Vol. 2 (1958).
A great work day here is to place the work around the weather and
pace the work to music. Or, in assembly, to the sound of lectures or
documentaries that may be playing. To hit it hard before the daylight
and be winding it down by dusk. I have had a week full of those days...
it was warm and sunny to start so much was done in the green shop - wood
selection & layout, planing & cutting, routing & shaping, sanding &
finishing. Then as the days became rainy and relatively cold, attention
turned mostly into Johnny's shop for assembly, wiring, trimout,
stringing & setup. Paperwork. Communication. This update. As the first
real full work week of the year for Birdsong, to the sounds of
everything from Al Caiola to Aerosmith, every single 14 build that
became 15 got at least its next step and a handful of 15s got their
Only disrupted by the Man In Brown bringing boxes of parts and
supplies, a relocation of our internet tower for better signal, and a
surprise visit by my old buddy who used to have a Mopar only junkyard
coming by to see if I'd sell him the ol' '48 Plymouth project back, it
was a VERY productive week on the benches. I do feel bad when a good man
drives an hour out into the hills in the rain only to be denied, but
sometimes that's life and we all have our turns at that wheel. It's my
turn to man the wheel of the '48 for a while. To do what I do with my
old cars - get them running and drive them to fun places. I only drive
old cars; that's my world. I drive the same kinds I drove 20 years ago
and they were old then. I like vehicles from the '60s and '70s... my
youngest is a Ford van from 1983, but it's basically the same van they
were selling in the mid '70s and I customized it as such. That '48 may
be a bigger project than others before it and I'd have liked to have had
it running to take the man for a ride instead of jacked up with the
engine & wiring stripped out, but that's part of the process of progress
as well. Sometimes if there's a bunch that needs fixing it's got to get
a little uglier before it gets better. That's life too.
Johnny's shop got really ugly before going back together in its
current form years ago. I still call it Johnny's shop because despite it
being left behind in the big-picture soul movin' on of my mentor, and
yours truly cutting the whole thing into '74 pickup sized sections of
wall and floor structure with a sawzall and chainsaw like some deranged
hillbilly and hauling by the load to be rebuilt where it is now by a
circle of friends, I'm merely its custodian. Like the tools of
grandfathers and the old cars that were once driven off showroom floors,
I just have 'em for now as long as my body holds me. I fix
them up for another tour of duty and guide them in making something
happen. As tasks they were led to me (or I to them, or both) because I
was "that guy" in that moment to turn them back into tools. They weren't
finished so long as somebody took some action. They were not destined to
be trinkets or junk or scrap quite yet, they just needed a little moving
and a lot of mercy. The process isn't pretty and sometimes damn near
kills you, and sometimes wisdom requires you just walk away, but now and
then you can breathe new life into something good. We're all
"that guy" a few times in life to what & who is around us, and I think -
for me at least - its part of how I justify my existence along the way.
Do someone good and make something happen. I'll be out in the
shop if you need me.
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Al Caiola Italian Gold; Aerosmith Rocks;
John Williams Spanish Guitar Music; Grateful Dead Grateful
Dead; Meat Loaf Bat Out Of Hell; Eric Clapton's Rainbow
It's always auspicious
to start the year's first workshop morning
looking at a piece of wood with a musical note in it. It's a crack
unfortunately, but I'll work around it. It's just nice that it's there
for now. A good omen. This is a thick top for a very special guitar
What the heck happened in here the last part of '14?! Oh yeah...
Next up for routing -
Mesquite Cortobass, Walnut "Scott Shortbass" and
Maple Birdsong guitar.
Next up for body edge sanding
and into routing... all kinds of goodness
led by two Walnut Fusions and a lefty rainbow Cortobass!
And look what slipped into the lineup this week...
The Especial, the custom model played by Marciano Cantero of Los
Enanitos Verdes! Some of you may not have heard of them but, believe me,
anywhere rock happens and Spanish is spoken, these guys are HUGE and
have been for decades. And you will not find a more down-to-Earth rock
star than Marciano. El Especial has been toured and used in the studio
and he loves it. It is a nice blend of Cortobass and Fusion... a popular
blend for custom orders now its own model for 2015.
More info on The Birdsong Basses
More on Marciano and the band Los Enanitos Verdes:
I also snuck this update
up here on Wednesday because I'm tearing into the workshop for the
rest of the week. Got some good prep work done including a wood shopping
trip... now I need a little more cleanup and a couple of tool
replacements that are on their way. We just wore some stuff out in 2014,
I tell you what. Looking forward to doing it again this year!
Ok, back into the sawdust go I.
Rockin' AND rollin',
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Raising Sand;
John Williams Spanish Guitar Music; and lots of Delta
Blues! (Mississippi Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside, etc.)
Happy New Year!
In deep cleaning & organizing, getting ready to crank up Birdsong
for 2015. Took a little break over Christmas and New Years but I'm back
in the shop, piles everywhere, getting my work for the first part of
2015 together and ready to get after. What a great year this is going to
be - the little green workshop, the music, the smell of the wood, the
feel of the tools in the hands... and the basses and guitars destined to
be born out of all of this in the coming year.
Just before the break, I received a wonderfully packed bunch of HP
sauce! I love this stuff, it's a brown sauce from the UK, can be very
difficult to find. And there are a number of across-the-pond clients who
KNOW I love the stuff. As there was no direct return address, it's a
mystery which sent the latest bottles... but CHEERS to you!
And, before I jump
back into the calls and all, here is a quote from a really cool
guy who recently had his first Birdsong experience... none other than
Matt Malley of Counting Crows fame!
"Finally - a shortscale bass that isn't a toy... I love that bass
more than anything."
Thank YOU Matt - for flying Birdsong, for all the music you helped
make that has been the soundtrack to peoples' lives, and for all those
great bass lines I ripped off from you back in my gigging days!
So folks, I'm ready to talk -
call with any questions and let's get you in the que for 2015 if
that's where you want to be - it looks like it's going to be a busy
year! I can't thank you enough... so I'll just pour it all into the
You all stay funky and I'll see you next Friday.
Captain Of The Ship