The Birdsong Basses
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Wimberley, TX 78676
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Shipped this week:
While whittling on your basses
(and in the times between said whittles) I've had a batch of
musical experiences this week I'd like to share. First off, I went to this huge-by-large legendary Austin TX car gathering
last weekend and I want to tell you about some music that kicked my butt
like a clutch-pop in a dual quad big block. If you don't know what any of
that meant, it's ok - you can still come into the clubhouse.
Though some of the lyrics
took a certain amount of hubris to deliver with
a straight face, their music was a great blend of blues-rock-influenced James Brown type
soul-funk-goodness... I stood and watched Barfield The Tyrant for a half
hour... and you know it probably took a good sized sack of awesomeness for
me to stand there with oh, say,
2000 hot rods and custom cars from all
over the country behind me. The frontman was laying it on thick with Hound
Dog Taylor-style stage banter ("Thank you, baby!" to the whole
crowd), the guitar
player was really happening, drummer had a good groove... but the bass player
just knocked me out.
Mostly I want to give props to this guy on the far right - an absolutely
fundamentally rock solid groovemaster of a bass man. I think he said his
name was Mike Keller, freelances in Austin. Bad... to... the... bone. Go
hear this guy play some fingerstyle James Brownian groove - you'll pick your 'fro in
I got to see one of my favorite guitar players too,
and had no idea I did
until I got home and looked up the band name. Grady. I knew I was digging
that HUGE guitar tone and the whole bluesy Texas stoner rock riff thing going
on, but being completely oblivious to the Austin scene with my head down
and woodchips flying for the past dozen or so years, I had no clue I was watching
a bearded Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar backed
up by the rhythm section of Dixie Witch. (Here's Big
Sugar back in the day. They had a great album called 500 Pounds. Man,
I've built a lot of stuff to the sound of this dude's guitar...)
No wonder they tore the roof off the sky
and caused the earth to tremble.
In another life I'd stalk this guy to be his bass player. That's obviously
a different life than the one where I'm a jazz chord-melody guitar pro...
and also the one where I'm Segovia. The
last time I unknowingly got to experience one of my favorite players
close-up whilst having no idea was around 2000 when I jammed with Michael
from the psychedelic-era band Fever Tree; a guitar player I'd been trying to find
for years. I kept right on looking after the jam 'til some time later I
put two and two together.
And then, of course, there's Johnny Cash's new album. Yeah I know
he's long gone, but the beauty of art is that our departed favorites
aren't really gone - they are like gardens that keep feeding us and
re-seeding themselves in our lives. Well, his son found an old reel and on
it was an album that didn't come out. You know what? It's good. It's a
Johnny Cash album. Any critic who will bemoan it not having any
"Folsom Prison Blues" legacy tracks on it can, quite frankly and
completely, get behind me and pucker up. Critics will never contribute to
the world nor be remembered by it the ways a man like Johnny Cash is, has
been, and will continue to be. At the risk of being mildly crude, I'll
offer that even a legendary and very entertaining critic of Lester Bangs
quality isn't even fit to carry Mr. Cash's nuts in a spoon. Just go buy -
Out Among The Stars and enjoy this unexpected new blossom in the
garden. I'm loving it... I'll give it a definite four prison-gig middle
fingers out of five. Speaking of blossoms...
Lastly, music for the eyes - it's Bluebonnet season here, a sure
sign of Springdom. A picture can't convey the beauty of rolling fields and
rural road shoulders full of these little beauties out here on the
backroads of the world, but I can tell you it makes me feel good and I
hope it brings some of that to your world, wherever it is and whatever it
may look like right now.
Next week, shop pics
as I start in on a little batch of Fusions and take the 10th Anniversary
Corto2 to the next level...
And that's the dirt, Bert!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Johnny Cash Out Among The Stars; Budgie
Bandolier; and some Queens Of The Stone Age.
Shipped this week:
April 1st is the second most important day to me, second only to the
July 4th Birdsong birthday. April Fool's Day was the day I handed over the
key to a little music shop in Melrose, Massachusetts in the year 2000.
That was the day I had not only climbed out but went over the wall. That
was truly the first day of the rest of my life; that chapter began in 1995
when I handed over a different key and drove out of a different driveway
and out to Interstate 35, at that time my new home. The van's name was
Spirit Of The Wind. By 1997 I was 2000 miles away starting my first
business, a little music shop. It was what I added up to.
In 2000 I came back to Texas in a different van, the noble ship of
freedom Blue Moon. That's when a new man with an old van and a better plan
started building his world, 2x4 by 2x4, tool by tool, day by day, and
eventually guitar by guitar. Just as with July 4th, I try to schedule some
coming major event for that day specifically... so Tuesday after getting
the daily progress on basses & guitars happening, I went into the
recording studio to start on a few projects. What will happen with that
stuff, who knows... but quoth John Lee Hooker "It's in him, and it's
got ta come out. Let that boy boogie woogie."
year's ride to this weekend's shindig...
I slipped this update up on Thursday, big hot rod gathering in Austin
this weekend... I'll be there. Maybe next year the '48 will be road ready
and I'll drive that. This time though, just me and the old Econoline van
(this one is "Stardust") camping out with other motorheads from
all over by the main events. (Look up "Lone Star Roundup"). This
weekend is my gift to myself for 14 years of focus, sweat, being steady at
the helm of my own life and not letting any random bastards get me down or
anything veer me off the path... and let this all be an inspiration to you
who may have a general direction and a goal that feels like home. Fight
the good fight every day, one step closer, walk it to you with every
decision. And most of all, embrace the moment whatever it brings and live
it. It's a piece of the puzzle, whether it all turns into a hot rod or a
bass guitar or a workshop or a happy life. These are results; they don't
just happen. This weekend? Van trip, freedom and hot rod cars.
But don't be surprised if you see some new model or some little
custom detail that looks vaguely like that curve of an old wheel well or
accent line that's vaguely reminiscent of something on an old car; this is
a major source of inspiration, of design components, of curves and
concepts and how things fit & flow together. And let's face it,
inspiration is a glorious spore that spreads onto and into everything you
do... so the day a chair under the Texas sky with a cold one in my hand in
a sea of car nuts and their hand built rides doesn't inspire me, somebody
better check me for a pulse.
And that's the ride, Clyde!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: John Scofield Still Warm; Miles Davis
Kind of Blue. And (believe it or not) I've got this double CD set of
what I can only describe as "Chinese restaurant music" I got in
San Francisco I've listened to for years. I love it. Kotos and zhengs are
Still available, make offer, see inventory.
You might wonder about a typical day, but no two are the same.
I can, however, tell you this...
When you wake up before dawn from the morning nap, give your thanks
& do some stretches and write some business papers, throw on
yesterday's jeans (day one just breaks them in you know) and today's shirt
(Los Enanitos Verdes! It's important to put on shirts of meaning to do
meaningful work), answer a couple of emails and check some things online,
gather the camera and keys and cheater glasses because I'll be wiring
today, then fire up the flavor of the day (it feels like a cruise in the
Valiant day - I'm so happy to have brought this car back to life and just
this month really turned the corner to where it's no longer a project I'll
eventually drive, but "my car" that I'll occasionally work on,
replacing the worn out '69 Dart) and drive the 40 minutes into the San
Marcos shop in a rumbling '67 Plymouth Valiant with a V8 and dual
When the list you leave for yourself before you left last time gets a
couple of things added to it so you put on some John Scofield and get
after it, the high point being to fit the pickup, wire, nut & string
and do a preliminary setup to a Bliss made of solid figured Hawaiian Koa,
and while this and other things get checked off the list Brady's helper (www.bradybass.com,
he's growing into the San Marcos shop after building in there for a few
years) tells this amazing story about an (another) Austin music venue
cultural landmark going under to make way for more condos, and the venue's
piano the last patrons push out to - and down - the street, all through
the wee hours for three miles, across the bridge, stopping for jam
sessions along the way, to get the piano to its new home... that's Austin
right there, folks. Do the jokes not write themselves? Yes, they do. So I
offered that there's the brute force method to anything, and then the
smart way... one might say the "Neanderthal way" and the "Einsteinway"...
this resulted in a three-way back and forth of piano puns. (It's the back
and forth that's key.) (Sorry.)
All the while answering calls, listing parts for the next orders,
laying out wood for an SD Curlee build, ordering packing material, and
fending off aggressive solicitors for everything from monogrammed pens to
"listing updates" (sir I respect you have to work too but nobody
with that accent has ever been named Henry, so we're not off to a good
start here), to grouping for oil well investment ("Well just answer
this Mr. Scott - is a hundred thousand out of the question?") Oy vey...
When the return trip takes you by the post office and there's a check
for a balance on one bass and go-ahead to start another because the
client's so happy this is good. And a musical instrument catalog which is
always fun because (surprise) I love guitars & basses, even the
predictable and pedestrian of the breed I find beautiful. I could read
descriptions and look at pictures of Strats & Les Pauls and Jazz
Basses and assorted other orbiting models from other companies all day
long. Well, not all day... there's another list of fun things to do at the
homestead workshop! But wait, there's more - I wrote a song on the way
home, too. It's a sure hit... you just wait. It's called "I'd Rather
Slam My Dick In a Window Than Open The Door For You"...
Green shop, truly Birdsong World Headquarters. Rout some rear
cavities! Gather templates & notes for the next batch of basses to
start on - a flock of Fusions. Nice. Get back to sanding to fit &
mounting three now-finished necks onto three now-finished bodies, noting
anything missing under my assembly bench I might need to bring here
tomorrow to do a put-together round on all three. Note it on paper, on
tomorrow's list. Too much going on for little things to remember. I have
to remember to stop and eat, that's what I need to remember. Drink water.
Change the CD when it's on its fourth play through. So I roll up the dirt
road, run Maggie the dog around a bit, grab a half of a peanut butter
& homemade jalapeno jelly on wheat and we go to work in the green
shop. On goes Eric Clapton's There's One In Every Crowd. I wonder if a guy
like Clapton's ever written a song like mine... probably not.
Once that list is done I force myself to stop. That's enough. About
that time Jamie rolls in from her day and we get supper going while I
answer a few more emails. Kulimar Behoovest wants to transfer ten million
dollars from a deceased banker into my account ("Dear Hello To friend
you, in purest confidence I Contact...") and all he needs is my
personal info, wow. Yeah I'll bite on that, pal. Right. But there are more
emails from clients who got their basses and are thrilled, and that's what
this is all about. Ten years man, ten years and counting! All over the
world from these little workshops. They look & feel like basses but
they're happiness. They're inspiration. I'm honored.
(A favorite wine opening device - simply incredible design work.)
When you finish the evening with a little wine, The Band, Tom Waits,
and some cheese & chips (Cheddar & kettle style) on the porch,
that is a day my friends. Time to look at pictures of guitars and maybe if
sleep won't come take in a documentary on space exploration or watch the
guys from Hot Rod bolt a truck turbo on a Chevy V6 in an old 240Z... watch
a Joe Pass video... as they say, stick a fork in me - I'm done. Tomorrow
will be another shuffled deck full of adventures. I can't wait.
Here's the 10th Anniversary bass this week...
And that's the plan, Stan!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Eric Clapton There's One In Every Crowd; Tom
Waits Frank's Wild Years; John Scofield Still Warm; The Band
Music From Big Pink.
I'm honored, but we have to stop this before things get serious.
Somebody... somebody with little fuzzy wings, to be exact... has been
sneaking into the workshop and setting up little twigs in a nest-like
fashion over the past few days, in a little cubby where I keep the random
orbital sander. I truly am honored, I love birds. Out here in the woods
they are a part of the magic to me. And the irony of this one picking the
Birdsong nest as a place for theirs is not lost on me. Years ago I
remember there were birds that nested in Uncle Johnny's shop for years -
in a similar spot but up much higher. Once they'd show up, he'd leave a
window cracked open for them. A number of little birds learned how to fly
in his old shop, and that I relate to as well. This, however, is not a
safe place for little mama to be building a nest - I'll carefully put the
twigs outside by the door so she can reuse them.
This one was just started, but already the pieces are deliberately
placed and intertwined in this amazing little circle of craftsmanship.
That they do this all instinctually just blows my mind... we - with
rational thought and mathematics and IQ quotient and thumbs and size -
most of us couldn't even feed ourselves if the grocery store went away.
It's been said that all of power in this world works in circles; and all
who work in circles understand the powers of this world. Me? I'm just
amazed at what these little beings do without tools.
Speaking of tools, here are some of my favorites.
On the left is an old small adjustable wrench I picked up at a garage
sale from an old farmer - I use it some on instruments and some on the
shop tools. Then there are the Fiskars, gifted to me by a guy who helped
out in the shop for a couple of years, 3D. I had no idea these existed,
but for flush cutting & trimming things like wire ends soldered
through components and side dot material, they're the greatest. I think
these were his father's... honored to have them and keep them working. The
tapered reamer finalizes hole sizes, fixes holes in components that don't
come correctly sized for other components from the same company that are
supposed to fit in to begin with, and just generally does its thing as a
perfect example of a "Right tool for the job", because if you're
doing what this does with anything else, it's probably not working nearly
as well and it's taking you five times longer to do it as un-well as it's
The tiny needle nose pliers are my fingers in a crowded control
cavity when I'm wiring up the pots and switches. I bought these at a yard
sale in Melrose, Massachusetts years back. The pocketknife came from an
Army surplus place in Saugus, MA. These days it cleans out nut slots,
opens wrapped components, and pokes out the jack hole in freshly
copper-lined control cavities. Heh heh, "jackhole." It's a
fairly aggressive tool for such work, but if I ever get accosted during
such tasks, I'm ready. The next picture is of a little ruler in
millimeters... the greatest invention ever for small scale precision work.
Believe me, you want me routing to 16mm or shifting something a half of
one rather than tying my brain in knots figuring out what's between
27/64ths and 17/32nds. Some of you might say using millimeters is
un-American, just another long slow slide into pure old-fashioned
Communism. And I'd say you need a hobby. Sometimes if we just sit around
and stew in our own juices we start climbin' up our own butts.
Speaking of which, just a personal note since I do have this podium
and believe it or not though it's not "cool" these days I do
care about you, you are reading this and you probably think I'm an alright
guy with some kind of sense or you wouldn't be here reading what I
have to say... not to generalize but most of you are male and within a
decade on either side of me (I'm 45). Brothers, there'll come a time
you should get your colonoscopy and just get it over with. I had one the
other day, it was nothing to be scared of, it was nothing to be ashamed
of. They're all pros and we're all adults, and it could save your life. I
want you happy and inspired and playing a whole collection of Birdsongs,
SD Curlees, Hy5s and the stuff I do on the side. But if you're sick 'cause
you didn't want anybody messing with your butt, that's a poor-ass excuse
for not being able to fly Birdsong and make music with your friends. If I
can do it, you can do it. Go get it done. You're probably fine, and
there's a kind of a buzz that comes with any clean bill of health that'll
inspire you too. If you need a pep talk, call me. Life's hard enough
without having to worry about things you shouldn't have to be worrying
about. Just a little personal note to you from Brother
Over the next few weeks
I'll show you some more of my favorite tools and, as always, share
something completely random yet somehow related. When life is luthiery and
luthiery is your life, it's all related. But I guess that's all
I'll also be sharing pictures
of the 10th Anniversary bass, in process in the workshop...
And that's the ROM, Tom!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step; Smashing
Pumpkins Gish; Bucky & John Pizzarelli Passionate Guitars;
Radiohead OK Computer; Gordon Lightfoot Gord's Gold.
("Carefree Highway"... Scott's #1 choice for songs to kick off a
road trip to.)
This is Uncle Johnny's old Delta drill press.
Though I respect and bond with all of my tools, this one probably
means the most to me. When I used to go to Johnny's workshop out in the
woods, it was the first thing I'd see as I swung the big door open. Johnny
wasn't my uncle, but he was my woodworking mentor... and he gave me
a corner to start a little guitar company in. When he died, I knew that
tool belonged in my shop; it's the highest respect you can pay the legacy
of a teacher, to keep their tools working. I can't tell you how many
miniature oil lamps he bored out with this thing. I can tell you
it's drilled thousands of string-through and neck holes in Birdsongs. It weighs about a
hundred pounds and is an absolute bitch and a half to move. I want you to
look closely at where it is.
It's in a workshop in the woods, where it belongs.
My workshop in the woods. Where I belong.
Yes friends, over the past few months, tool by tool and task by task,
a little bit at a time, more and more of the process by which a pile of
parts and planks of wood become a Birdsong bass has been happening in a
place of much magic, out in the woods where these singing birds' ancestors
gave me the name for the guitars I was building, bass I was designing, and
- though I didn't know it at 31 - my future. So though my designing &
building dates back to the '90s and a little music shop in Massachusetts,
Birdsong the instruments date back to a little corner of Johnny's shop in
the Texas Hill Country, and Birdsong the company dates to July 4th of 2004
when we launched this site and the Cortobass... Birdsong the name and much
of its flavor dates to 2000 and the dawning sunrises of a new chapter for
me living on the land. I named the company after the music that I
awoke to every morning.
When you have a hit song,
an analogy very close to what happened with Birdsong - let's call it a
"small hit", maybe opening act status - you owe it to all that
caused and helped and taught and nourished this thing to get off the
ground to run that mother through the gears and throw your all at it. To
let it grow as it wants, to become what its destiny is. It is a path full
of compromises and challenges, but you grow into the new day's role for
you and the ride is amazing in ways so much deeper than decimal points and
more fulfilling than fame, even relative, niche-corner-market fame. It
builds you as you build it. But it comes down to, for me, do I grow again
into a more factory-type arrangement or do I take it down a notch and keep
it magical... if you know me, you know that was a no-brainer. We came from
the green shop to the big shop four years ago. Four years is a chapter of
education... so what have I learned? And of what use is it if I don't then
Along the ride it's important to stay grounded
and aimed for your personal True North... to keep connected to the
parts of what you do that hold the magic, and not let the rest of it all
diminish that magic. For me - and thus for Birdsong - right now, with the
music playing over in the green shop (Today it's Jerry Cantrell's Boggy
Depot), Mahogany dust and chips in places you don't even want to think
about, the sun shining and yes the birds singing, with a couple of Corto2s
on the routing bench, I sit here and take a break to type this and tell
you I am so in love with what I do and I so look forward to Birdsong's
NEXT ten years. Six months ago if you had asked me that, I'm not sure I
could have answered you quite as earnestly. The big shop is great and the time has been
glorious... but increasingly, leading up to our 10th Anniversary in July,
the pictures and scenery will look a bit different as the transition back
to Scott's magical green workshop continues.
Part of why one works for themselves
in the first place is to be doing what you want to be doing; spending
yourself on what you WANT to be spending yourself on in trade for your
living. But it's just as important to be doing what you do where it feels
the most right to be doing it. Where you feel most at home. That's where
the magic is, and that's what makes something already great become
magical. Life changes, lives change, we grow as we go and we either leave
ourselves enough latitude and leash to evolve with these changes or we
start to get stuck and go routine and lose our way... and life starts to
lose its magic. We owe it to this gift of life and blessing of whatever we
have to NOT let this happen.
When change comes to Birdsong
the basses only get better and I only get happier. It happens every
time. There may be a cycle there because for better or worse, in sickness
or in health, these instruments - this whole Birdsong thing - and I are linked. I can't promise "Til death do us
part," that part I just don't know. But for now I know a shop works
best when its tools are where they belong. And this is one tool that now
knows for sure where he belongs.
And that's the drill, Bill!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot; Charlie Haden Nocturne
(one of my favorite Jazz albums); Alice Coltrane
Journey in Satchidananda; Paul Simon There
Goes Rhymin' Simon. (Eclectic? Yes! Life's a buffet; fill your plate.)
|Oh yeah... so what's going on with the
"big" shop? Well, Brady Muckelroy is gathering his
gumption (and a whole lot more) to give it a run in a big shop of
his own! Muckelroy Basses has been sharing the Birdsong space for
a few years and everyone that gets one of his basses is
blown away by them. If you'd like a medium or full scale with a
natural look and wonderfully natural sounding active electronics
(his own preamp design!) to go with your Birdsongs, check out www.bradybass.com
- every order will help a good guy put his dream into 2nd gear -
and a fantastic bass into your hands! A Charger32 neck-through
with the Muckelroy pre and a couple of soapbars is a perfect
companion piece. Tell him you heard about him here!
- a wild Birdsong Custom! This is a sale from in-house of essentially
a new bass from 2012. There's nothing like this out there and there'll
never be another Birdsong like it... three pickups, wild woods, incredible
detail. This as a custom order would be a long wait and a much bigger
check than the $2800 with case it will find a home for... call for the
whole story on this one-of-a-kind Birdsong. 512-395-5126 (no
texts) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Completely hand made - wild Bloodwood, Ebony & figured Maple
body... Maple neck & fingerboard with Abalone dots & flame
Maple headstock. Huge variety of tones & combinations!
For your viewing pleasure:
Three new videos up:
A talk about solid
body wood choice
A demo of a fretless
A peek at some
projects in progress
Hey everybody! Happy Friday. Despite yet another freezing spell, we
got some good stuff done on some great basses this week. Now, a freezing
spell Wimberley, Texas-style would make many of you in the more Winter
prone areas laugh... I'm from Boston, I get it. I was there for the
Blizzard of '78. But here it's a different story. A night below freezing
is an inconvenience we cope with, but the whole infrastructure from the
lay of the roads to the R factor of the walls are designed for the way
things are - usually - for the other 364 days of the year. Above freezing
at least, and usually at least warm enough to get some shop time in with a
little flannel and cap action.
This year I've come out of the casa
to find my cars looking like popsicles four, five times... for two or
three nights at a time. I understand there's a balance at work and I know
those aren't doctored pics of the entire frozen ice cap melting... but I
can tell you it's been a weird winter for the Hill Country in
South-central Texas. I mean I'm three hours from Mexico and I had to
scrape my windshield off again?
Yeah, I know. "Waaah."
You all are digging cars out of snowbanks with your bare hands. You're
having to drive backwards up hills and pee on your locks to get into your
front gate. But you have sidewalks and guard rails and salty roads and
snow tires and lots of other cars to absorb your impact. Between my
homestead and where the main workshop is for now, when the weather is with
me, is twenty something miles of curvy 2-lane with breathtaking views and
plenty of fields and trees. When the weather is against me, it's an hour
of sphincter-puckering combat driving where if you lose it you either go
over the edge to be found days later or you end up mired on the side with
no cell phone service.
The beauty of this latitude,
however, is that no matter how cold it gets, in a day or two it'll at
least be back in the 50s. I'll take that, but I've drifted enough cars
over enough icy roads in my life thank you. I've used up my chips for
last-minute saves, and I'm well in debt in the column of roadside
assistance by everyday angels. So when it rains and freezes, I don't go
anywhere. If I had an Audi Quattro maybe, but when the best ice vehicle
you have is an '83 Ford Econoline... some odds you play, and some you
But I do like taking pictures
of old machines with snow or ice on them - you get the sculpture of
the metal, the color of the paint and patina, and the texture of this
other ingredient that also seems to give a context. It's a lot easier to
think there's a story in a picture of a snowy fender than a sunny one.
Maybe that's just me, I don't know. But a sprinkling of snow or an icicle
or two is like a pinch of emotion into your picture stew. So here are some
artsy shots of frosted vehicles.
And that's the weather, Heather!
Captain Of The Ship
Grateful Dead Live/Dead;
Dred Scott Trio Standards 2000 (I love this album - five stars from
Scott! Or five pizza slices. That's how good it is.)
2005 special order Cortobass in Alder on consignment - client says
to give someone a deal, was up for $1695 - NOW ON
SALE FOR $SOLD! 512-395-5126.
(Call - I don't text.)
Had a new Birdsong family member call and ask about this single
humbucker prototype... usually with stuff like this someone says
"Yeah, that'll be mine!" and then it gets finished. If you (or
anyone else) would like it finished up as yours, I could have it ready in
30 days - $1475... call for details.
And... just got word the two ancient Kauri wood & Cocobolo
Cortobasses are for sale by HD Custom Guitars - these are new,
they're a dealer. Look on Ebay for items # 291091344127 and
Like navigating by star cluster, it's always good to check where you
are in relation to where you're headed, and thus have some idea of any
course correction you might need to take to ultimately get wherever it is
you want to go. Music is my star cluster. It draws me towards my True
North. It gives me a tune up that washes away the daily dust and allows me
to see and think more clearly. I'm not talking the words, I'm talking the
deep stuff - the rhythms, the rivers of notes, and even inward beyond that
to the way - like a note on a piano makes the hanging guitar ring
sympathetically on the wall across the room - the vibration of the music
affects the vibration of "the ME." I am the guitar hanging on
the wall. But sometimes, I can be the piano...
In a nutshell, regardless of how it all came to be, if it's all atoms
there is space there. Space within held together by or holding
together the tiniest particles' movement; by vibration. And vibration is
sound. So that screen you're looking at is made up of little vibrating
particles. Such vibration might give us, with our senses and perceptions,
the illusion of something solid. But vibration is not solid. Vibration is
movement. Sound is made when something vibrates and everything is
vibrating together. That's big music. It might not be arranged like a
Beatles tune, but it doesn't know that. And here's the thing - that skin
bag you see in the mirror? It's made of the same stuff. So now we have a
choice... vibrate harmoniously or vibrate in dissonance. You can't change
it all or even conduct the symphony of it. But you can tune up what's
inside you, thereby what's around you with your big note of the moment.
And then life changes at its most fundamental level.
I see music - and potential harmony - in everything. There are
people I barely speak with because they only move in circles of conflict
and disharmony, and the resulting cycles of their lives are nothing I wish
to be a part of. The perspectives of the fly in the web are not going to
get me where I want to go. Vibration and music say to me "Don't
analyze me, come fly with me." I don't listen to the long jams of the
Grateful Dead because, "Oh my God - it's Jerry!"... I listen
because in the moment rivers of notes flow and combine and stack together
something that just as quickly changes into something else, also in
layers, and in this magic I find the God in IT. That is what life is to
me. So its soundtracks tend to have harmony with that, even if the tunes
at times seem meandering or chaotic. For example, Jazz is not so much a
technical exercise for my entertainment but a transcendent electricity for
my enlightenment. I'm not listening for some bumper sticker hook line; I'm
feeling so much water flow over me. Sometimes I like rapids and a dose of
Coltrane is in order; other times still waters run deep and some dub
reggae will do. When I listen to Aerosmith I'm driving a '70s musclecar
with mirrored Aviators... it's a contextual thing. But the most important
music to me - though I do love so much of its so many forms - is the music
between what I am and what I do. Whatever in the moment helps these to
harmonize, that's what's on whether it's The Fixx or Sonny Rollins or the
drummers of Burundi. It's ALL "the fix."
You might see it as a battle or a dance but it's music. You might feel
it like rain or sunshine but it's music. You might know it as a '48
Plymouth or a lover's hand but it's music. Once you know this you can
never UN-know it; only ignore it. And to ignore it relegates you to being
reactive to the waves of disharmony flowing - or pushed - at you. To keep
it in mind is a star or two to navigate by. To work with it is to feel
"the magic." You become the piano. To help in the manifestation
of tools to summon and serenade with it is a calling. To make one's way
through this world and this life by designing and crafting these tools is
the most divine thing I have ever known. The potential inherent in a
musical tool in inspired hands is far beyond what I, a mere drop of spirit
soul and bag of vibration, could possibly have the hubris to box up and
define for you just because I may see it one way. It's between you and the
space. Go fill it with something.
And that's the way, Jay.
Captain Of The Ship
Grateful Dead Live/Dead;
a variety of New Orleans "Brass band" Jazz;
some great Eastern-inspired electronica.
A Journey Through The Past... not just an obscure Neil Young project,
but this week at the workshop! In addition to all the new stuff we work on
(you can peek at what's been started on the Current
Builds page), I've had the privilege of working on a handful of
instruments from my past.
Long before Birdsong was even a name I was building under - let
alone a company - I was designing and putting together some really
outside-the-box instruments. I couldn't have cared less about what Leo
Fender did or what the "correct" pickup for a given position was
or that anything "wouldn't work"... I was too busy
experimenting, turned loose in a new world of parts and questions. One of
the designs of that time that really worked - amazingly well - was an
ergonomic little 24" scale guitar I called "The Bean." I
honed my building chops on these so they were a little crude in execution.
But boy, what personality! The one on the left is mine, I still play it
all the time. On the right, that was just sold by the original owner and I
got to tune 'n tweak it before passing it along. These two hadn't seen
each other in a long, long time...
After that, in the next phase - the "corner of a friend's
workshop" chapter, when I was living in a truck parked out in the raw
Texas "Hill Country" woods... ("Returning to the earth like
a seed to regerminate," I believe I referred to it at the time...) my
rustic shop-having friend helped me turn my guitars into artwork with some
woodcrafting mentorship while I helped him turn his woodcraft art into
guitars. He didn't make that many - he didn't have that many years left.
But here's one of his lap steels I had the chance to restring &
My little side chapter of lap steels (Texas
Lap Steels) came much later, so it was very interesting to see one of
his with these newer eyes. This is a pretty good steel; I took
measurements & specs on it while it was here, and I remember helping
him with the pickup & wiring options.
That workshop, by the way, ended up being pickup trucked to my
homestead in big pieces where it was put back together and serves as an
assembly / adjustment / office and general musical hangout room. So some
of what I build here 14 years later is still being worked on "in
Johnny's shop", I do the updates from here, and this lap steel got to
rest on my bench in sunlight coming through Johnny's windows in the place
- albeit reconfigured - of its birth. I sometimes feel similar to that
myself in here.
And I've been doing more and more work in my absolutely magical
homestead workshop, built by a circle of brothers & sisters about 7
years ago. To do this I've been rearranging things and some of them have a
little history... take these two. The first is an obvious prototype of
what became the Cortobass. But this was before Birdsong was even a
flirtatious gesture. Crude but good enough in every other way that I sold
all my long scale basses and committed to short scale as soon as it was up
& playable. And the one next to it? That's the Hound Dog Taylor of
guitars! It's the Blues Dawg, the first guitar I ever built. Raw? You bet.
But the beginning of so much...
Being as this July 4th is Birdsong's "official" 10th
Anniversary - which to me is just huge - you might see these relics again
this Summer... maybe a few more, too. Almost a shame for them to just be
hanging on the walls or tucked away in dust covered cases. Stay tuned...
Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane. Nostalgia sure
isn't what it used to be!
And that's what's on, John.
Captain Of The Ship
John Lee Hooker; Luciano Pavarotti Pavarotti Forever,
Grateful Dead, Live Dead; Basic Blues
Miles Davis Kind of Blue;
Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac.
More videos to come on the YouTube channel - a Fusion demo, a talk
about the effect of body wood choice (I get asked about this a lot) and
other things. Keep watching & subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/user/WingfeatherWorkshop
Going to talk about some basses this week...
First up, a very special Bliss. Now, Blisses ("Blii?") are
very special to begin with... hand carved scroll on the upper horn, super
high output wide frequency German pickup, single piece figured wood
body... our flagship. Our top of the line. Not cheap, not quick, and not
anything you'll ever pull out of the case and be asked what Guitar Center
you bought it from. And even amongst that small number we'll build, this
one is special.
The client has a major thing for Hawaii and Koa wood, so this bass has
a body sculpted from a single piece of incredibly figured Hawaiian Koa.
That same chunk also provided the center of the 3-piece set-in neck and we
took a piece and shaved it into a veneer for the headstock. This is just
the first coat of oil finish, too - 8 or 9 more and in sunlight it'll look
like the 4th of July.
Now back to our roots... in for sale is Cortobass #10 from early 2005.
The first out the door was #002, so this is actually the 9th one sold.
Alder body, Maple neck with Rosewood fretboard, the old-style hand
woodburned logo, not all together that different than one you'd order
This was our first rear routed bass, too... being offered by the
original owner who isn't playing as much these days. He's keeping his
Last but not least, check out the Kauri wood Cortobass pair. These
Cortobi are soon to be available at www.hdcustomguitarsupply.com.
These are the only two we've made out of this ancient wood. This Kauri is
ancient, preserved in frigid water off of New Zealand for some 50,000
Logs are brought up and milled, and then
this rare wood finds craftspeople to make beautiful things out of it...
but ours will sing, too! Nice light weight, beautiful golden amber iridescent
glow, and a story to tell the grandkids about. As a beautiful touch, I
made the control plates & truss rod covers of matching Cocobolo. What
a treat for wood fans! Get in touch with HD Custom to pick one for
yourself or as a gift for someone really special - these basses are one of
a kind, even though there's two of them.
And that's the word, bird. Happy Valentine's day everyone!
Captain Of The Ship
Allman Brothers The Road Goes On Forever; Aerosmith Pandora's
Box disc 1; Grateful Dead Dick's Picks Vol. 3; Hound Dog
Taylor, John Lee Hooker, and assorted Delta Blues cats.
Hi everybody! It's below freezing and lightly raining again, the sort
of precipitation our old friend Johnny used to call "Misticating."
So the heater in the homestead work-on-guitars & office space is
whispering its warm air, there's a blue heeler curled up over on the
couch, and there's a creamy mug of hot chocolate involved. It's been a
great, very productive week and now it's update:30 my friends; happy
We have a YouTube channel where we post videos, the Wingfeather
Workshop channel. The latest will be kind of a curve ball for some of you,
it's a video of yours truly demoing a D'Aquila Bluenote guitar. This is a
little guitar building venture with right hand man Jake where we decided
to get together on a batch of Jake's guitars and get 'em out there (I've
got three of his personal builds, I can vouch for them). This is one of
that batch and it's ready to go. These will be some pretty rare beasts so
if you want what I consider - and I'm absolutely not shitting you - the
best guitar in the world, jump on it. If I didn't think it was that, I'd
just say it was "...a good guitar." There are plenty of good
guitars to play around with; this is the kind of guitar you marry.
Speaking of which, well well - that was quite a superbowl! Wife
Jamie & I went to a little place for Mexican food, multiple screens
and hoppy libations. Neither of us is an active sports fan so early on we
chose teams and bet whoever lost would cook a really nice dinner Thursday
night. Given the choice 5 or 6 minutes into the game (though would it
mattered had it even been 1?) and almost always siding with the underdog,
I spoke valiantly. "I'll take the orange team." Hyeeah... so
while I don't claim to know jack crap about betting on football, I will
say the stuffed roasted red peppers with Thai-wine-cream sauce sided with
cold fruit-stuffed roasted jalapenos under butter-cream-brandy sauce and
sweet port was a dinner that was a winner.
So much about instrument voicing (and design if we move the analogy
into the visual realm) parallels cooking. There are many who can slap a
burger on a grill but high end vegetarian cuisine is a bit trickier. You
can probably trust a guy who'll combine (among other things) Sriracha,
port wine, apples and peppers roasted over an open flame - served both hot
and cold - on the same dish to make you a flavorful tone machine. A recipe
is a recipe and good cooks have their own, they don't always paint by
numbers. Combine what's needed with what you think would be interesting
layered in, bring the best out of your basic ingredients themselves before
combining them, and be daring in your sauce making - much of it is in
balancing the flavors as you blend them. Make it with love and serve it
Speaking of which here's a little something else we've got cooking...
#C288 is a beautiful dark chocolate Walnut Corto2 just awaiting pickups
and some warm sounding yet clear D'Addario flats. It'll be done and ready
to ship this month to someone wanting an "easy fretless" with
lines... I'm no great fretless player but I could go play a gig with one
like this tonight. So user-friendly with the lined board! It's got that
really nice premium Ebony board, a body matching Walnut headstock, and
chrome hardware (I always forget how well it sets off Walnut since so many
choose black with it) to make this a really classy dish visually.
Tone-wise there's no comparison to any other short scale, just float a
search for Birdsong. We have some pretty good recipes and this is one of
the best! It's now available at $2400 including case &
continental USA shipping (worldwide at extra cost), as usual with a money
Well it's time to do a little tweaking on the SD
Curlee site and the Hy5 Basses
site, TCB (Elvis lingo) with some paperwork, and email & chat with
some of you today about basses and guitars, builds past & present...
and maybe some in the immediate future! Have fun, eat something good, and
turn your ears on with some good music. Feed your soul - body - mind in
that order and I'll catch you later!
And that's the know, bro.
Captain Of The Ship
Allman Brothers The Road Goes On Forever; Larry Carlton On Solid
Ground; Count Basie This Time by Basie (God I love this big
band stuff - another complex flavor that, given time, I found the taste
for. So grateful...)
Yep, we skipped a week in update-land. Last Friday bisected two weeks
in which we had two freezes and one computer breakdown. January always has
its kinks to work out and this one has been no different. Right after
dethawing from the first freeze, the computer went down. Well, it didn't
really go down - I'll get to that. The next freeze, just a few days ago,
found said computer ready to be picked up at the repair shop... but I was
iced in at the homestead. Which around these parts (south central Texas)
is pretty well something! Heck that first freeze actually got us some
snow! Well, not real snow... but enough for the entire region to shut
down. All those bubbas in the big pickup trucks? They were getting pulled
out of ditches left and right. Austin reported 40 wrecks an hour. I'm from
Boston - this is laughable. But hey a snow day is a snow day!
Snow days remind me of being a kid. We'd listen to the radio for a
list of school closures while the plows scraped by outside, walling in
driveways, and when they call your town you do a dance, a little kid
dance, maybe an impromptu song with some gestures that invite stern
reprimand. That's when it was the best. In later years the payback was
"Well since you're home, go shovel the stairs."
"But Ma, it's still snowin'!"
"Well then you can get some practice in for later on."
I hated shoveling, even when I pretended I was a Mack truck. My
stepfather, however, lived for times like this. Because when it snowed and
we were plowed in, Jay got to fire up one of his machines. That's who he
was at his core - a man who knew how to fix machines and which machine
would fix the problem at hand. Primed and tuned and ready in his garage
was a nine horse Ariens ("The Cadillac ah snow blowahs.")...
he'd put a 12 horsepower engine on it. It would blow snow onto the
I don't know what's sadder, that I wrote this in a notebook because
morning had revealed a computer that thought it was brand new with nothing
in it, or that I've been waxing all Winter nostalgic over about 1/4"
of frosty frozen rain. It's not even snow; it's a very thin slurpee. The
only flake around here is yours truly. Hey, if my computer wants to be
born again, that's fine. But then I had to risk neck and limb to get it to
someone that can help it reintegrate back into its life. Someone who can
help it balance its "Brand new day" with the same old Friday
it's needed for. Here a road frozen with ice is roughly akin to traversing
the frozen tundra of Bering Sea-side Alaska, where you really CAN see
Russia from there, it's colder than a well digger's ass at least 364 days
a year, and when it really gets cold your pee will tinkle down onto said
tundra in tiny, yellow cubes. And in another twist, by the time you read
this it'll probably be 70 out.
Boy, that was a rough Winter. I know, I know. Thank God we
survived! It's a miracle we didn't have to eat anyone. (Sarcasm mode
turned off.) So we're here, all is fine, we actually got plenty of work
done (check out the Current Builds page) and here's a little pictorial of
some exciting things...
In on consignment is a great old friend... Cortobass
#10 from 2005. Wouldn't it be great to have bought Birdsong's 10th
Cortobass during Birdsong's 10th year? Yes it will be!
It will have been... it will have - oh nevermind, just buy the bass.
It's the first rear rout and a piece of Birdsong history with early
years mojo and just enough play wear to prove it's a real player's
bass! $1695 w/case 512-395-5126
Also just in, a loaded Sadhana! Those of you who
didn't jump on Jake's when it sold, here's your second chance - same
year, three numbers earlier, this one has twin Maple stringers.
2009, one owner, gorgeous. Minimal play wear... played but with
respect! New this would be $2700... $1995 w/case 512-395-5126
Here's what I think will be this year's main driver, a
1967 Plymouth Valiant! I've been bringing it back from a 23 year nap
over the past few. It's a cruiser with an economical & great
sounding little warmed-over 273 V8 swapped in. Quite a story to it,
you can read about it in the vehicle section of my "side
project" site if you're into old machines and their stories
like I am. www.sbeckwith.com.
Did manage to squeeze in a wood shopping trip in too,
picked up some Spanish Cedar, Mahogany & some really nice
Walnut. Some of this stuff is already bass guitar body blanks... 'swy
I went and got it, you know! I still pick each board myself based on
grain, weight & "vibe" - the hardest one to quantify
but probably the most important among the boards in the running to
make it into the old Econoline.
Speaking of friends, Maggie the doggie loves her porch
time but it's been a wee bit chilly by her standards. We can learn a
lot from simple beings and their enjoyment of simple things... she's
smart enough to savor every minute. I should be too.
BX-024 is an inventory Custom we've started on. A "Custom" is a
mix 'n match of Birdsong body shapes and pickup arrangements; there will
only be a few of these in 2014, here's your chance to grab one special
recipe... this one a beautiful Walnut Corto2 body with a Fusion pickup!
It'll basically be a rear routed Fusion in a Corto shape. Call for
details... and to add yours in!
Last but not least,
there's a new page on the site - Behind
The Music goes deep into the background music around the
workshop, with more to come...
There is a sneaking suspicion in my head that my computer
going haywire was maybe God getting me back for referring to Phil Collins
as a "Charlie Brown headed stick twirler" in the last update...
I wasn't aware ol' Philbert still had that kind of pull.
Superbowl Sunday is coming up, I can't even tell you who is
playing. Kidding, kidding... of course I can. Seattle and Denver. I just
looked that up. I like a good ball game every now and then and this should
be a doozie; enjoy with friends in moderation, somewhere the snacks are
munchable and dark beer means more than Negro Modelo. Ok, back on my head!
And that's the truth, Ruth.
Captain Of The Ship
Steely Dan Pretzel Logic, Dungen Tio Bitar, Neil Young Harvest
and some atmospheric India-influenced electronic chill-out stuff. By
the way, do you know about www.somafm.com?
Well you should, so there you go. Pay it forward.
Am I staying busy?
You tell me... three at once!
So I opened up a box of "Savory twists" the other day
and inside there was a bag. It was half the size of the box. So I
proceeded to open up this bag... and it was half full. Now, some may
accuse me of finding fault or being anti free market. Just some Capitalist
hating Commie, sitting there dissatisfied with my 25% full brand new box
of savory twists. No actually, I just felt hosed is all, because I
absolutely didn't get a box worth. I didn't even get half a box
worth. I got 25% of what I was offered, a quarter of a visual agreement.
It said right on the box, "Some settling may occur." Funny,
there weren't any crumbs in the bottom. The only settling going on here
was ME settling for what some bean counter decided was sufficient to put
in the box they were selling my ass. HOSED. Waaaay over the line of
"Maximizing profit." Who's to say? The sucker with
8" of box and a handful of savory twists, that's who. He matters. He
deserves the respect of something a little closer to fair. "Who's
to say what fair is?" Well, past a point if you can't figure it
out you might need to have your personal compass realigned. I bring this
up because I want you to know...
YOU will NEVER get that 25% box feeling from a Birdsong.
That is NOT Capitalism, it's fraud. It's "Carnival
Capitalism." I realize there's a fine line at times... but not
anywhere near our workshop there isn't. I've felt it before once the shine
wears off something and you realize it's just another piece of dookie.
Uh-uh. Not here. I'd fall on my own sword before I'd put a good looking
box full of mostly air on your shelf. We care about what we do, have pride
in our reputation, and our clients mean SO much more to us than just one
more ring-up at a register. That's precisely WHY a Birdsong has the
reputation it does, and why I'm a no savory twist having, handful of empty
box chump. Given the chance, we're gonna fill your whole box with
Here's a neat old friend just in for sale on consignment -
the 10th Cortobass ever, from early 2005! 1-piece Alder body, Maple neck
& Rosewood board. One owner, a little play wear by the pickup,
original case & papers. This was the first rear routed Birdsong bass!
Freshly gone through & fully set up with new strings, it's ready to
take out of the box at a gig. Brought back some memories for sure!
$1650 includes shipping. (512-395-5126 anytime, email@example.com,
reference number 5C-010.)
Watched a great documentary the other night.
I tend to just nap when it's time and be up at all hours... I think when I
was primed with melatonin, it was a Monday morning and someone grabbed the
LSD instead. So I use the wee hours after twiddling with the sites, or
pondering how a walk across the room could imbalance the earth (how many
zeros out? Has to do something...), or fiddling with a guitar (or
bass or tenor banjo or bouzouki or whatever's in reach) to kick back and
watch something. I like documentaries. So this one was about Phil Collins'
Big Band. Wait! Wait! Where are you going? Hang in with the, this
is good! I promise. Now, I'm no big Phil Collins fan. With all respects to
him and the music he's made and millions have loved, you simply aren't
going to find one bit of it anywhere near me. I'd go so far as to say I'd
rather slam my head against this desk repeatedly than listen to anything
he's ever done. I know, kind of strong. But it's the truth. And I thought
what he pulled at Live Aid party crashing the Zep reunion was a Dbag move.
He should've tried that with The Stones... Keith would've had that little
Charlie Brown headed stick twirler off the stage halfway through the first
song, comb-over first. But that was 1985, and I don't want to hold a
grudge. Some of his music of that era, though, I'd rather listen to Yoko
Ono fronting Faster Pussycat. Wait, let me think about that... no, I
can't. I won't. Anyhow, it turns out some years back (like, 1996)
ol' Philmeister decided to put a swingin' "Big band" together to
play Jazzy instrumental versions of his tunes. Not cheesy Jazz lite, I
mean bigass Count Basie-style stuff... live. So they (the
they people, you know, they do everything) did a documentary. And... wait
for it... it was GREAT. I really enjoyed it, I thought they pulled
it off incredibly well, a whole stage of top musicians played their asses
off and Phil led from the back Buddy Rich style and completely rose
to the occasion. Shocked the hell out of me. So sit back, grab a beverage,
and watch it if you dare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTwA5k6A8zQ
Speaking of grabbing a beverage, it's Friday and I think I'm
done. Be well, stay tuned, and play nice. I'm off like a dirty
And that's a fact, Jack.
Captain Of The Ship
Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy
and King Tubby dub reggae stuff.
Fixed the coding glitch in the Birdsong Story
Now you can read everything I wrote for it... it
will be expanded over the months to come, with early pictures and more
memories. Ten years... wow. In one way it seems like only yesterday and in
others another lifetime. Also got all the pictures up on the Client & Current Builds
Available in Inventory
pages. I'm continuing to assemble the new page
of Media & Video Demos.
Also, yes, there have been a few pricing adjustments for 2014. If
we were talking about a build late last year these don't necessarily apply
to you. But for the rest of you, just to be clear, these things do happen
occasionally as a business' own costs of doing what they do rise. It's not
an effort to get some more out of you just for the sake of it, but
adjustments to help keep the ship sailing smoothly. You still get quite
the value for your dollar in a Birdsong, especially compared with others
we are consistently mentioned along with. If a little bump is somehow
offensive to you or a deal-breaker for a build you are considering, please
get in touch so we can come to an understanding. I own this place, you
know. I can make things happen around here.
Thanks so much and again, Happy New Year!
Captain Of The Ship
Happy New Year!!!
Back at it and all over it
like butter on a biscuit, we roll on into 2014 ready and rockin'. Yep,
site's new. I know, I liked the last one too... but time for a change is
time for a change. This one's simpler and that's where we're at as we get
into our tenth year. That's right ladies 'n gents, kids of all ages,
Birdsong has been filling the world with its little gems of basses for
10 YEARS. Can you believe it? If you've played one,
you just might!
To kick off year 10, here is a batch of
Cortobasses & Corto2s (and one Bliss) we're working on for
inventory. Call 'em the "Spring batch." Feel free to jump
in and claim one and tell us how you want us to finish it out for
you! Any of these could be ready in about 90 days, probably less if
I already have the hardware you want...
...also this one with its neck,
C288 is a Walnut Corto2 with a lined Ebony fretless board &
Walnut headstock, special inventory price of $2200 with your choice of
chrome, GOLD, black, or gold hardware. Boy oh boy would this look good in
Just call the ol' mobile number anytime, eves & weekends
are fine, and we'll be happy to answer any questions , talk bass
with you, and even take an order if you're ready to treat
Here's a special message on the dawn of
our 10th Anniversary.
Brady has a new website up,
check out Muckelroy Basses at www.bradybass.com
and at NAMM
- yes, that's right, one of our "home team" has gotten the chance
to hobnob with the major leaguers at the show. Get in touch with him to find
out exactly where he'll have his basses, and follow him on Facebook for
up-to-the-minute posts & pictures. Congrats Brady!!
We've focused a lot
& simplified a bit, the better to serve you for another ten
years. Thanks so much for being with us!
Captain Of The Ship
Peter Gabriel So - Donald Fagen Morph The Cat - Grateful
Dead Fillmore East '69 & Great American Music Hall - Laksmi
Nrsimha das Chants Encounter - A Perfecr Circle Thirteenth Step