November 22, 2013
Soundtrack: Rolling Stones Beggar's Banquet, Ali
Abdul Karim, Rain on the metal roof.
Some Falls are quicker than others...
As is customary for this part of the universe,
South-Central Texas had its Autumn this week and now we're into
Winter. But you won't hear me complain, because I know very
shortly some of you will be butt deep in snowfall and chiseling small
yet interesting natural ice sculptures out of places that
never aughta be that cold to begin with. I'll take 30s & 40s
here where any day could spike into the 60s and the sun still
shines much of the time, thank you.
Shorty update today because we're balls out home-stretching
2013s build list, running around getting ready for the cold
front & lots of rain (they're here), and there are a huge by
large lot of build pictures to get up on the current builds
page. Some are up, some will come over the weekend (about 50
more...). I sure as heck won't be out wrenching on the cars,
I can tell you that!
We filmed a few more videos, soon to be up on the
Wingfeather Workshop channel on YouTube. Behind the scenes,
Camera Chris is working his magic. Keep checking in over there,
there'll be a Cortobass demo, a video of a Sadhana for sale, and
a talk on the question I get asked most. More, smoother, and
better videos to come...
Next week there will only be pictures getting
updated over on the current builds page throughout the week - so
please check in but there won't be a specific Friday
Being Thanksgiving, I want to simultaneously do
three things - extend my gratitude to the founders &
settlers of this country, extend my condolences and thoughts to
the Native Americans who were adversely affected, and extend my
"Thanks" to all who are blessings, presences, and
lessons in my life... family, friends, and that mixture of both
others call "Customers" but I refer to as the
Birdsong circle. Yes, I can manage all of these at once. I'm
very thankful to be here, but that can coexist with empathy. I
didn't take part in any of it, all I did was show up. So I can
thank both for their sacrifices; I can give both
respect. I don't see "sides", I see situations. I'm
darn grateful for mine, and both contributed to the
circumstances I now know as my reality. Which includes a cast of
characters even I couldn't make up, and I'm grateful for all of
you too... even if we haven't spoken yet, even if you're just
reading this page for the first time. None of what I have -
people, food, this computer, my fingers, music, your
attention... none of it is an entitlement. They don't have to
come, or be here, or stay. They are all gifts and I humbly
offer my thanks.
May your circle be warm and healthy. Please say a
prayer for those with less and those departed. A happy &
safe Thanksgiving to you.
The smile says it all, no?
Some days the blade eats wood;
some days the wood eats blade!
Here's the latest Embrace, a special
order... two inventory builds are
in process, hope to have them
ready to claim for the Holidays!
November 15th, 2013
Soundtrack: Queens of The Stone Age, Pat
Martino, Stan Getz.
Quote of the week, from LP in Canada:
"I think it's time for me
to finally order one of your nice basses... been trying to do it
for many years now but never had the $$ but I'm going to try to
sell all the basses I'll never play again once I get
Words & pictures...
Another one bites the dust.
One more Porter Cable belt sander has given its last before
its time; that "burning tool" smell is never a good
thing. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Pizza & Beer
For Luthiers Foundation, PO Box 1745, Wimberley, TX 78676.
For anyone arriving late to the party thinking this is some
sort of facade or "basement company"... nope. We're
the real deal, ten years in.
Our finest shop tool.
Head luthier Jake Goede with a freshly carved neck. He does
this with a spokeshave... do you know what one of those is? It's
a tiny hand tool designed for carving the spokes of covered
wagon wheels! It gets no more old-school than that. This is
actually a neck for a build of our brother company SD Curlee (www.sdcurleeusa.com).
Fascinating story, that. Speaking of which...
The Icebass leaveth.
In with the great score of "New Old Stock" circa
1982 SD Curlee parts & incomplete instruments was one -
possibly THE ONLY - "Icebass". It's big, it's
ridiculous, it's cool as F in its own way, and it's SOLD... off
to someone who will put the parts on and who obviously has a
taste for the different. And who is evidently ready to
raaaawwwwk! I have more project basses for sale - inquire at email@example.com.
Gimme an old beam, I'll get you a new bass.
Here for your eye-joyment is the Red Cedar Fusion, ready to
fly the nest. This is wood from an old house beam. It's beam
waiting to sing all this time!
And last but but least, our new video series!
Premiering ummm... right now, as soon as you go!
Hurry, we're waiting on you. With new team member Camera
Chris, these will gradually supercede any old videos and I'll be
talking about everything going on here at the workshop.
For now, an introduction. (That's a link.
Demos, Q&A, and more fun to follow. Check out the
Wingfeather Channel on YouTube, that's where the action from
here is and we've got stuff planned. Spread the word. I do
Have a great weekend; it's sunset on the porch thirty!
Tanks a lot!
It's not news to us, but
Birdsong head luthier
Jake's homemade salsa
Every now and then
he whips up a batch
and brings some in.
It's HOT but with a
lot of flavor & character,
a bunch of subtle things
happening you can
still taste under
He winds his guitar
pickups the same way.
It rhymes with "Tequila".
You may take that as
a sign if you wish.
Monday, Nov. 11th 2013
Any veterans who read this, call 512-395-5126 sometime
during the day today.
Any veterans of any service in any capacity, any time,
anywhere - THANK YOU.
November 8th, 2013
Soundtrack: Queens Of The Stone Age Songs For
The Deaf; a lot of King Tubby dub reggae; Soundtrack to
Martin Scorsese's Blues; Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys.
"In life if you put yourself in harmony with the
natural way of things, you get a much better result than if you
go against that." ~ Francis Ford Coppola on the
creative process and surrounding situations.
The minute you sit at a workbench and put spokeshave to
wood you align yourself with craftsmen throughout history.
Craftspeople now, I know. But in old times and
circumstances, craftsmen... so that is the term I will use when
talking of long ago.
Craftspeople make things. Bolting things together
is not a craftsman - as painting by numbers does not make one an
artist, as a microwave dinner does not make you a chef. You
begin with clay and end with a vase. You begin with ore and end
with a sculpture. You begin with a blank canvas and end with a
painting; you begin with what used to be part of a tree, part of
a living being, and you end with a musical instrument that lives
for no greater purpose than to move people.
This is not quite creation from nothing, we can't
do that. Even the song requires the tool, and be it voice box or
wood and string, we trace it back to the Earth and an order of
things, its processes, and the resulting materials themselves
somehow formed into other things. And of course what is behind
the scenery of all this. We are merely agents of
transformation. Tools ourselves. Cooking from scratch is
still starting with scratch, from scraped together raw
ingredients. We see them as raw ingredients, but they are
results, ripples of processes - some far greater than our
understanding and long away from our grasp to replicate.
We take these ripples and form them into new
I have seen mechanics assemble engines and I have seen
engines crafted by mechanics who are also artists. Hand
fabricated parts with welds that look like rows of tiny coins
leaning over on each other; the painting and plating of details
placed with an eye for form as well as an understanding of
function. In many cases the function is what contains the
natural way of things; power being made by circular motion like
the storms and gravity's pull on water; vibration of material
like the very basic composition of matter. These you you work
with. You guide them, you tune them to your vision of their new
manifestation; but you season the new recipe around them as you
help manifest their new form.
My calling is wood. I went off years ago in search
of "The man who works with the wood" and found
out it was me after the journey. I'm most certainly not at the
top of any mountain, but it was like climbing a
bit only to meet yourself for the first time. For this chapter,
I work in the former shop of a housecrafter no longer with us;
his name is still on the side of the building. For however long
I am privileged to, I still work with some tools of my departed
mentor. Other tools are from other departed craftsmen I never
knew... but on the old number punch set, pliers, spokeshave,
rasps and files, their fingerprints are now my fingerprints, as
they will be another's one day when - like molecules, these
things all scatter and reform with others.
Years ago, before Birdsong, after a particularly
challenging Summer settling a raw piece of land - a process that
settled me into it as well - I went to get the feather tattooed
on my arm. That feather is part of Birdsong now. I put it
on things. Then, it was important to me who put it on me;
this wasn't some macho "No fear"... this was a wing
feather. The man who was to mark my body with this symbol told
me "When you get ink, you align yourself with marked
peoples through history. All over the world." That's
how I knew he was the one. The art looks different and the craft
may require different tools and even different paths to get
there, to find yourself at the door of the workshop. But
the meaning and the circle are the same.
November 1st, 2013
Soundtrack: Pretty much Velvet Underground, old
blues, and Sonny Rollins +3.
There is inspiration to be found in all situations...
We have an Embrace looking for a home, just
completed, the last of the Mesquite & Ebony special builds.
This one has an optional lined fingerboard, so ANY of you can
get on the fretless groove and have a guide for the ol' phalangees
as to where the notes are. This bass is READY TO GO OUT
MONDAY to whoever wants it - SOLD
Having lost Lou Reed, I feel the need to create something
beautiful in his honor. Not that everything he did was
beautiful; it was just beautiful that he did it, dissonance,
jagged edges, New York attitude and all. Whether I like it all
or not, a world without daring artists becomes just a
paint-by-numbers oohlookatme fest of vapid empty
entertainment, and really there's enough of that for the folks
who just need to be entertained and not provoked or moved
or anything else that art does for living, feeling sentient
beings below the surface facade of our days. Back off man,
step back, I'm on a roll here, ah? Without art the world is a
bunch of organisms on a soupy slide under the microscopic eye of
those who will never know the glory of coloring outside the
lines or a purple sky. There are some who feel that's all
this all is anyway and that's fine; go buy your Bieber
albums and consider Kenny G a bit too radical. Go eat
your mild, unchallenging food in the exact prescribed portions
for necessary cellular function. I live in
a magic world of color and connection, creation and composition,
and any world like that needs a Lou Reed like it needs a
spoonful of Sambal Oelek and a good, crafty Stout. Like it needs
the rumble of glass packs and the smell of city buses and a
little skinned knee and broken concrete. It's there you
notice the sprout coming up through the crack in the
sidewalk, and though he may get trampled young or stung by
frost, he'll know more about life than any lifetime as a
dandelion lilting in a field. THAT is art.
And loss makes me nostalgic... so here's a one
time build offer. We're coming up on 2014 and Birdsong's 10th
Anniversary. It all started with a simple Mahogany, Maple &
Rosewood Cortobass with chrome hardware and a matte black
control plate. We don't get to build very many basic Cortobasses
with all the special order builds going on these days, and I love
these things. It was literally my ideal bass, refined and
thought out top to bottom. A build like this means a lot to me,
it triggers like hearing the ice cream truck on a summer
evening or a good sunset or that smell you don't know just
what bloom it is but good God it smells just like her
perfume, doesn't it? I sit in an old Dodge and I'm flashbacked
somewhere inside by the senses. I get the same feeling playing a
standard Cortobass, the recipe that started all this craziness.
So I'm going to build one, if someone wants it, in honor of
everything I just said (if you can fit all that in one head!)
and PRICE IT LIKE 2004. This one bass. It'll look pretty much
like the one to the right and come to you with the blooms of
Springtime... and all of our respect and devotion, which - much
like our skillset - has been honed to a fine point by these ten
years and hundreds of builds. You get all of that in everything
we do now!
So check out the current builds on that
page (which is now updated a little at a time throughout
the week and not just on Fridays) to peek at the latest
on the latest, check the
Now page to see what's... well, available
now in inventory and in all just have yourself a great
weekend. Belated Happy Halloween (Blah, BLAH! Boooo,
etc.) and... goodness what a tangent that was. I'm hungry
More Embrace pics...
Lou has transcended
the dirty boulevard...
As this is to the tongue,
art is to the experience
of being alive...
...and I want to build one of
and sell it to YOU at 2004 pricing!
What exactly would that be, you ask?
Anytime phone: 512-395-5126
That's how I know
you really want to know!
Random Halloween Birdsong
client pic of the year:
Oh no, thank you.
October 25, 2013
Soundtrack: Queens Of The Stone Age Songs For The
Deaf; Grateful Dead, Spanish Guitar Music and some great
old blues from John Lee Hooker.
Sometimes from the humblest materials... magic is made.
Red Cedar is not on anyone's "most desired
wood" list unless you line custom chests or trim out
high-end rustic closets. Me? I'll build a bass out of just about
anything. I think the whole "tonewood" thing is a
shuck 'n jive act. Sure there are really nice sounding woods,
there are "accepted" woods that you can paint your
tone with in accepted colors... there are woods that work
netter than others on a Strat or a Les Paul... but in general?
Here's a BIG secret: wood sounds good. If you use a wood
for what it IS and what it BRINGS and don't just slap something
together where it's working against what you're going for (which
a knowledgeable luthier, as a knowledgeable chef, wouldn't do in
the first place) it'll be fine.
Mahogany is my favorite and I guess that since I
hand pick every plank of a certain quality that makes it
"Hand selected premium Mahogany" but that doesn't mean
everything else sucks. NO wood sucks. People who don't
know how to use it properly as a tonal ingredient
Way back at the beginnings of the original
Birdsong shop, around 2004-2005, we would have some of the more
heavy woodwork done by a friend of ours whose father owned a
cabinet shop. He had the big planers, joiners and - quite
frankly - the skills that we didn't yet. When I'd go pick
up joined blanks or dimensioned planks, he'd give me extra wood
they couldn't use on the stuff they made. Sometimes Alder with a
knot in it, or Maple strip cutoffs, or some Walnut with
One day it was four or five chunks of Red Cedar.
It was a big beam in a hundred year old house that had been
removed, cut, and wound up here. Red Cedar is extremely
lightweight, very soft, and it smells like the inside of an old
clothes chest. It has knots and character and is this beautiful
reddish color with streaks and grain. It doesn't take to being
polished to a high shine (you have to just about plastic coat it
with clear) but it will take oil and glow like a sunset.
My answer whenever I'm offered wood I can use is
"Hell yeah." So into Joe The Truck it went. Over the
years we built maybe four basses with it - a Cortobass with
Maple & Purpleheart stringers, used it in the 5th
Anniversary "Rainbow" random wood basses, built a
recent Embrace out of it, and now this one. This is the last of
that Red Cedar beam - Fusion #36. It's going to be massive,
woody, and warm. And about 6 pounds.
When I think of old wood I think of old friends
and good people I used to know, like Uncle Johnny with the haul
of spalted Pecan or old hippie Sam who brought the Walnut for
the VERY first Birdsong guitar (pre-company) in 2000. The
cabinet shop owner became another in the growing list of good
folks who are no longer with us. He died on his Harley in about
2008. So to build with this wood means even more than the cool
story and the old house beam... it's some of the last material
with this craftsman's fingerprints on it and the echoes of his
shop in it. And now it gets to sing, and inspire, and be a tool
of good. I hope they do this with all the wood from my shop once
I finally pitch over off the workbench stool; I can think of no
greater honor, past keeping the old tools making things.
Now there is still a little left for boxes,
stringers and such... but no more big body pieces of the beam. However,
check this out - it's Red Cedar but I'm calling it
"Road" Cedar because I found it laying out on Highway
32, the "Devil's Backbone" going on up through the
Texas "Hill Country" hills. A beautiful, scenic, curvy
drive I'm privileged to run almost every day. I've run it in a
'69 Dart that corners on its door handles and takes the S curves
at about 50 while the humblest of modern economy cars - dare I
say even Prius drivers - plod patiently behind me 'til the road
straightens out, and in other vehicles at other speeds we won't talk
about. But suffice to say it's a most excellent drive for one
who loves driving and a good handling machine with stiff shocks,
wide tires and thick sway bars... or something a bit more lean
and low with two seats, five gears, no top and an overhead cam
aluminum inline four. Varoom.
Half in the Northbound lane, there it was.
"Hell yeah, I can make a guitar out of that!" A nice
180 and in the van it went. It's rough but I'm making sure
it's all secure and any cracks and knots are merely visual
entertainment for those so inclined. It's about ready for the
planer, then to build with... build what? Well, that's where you
come in, daring musical instrument buyer! You tell me. It's a
plank of wood found out on the sun on a hot, scenic Texas road,
so it's got the soul in it. The mojo's there. It'll be resonant,
warm, woody. Not a huge active Music Man slapfest 5-string...
that's not Red Cedar. That would suck; but not because the wood
sucks. I'm thinking Fusion, I'm thinking fretless, I'm thinking
standard Cortobass... and I'm thinking one of you has the
vision. If that's you, call me - 512-395-5126.
Oh and yes, I almost forgot - another plank good
for a few sets of body halves is here in the workshop too, in
case you want a little taste of Texas in your build!
Have a great weekend, it's cruising weather. So if
you have an old car (like say a gorgeous blue Z28, there, DV...)
get it the hell out of the garage, roll down the window,
and go give yourself a grin you'll need plastic surgery to
Onwards & upwards,
Red Cedar beam basses...
(waiting on the bridge)
Both have wild Bloodwood boards
Texas Hill Country "Road" Cedar!
(A rare breed indeed!)
...but wait, there's more!
October 18, 2013
Soundtrack: Grateful Dead, Spanish Guitar Music, some
nice India-influenced Electronica... and Disco, but not of my
I don't really follow Disco, but it seems to be following
I had two - count 'em, two - random disco experiences
this week. And considering I was out the first couple of days, I
think I may have only BEEN two places this week.
Waiting at the bank counter, all of a sudden the fake
string flourish gives way to that drum pattern, you know the one
that says "Dust off the gold lame, show some chest
hair and hit the dance floor, Bub." Eek. After a
minute the teller and I locked eyes and just started cracking
up. "What are we, in some kind of movie scene now? Are we
expected to start dancing?"
"I sure hope not."
"Yeah me neither - I start dancing, people really
freak out. They think I've been shot! They throw me down and try
to get the food out of my throat."
So then wife Jamie & I were out the other night for
Mexican food. And this is good stuff, we're in south Texas at a
Mexican restaurant really owned by a family of Mexican origin.
The recipes came out of her mother's card file even, and I'll
bet you a dollar it was all hand written in Spanish. Over
the speakers was wafting some rather limp, synthy '80s tune,
which is bad enough. Which is why I used the term
"wafting", bringing to mind something random and
unpleasant in the elevator. How does this go with Mexican food
in a place painted with Mexican-inspired art and colors? Why go
that far and then put on The Cure? I don't get it.
In my opinion there's no graceful segue into a disco tune
outside of a Studio 54 environment. Context is in its favor in
such a place and being ripped on Peruvian snow probably
glossed it over a bit as well. But there wasn't any magic dust
or spinning lights this evening, just the anticipation of a
really good Chile Relleno smothered in Ranchero sauce,
and a frosty mug full of Bohemia cerveza before me.
And on comes "Last Dance"... "What the hell is
THIS and why is it here?"
Has the concept of context been lost? The right
soundtrack makes the scene; it turns it into a three dimensional
experience where all the senses are engaged. That's how magic
moments happen, not at Nunzio's Little Italy with
a world class eggplant parmagiana, a glass of Valpolicella red
and dim lighting... and some goofy guy in suspenders poorly
sight reading Eagles tunes with a Casio keyboard. That was
last month. What is this, some kind of psychological test? Is it
that difficult to toss in a Sinatra CD? Something, if not
appropriate, perhaps a bit less completely incongruous? Sometimes
in life one sits back in awe of what must have been rejected to
arrive at "this." What's next, In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida
on the pipe organ Sunday morning? I've got your pipe organ right
There was a time long ago I thought Whitney Houston was
following me. Everywhere I'd go, on would come her over-emotive
wailings. It didn't occur to me that she was the most
popular singer in the world at that time. So it wasn't just me -
she was following everybody. But the disco thing is happening
more often now... is it just me? I don't get around all that
much outside of the workshop and the homestead. Yet wherever I
go, here comes Flashdance. Call me what you want, but I
asked the waitress for some music - anything - with a
strum to it and lyrics in Espanol about corazones. The
Italian restaurant? Jamie had to keep me from going and dropping
a $20 in the tip jar for him to go take a break... like for
the next hour. "Do you know how to play Far Far Away by
any chance? Good. Here you go. See you at
Don't they know what magic happens between
marinara and good olive oil to the crooning of Ol' Blue Eyes?
Have they no juices of their own? If they're Italian, they do.
And if they're not Italian, I'm in the wrong place. I want
Nana's recipe, not something cousin Jezebel pinched off the
internet. I know Nana's probably not in the back room cooking
it up, I'm ok with that. But I don't want clowns in the
hallway, I don't think Gloria Gaynor goes all that well with
roasted garlic, and I don't want some European dude in a fuzzy
Russian cap bringing me my Chinese food. I love everyone. I love
that the world is a melting pot and an exchange of cultures
& concepts, and I'm not even anti-disco. Get down with your
bad self, hairy chain velour boy. But getting the context to
match the content... sometimes it's still a good thing!
Sometimes it completes the scene. Sometimes the right accent
makes it. Don't give me stage set of La Liberazione di
Ruggiero Dall'isola d’Alcina and start singing "Oooo-klahoma..."
It's going to lose something while my head explodes. That's
all I'm saying.
Or it could just be me and nobody in McWorld
really gives a rat's ass. I don't know. I only know from
me, and if I'm driving a '70s van with Keystone Klassics on it
I'm probably not listening to Tchaikovsky. I'm more than likely
not going to be shouting "Freebird!" at the Jazz
nightclub either... I mean I go there for a certain
steeped, rich, cultural flavor, not for the absurd
side dish, right? "What the hell is this?!" When
I'm shaping wood into an instrument, much of the time I'm
listening to something that reminds me of the wood, ties in with
the instrument, or relates in some way to the content of the
craft. When I don't have Zen Guerilla or the Ramones
blasting, of course. And Disco, much like hardcore punk
rock, there's a time and a place for it. But what do I know; I
dance like a medical emergency.
I understand feeling a little Chic, but what the
The promise of a Birdsong in the coming Spring is one of the
best Fall & Holiday season gifts you can offer to yourself
(or another player you wish to make very happy).
Here are a few interesting builds-in-process I can put your /
his / her name on the build sheet for, and I'll be happy to mail
a certificate describing what's coming (placed in a little wood
keepsake box made in the home workshop) for under the Christmas
Tri-color Cortobass or Corto2
Honduran Mahogany, Black Walnut and Maple.
Be the only one on your block.
Zebrawood & Walnut Cortobass or Corto2 with dark pinstripe
Our flagship - hand carved scroll, one-piece figured Walnut
body, Delano oval pickup. There is one available, in
...and here's a little something I do a few of out of the home
shop after hours. Birdsong neck, quality & personality, as
you'd expect, but a very simple single-pickup model. If you want
options and models and features, Birdsong's the way. If there's
no way you can swing a Birdsong and you'll love a more basic
instrument just the same, check out my Shortbass. Usually Walnut
or Mahogany, this one's knotty Alder! Way cool. About a grand.
here to see everything currently
available on the Inventory page.
Some stuff even
ready to go (and yes, I'll delay shipping 'til we're closer
to the Holidays so you don't have to hide it).
October 11, 2013
Metheny Quartet; Rolling Stones Goat's Head Soup; Grateful
The art in the craft...
In the design & making of musical instruments, there
is craft and art. To me, craft is a matter of execution, a set
of plans and how well the craftsperson performs it and manifests
it. Art is a different thing... anything can happen. I view
building solid body electrics as craft, but one with the
potential for much art. If you turn the design of the basics of
the electric guitar into an art project where anything can
happen, you wind up with a less than ergonomic tool. Anything can't
happen there - it has to balance and fit the body and should
otherwise stay the hell out of the way.
Visually, well that's subjective. Personally I don't want
a guitar shaped like an amoeba or a bass like an ancient
Thorenican hieroglyph for "Stud warrior whose tremendous
sword is anointed by Goephital." Not just because it
probably won't be all that comfy, but because it'll be fargin'
hideous as well. So often the obviously hideous gets a pass just
because "Who's to say what's beautiful?" Well sure, I
get the vast subjective part of life but reason does tend to
give us parameters out somewhere in the extreme, if nothing else
than as loose guidelines of functional sanity. As my friend Tony
once said about Yoko Ono, "I don't know much about art, but
I know that sucks."
In instrument design, there is art in how the curves
compliment each other, and often this goes unnoticed because it
looks like a natural whole. If there was a big lightning bolt
coming out of the butt end of the bass in an otherwise graceful
roundness, we'd notice that. "What the hell's going on down
there?!" But much of the time if it's just right, it's out
of sight. It takes on a subtlety that disguises the time &
effort that went into getting it all to flow as one.
There is art in embellishment and wood combination. The
Maple topped Cortobass shown got a Rosewood control plate to
match the fingerboard. The Rosewood element was brought into
(onto, actually) the headstock, and the Maple element was
brought up there as well. In the Scroll-horn Corto2, the Wenge
center piece, fingerboard, and laminate under the bloodwood top
all tie themselves together - this visually is pretty extreme,
but it's extremely pretty compared to something that looks like
an exotic wood warehouse threw up onto the workbench and Joe
Luthier said "I bet I can make a guitar out of all of
Tonally there is art, there is craft, and there is a bit
of alchemical magic (or magick, if you prefer). Those who say
there isn't, they're probably painting by the numbers... and
that's basic craft, not art. But that's a talk for another time.
The biggest, most important "Art" in any of
this is your playing. As we combine our art and craft and guide
the mysteries together into something that works as a tool, your
playing is part craft and part art and part of something bigger
too. You paint in notes and space and rhythm a part of a bigger
art piece, something being created in the moment by the sum of
its parts, the intent and design, and that big something else we
try to explain that transcends mere notes and skin and hummable
riff. That's where the art lives and that garden reseeds
Go give in to the art this weekend, whatever it is to
Thanks for being with us.
I don't do a lot of this but here's a
special bit of woodburning on a
Mesquite backplate...this is "art"
at its most obvious...
More subtle is the art in the line
that shapes a Cortobass, and in
the visual interplay between the
Maple and the Rosewood...
The meeting of art and craft is
a tastefully embellished yet
striking musical instrument.
Here's a heaping helping
of high-end handcraft.
October 7, 2013
Soundtrack: Horace Silver, Blowin' The
Blues Away; a Trojan Records Reggae compilation (one of
Maggie The Dog's CDs... she loves reggae); Woody Russell
Delicious Days (with our own Brady Muckelroy on bass)...
Progress means it's gotta stay rolling...
So much going on there's not much time for a big story
here today. We must've worked on 20 basses this week. Usually
the pics are taken on Thursday for the update I work on putting
up Friday... but even as I hammer this in on Friday afternoon
there is still an incredible list being scribbled out down at
the workshop. I'm going to be by there anyway tonight so I'll
just grab a bunch of pictures then and they'll filter up over
the next few days here and in the current
So I'll just take this chance to thank you for all your
support, enthusiasm, and business for the past almost 10
years... amazing. I never dreamed of a huge company with a
factory and a whole lot of people doing individual tasks. That's
nor me; that's not what I want the process to be. I dreamed of a
garden, where good things grow by - for - and in - all of those
who help it to happen in here and who help keep it going
by enjoying the results out there. All I wanted, and still want,
is to keep going. There's still magic here for me
watching the wood transform in the hands. Watching it become. It
never gets old. Even in simple and practical terms - I have work
to do, I'm paid to do a job, I sought out this job, I've been given the tools &
responsibility to figure it out, and I care about you and doing
what I do for you. That's why we're here; it's part of the
drive. That's why we show up to work, to man the positions we
signed on to man.
Where the main priority is in service, in living up to a
good and high standard, in filling a need, keeping it going is
the main devotion. Because if it stops, all the good things for
everyone stop happening... and there's no inertia or resources
to help with the challenges along the way. If I didn't care
about my brothers in the shop, my responsibilities to my family
(and theirs as Captain of this ship), my calling to do something
by helping to fill the world with music, or the reputation of
this magical little "ship that could" that is
Birdsong... if my promises and my intent and my purpose mean
nothing, there would have been times along the way I could have
just shut it down. But people of integrity and humanity -
not to mention possessing the type of business sense that
realizes the potential fixes in a still-functioning thing vs. a
non-running something... the ease of rebuilding a fire from a
smaller fire rather than cool ashes where a fire used to be...
they don't let shutdowns happen.
That's what separates the servants from the rest... one
who serves in any capacity of responsibility, especially if it
is related to a calling or a passion of theirs, no matter how
tricky or steep the going gets, if they belong with their hands
on that wheel or that rigging or rudder or those ropes, they get
on it and offer to the cause, sweat drop by sweat drop. You keep
it rolling. Those who don't get it are soon gone. It's not
always easy or clean to do something that means anything. But if
you're gonna do it, do it so it gets done. You gird the loins,
show some balls, get up and go make something happen.
Any kitchen of pursuit has conflicts and compromises. You
take the heat and keep it working or you get out of the kitchen.
But you close the kitchen just so nobody gets fed? That's a
chump's move, not that of any worthy Captain or crew or teams of
servants. You play the game but you don't let the game play you
to where you think you'll just take your balls and go home. That
doesn't make those balls worth very much.
Thank you for going on ten years of allowing me the
opportunity to pursue a concept I believe in and learn how to
keep something good going. Our success at Birdsong belongs
partly to you as well; the biggest success is to have hands
doing what they can to bring the best of what they have to the best thing
they can be doing in the moment, guided by a sense of service - to you, to the
muse, to doing justice to the opportunity. That goes for
anybody working at anything.
I know I can hand my balls to anyone in here and they
won't fumble them; and you, dear reader, should know that we
won't fumble when you hand us yours.
Maggie listening to Reggae
Scott listening to all the music to be
A beautiful Walnut & Maple "High C" Hy5
coming together over at www.hy5basses.com
September 27, 2013
Soundtrack: Fever Tree's 1st album, George Harrison Extra
Texture, Deep Purple Stormbringer, some Sonny
Rollins, a bit of Pat Martino, and way too little of Zen
Guerilla Trance State In Tongues.
Around this time of year I think of Mike. This is one
of the many surreal stories of my musical path. You can't make
this kind of stuff up. Read on...
The scene was a little bar in Wimberley called the
Speakeasy. It's gone now; it was four or five other names before
the doors got locked with no one to take it over. I don't know
what, if anything is there now - I quit playing in bars once we
started Birdsong, and I haven't been back to most of them since.
It was the kind of place you'd play and when they handed you the
register tape to show you what the bar business had been so you
could figure up the band's percentage... had you been able to
negotiate for some of that on top of "the door" to
begin with... you'd have to make sure it was a Z out - end of
night total - as opposed to an X out - end of shift
total done a couple of hours earlier to show a lower number. I
played there a bunch. I never got cheated. This was around
There was an open mic / jam night, and this dude
Mike started coming around. He was a mess, really - car wrecks,
fast living, and who knows what else had all taken their toll.
He could barely walk on the way in and rarely walk on the way
out. A friend would carry this shell of a man back out to the
car and get him home. He had lost a lot of the use of his hands;
nerve damage, partly from the happenings and partly from a
repair job on a neck injury that didn't go well. Rumor had it he
was once a great guitar player. I'll tell you what, with an open
tuned Strat and a bottleneck slide he still was. He was working
on getting his fingers working again and could play a song or
two worth of Billy Gibbons style on his Les Paul. I'd carry his
guitars in for him and back him up on bass. He was quiet and
grateful. We'd sit him on the stage, I'd hand him his guitar and
then it was game on - whatever the man had he brought it
to the music. Mike.
I ran a site that's dormant but still up, www.thepsychedelicguitar.com,
where I sought out Psychedelic-era guitar players from obscure
(and a few better-known) bands and gave them a little glory.
There were a few bands whose guitarists I simply couldn't find,
and the internet wasn't then what it is now. One of those bands
was called Fever Tree and their guitar player had just gone by
his first name on the album I had.
That first album of theirs was a huge influence -
the guitar player had moments of fuzzed-out mayhem and others of
more complex beauty. But the thing he did that got me was
letting a note feed back and sliding it around the fretboard; I
never heard anyone do that earlier than this guy. Being a big
fan of feedback (Blue Cheer's first album really left a mark,
but that's a story for another time), I developed a knack for
controlling it and I started moving it around on the guitar like
he had. Seems like a little thing, but it was a big thing for me
along with his tone and some other things he was doing. In the
early '90s during the lost years of my 20s, I
would ride around delivering pizza listening to a tape I had put
Fever Tree on one side of and a band from Colorado called Beast
on the other. All their soothing hippie feelgood music
contrasted with Fever Tree's textured classical influence, all
topped with a bit of fuzztone, well that all just suited me fine
and got me through one tune at a time.
So I really owed this guy something by the time
the late '90s rolled around and, from a much better place, I
wanted to interview him for my site and let him know he wasn't
forgotten, that this music he helped make meant a lot to
someone. That his ripples were safe and still spreading. Maybe
he had a new band I could promote a bit or something else going
The open mic situation ended and everyone went on
to other things. I had no contact info for Mike. He was just
another character out here in the Texas Hill Country; they're
out here, and they're out there.
The clues about the Fever Tree guitarist kept coming
- a Houston artist of the era I found said last he knew, this
guy was somewhere in the Hill Country (in central Texas) but
he'd been in a bad way for a long time... that's all he knew.
Another local remembered this cat from the open mic had been in
a band that had a hit, something about San Francisco.
Fever Tree had a hit with San Francisco Girls and was
from Houston. The first name only guitarist? His name was
Michael. "Michael's alive and in the Hill Country? He's
a little rough around the edges?" I thought. Mike,
Michael; Michael. Mike.
"Noooo, no way..."
"Way." When it hit me that I didn't just
already know the guy I'd been looking for but had carried his
guitar, jammed with him, and even held him up at the bar a
couple of times... I was gobsmacked. I couldn't believe it.
Remember, this was a big influence on me as a guitar player I
was tracking down. Well, now I started tracking down
"Mike, I had no idea you were the guy from Fever
"Well it's not the way I really like to introduce myself at
this point, you know?"
I got my interview. I got to tell him things I
thought he should hear; he told me things I promised I wouldn't
put in print. He knew he was prone to some rough spots and had
some things going on he just couldn't shake. Underneath those
layers there was dignity, there was a passion for the music that
never left; there was a fire, however dim the flame. The
remnants of a recording studio he once owned were in his living
room; he fired up a reel to reel and an '80s Austin gig tore
through the room. It was a bluesy jazzy fusion kind of thing,
like Hendrix meets Scofield with a definite Eric Johnson tinge
to it. An absolutely blazing guitar player fronting a killer
"Every day I get a little better, I'm on my way
The interview went up but all too quickly turned
into a memorial page as I got the word mid-September of 2003 he
was gone... followed by emails from all over from people
that had been touched by his music, including the other original
members of Fever Tree; guys who hadn't spoken to each other in
years. I had no idea of his and the band's reach and meaning to
so many, and I'm sure he had no idea about much of this on a
personal level either... he knew who he was and knew he was
known, but that was long ago and his side of the curtain was a
little different. Daily struggles, a close circle with some very
kind people, and the source - the lifeblood of music -
that fueled him 'til other parts of the dance one night broke
his rhythm and he lost his time.
Don't judge that old banged-up guitar player too
quick or you might miss out on his story. You might miss a
chance to give him something back, a little bit of stage where
in small and safe doses he can feel the magic and come to life
again. Michael Knust was human, as we all are - with our own
baggage and our own failings. Bigger than that and much more
important is the legacy which lives on and the ripples of music
in many forms that spread from our best. We should all, in spite
of our situations, endeavor to leave behind more good with our
gifts than we'll ever even know.
Thanks for the music, Michael.
Here's a quick pictorial on the transformation wood goes through
to become a Birdsong bass...
After this picture, the last couple of trim pieces (truss rod
cover, carved neck end piece) went on and this bass went to live
and sing in Louisiana...
Where will yours be going to?
September 20, 2013
Soundtrack: Alex DiGrassi Impressions of James
Taylor; a CD of Tango music from Argentina given to me by
one of the crew of Los Enanitos Verdes; Miles Davis Nefertitti;
Steely Dan Can't Buy a Thrill
Painting with space, composing with silence, building by
Stay out of the way of the wood... that's
commandment number one for us in what we do. Stay out of the way
of the wood. This is not something done by doing anything - it's
accomplished by NOT doing things. Thou shall not sloppily
glue together pieces of wood with no thought any more than
thou would randomly dump seasonings into a soup pot. Thou
shall not put so many electronics in that thou replaceths
and takeths place the natural voice of the wood, substituting an
artificially enhanced version thereof bereft of life and
richness. Thou shall not use pickups that overly coloreth
thyne sound any more than one would altereth and overly coloreth
their own perception with LSD before a business meeting.
The wisdom here is in the wood - stay out of its
way. Guide it like a chef, conduct it like a symphony,
help it in its quest to sing. But don't thinketh it's all you,
and don't manipulate it with impunity... work with it - help it
to happen - and stay out of the way. The right pieces of wood
brought together with care will speak for themselves.
OK, time to grab one of these!
A couple of months back I
announced the 9th Anniversary Birdsongs, blackwashed
& gold Corto2s. We're about ready to get on this batch now
for delivery early next year. I know, that sounds like so far
away; it's not. If your world is anything like mine, in
about a month we're going to step on a banana peel and our butts
will hit the sidewalk sometime in the middle of February. A
busy, busy time. Full of good things like Holidays and travel
and family and fitting it all into the time off, and preparing
for the time off, and restarting your world after it's all over.
(Sometimes that's the toughest part!) There will only be 9 made,
there are only 8 left, and they're only $1978, case included,
entirely hand made in our workshop.
Here's what the client who bought the photo bass had to
"My new 9th Anniversary Corto2 arrived and It is amazing. This
exceeds any expectations I had. This is the finest instrument I've ever
touched. Thank you for doing what you do. I can't find enough time to
spend playing this." ~ Jim T.
First order this weekend (that
starts now, Friday evening...) of anything - Birdsong, SD
Curlee, Hy5, D'Aquila
- gets absolutely free a pair of unclaimed, found,
cheapass dark plastic sunglasses! They're dark, I'm talking Yoko
Ono sunglass dark, and they're not all gross or sticky or
funny smelling (I wouldn't do that to you). And I'll tell you
what - the neck-through SC singlecut is shaping up nicely, and
there are a few wild bodies available just put up this week to
build your bass from, including Bliss #3... so if you've
been thinking of a Birdsong (or another Birdsong), this
perhaps might just quite possibly be the weekend I should hear
from you. And if I can make you a supernatural bass AND save you
from burning your retinas out, well hey, that's a good
day in my book.
There are cheaper sunglasses,
but they don't sound as good. And you won't look as
Over on the South wall of the shop, Brady
has some amazing things going on. If you
don't already, follow his Facebook posts
for what he's up to. www.bradybass.com
D'Aquila Guitars, by Jake Goede... not
only do these guys help make Birdsongs
so I get to work with them, I get to watch
them craft their own visions too - and to
share that with you too.
Here's a new chambered Walnut and
Mahogany D'Aquila Bluenote body &
neck - ready to be your guitar-to-be!
Around this time a few years back, a
guy named Michael died - he was a
guitar player, a special one. It's quite
a story how I met him and who he
turned out to be... I'll tell that story
September 13, 2013
Soundtrack: Flavio Cucci Italian Guitar Music; Frank
Sinatra The Very Good Years; Fu Manchu The Action Is
Friday the 13th is a great day. I like the number 13 and -
hey - who doesn't like Fridays, ah?
But I know it was a heavy week for lots of folks
and our thoughts go out to you. What happens to us does not
define who we are; what we do in its wake does.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I owned
a little music shop and was behind the counter. In came a good
hearted but troubled guy we'll call Trent. Trent was a Vietnam
vet and always felt things a little more intense than they
really were. So when he came in and started telling me what was
going on I just thought about him, that he'd finally lost it,
what can I say to reel him back in.
But no. It was reality that had gone crazy.
Everything he'd told me really was happening.
It was all far away, but it was my far away
- I was born in NY. I grew up in Boston. I just landed in Texas
and it felt like home so I parked the van. But those were places
I knew. And the web of humanity was tugged. We were all
connected. It's a shame it takes a chickenshit act of barbarism
or a natural disaster to make us feel connected... I wish we'd
stay awakened even after the rubble is cleared literally
wherever it happens and figuratively in our own lives.
But lots of gardens were planted in the wake of
9/11. Lots of folks changed their lives, decided to do
something closer to who they really were; to pursue their
dreams. To volunteer to causes dear to them. To better their
lives and the lives around them.
The personal realities of that day are things many
in the world deal with on a regular basis. We're lucky most of
us don't. We can live our lives, pursue our loves, and make our
way in relative peace & safety no matter how the winds blow.
For that we owe debts of gratitude to those others who put
themselves in harms way; and to ourselves to just do it - to
live, to love, to plant our seeds - so the bad guys, no matter
what they do, don't win.
They didn't win. And for me personally, so long as
I have a beat in my heart and a breath to take they will never
win. Have a great weekend - you're here, you made it. Not
everyone did. Live for them too.
Pre-owned 2009 Sadhana for sale:
Call for details
Try and find another ~ there
aren't that many out there!
Here's your chance for $1695.
More details here.
September 6, 2013
Soundtrack: Bob Marley, Confrontation; Horace
Silver, Blowin' Away The Blues; Los Lobos, El
Cancionero Mas y Mas; some live Rolling Stones from the Goat's
Head Soup tour.
Help put the word out!
Big news this week about our head luthier Jake!
D'Aquila Guitars is now the home of Jake Goede's own
guitar & bass building... after a number of years designing
& refining his lineup, it's all right here and ready to
go... NEW SITE IS UP!
I have a somewhat known little company or two and build
stuff "on the side" myself - but it's hard to tickle
yourself as a luthier, so my go-to guitars are made by Jake!
I've got what would now be known as an Overdrive in Maple
& Walnut, a Bluenote "Native" in Hackberry,
and a Texas model of Walnut & Birdseye Maple with
gold hardware. I want more. If I didn't think the world
of the man and his skills, do you think he'd be my right hand
man here for 6 years and counting?
The D'Aquila instruments are made standard to include
stringers, nice tops & fancy stuff. There's also the Player's
Series builds for those wanting something more simple but
still having all the tone & attention to detail of a hand
made luthier built instrument. There is also a bass of Jake's
design that's gorgeous. He's made basses on his own but always
quietly because he works for Birdsong and he's a nice guy... but
you know what? I want everyone to see what he's got going on.
It's a medium scale, set-neck bass called the Coyote and the
first (of hopefully many) is underway.
These are all completely hand made & hand carved by
Jake and Jake alone - from raw wood to finished instruments, including
most of the guitar pickups which he winds himself too.
It's about time Jake had a real company of his own... as
it says on the website, to anyone who has ever played a guitar
made by Jake, the guitars speak for themselves. There are
a few transitional models & prototypes in various stages of
on the new site that will have big discounts for their
new owners. Some are shown here:
You all know at least one guitar player, and yeah I know
they're a different breed stuck on "The Brand" but if
you put the word out we can pry some of their flailing
fingers off of their Fenders, Gibsons and Paul Reed Smiths and
make a few converts, and get Jake off to a great start.
To celebrate the launch & NEW SITE, there is a 10%
off sale on all new D'Aquila orders. I'm handling questions
& sales, so please call me (Scott) at 512-395-5126 anytime.
- please direct emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
(That's D'Aquila with a Q - thanks!)
Have a great weekend everyone!
In other announcements:
Pre-owned 2009 Sadhana for sale:
Call for details
A special run of Texas Red
Cedar Cortobasses from
this great plank is coming...
They'll look similar to this Fusion
body, with some "rustic" character
and great color.
Speaking of wild, local woods: Here's the second to last 8th
Anniversary Mesquite & Ebony Embrace coming
The last "8th Anniversary"
(#8, a "clean" piece)
is in inventory...
August 30th, 2013
Soundtrack: Miles Davis Plays Classic Ballads; Andrea
Bocelli Romanza; Bucky & John Pizzarelli New York
Swing; Count Basie Straight Ahead... and The Ramones!
Onward towards the light...
It's dark but it won't be for long. The morning music is
the wind passing the driver's side window and the steady
driveline gear hum powered by a 300 cubic inch inline 6. It's a
good old Econoline, this van. I don't see it as old - I don't
see myself as old. I don't see the way I do what I do as old. I
see and work with them every day, as I have for some time. The
rest of the world appears strange and advanced, but the fender
lines and metal interior and carburetor starting procedure are
things I know well. They may recede into the rear view mirrors
of history but they are the present to me still.
As the van hums along I hum with it, within it, headed in
the direction I have steered us to go, that I have somehow been
steered to go. South on the two-lane but True North in personal
direction. My job is to help fill the world with music; my work
is whatever steps are involved in doing my job. My food is
whatever needs to be in me to get it done. I alternate between
mantras and making my list for the day. I am suspended in motion
between the was of the morning and the will be of the day. I
plug in, I align, I lock down as I gear up.
This all grows my connection to what I am and what I am
doing here. It is to keep the ever-increasing distractions and
turbulence of modern life and moderate success at arm's length.
I am in this world but I do not have to drown in it every day. I
can do my thing. I can make that my focus. I can walk
straight towards my True North and not be veered by drama or
It is all a garden; to make an old van reliable, to
develop a space that serves the doing of one's doings, to build
a great instrument, to hone oneself into an effective tool.
These are gardens, not light switches. They don't just happen...
they are grown from seed. As the idea manifests, the devotion
turns to sweat and motion and the process by which things in one
form attain another is fueled by - in the case of a bass guitar
- the energy and skills of the craftsman. Both also gardens to
maintain, prune for focus, feed with light and will, and
ultimately harvest in the moment as needed. But it all takes
time; it all takes time.
It is dawn and the lights of San Marcos become the
horizon. In another chapter long ago, a man saw this way with
words and helped to hone my songcraft. I would leave his music
room and drive back towards San Marcos on an even smaller
two-lane, towards my rented room on the other side of town
across the tracks. That mattress, fan and bare bulb was moderate
success to me then, as I was just playing music. Singing my
song. Doing my thing. I would crest a hill coming out of
Martindale and there they were - the lights of San Marcos. These
were the bright lights of the night. Same lights, different
Life and drama and distraction would pull me away for a
chapter, but I dreamed about those lights. I dreamed of them in
other vans on other highways; in back rooms of faraway music
shops and - once in a great while - when you sing a sad song and
the room is dark and everyone holds up their lighters. I saw
them in the darkness and I saw them in the stars. The lights of
San Marcos were always my horizon... beacons guiding me True
North towards what I was supposed to be doing, and where I was
supposed to be doing it. I knew I would see them again, but had
no idea it would be like this.
Quite a variety! This was mid-week.
Cortobass #258, 8-string - almost
there. A www.Hy5basses.com
in Walnut, www.sdcurleeusa.com
Classic+ I in Spanish Cedar with a
Bocote fretboard, C284 Corto2 in
Mahogany, BX17 "Custom" Fusion
body in Walnut, Ebony & Purpleheart,
C276 Corto2 in Mahogany, BX18
"Custom" Mahogany & Ebony
Skyrider body... fun, fun, fun!
Just think of how much potential
music and good times are in this one
picture of 7 basses... this is why I
do what I do.
Here's a shelf of basses in process
between the basic cutting and edging
of the body to final sanding. As soon
as a body is final sanded, a neck stick
goes on for hanging & handling and
it hangs in the finishing rack.
One of the challenges of caring is that
the details are more important to me
than the infrastructure that makes and
supplies my parts much of the time. I'm
the QC department for the world - not
just for what we do, but for what is sent
to us in parts orders. Here are 2 knobs
out of the same package... look the same
to you? Not to me. Screw heads, plating
coloration, I can't catch 'em all but I sure
do try my hardest! I don't know about
you, but I want numbers the same size
and the same screws on my basses.
Biggest truck I've ever seen. Had to
stitch together 2 pictures. I don't use
this word much but sometimes
anything less doesn't say it.
Marciano of Los Enanitos Verdes
was completely knocked over by
the tone of his latest Birdsong...
You can be to!
August 23rd, 2013
Soundtrack: Jim Cullum Jazz Band
Chasing The Blues; Deep Purple
Burn; Chet Baker Sings It Could Happen To You; Jazz
For a Rainy Day (compilation).
Springtime bloomings in the late Summer...
Wow these have been productive days in the shop... take a
gander at the client "Current
Builds" page. While you're at it, look at our
sister sites for SD
Curlee and Hy5
5 and 6 string short scale basses. And there's more to come on
all fronts. Here are a few pics of what's coming together.
The last one is the last Mesquite & Ebony 8th Anniversary
Embrace, #008 - it's available!
Getting back to what we were talking about a few weeks back,
here are another few Scottisms: The El Camino Compromise, to
Coverdale something, and the meaning of "Orify."
An El Camino compromise is a melding of two concepts that work
in opposite directions. Let's say you want a bass or guitar
- one - to do the Saturday night Jazz standards gig and the
weeknight rehearsals with your progressive Metal outfit Mangled
Origami. Yes you can find an instrument that will do both but it
will not be optimized for either. And to set it up for bright,
high gain, pick playing will take away the essence of what made
it great for the almost-acoustic Jazz thing - and vice versa.
Sometimes its best to have two tools that do what they do very
well. This concept is named after the El Camino, a half-car
half-truck Chevrolet that, though a cool ride I'd drive the heck
out of, had neither the heavy duty parts and carrying capacity of
a good truck nor the back seat, trunk and comfort of a decent
sedan of that size. In combining those two things the best of
both was compromised away. Sure, they're cool and a classic one
with a big block, dual quads and 4-speed would make a fun parts
chaser, but it would still be neither a great CAR not a great
To Coverdale something is to rise to the occasion against all
odds, not get hung up by your stumbles or lack of
experience, just figure it out and bloom in a damn hurry because
big things are depending on you right now. It's - in a do or die
moment - doing in a major way. It's where pressure meets
opportunity meets your own potential and you just attack it like
a beast. Brady Muckelroy's
blossoming as a luthier is a textbook Coverdaling. He Coverdaled
it to Springsteenian proportion. David Coverdale (best known for
his '80s Whitesnake days) was a kid out of a clothing store when
he got the Deep Purple gig in 1973, replacing one of the most
iconic singers (Ian Gillan) in one of the biggest rock bands in
the world, at their peak (think "Smoke On The
That's balls by itself... balls of epic proportion. Balls
the size usually only seen rolling down cavern tunnels behind
Indiana Jones. They went out for a tour of the States. His first
gig here he played California Jam for 250,000 in 1974. Not the
pinnacle of his singing career, but he did it. He took
the stage. Taking the stage is step one in anything you
hope to Coverdale. By the way, nice shirt Dave.
Orify? That's an Uncle Johnny word - it's when you poke a
hole in yourself. "Oh that was just great. I orified my
hand with the screwdriver!"
And to catch you up with a design development, the first
Birdsong singlecut has just passed the body shape stage. Here's
a neck on some template material - oh, and it's going to be a
neck-through! Yeah I know the embrace is a singlecut neck
through but that's a different animal in every spec - this will
be a regular 31" scale Birdsong with the traditional
Birdsong headstock, available fretted or fretless, so it's our
first "main line" singlecut AND neck through design.
I hope to make 31" scale 5s and 6s of this available
after the 4 is done. It took a while to get the upper bout - I
took the curve from the lower leg rest area and the lower
"hip" where the controls go and used them up there in
getting that line to flow. It's difficult - a singlecut is a
blob-like Amoeba looking thing, so many of them look so similar
since there's only so many places to put the curves and ways to
curve them. The Fusion slant to the butt end helps give it less
of a lumpy look and also kind of a Birdsong vibe. All I knew
going in was I didn't want the upper part to look like a whale's
forehead or the lower horn to be dwarfed into a dog's dick. It
had to be graceful. It had to look "Birdsong"... I
think I got it. I'm thinking Corto2 and Bliss pickup options.
What do you think?
Thanks everyone, have a great weekend!
We don't do a lot of Maple tops,
but there are a few top sets here
ready to be worked into a new
bass. All will show nice, tasteful
figure when oiled, and I'll let you
have them cheap 'cause I like you.
I don't know about that shirt, but
I like you. I do.
August 16th, 2013
Soundtrack: Grateful Dead
Dick's Picks Vol. 1 disc 2; Mississippi John Hurt; Eh,
Paisano! Italian-American Classics; The Budos Band, II.
Looking up, looking on...
I like to take pictures of the sky. Cloud shapes and the
vastness of it all have been endless sources of inspiration and
seeds for contemplation in my life.
To those with very narrow sight, the first is a cloudy
day and the second is just "...overcast." For the
first, give me that 98% blue sky and I'll show you a man basking
in the light... as for the second, look at how cool those clouds
are! Can you see how abstract influence can be sometimes? To the
creative mind there is so much in that sky that could spur new
curves or be translated into art & music. My brain looks at
a sky like that and just overloads... it's a symphony for the
This past week I posted this to Facebook (follow
us) and thought I'd share it here with you...
"Wanted to share what flew the Birdsong Guitars nest
today... sometimes it's the flaws that, when worked with,
provide the greatest character. Most builders would have thrown
this piece onto the scrap pile or cut around it. I saw it as
beautiful... to each their own. Finding the beauty in everything
is a good start; working to help bring it out is a process by
which my life has been changed beyond words."
In shop news it looks like a big ol' box of hardware is
on its way from Hipshot in New York, always a good thing...
especially when basses are waiting for hardware! Lots of updated
pictures went up in the Current Builds
on the client page this afternoon, so check those out and let me
know if you have any questions!
Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for being along
Here is the "book" picture I've
been wanting to take of Cortobass
#050 from the original workshop,
now with us again for sale on
It's definitely one of the most
famous AND beautiful Birdsongs.
The book is "Hand Made, Hand
Played" by Robert Shaw (2008).
408 pages of beautiful instruments...
Two more 8th Anniversary
Embraces of Texas Mesquite &
Ebony are in process, the last
two like this unless I decide to let go
of #007 which I've reserved for me!
These are amazing... claim yours!
THE TIME IS NIGH!
Random pic of some vegetable soup
I made for myself this week. I've
been drinking the slightly spicy
broth (I put a Jalapeno in the pot)
too... I feel like a million bucks.
August 10th, 2013
Soundtrack: Jimmy Cliff The Harder They Come; Steely Dan Can't Buy a Thrill;
and lots of real live Enanitos Verdes!
Music is both magic and medicine...
The beginning of this past week was mainly girding
my loins and attacking it like a beast. I got enough done and
laid out so the shop would be hummin' all through to the
weekend, and skipped out to visit amigos Los Enanitos Verdes coming
through Texas on their North American tour. What a band, and
what a great bunch of guys. If you are a fan of this group you
should know that not only have they written & sung the songs
you like, but there are genuine and grateful hearts
behind the music, and still another layer behind the band in the
crew that helps it all happen and keeps it all rocking AND
For those unfamiliar with them, Los Enanitos
Verdes hails from Argentina and has been a fixture in Latin Rock
since the 1980s - anywhere Spanish is spoken and rock music is
played, they are legends. Marciano loves basses, has a bunch and
even makes some himself... but most of the stage time (and a big
part of the studio time recording their new album) is spent
flying Birdsong. It is an honor to be a part of what goes on
between this band and their fans, who know every word to every
song and hold nothing back. The fans love the band and the band
loves their fans.
I was with them for the Houston to Dallas run, and
brought them their new instruments... commissioned by
bassist/singer Marciano in honor of he & guitarist Felipe's
30-year career of making music together, a matching pair of
Indian Rosewood on Maple topped, set-neck, Spanish Cedar bodied
tone machines decked out with Texas Mesquite fingerboards and
all black hardware. For Marciano, a Birdsong Fusion with
a DiMarzio Model One pickup...
...and for guitar wizard Felipe Staiti, a D'Aquila
Espada (go to www.daquilaguitars.com,
it's us). Though there's nothing like being there, I did find a
few clips already posted on YouTube - this one has the best
sound and some good shots of the band & crowd. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2AlLJ-cbT8
By the way, the crowds are like this everywhere
and it goes on for the whole show, not just one or two songs...
whether they are rocking a House Of Blues in the States, or
playing to 20,000, or top-billing a Latin Rock festival in
Mexico for 80,000. You get melody, you get musicianship, and you
get the magic; the band brings it every night. To see
people so alive and blissful and know the music moving them is
on instruments from our hands, from this shop, this
dream which started so small... this is a sacred thing.
Big Rock band road time is its own world and a
different energy; hoping to hop back into the workshop over
the weekend at some point and take pictures of all the
woodworking that went on in the hands of Jake & Brady, and
post them with part 2 of this update on the current
builds page, probably Sunday evening if I can get my
head clear by then. If not I'll just attack it Monday like a
Almost ready - the pair prepares
to fly the nest and sing to the world!
Marciano of Los Enanitos Verdes holding
his new Birdsong Fusion, and Scott of
Birdsong holding a Marciano bass!
Marciano and his Birdsong...
they sing together for the people.
Two "Wingfeather Workshop" instruments
rocking the house at the same time!
For dates on the tour where you can see
the band, go to their tour
"Birdsong family is welcomed warmly
at these shows wherever you're from!
Just go, you'll have a great time."
August 2nd, 2013
The Clash Sandanista!; Steely Dan Can't Buy a Thrill;
Iggy Pop A Million In Prizes (mostly the Stooges stuff).
August has arrived, a hundred and two three days
in a row with no sign of rain in the forecast. Bring it on, I
say; I'll be smiling and in a flannel shirt most of the time the
rest of you are shoveling out of a snowbank. More than that has
been heating up our little Texas workshop... look what has
resurfaced! This is quite a Birdsong... as seen in the book Hand
Made Hand Played, here she is... Cortobass #050, from the
2nd Anniversary set of 2006. Goodness...
More pics & info on the NEW Inventory
Also available is a brand new 8th Anniversary Embrace
This week I'll also let you in on a little Scott Lingo...
no, that's not some crazy new dance - though that could be
arranged for a donut or a cookie. No, these are terms I've come
up with to explain some of the dichotomies and issues that arise
in instrument design, making and customer interaction. I'll give
you two - The McCartney Effect and the Cindy Crawford
The McCartney effect is when people will play an
absolute ergonomic disaster that maybe does one thing well if
that's the one thing they're after. Anybody who plays what Sir
Paul is most famous for playing and tries to do anything
other than play that stuff on it... good luck. That bass is only
famous because HE played it, not because it was a
well-designed, great working, versatile and wonderful sounding
instrument. I mean I get the oddball thing - I do - there's a '62
Valiant in my driveway. But I'm never going to argue
how much of a sporty well designed thrill ride that is
with anyone... I can work on that car and it'll be a great 62
Valiant. But an entry level Kia will blow its doors off and
run circles around it. So spare me the hate mail, ok? Play your
'62 Valiant with strings and love it... but there's the
The Cindy Crawford Conundrum is where a potential
client loves an instrument but obsesses over one tiny little
natural cosmetic feature or some benign specification
percentage they probably couldn't feel blindfolded, or can't
cope with a tiny compromise to get the motherlode of benefits.
Won't even take it home even with a money back guarantee;
sometimes won't even give it a whirl. I mean I'm not saying cope
with Maple when you want Rosewood, or deal with a three pound
weight overshoot. No... we're talking the guy who simply MUST
have a 30.75" scale when ours are 31. How does he even
know how it'll hang on him? That quarter inch, spread
over 31 inches, is trumped by every other unknown the bass
will bring to a real experience in the hand... any and all
of which potentially negate any effect that quarter inch could
possibly have on anything. Or it's the other one who
loves a fretless - I mean in-hand, falling in love, most amazing
bass he'd ever played, instant right tool for the job... but
won't buy it 'cuz the fretboard's lined. Sure, a legitimate
cosmetic preference, bigger than the tiny dark spot in the
wood that simply can't be there... but that being a
dealbreaker in this context is like (here we go) kicking
Cindy Crawford out of bed because of the mole. No offense
intended, but there you have it in living color; I call it like
it is. It really does drive the point home, doesn't it? If
there's something amazing happening, go with that 98% and deal
with the little things, you know? Beep it, draw flower petals
around it, pretend it's a fire alarm button. I don't
know. Magic comes so rarely; if it's that close at hand in this
world you grab it and play it like it's destiny, drive it
like it was made for you, and clean that plate with a piece of
bread! Chase it around the room a few times - that's all I'm
saying. Put away the calculator and seize the moment. Don't miss
out 'cause you can't get by the little moles of this
Some other time we'll get into the El Camino
Compromise, Perfect Piece Theorem, the Peugeot
Quotient, and what it means to Coverdale - or
conversely, Cooper - something. For now, it's weekend
thirty and I'm out.
Thanks so much for flying Birdsong, please remain
securely fastened in your seats until the room comes to a
Here's a great sunrise from the other morning's drive in through
the Hill Country...
...and here's a sunrise with strings!
July 26th, 2013
Grateful Dead Live/Dead; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Raising Sand; and I tried to play some Butthole Surfers
but our already sick stereo rejected it after about 3
Truth is truth wherever you find it...
I was thinking about my favorite players. Not the
players I think are the most important to bass history or the defining
hands of bass culture... just the thumpers and pumpers that
caught my ear and taught me well as I plundered their tones and
dissected their lines. For better or worse, had they not been
them I would not be me.
I came to the bass first by necessity - I started
home recording in the mid '80s and needed the bass tracks to go
with the (gasp) drum machine tracks. Oh please, it's not
like you've never frosted your hair. So anyway, I bought a cheap
bass and, listening to some of these players, learned how to
place an effective bass track down. How to space the notes. What
to hit when. Dynamics. Chasing the fills a little. And little
did I know how well that drum machine had trained me until a few
years and thousands of miles later when I was a hack, half-assed
former hair metal guitar player now out in the world to make a
living playing real music! "Sure I play bass... when's
the audition?" In I locked and on we rocked. Yep,
that's what brought me into the fold.
But before I was even playing, let alone providing
ye ol' root-five for dance floors full of hordes of the
big busted & black hatted to boot scoot to,
I was noticing the low notes and phrasing of Ross Valory
(Journey). I wore out several tapes of Escape and can't
even tell you how much I learned about where to place the notes,
not just on the board but in time, from Ross. That's stuff that
can be applied to everything but the most tasteless of what I've
played over the years. Any pocket I ever found to play in was
partly Ross Valory's. 30 years later I still find myself filling
Brady Muckelroy, our friend, amazing composer
& player, helping hands and sharer of the shop (Muckelroy
Basses are built here right along side the Birdsongs, SD Curlees
and the occasional bass by head luthier Jake Goede) is up in
Denver, CO as we speak at a gathering of some of the most
amazing bass players you'll find - the LoDo Bass Bash (www.lodobassbash.com).
Clear over on the other end of the functional bass spectrum is
Billy Talbot of Crazy Horse. Root note on the one and not much
else... but that's a big ol' root note and I've loved 'em all
for, well, decades. One of my favorites because playing
his lines as found behind a truckload of Neil Young classics
early on taught me how to play the bass, in the same way playing
to those albums taught me how to play acoustic and electric
guitar (thank you Neil), drums (thanks Ralph Molina), and basic
melody ("Like a Hurricane"), song composition
("Out On The Weekend") & structure. Go ahead and
hurl your Jeff Berlin instructional DVDs at the screen; I don't
give a shit.
I love the work of a good upright Jazz player -
any and all of them, past and present. That's something I can
watch & groove to or just feel off a recording for hours...
for me those guys are "in with the music" so I have to
say Paul Chambers and Jimmy Garrison not because I follow them
necessarily as individuals but because Miles Davis' Kind Of
Blue and Coltrane's albums from the classic Quartet era -
especially A Love Supreme - resonate with me so deeply. I
also like both Paul D'Amour and Justin Chancellor of Tool, have
always enjoyed what John Paul Jones did in Zeppelin and like to
do just about everything in life with as much contextually
appropriately manifested force as DeeDee Ramone whenever
But speaking of throwing things at me, one of my
favorite bass players who most definitely had a musical
influence on me, at once hypnotic and driving, and unlike so
many others actually set an example by making every gig and
knowing the songs (that's half the reason I think I ever
made a living as a bassist-for-hire in Austin, everyone knew I'd
show up sober and know the songs... it sure wasn't for my slap
funk chops or sight reading I can tell you that!), dosing every
piece with a rumbling, gritty ostinato... one of my
favorite bass players of all time...
Ray Manzarek's left hand.
Hey, put that ashtray down!
Alright, alright. Settle down and have a great
Here are some pics from the shop
this week... up first are three basses
in final assembly, C287, C277 and
C265. Freshly coppered, loaded
and partially wired, it won't be long
before these three fly the nest...
And here's Jake test piloting
a Fusion destined to rock the
world in the hands of Marciano
of Los Enanitos Verdes. It's a
set neck build of Spanish Cedar
double-topped with Rosewood
on Maple & weighs under 6 lbs.
More pics of it and the companion
D'Aquila Espada guitar for guitar
player Felipe Staiti can be seen
down on the "Current Builds"...
Here's a re-run, a pic of three
basses in assembly from 2010.
A one pickup Hy5 (they're now
Hy5 Basses www.hy5basses.com),
a spalted Hackberry Fusion, and
another Hy5 of figured Maple and
Cocobolo. That stuff's getting hard
to get but I just got some so if you
want some on top o'yo' build...
Do the Cocomotion with me!
July 19th, 2013
Soundtrack: Miles Davis Nefertiti; Iggy Pop
A Million In Prizes (Anthology); Jimmy Cliff The
Harder They Come (Disc 2 - Crucial Reggae 1968-1972);
Grateful Dead Anthem Of The Sun.
Strange things happenin' every day...
Three amazing things have been going on, I mean
other than talking to cool clients and building bitchin'
Now it's not every day we see a rainy spell in
July here. But just about every day during this past week,
thunder storms have moved in and dumped sky water on us... a
pain in the butt to be driving through in really old vehicles,
but miraculous in the big picture. The grass is all green,
everything's alive where by now I've seen it brown and
withering, and we've had a spell of cool (for us during the
Summer) evenings... sure not complaining about that. Here are a
couple of shots from the beautiful back roads I drive to the
workshop. Yes, that's the hood of the legendary Joe The Truck...
too bad there isn't a soundtrack, but be grateful it's not
scratch 'n sniff either.
Brady brought in a couple of really expensive boutique
cables and basically said "You gotta hear
this..." I figured it was another supersonic percentage
only discernable to the ears of manifestations of The
dogs, and Brady. Now, I've got above average ears - I know this
- they've made me a living a few different ways. I say that not
to come off as all that and a bag of chips, I mean you
haven't watched me try to button up a dress shirt. It's like
watching someone hammer a nail in with a screwdriver. But ears?
I've got that. Well, Brady Muckelroy has it as a superpower. So
I thought this was going to be "the difference between
string brands", most of which I just can't hear. But when
he plugged in our fantastic, durable DiMarzio cables and we did
a head-to-head with a Colossal and an Asterope, truly it was
night & day even into an old 400RB and out a
"Workingman's" speaker cabinet. The Colossal had noticeable
low end gains and a bit more top, and the Asterope sounded like everything
got turned up. Sure, they're $150 cables... but don't ever say
they don't make a difference, 'cause they do. I couldn't believe
it. Just thought I'd share this.
And, this week I got to go over and visit my old
friend Ace Pepper who is now a serious boutique amplifier maker!
Dig it - this cat has ALWAYS had great tone, sure he's one of
those guys that has it dripping out of their hands but he's also
been way into amps and signal paths and guitars too. Great
player and always - ALWAYS - great tone. That's one of his
superpowers. Well I picked up a few straggler boxes from the big
NOS SD Curlee score the other day and there were NOS tubes in
there, so I immediately thought of Ace. You've
got to check out this guy, he's the Birdsong of guitar
amps. It was great to see him again and to jam out on some of
his masterpieces. Last time we connected a frightening number of
flown-by years ago he replaced me in an alt-country band led by
a marginally talented, self-destructive lunatic. Glad we
eventually both bailed to do things where our ideas could
actually come to fruition. Sometimes you just gotta go plant
your own garden and use the bullshit as fertilizer.
Sometimes up from it come roses...
Rock on, good people!
Here are all of Maggie's thoughts about the rain and
(especially) the thunder. Look at that expression.
Here's a shot of Jake testing the first 9th Anniversary
"Bandit" Corto2. He said it was exceptional!
And a shot of MY Fusion, now sold and going home Monday.
Starting a build for myself is the kiss of death so far as it
ever getting done. Now... anyone want an unfinished Cortobass
Speaking of Ace (but no relation), they're rebuilding our Ace
Hardware, which we lost to a big fire a few months back... this
is good to see.
July 12th, 2013
Soundtrack: James Brown In The Jungle Groove; The
Clash Sandanista; Neil Young Decade.
Every day's a new day...
Well, the big 4th of July brouhaha was really something.
Birdsong's 9th Anniversary... we rolled out the Bliss and the
9th Anniversary "Bandit" Corto2, and put a bunch of
stuff on sale now going out into the world to do its thang. New
people coming into the family, welcome! You other family
members, thanks so much for being with us as we roll on towards
This is a quick shot down the first road I go down in the
morning. It sets me right to see the sunrise. It fills me with
something sleeping in doesn't give me - that feels good too now
and then but if I really want a day I accomplish a lot, or
better myself, or take a run at a goal, or just feel like a well
honed tool... I'm up and at it early. It's something I always
preach to my friends who might be getting it (or something)
together or better or chasing a dream. Get up, get on it &
get after it.
And get down! Sometimes a little James Brown can help. Or
even a full-size one, if that's what's available.
Thanks & happy weekend!
The new Bliss bass...
The 9th Anniversary Corto2
(only 9 to be made)...
has all the short scale 5 and 6 strings,
something for anyone looking to be
AMAZED by the sustain & tone
you CAN have in a short 5!
And Scott has another Mesquite
Texas Lap Steel
to all who made our 9th Anniversary weekend sale such a success
~ enjoy your instruments!
Regular Friday updates will resume...
Soundtrack: Zen Guerilla Trance States In Tongues; Vanguard
Records Roots Of The Blues (disc 2); Bedouin Soundclash
Sounding a Mosaic.
It's all about tradition...
Tradition is how we stay connected with the past while
guiding our trajectory into tomorrow, like connecting the marks
with a ruler and then drawing the rest of the line just by
lining a little of that ruler against the line and going from
In 2004 we began a tradition of amazingly big sounding
basses that happened to be smaller, lighter and easier to
play... an opinion now made fact by your acceptance &
enthusiasm and our continued "delivering of the
goods." We launched on July 4th.
So tradition one is that every July 4th this site explodes
with sales, special offers, new model announcements and the
unveiling of the Anniversary bass or basses.
This will happen next Thursday, July
4th... part of our 9th
Anniversary festivities has already began -
from now through the
end of July 4th, all new build orders are 10% off with FREE
shipping (ContUSA)! That
does lots of cool things to the numbers, such as bringing the
price of "you choose the woods" Embraces down darn
near the sale "built for inventory" price! So now's
the time on that...
The rest, you'll see it on Thursday at the crack of dawn and
all deals and offers will be first-call, first served. I'll be
constantly updating the site as things sell or change.
Tradition two is that the update before the BIG 4th OF JULY
ANNIVERSARY is a bit light, since yours truly is by now a
fragged shell rounding the curve into the home stretch. This
year there will be a whole PAGE on this site devoted to telling
about & guiding to the various things we've been working on,
dusting off for one-time sale, and prototyping.
So instead of spinning a yarn here and resizing &
putting up a 50 pictures, I'm still assembling, stringing,
building and orchestrating behind the curtain, which I'll be
doing most likely until the 4th itself. I did get a few pics up
onto the current builds page, though.
And... tradition three is one of my favorites. This week
every year we also have a birthday in our circle, none other
than right-hand man and Head Luthier, the one and only Jake
Goede... without whom none of what's happening at this level
would be happening. The man can carve some wood.
Happy birthday, bud!
And as for the rest of you... stay tuned!
See you Thursday. You won't believe
this. It'll include
Birdsong, Hy5, D'Aquila and SD Curlee. My advice is to get
proper spousal clearance on the 3rd for whatever might
happen, because it's going to be like Christmas... minus the
blinking Nativity scene and chase lights on the roof. See you
TUNE IN JULY 4TH
9TH ANNIVERSARY BASSES
Here's a cool client bass we're working on - a LEFTY embrace
with a lined Bloodwood board! Putting those lines in backwards
was the hardest part! (kidding... think about it...)
We do some different things with our various models so don't be
afraid to ask just because it's not up on the site. If I won't
do it I'll have a real reason for you after 500+ builds.
See you THURSDAY
See you THURSDAY
See you THURSDAY
Soundtrack: Zen Guerilla Trance States In Tongues; Radiodread
(Reggae version of "OK Computer - it's great!); Cat
Stevens Mona Bone Jakon; Gillian Welch Time The
It's all a matter of perspective...
Well, just so nobody ordering now feels left out, I'm going
to give a jump start to the July 4th Birdsong Anniversary and
start today giving any build orders placed 10% off and
free shipping. It's something I usually do on the 4th of July as
part of the celebration along with new model announcements, the
unveiling of the Anniversary basses (this year it'll be... oh
come on you didn't think I'd TELL you did you?) and just a
general brouhaha of one time one day sales and special offers. I
know there a few pending orders and I'd feel like a dick if you
ordered then a week later they went on sale.
Now if you're late to the party, hey I can't help that...
but this is a good time to pull the trigger on a Birdsong build
(or SD Curlee, same deal with anything we're making for you).
You're reading this now, give me a call - I'm also the financial
department and I can make things happen without getting fired!
It's great not being subject to job termination. Jake can ask me
if he thinks this kind of switch would fit in his cavity and I
can say "I bet the whole dadgum wiring harness would fit in
there!" No office to be called into; nothing.
Been working super hard on lots of stuff soon to be headed
out of the nest and other things soon to be unveiled. That
doesn't leave a lot of me left to spin much of a yarn on this
page this week, but there are cool pics up on the client builds
page. Speaking of nest, just outside the homestead workshop
(where I've been working on even more stuff after hours -
you'll see) is a Cardinal's nest. I'll try to snap some pictures
at feeding time and put them up here.
So I'm going to go now and kick back a little, maybe put on
some Indian trance music or Born To Run or something. I should
be good and not eat any more pizza, but I can feel that lovely
round sauced & cheesed reward jones a-comin' on stroooong
good people. I live a clean, healthy life - that's a big part of
maintaining the "all" all of this has grown into;
keeping up that "A game" and staying well honed. But I
just never get tired of pizza & beer. But you know in
reality, so long as it's managed, it's fairly benign on the
scale of addictions. I mean Keith Richards snorted everything up
to and including his father's ashes and I'm sweating a few extra
calories and some oily cheese. Good grief. Where are my keys?
Be well & thanks!
(I'll put a few pics up over the weekend.)
Soundtrack: Miles Davis Kind of Blue; some
King Tubby Dub Reggae; Rich Robinson Under a Crooked Sun.
Natural colors... no artificial preservatives.
Occasionally I talk with a prospective client who wants what
we do, needs the performance and ergonomic benefits of a
Birdsong over other short scales, and who has the means to order
up a special build... but they gotta have a pretty blue bass. I
totally get it, being into hot rods & old cars as I am.
There's something about a candy apple red or a mile-deep
metalflake blue, or a nice Plum Crazy purple; and don't
even get me started on the '70s custom van thing. I get it. I
do. But I gotta build natural finish instruments. Just
about everything I've built since 1997 have been natural. Heck,
most of what I even play are natural... here are my two guitars
by head luthier Jake (left two - the one on the right is natural
Wenge and is for sale, email or call for details).
I'm into natural things; label however you want (it seems to
be the national pastime these days) but that's what I want to
see in something crafted of wood... that it looks like wood, not
plastic. That is a concept in my world that trumps any cool
factor in anything else. Wood should look like wood. I think it
should feel and sound like wood too, but those are other talks
for another time. I love wood; I have a more intimate
relationship with wood than most, and so it stands to reason I
might feel a tad more reverent about it. You can just love the
basses and guitars; that helps you do what you do. I have to
love both the wood and the process of what I do to do MY best
doing what I do.
I live in a world of natural colors. I live in the
country. That's by choice, partly because everything is so alive
out here... even in decay. It's right there, part of the dance
of life. The sun shines here most of the time, at least when
it's not dark - and then the stars come out every night.
Especially this time of year everything is in bloom and coming
alive. Yellow cactus flowers, green Junipers, orange bugs, blue
flowers by the roadside... I notice all of this, and that too is
by deliberate choice. As busy as I am, the day I don't see the
beauty around me is the day I chuck whatever has distracted me
so much I lose the daily magic of being alive in such a
beautiful place. Can't afford to stop and breathe in that view?
Can't afford NOT to. Time is NOT money; money is money... time
is time. One you earn ideally in increasing amounts as you get
better at what you do; the other you spend like the diminishing
fortune it is as you grow wiser.
Woodworking mentor and wise sage John C. "Uncle
Johnny" Kirtland advised me that when you rub some special
oil blend into wood, that's when its transformation rounds the
bend into becoming; you are giving this to the wood, giving it
life again, bringing it back. This is a ceremony. As part of
that ceremony I celebrate the beauty in each piece of wood. It's
there - beauty is in that old stump or plank or yet another
facet of a tree itself's beauty. It IS. It is in there, it was
there in the seed, and after it returns to the earth it will
itself nourish another form with its own beauty. None of this is
dependent on us, our grand thoughts about it or our little
opinions on anything else.
It is a part of something much bigger than we are. And if we
are lucky, in this process, we factor in somehow, in a way that
"we" think is creating something but in reality is
merely assisting the change inherent in things that are alive;
things that are natural. We come along at a crucial moment and
help this piece of wood become art. Craft. And in some cases, to
sing as a musical instrument. If it can show its inner beauty,
its natural character, its true colors, all the better - all the
more respect for it and its process, all it ever was even before
it was the tree and all it will ever be long after its dance in
the workshop with me.
So Hillary, this is why I could not offer you a blue bass. I
hope you call me back as I'd be honored to make you a bass I
KNOW is your answer, and I can guarantee it'll knock your socks
off or I'll paint myself blue. But I can't paint that
piece of wood and tell you it's the best it can be.
Thanks for your time & interest everybody!
Shots from the workshop:
Jake and Brady play a refrain of
Another shot of Jake's latest guitar
in Wenge & Mahogany that's for
sale. You'll love it - I have three.
And what is this? Well, it's a truly
amazing single piece body of
Walnut. Past that, I'm not
talkin' for another few
Here's a past build but a great and
colorful shot of Purpleheart and
Mesquite I thought I'd share...
I do love wood so much
more than paint.
Here's something random:
You car guys'll grin.
G-dog, I'm working on the box!
Soundtrack: Luciano Pavarotti The Best;
Dewey Syntax Archetype Trick To Crack Theist Poetry;
Grateful Dead ('70s live stuff), Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix Blues.
Don't sell yourself short selling cheap stuff to shorties...
I had a great conversation with a man we'll call
George who called me up, it was a solicitation call for his
services. What he does is get together gift packages for VIPs
and celebrities in the music business. You know, where they walk
the carpet at music awards and get handed goodies to get
photographed with as a matter of publicity for the product
maker. "...and here are Crew Of Dicks holding their new Schlemiel
GT guitars, provided by Doolittle & Chargealot's Screwgun
Guitar Works!" That kinda thing.
Well, George received my perspective on it - that
I understand the value in that and being seen in certain
hands and that I wasn't knocking what he's doing, but that I
make tools of creation, sell just about every one my shop can
build, and I believe in a certain way of doing things that
doesn't include putting my stuff where others will buy it just
because they saw someone with it who got it for free. We
don't do that, and we TALK about not doing that because in a way
it's kind of a shuck 'n jive act. That's how a Guitar Center
moves a bunch of $295 Schlemiel GT "Shanghai Lookalike
Series" guitars; that's not what we do.
Oh it happens in higher-end boutique instruments
too, sure; but it's not as a general rule "how it's
done." A guy like Wooten doesn't play Fodera because
he gets 'em for free - a player of that caliber plays what he
plays because he likes it and wants to. Whatever the arrangement
between that company and that artist, or him and any company, or
a Fender and a Clapton, or Clarke with Alembic, I'm sorry but
it's WAY different for those makers and clients, and for us and
our clients, than what goes on between Schlemiel and
"Crew of Dicks", or Rich Balsac of The Crop Dusting
4, or Shoegazer & The Mealymouths, or any one of
the BUNCH of real bands a real brand of that type
lines the shelves and markets its Chinese factory discount
low-end off-the-rack versions to. That's how it's done in that
world. Have a pro one made for the hero of the day, sell chintzy
copies to the kids. High end stuff is a little different, how it
sells and why is a bit different, and thank goodness the
clientele is a bit different than that too. You're not a bunch
of gullible kids and we're not... schlemiels.
So I, of course, passed. Bla bla bla publicity,
bla bla bla exposure, bla bla bla part of the game.
Not knocking it... well ok, just a little. Hey as far as
I'm concerned if we're betting on pool table tricks those balls
are fair game for a little busting, right? It is what it is.
Heard it all before. But George himself was way cool; he books
bands and does the music side of this VIP thing and loves it
after being a stockbroker for years purely for the money. He
walked. He had to do something with his time he liked doing.
We talked about how doing anything in a field you feel is
"you" is so much better on the mind, body &
spirit. He and I may work different parts of the music arena,
and I may have never taken the standard career path like he did
(I don't think I've ever even had one full cheek on that chair
honestly) but we both knew music was it in some way, and found
George was understanding if not totally embracing
my position on freebies-for-publicity-for-sales. And I thought
his was a refreshing angle rather than the calls I usually get
about, basically, working for free or netting clients
as if they were minnows. "Look me up if there's ever
anything I can do for you," said George... "And if I
hear of someone looking for some really nice basses I'll send
them your way. Of course I don't know what they play like, but
you're doing beautiful work."
I told him, "Well George they play great and sound
fantastic. You know how you can be sure of that? Because
anytime you see someone playing a Birdsong or raving on the web
about how great they are, how great they play, how great they
sound, that person - no matter who it is - bought it with their
own money and has no motive to play or praise it other than
being THAT happy with the bass." There was a pause in the
conversation. I think he got it. It's just being real; keeping a
certain level of integrity intact. I don't need some shill to
sell what I do. So my way of doing it may not sell truckloads,
but it sure buys me a bit of trust... and that's a trade I can
Thanks & have a great weekend everyone! As always, if you
like what we do and want to know more or get a Birdsong going
for you, call the mobile number anytime - weekends too.
Well I got a few guesses in on the shot of that longhaired dude
- who he was and when it was taken - in last week's update.
Earliest was me "in 1997"... but one guy
guessed it was current, and me, and Greendog wins a little box
of useless memorabilia from the shop! I though for sure the hair
down would throw you off...
Scott's new face. In five minutes he went from Grizzly Adams to
lost in the '70s, which suits him fine. He was going to donate
all that beard hair to the Baldkroch-Merkin foundation, but
mailed it to his mother instead.
Great sky, with a tiny rainbow spot in the middle. Taken through
a dewey windshield, as opposed to Dewey Syntax, a friend who
makes great music!
Here are a couple of shop pics...
Uncle Johnny's old drill press, still making things happen. It's
the highest honor you can give to a departed craftsman to keep
his tools working.
If your birdsong is mid-2007 or later, it was touched by this
Here's the last bench a Birdsong, SD Curlee USA or D'Aquila goes
on before it goes home. Fusion #38 is shown on Jake's bench
where it gets the final steps... final fret dress, adjustment
& setup, and the truss rod cover and other trimout pieces
are installed. From here it's test played by at least two of us,
detailed, and put in the case to go home.
Soundtrack: Eric Clapton Crossroads disc 3, Backless,
Eric Clapton, There's One In Every Crowd; Jerry Garcia
Acoustic Band Almost Acoustic
Somebody's gotta do it...
I've been going through an Eric Clapton phase. Much music is
like an archaeological dig to most of us since it all traces backwards and
we're all increasingly going forwards through time. Coming
of age in the 1980s wasn't a great time for a young person to
get into Clapton. That guy in the suit playing that soundtrack
music about being in the way that you use it, that Phil Collins
sounding thing with all the keyboards? I didn't relate to that
Even though I knew his earlier hits and I even
used to take a big ol' hair farmer wankfest behind-the-back
extra-cheese guitar solo during covers of "Cocaine" in
the '80s, I mean, who WAS this guy?
As my wife Jamie says, he's hard to pin down and get to know as an
artist. "I have no sense of who he is..." It's a good
way of putting it. He's mostly a blues rock guitar player, influential
through that. Ok. Cool acoustic "Unplugged" stuff,
with hits mostly other
writers' or artists' songs. I had never listened to an
entire Eric Clapton solo album front to back. Eric Clapton to me
in practical terms was a picture on a Guitar Player magazine
cover and 5 or 6 tunes on the radio.
I figured it was about time. This has happened
before - the total immersion, buy a stack and get into them, get
into more than the handful of hits on the radio approach. Last
was Van Morrison. It's the rest of the album tracks that give
you a flavor of who they are. I love doing it this way; picking
an artist I want to know better, and tracking down all the
albums that defined them in that era. Then I dive in. Clapton
was definitely one of those artists in the "I know there's
some great thread there because people I've respected love the
guy's work, so it's gotta be me just not finding it yet"
So I'd been picking up some '70s Clapton CDs and
finally did dive in. Favorite so far is "There's One In
Every Crowd"... got to talk with the drummer from this
era a few times a few years ago, Mr. Jamie Oldaker, who was one
of the many famous pros hidden away out in the Texas Hill
Country Woods. Cool cat. Great drummer. So it would be
interesting to hear a bunch of his playing from the '70s too.
And it is, I'm enjoying this chapter of Clapton's work. I'm
getting it. He is kind of a chameleon to the Producer & the
times though; his ART has few consistent threads other than his
voice (which also changes situation to situation) and his tasty
guitar playing. But there's some really good stuff in here and
I'd been wanting to mine this Clapton '70s era stuff and get it
into my life for a long time.
Here's a great show from that era:
- it really gets going after the first
couple of tunes...
See, a long time and many miles ago, one of the
greatest influences of my life was an
art teacher named Ruthanne Arbeit. In my lowest and most
hopeless and confused time as a being on this planet, she
encouraged me. She saw something and nurtured it. She signed
something to me "To the next Eric Clapton... or whoever YOU
become." Wow, become. Become. In realizing I
could become something, I understood those tough times
would only be temporary - that something else would be
happening someday. That's hard to see at 14 sometimes. That is hope
my friends, and to nudge another human being into a spot where
that light can hit them is the greatest gift you can give as a
person and the highest filling of one's calling as a teacher...
I wish I could
speak with her as an adult, as the man I am now, but she died a
number of years ago. She was a HUGE Eric Clapton fan.
Back when live recordings were a hell of a lot harder to get
(basically they were traded or sold on cassette or really
expensive independently-pressed LPs and we called them
"Imports"), I got a hold of the audio of an '85
Clapton show and dubbed her a copy; made the J-card myself. She
was thrilled. I never forgot her and I always think of
her love of Eric Clapton whenever she comes to mind. So if nothing else, since
the odds changed and I made it and she didn't, since I'm still here and she's not...
I should enjoy
some Eric Clapton for her in her stead. A celebremorial
I'm diggin' it, Ms. Arbeit. I'm diggin' it enough for both of
us. "Opposites" off of One In Every Crowd is cranking
as I write this... I've got this.
And one thing I can definitely say about Clapton's
music, it goes down a lot smoother than the Ol' Grandad for
Rock on, good people. I'm off like a dirty shirt!
is great - watch it.
In other news, the "Raise a toast for Mumford's
birthday" was a success, with folks checking in from
all over having raised a beverage and toasted my mother's
Hello Scott, I bought A Hy5 bass from you some years ago. I
always read your `News from the nest`. So Today I drank a cup of
coffee for Your Mom. Love and Peace ~ Heino from Germany
With a raised mug of Dano's Backslide (Dark Chocolate and
Carmel Latte with Steamed Cream and Extra Espresso) I and a
party of three early morning customers at Jackson Avenue Coffee
toasted your mom. God Bless her from Charleston Illinois. ~Dano
Happy birthday Mumford from Ireland! Hope all is well with you
Scott. Really loving my Corto2!
Happy Birthday to your mom, from Pasadena, CA. ~Kevin
Among many others from the US & even the UK! Thank you
all so much for participating in this annual event!
So here's a toast to you all from my mother!
"70... it's a number, not a lifestyle! Greetings from
Florida and thank you for all your good wishes."
(Ma, that's a hell of a glass of wine, ah?)
Eric Dewey, a cool cat & great musician who not only still
plays one of the first guitars I ever built but also THE first
short scale bass I ever did ('98) and an old Peavey I
made a 9-string out of, is promoting his latest project, putting
some good music out & helping cancer causes. Check
it out. The CD is good too!
APB: Any silversmiths or gun-makers who
can do a formed piece of silver & engrave it, please
check in - I can't find anyone local to do it. I have wooden
bucks for some decorative parts to put on a bass, and the other
kind of bucks for someone willing to do it! Call Scott @
512-395-5126. Pass it on. Thanks!
Ok, who is this and how long ago was it taken? First correct
guess nets themselves a small box of worthless, useless,
authentic Birdsong etc. "Wingfeather Workshop"
Norman Greenbaum Spirit In The Sky; Rolling Stones Get
Yer Ya Yas Out; Tom Cochrane Mad Mad World; Eric
Clapton Crossroads box set, disc 3.
All you can do is do what you do...
So much exciting stuff going on at &
around the shop and we three individually, here are some
peeks... for info on any of this, gimme a buzz at 512-395-5126
A wonderful little Mesquite wood Birdsong bass took off for home
today, check it out...
In SD Curlee news, there's a 32" scale "P-32"
available in Mahogany & Maple. This is a new model we based
on a rare early '80s Curlee. Sounds great, balances, and has a
nice traditional look but with the SD Curlee medium scale &
"Bolt-through" construction. www.sdcurleeusa.com
There's a Hy5 AVAILABLE, a gorgeous 5.2 in Mahogany. Best
performing short scale 5 in the world? You tell us... www.Hy5basses.com
Jake Goede, head luthier around the workshop, has some guitars
coming together - check this one out - flamed Maple, beautiful
African Mahogany, chambered... wow. Every one of you knows a
guitar player, and if they're looking for something more than
"off-the-rack", my right hand man makes a great
guitar. How do I know? Well he makes a lot of stuff around here,
AND I have 3 of his own guitars! There are more like these
coming, Walnut wonders & blonde beauties too... all for sale
priced to move now. (He's moving into a house and needs first
& last, so now's the time to bag a JG for a bargain!) Call
for details... his number is 830-822-0516.
Brady Muckelroy, when he's not carving on Embraces (like
these shown in process - all available - Red Cedar wings with Bloodwood board,
$975; "Anniversary" Mesquite with black Ebony, $1250;
Korina with Wenge board, $975 - details on Inventory
page or call)...
...is making his own amazingly cool basses, like this 32"
scale Charger32. I hope he doesn't read this but a client came
in for Brady to work on his Lackland the other day and the little
32" Muckelroy just decimated it tone-wise. It was almost
embarrassing. Almost. But I know what's behind his 32s, and the
34s, and what's in them. So I wasn't surprised. He's got
basses for sale - 512-618-1781.
In my little homestead shop (former home to Birdsong), I've got
a couple of after-hours specials coming together... you know, I
do think about the plight of those who know a Birdsong is the
answer for them but simply can't swing the buy-in. I'm not going
to foist some cheap made-in-China piece at you with our brand
name on it; that will never happen so long as this is my ship.
But if you're open to a simpler bass with a nice, rich, woody
tone, hand built - check out what I'm working on.
Interested in this Walnut or one like it in Mahogany? Gimme a
buzz for details!
...And I have another lap steel in process, these are fun
instruments. This one combines a little art deco with a lot of
Texas soul, being made mostly from Texas Mesquite. It'll have
gold hardware (maybe), aged pearloid, probably a vintage DiMarzio PAF-voiced humbucker,
volume & tone controls. A couple of weeks out from
finishing... yep, it's for sale. I'm thinking $595 to your
continental US door...
For any info on any of this stuff, call me at 512-395-5126, Jake
is at 830-822-0516, Brady is 512-618-1781. These are anytime
numbers, weekends/eves fine, we never punch out. Unless you take
the last Real Ale "Devil's Backbone" without asking.
Play nice, now!
A message from Scott:
I want to use this space this week to personally offer my
thoughts & prayers to all of those
affected by the storms in Oklahoma and surrounding areas.
Also to share some words with you, who like me, have sat
watching and feeling helpless, weighed down with the natural tragedies,
man's inhumanity to each other, and freak accidents that have
been going on.
I'm blessed & lucky in that I get to do my passion for a
living for now. But the reason I DO this in the first place is
because it's the best of me. This is my calling - business
part aside, this is what I am able to do with my
best to contribute something good to the world.
You have your version of this - your gift, your superpower. It
doesn't matter if you make a dime at it, just that you do it,
that you offer it as seed in the face of madness and sadness and
toss your best like a stone into the waters.
So much of what is happening in the world today are not knee scrapes we can
just clean and
Band Aid. These are lives facing huge readjustment that make
most of our little day to day issues look like... well... little
scrapes we should clean, bandage, and move on from. We have
nothing that should be complained about in comparison.
We can do a bit by contributing where we can, but we can't
really fix it and sometimes it just drives me crazy. If I could
just touch these people... but I can't. I can't lift schools off of children or put houses and
lives back together; I can't diffuse bombs or make people
more civil; I can't repair shattered bone or grant hope
amidst destruction. I can't replace what is lost, or hold the
roof on, or guarantee yours will stay over your head. Or my own,
for that matter.
What I can do is do what I do. Do it the best I
can in gratitude I have another day to do it. Send it off in
hopes it is part of something good, as some seed to land on
fertile ground. I can sing my song loudly enough so you hear my
words and maybe they will inspire you, and you others; I do
believe in ripples.
If you have to die, die like a man trying to make something
happen. If you get to live, live like today is the greatest
gift you have ever been given. Sitting there with the wind
sucked out of your sails, feeling overwhelmed by the latest
unspeakably tragic event... you have to burn that like fuel and
turn it into motion. Action. You've got to sing a song, plant a
tree, feed a stray, build something, create something, help
something to happen. We can't change what has happened and we
can't fix others' lives. But this we can do...
I'm going to build guitars and basses, help others do the same,
and help fill the world with music. That is my position on the
team; my place on the field. It's all I am, and though it can't
stop the waves I can offer it to the ocean like a stone
thrown with a strong hand. All I can do is make ripples.
Do that which you have been gifted to do; bring
that to what you can, and do it for who you are able. Take your
pebble and toss it into the waters. It does help. It does mean
something. It does matter.
Soundtrack: Luciano Pavarotti The Greatest, disc
2; Richard (Dickey) Betts, Highway Call; Grateful
Everything's the same just dressed
up for its own occasion...
This week's update has very little to do
with basses (or even guitars)... or does it?
Scott's Automotive heroes:
David E. Davis Jr.
Reading his articles proved to be more than entertaining
journalism about a topic I had interest in; each was a lesson in
how to write, new vocabulary to look up, and the adventures one
can have if one learns to dream big, hang it out the window when
needed, do your thing well and not be afraid to ruffle a few
feathers. I consider his writings and reports part of my
"College of life" education, and one could do much
worse than to sit back with a copy of Thus Spake David E.
and a glass of Straccali Chianti.
A master of the line and curve; even if we don't count the
debated and uncredited (yet somewhat obvious) contribution to
the gorgeous Lamborghini Miura, this Italian auto designer is
still responsible for such other sculpture on wheels as the
DeTomaso Mangusta, '60s Iso Grifo and beautiful Alfa Romeo
Giulia Sprint GT, the Maserati's stunning original Ghibli, Merak,
and the '79 Quattroporte, and the striking '70s Lotus Esprit
among many others. Those grabbed me young; you might not see it
directly in what I do and I may have regressed to more "Allman
Bros. concert parking lot" tastes in wheels, but believe me
it's there in the curves of the Corto, the finesse of the
Fusion, and anytime I put a pen to the ol' sketch book.
Style. This guy could stagger out of a flipped stock car and
have a microphone stuffed in his face by the most moronic
crash-chasing reporter at the scene, and you'll probably get a
sly smile while he says something like "Well, some days go
better than others but it's sure good to see you." Pure
class, and from him we learn a great smile has to be backed up
with something more. That would be balls. Big balls. Wrecking
crane balls. Balls so big they're usually only seen rolling down
cavern tunnels behind Indiana Jones. And that it takes a team.
And that a hand-picked team however humble can become legendary
through hard work and consistency... and that the right hat and
a pair of dark glasses only add to the mystique... but not
everybody can pull that off either.
Freiburger is to David E. as a six pack of Lone Star is to
Cabernet Sauvignon. Whilst the Cabernet may be toying with you
with those big French words while it knows darn well it's not quite
true connoisseur stock, it does aim high where the Lone Star
throws long. Long as in "Watch this..." Long as in
"Hold mah beer and watch this!"
Frieburger is a scraped knuckle, 30-weight-in-the-veins car guy
first and journalist second, and he's liable to do anything with
any car - road trip a '60s Hemi, hack a 'Vette for weight loss,
stuff a 500 Caddy in a Chevette (in Hot Rod magazine, I think
that was him, it has Freiburger written all over it regardless),
do an engine swap in a parking lot... the stranger the better.
Little is sacred but I've never followed a guy who loves the fun
aspect of the wheeled machine more. I like everything he's ever
done (even if I was offended by it), and any time this guy ends
up by some miraculous oversight by bean-counters and focus
groups as the head honcho of a magazine, it defines an era of
that magazine. Sometimes a little bit of insanity can help.
...and here are a couple of documentaries:
Here is a fantastic documentary about the secrets of a
particular branded Viking sword. It's the same thing as the
Stradivarius violin... "What made these so much better than
the others?" Fascinating, and I'm not a big weaponry buff.
Boy do I relate to this sword maker guy, though...
And then there's this. This is in a
league of its own. This is something every aspiring
luthier should watch; these guys build authentic Colonial-era
rifles without even electricity. It's the most amazing
documentary I've ever seen... they even make their own screws.
The biggest tool in the shop is one's skill set. This is THE
extreme example of endeavoring to do laboriously by hand over
days with sweat and honed skill and devotion to excellence at a
craft what can be done by computer controlled machine in China
in about 26 seconds. Why do it then? How do I put this... if
this doesn't mean anything to you, there's no explanation that
will suffice... and if you're as wowed by it as I am, none will
be necessary. Some of the guys I talk to that ask me how to get
started (it happens when you hang around long enough), I get the
idea they're in love with the idea of building guitars
for a living. The reality of it is endured only by those called
to it; there's way more to it than it looks, it takes a long
road to hone your skill set to a consistently professional
level, and it takes near fanaticism to hold your course. If this
looks like madness to you, it's ok; you're normal. If it looks
like something that - in your world, adapted to the process of
your craft - seems like why you were put on this Earth in the
first place, welcome to the fold.
Shop pic of the week...
...and another, Brady working on an available Embrace, one of
the last of the 8th Anniversary ones in Mesquite with Ebony.
And a happy birthday to my mother, Carol Alexander, who had
exactly one child. Did she stop after perfection? Well now
that's nice to think but the truth of the matter is I was three
kids worth of work. Here she is as seen through a piece of
Italian sandwich bread.
Everyone please - Saturday May 18th, wherever you are, hoist a
beverage in the air and (out loud) say "Happy
Then email and let me know where it happened all over
the world so I can forward that info to her. She still can't
believe any of this is happening and I don't think she quite
grasps the level of it, you know?
I want at least 3 countries!
Checked in from:
Massachusetts (home inspector Jim!)
Bonus: wonderful link to a Grateful Dead jam I could eat on
toast for breakfast every day... here
(I have no idea what's happening at the beginning.)
Soundtrack: Waylon Jennings The Ramblin' Man; Norman
Greenbaum Spirit In The Sky; Pavement Crooked Rain
Crooked Rain; Leigh
Stephens A Rocket Down Falcon Street; Fleetwood Mac
Tunnel ahead, low clearance...
I watch a lot of music documentaries, and came across a BBC
production on Nile Rodgers. I'd heard of him (and his bassist
sidekick Bernard Edwards - who I now "get" and am in awe of) but
the music he did wasn't really in my world back when it was
happening. Now I can appreciate it in component form; the
groove, the layers, the tones, the placement of everything
including the rhythmic, percussive guitar strums. I can get past the
gold lamé and Studio 54-isms. The man's a genius and even during
the nutty times I didn't hear anything he did that made me say
"This guy went up his own keisterhole on that one..." which is
amazing. What does that mean? Ok, here's an example from the
era. Compare Fleetwood Mac's Rumours... to the double album that
followed it. That cost a million bucks to make. That - though an
interesting listen - was full of the half-developed and the
overdone, with what seems
like absolutely no ability to self-edit or listen to any
reasonable outside voice that might have had a bit more
perspective on quality control and focus. This coming from a
huge fan of Lindsey Buckingham, by the way. For you of the next
gen, here's yours - three words: "Use Your Illusion." Textbook
example of the big ride up "Canal A". Had their
moments, for sure! Neither work is all filler. Edit out the
obvious artistic spew and burn a copy with just the grade A
stuff and these packages make world class single albums from
those bands. Kudos
for being adventurous, but there's a difference between
prolifically and creatively pushing one's envelope and losing
oneself up one's own behind. The line may blur subjectively to
varied tastes, but much like the only drunk guy in the room when it's way over the line it's fairly
obvious to everyone else, and ol' Hershey Highway has certainly rounded out
many a production team.
It's a hazard of success, though I've known cats that never
made a dime off their music and thought they were God's Other
Son too, or just spun in their circle 'til they lost all tether. All kinds of artists & craftsfolk run the risk of
being some ways along that long, dark journey before they even
realize it. Ask
Rick Wakeman. Ask John Frusciante. It happens. Follow the muse but lead with the
ego and fuel with altering substance, or just start off nutty as
squirrel doo... at times you detour to where everything's brilliant, a grand
artistic statement, and all you have to do is show up and touch
something with your Blessed Golden Wand of Intent for the most
absurd and unintentional parody of oneself to
become some stroke of pure genius. So let's touch everything! And
let's not second-guess, rewrite, refine, or focus at all. Meh,
keep it puuuure man. One
does wonder at these times why it's so dark in here... and,
depending on how much of one you were to begin with, some face
longer journeys of this sort than others. But we all toe that
line at times if we're not just painting by numbers. It's the
black ice on this road. Though
there again, especially in this line of work you do find some
crayon-wielding inside-the-liners who consider themselves
masters of the luthieric sciences because they can bolt two
parts together and post endlessly on "Tonewood"
selection and component value tolerance. Hey, I've got your
component right here!
It helps to daily remind yourself of why you do what you do, no
matter what that may be, so you don't lose perspective. Talking
with my clients ("the family") is great for this. I
work for the best clients in the universe - some of you all are
so into this, and I respect that - it's not a birthright for
anyone with a "great idea" to have a crowd gather or
have the chance to earn a reputation. Sure I work hard and bring
my A game but the CHANCE to do this for you is a GIFT. So I'm
sure as hell not going to send you something halfassed like it's
some sort of masterwork... I got two or
three calls this week about upgrading and embellishing builds
that are happening right now. This is no problem, even if we
have to start with a differently-prepped body blank to fit in
stringers or add a scroll or whatever. It does take time to get
to - and do - your build the way a workshop works, as opposed to
a factory. So for better or worse there's plenty of time to
rethink your order as you see what else is going on, and that's
fine... though I definitely understand the concept of a budget
(I mean, I build basses for a living), the ordering of a custom
hand crafted instrument is not the time to scrimp on the few
extras that would make it your DREAM bass. I'm certainly not
going to retire off of that, that's not the point of the art
aspect of this. We eat off of the craft - but we answer for our
chances with the art. From my
perspective I work for you, and above all else - and why I
became a craftsman in the first place - was to spend
myself, my life's hours and ticking minutes, in service to creating something beautiful. If it can
mean something and inspire you, well that's the greatest use of
that service and that beauty. Because if all I do is build for
me and marvel at what happens, the head can very easily get
distantly lost in itself over time. That's not always bad...
sometimes you go way out and get Sgt. Pepper. But other times you
go way UP end up with
Journey to the Centre of the Earth...
And I'm sorry but unless you're a superhero,
showing up wearing a cape is a definite indication you just might have a
case of Optical Rectalitus.
Rock on, good people.
I'm off like a dirty shirt.
Wood shopping - loading it up!
Over on Hy5basses.com there's a
Mahogany Hy5 "5.2" available
with no wait (ok, a week to finish it);
this is us, we spun off the 5 (and 6!)
strings into their own brand.
Anyhow, from being with us you
know how often a 5 ever showed up
in inventory here... never. If you
want the most comfy, biggest sounding
little 5 string around, grab it or call
for more info anytime - 512-395-5126.
Timing and placement hold so much
of success in their grasp... it's not
enough to work hard or have
great ideas. Circumstance
holds a high hand as
to whether it has
the chance to
Soundtrack: Gulf Coast shoreline in my brain, Jimi
Hendrix Blues, Johnny Cash Unearthed box set
(all of it).
"There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives
in the midst of nature and has his senses still." ~Henry
Sorry for being a bit out of touch this past week and a half
or so, but I took a vacation with wife Jamie & Maggie the
doggie. Other than Holiday road trips, this was the first real
vacation of this kind... ever. I'll be honest with you - after
near 10 years of busting ass on Birdsong, it felt great to be
able to take care of my end and leave a list of tasks for the
guys to keep working on, and to have it all done and synched up
to where it's my turn with them right when I show back up. It
works. We spent a week down at Crystal Beach, TX on the coast,
in a house right on the water. Even my road trips over the past
decade tend to involve lots of movement and activity... not this
time, Hoss. I parked my butt on the porch, read Ben Ratliff's Coltrane,
The Story Of a Sound and some of Ron Carter - Finding The
Right Notes, stared out into the ocean, watched the fishing
boats go by, and generally fed and refreshed and aired myself
out quite well thank you.
Trim I'm not but tanned I am and back into the shop go I. I
was actually back in Wednesday to make the master list of
call-backs, notes from calls & emails to update the sites
and builds and paperwork with, stuff I screwed up on the site
before I left to fix, coming-ins, going-outs, and perspective on
it being May already and all of that other miscellany that
waltzes in when two weeks of ones regular routine and juggling
act disappears. An amazing amount of work went on before I left,
while I was gone, and since I've been back. I'll try to filter
it up in this update as best I can. Special thanks to the buyer
of the "Vacation bass" build, you're getting a great
deal and I give YOU a great deal of gratitude for helping our
little jaunt to happen!
By Thursday morning the little blue van was now no longer
rolling past beach cabanas on stilts but headed north on 35 up
into Austin on a wood run. Big slabs of Mahogany, Walnut,
Spanish Cedar and Maple - along with miscellaneous other little
treats - were hand picked, trimmed up and loaded in. They will
soon be basses. Yours? Hang in there, they're worth the wait as
anyone who owns one will tell you. The different woods have
different criteria; this time I wanted some Mahogany with more
flatsawn grain than ribbony, some super looking stuff for a core
on an Artist build we're starting on, and some lightweight
pieces; the Maple was all hard Maple for necks, chosen for grain
orientation and density; I always look for lighter weight Walnut
but didn't find any this time, just standard weight stuff that
was very pretty; and so on.
On average, a Spanish Cedar Birdsong weighs 6 to 7
pounds; Mahogany, 7s; Walnut 7s into low 8s. Not only is that
light, but when it's balanced and you don't have some huge
headstock sticking way out acting like 5 pounds of leverage on
the balance and thereby your shoulder and the arm you hold the
neck up with to play on all night, it feels like it weighs even
less. Because imbalanced basses feel heavier than they are over
the course of a night. They beat the heck out of your body and
there's no need to play something like that - however cool they
are - any more than there is to wear those great looking classic
old shoes that don't fit worth a damn and are uncomfortable to
walk in. Part of the joy of a shoe that fits is how much better
the REST of you feels when you walk comfortably. It all starts
with the design; then comes the wood.
The guy at the wood place knows me well, we've been buying
most of our stuff there for close to 10 years. I remember
getting 15" wide 2"thick slabs of Honduran Mahogany 12
feet long there and those were just the ones I picked; there
were stacks. Good times. Ultimately though I need to feel
something between myself and the wood; it's hard to explain. But
beyond the visual, structural, and weight properties of a given
slab, there is some inner something there. I think of it as
vibration because, let's face it - it's ALL vibration - but
that's how it feels. I feel it. I even pick pieces I don't need
because they feel like the right ones. Something needs to happen
with this piece and I'm the guy to synch up its process of life
and change with our process of creation and transformation in
this moment... "...you're one, ok, in the van you go."
I don't ask questions. It's already some kind of instrument,
what of it isn't a guitar just hasn't been carved away yet. Ask
You can call that as nutty as you want, but look at what I
do for a living and the reputation these little basses have.
Then you tell me how nutty I am. They've been telling me that
since I first picked up a guitar. I do hope they love their
lives as much as I love mine. And those of you who tell me you
felt weird calling the mobile number, hey - it's there for you.
Anytime. You want a Birdsong or have a question on your build or
issue with one you have (even if you didn't get it from us),
call! This is what I do, this is who I am, this is what this
company is made of.
Thanks for checking in!
Shop Pics of
Oilus Handrubus Maximus
Our finishing rack is full so I'm about to be
final-assembling a bu-huuunch of instruments.
change with seasons
Devoted hands craft good tools;
Some trees sing again
First clue: 9th Anniversary bass...
More info on the unearthed "Bean" pre-Birdsong
Scott built guitar in
amazing condition is on
the inventory page.
Misc. Photo of The Week:
...and a beer was raised for Richie Havens.
April 19, 2013
Grateful Dead Steal Your Face vol. 1;
Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon; Leigh Stephens A
Rocket Down Falcon Street; John Coltrane Meditations.
Boston, your faraway son is with you.
I'm amazed anyone wants my opinion
on anything, but they do. And advice. I guess here and now,
creeping up through year nine (Birdsong's "Legit"
years... actually going on 13, and 16 in the guitbuilding
biz...) in a profession best measured in dog years, having
somehow accomplished what so many others did not for whatever
reason and by whatever stumbled-upon grace, I shouldn't be...
but I'm still me and I still am.
I get questions via phone & email on how to do it -
how to get something like a guitar company going.
So I WAS going to wax eloquently on a few guitars &
basses that profoundly affected my path, but I'll save that for
another time in hopes that this update can profoundly
affect yours. Whether it's basket weaving, pedicures or
building basses, let me lay rule number one on you. Chase the
You might not end up where you thought you'd be, but
you'll definitely be carried somewhere by the process. And if
you're sitting there thinking about how called you feel or how
much you just want to - one time - go after something, try to
make something big happen, well that might not be such a bad
If you ever have the chance or can carve out a way or
find the balls to start, DO IT. Just do it. Because that's half
of it, really and truly - having the balls to start. So
much of what you'll need to know will be self-evident as you
arrive at the various plateaus of the climb. I guess that's my
biggest and best advice for anyone - start from where you
are, and walk the steps toward where you want to be.
Along the way amazing things will happen, change your trajectory
a bit, and you - if you follow the path with right intent and
good heart, with steadfast courage and an unquenchable flame - will
end up somewhere.
Trust me. This wasn't planned out. I'm no genius. You're
just seeing what my strengths added up to, and I sure didn't -
and don't - do it alone. It all fell into place as I kept
walking towards where I wanted to be. So start. The journey
of a thousand miles begins with one step. Oh, and own a van.
There's little in life a van can't help with. My suggestion
there is an old Econoline with a 300 straight six, but that's a
different discussion. A dream, some balls, and a van... you're
going somewhere, I guarantee you.
I'll be away from this computer for the next week or so,
so no update next Friday. And the picture portion of THIS
update will happen over the weekend (done ~S.)... I'm
spent right now. But I'm spent deep in and down the road
of my little dream... and I thank you for your interest, your
time, and for those now in the family - your support. I hope
that little bass brought good things into your world! May it
serve as a seed of inspiration.
Be well, play nice, and dream big.
Shop pics of the week:
Jake performing an
early part in the fret dressing process on the jumbos in a
D'Aquila Espada guitar for Felipe Stiati of Enanitos Verdes.
D'Aquila are guitars we make along side the Birdsong basses and
SD Curlee instruments.
Another happy client seeing his new Cortobass for
the first time. We usually don't get to see this, so it's always
fun when a Birdsong is actually picked up here at the workshop.
It went with all our best wishes to you, Gary!
Goodness... this just in... in a meeting at the
best restaurant in town, which happens to be a breakfast taco
place at a gas station (I couldn't make this up), I received to
sell on consignment a pre-Birdsong Scott "Bean"
guitar! From 2000, when I started building in the corner of ol'
Uncle Johnny's shop. Unbelievable. Call for details
Archive pic of the week:
Scott samples an
early Sadhana, 2007.
The Sadhana is a model that's resting right now except for the
occasional special request like this:
We'll bring it back into the regular lineup at
some point I'm sure. They taste good.
Enanitos Verdes Tic Tac;
Chet Baker Sings It Could Happen To You;
Miles Davis Nefertiti;
Goo Goo Dolls Dizzy Up The Girl;
John Scofield Band Uberjam
Whoa-oh-oh, listen to the music...
Thanks everyone, the "Vacation bass" build has
sold! End of the month, the family is going down to the coast
for a few days. Not as far as the bass will be going when it's
So here is a list of some things that are musically making my
world rock at the moment.
1. Leigh Stephens
Anyone who knows my musical
path knows that a big part of it started with hearing Blue
Cheer's late '60s cover of Summertime Blues for the first time
in about 1982. Something about the frenzied fuzz & feedback
drenched guitar of Leigh Stephens leaves scorch marks on a young
mind, let me tell you. I was awakening to music but that sonic
psycho-delic sampling really shifted something. That was the
sound I had to make; little did I know it would make me
as I followed the thread into and through so many chapters of
musical involvement and evolution. And here I am. And here in
2013 Leigh is still making great music! Two guitars were used on
this album - one I built for him in 1998, the other I rewired.
And that, my friends, is quite a circle.
2. Los Enanitos Verdes
As reported last week, my friends in Los Enanitos Verdes
(you may not know them but anyone anywhere in the world where
Espanol is spoken has for 30 years and they absolutely rock)
have just released their latest album, Tic Tac, through iTunes.
It's the first album I've listened to using that and man, this
album is great. The boys are rocking AND rolling at the same
time, hitting on all 8, both barrels blazing, and a bunch of
other colloquialisms as well... great work! Marciano is a big
fan of Birdsong and has rocked the world with our basses. We're
honored to be a part of it all. Go to iTunes and check out the
album... favorite tunes so far are Cocktail & Badass.
Lest you think I'm somehow embracing the digital age any
more than required to listen to CDs, to master recordings, to
talk to YOU on my flip phone and to do this website... no. I
don't even text. I don't even own a CAR with a computer in it.
But I did get on this iTunes thing and my goodness! It sure
doesn't replace Rockit Records in Saugus, Second Coming in
Boston or Sundance in San Marcos... or going to see a band and
buying a CD from the merch table... but what amazing access to
an amazing quantity of music! Sure some of it's going to suck,
but weeding through it is going to be fun! Any
4. Lap Steels
What do I do for fun? I play with my old cars and... you'll
never guess... here it comes... big surprise... build musical
instruments in my spare time, in the homestead workshop that
used to house Birdsong. Hey once you find your calling, what all
you've been and seen and know adds up to, is there really time
to waste? Get after it! Get it all over you... and get YOU all
over it. I love lap steels and here's one I'm working on now of
Mesquite & Rosewood, complete with Buffalo nickel, Mercury
dime & pearl star inlays. I have my own ideas on what one of
these should sound like so they're definitely not the thin,
piercing ones. They're very full and rich sounding... this one
will have a real USA Paul Reed Smith pickup. Interested? Email
me directly for more information at email@example.com
("Steels" in the subject).
5. The Hondo Paul Dean II
Yes, I realize a boutique bass maker's love for such a thing
almost qualifies as an alternative lifestyle. It's a peculiar
little twist of fate and you're just going to have to be ok with
it. I love plunkin' on this thing and it screams. It's a pseudo-Strat
style with a Gibson scale, DiMarzios, and a Badass bridge. Not
what you'd call a huge Loverboy fan either, but balls to the
singer who - even in very heavy mid-life up to a few years ago -
could still rip that high note in "Turn Me Loose" now
and again. And major balls to Paul Dean for designing such a
cool guitar. Still think I'm nuttier than squirrel poop? Well I
have TWO of them, and I'd have 10 if I could find them.
There's so much more; it's all music to me and it's all
inspiring in its own way. Go get some on you. Thanks for being
Shop pics of the week:
Brady working on an old Epiphone jazz box
Jake wrapping his head around an 8-string Cortobass for a client
in the UK
This is what it looks like in a shop where it's "Game
Archive pics of the week:
2007 - Leigh's #2 guitar, a red Strat,
on the bench for a few little wiring
2005 - rough cut pieces of Cortobass
Red Cedar from an old house beam
Purpleheart & Maple stringers...
This went home to the client who is
getting the 8-string... and the last of
this odd wood is F36 was just pulled
from the rafters and started for
a client in Boston.
Soundtrack: Billie Holiday, Miles Davis Nefertiti,
Frank Sinatra In The Wee Small Hours, Jimi Hendrix Blues,
ZZ Top Rancho Texicano (Disc 1), John Coltrane
Meditations, Stephen Stills' 1st album.
In a world that has replaced real headlines with
screen gems like "Justin Beiber's monkey detained in
Germany" and whatever any half-informed fool wants to post
anywhere, here is some real news!
Our friend Marciano, Birdsong-playing bassist & singer
for Los Enanitos Verdes, let me know the new album is officially
out! "Tic Tac" is available on iTunes and is great
melodic rock - here is a
music video of the band's new single with Marciano playing
one of his "Marciano Especial" Cortobasses! Congrats
to the band from all of us at Birdsong. "Saludos,
In more news, there is a great deal to be had right here
- a really nice Walnut Birdsong at a 20% off price for paying it
in full - so I can take my wife on vacation down to the coast
for a week, get a nice cabin on the beach and recharge. We
haven't taken a vacation together in years... I'll build it any
way you want (though I have a Maple & Rosewood neck ready to
go, so it could be a fairly quick build) and cut you the deal of
Just reference the "Vacation bass" when you call
or email. Thanks!
And the news I'm sure you've all been waiting for...
It had been a while since I'd had good Chinese food, and it
evidently will be more of a while. But ladies and gents, the
experiment has taken place. A few weeks ago amidst my ramblings
about something or other that may loosely have been tied in with
the crafting of musical instruments, I tossed off a reference to
things that go together "...like Chinese food and Italian
red wine" as if I had any idea whether they went together
or not. I copped to this at the end of that update, but did say
I'd let you know.
Well after a little difficulty I did manage to make
something along those lines happen. Due to timing and
circumstance, the atmosphere was a little different than one
Right off the bat, it wasn't Chinese food - it was
Vietnamese. No, I'm sure not going to say some stupid comment
about it being the same, as anyone with the least bit of culture
knows it's not. However they are both far enough away
from peanut butter sandwiches and breakfast tacos to sub for
this little shindig. Let's also get out of the way that the
restaurant had the word "Dong" in its name. Go ahead,
I did. The wine? Well... ummm... it's not exactly Italian. But
it was made by a family named Gallo, and that sure as
heck isn't Swahili. So again, close enough.
These variations from specified protocol however, pale -
paaaale - in comparison to the previously mentioned lack of
appropriate atmosphere. It had to happen, and the now that was
then - that was the time. What did I just say? Oh heck with it
I'm on a roll. An egg roll! Ahahaha... ok enough. So I guess
what I'm getting at here is this - while a parking lot by the
highway and an engine cover of an '83 Econoline isn't exactly
five star dining, and the sun setting over the Dollar General
isn't quite dusk at Big Sur, this was not the first time in my
life I have offered grace in a parking lot and probably will not
be the last.
So? Let's cut to the chase - the wine seems to revolt
against the soy sauce in some sort of umami showdown in the
mouth. The flavors of the Buddha's Delight (which I could've sworn
remembering as a Chinese dish, but hey - it's all Greek to me)
and Gallo Cabernet are not, after all, a Divine pairing. The
food was alright, the wine was decent; but together? Meh. For
you wine snobs, it brought out charcoal and muselix with notes
of atonality and a finish of earthy sack. There you go.
Would it have been better with actual Chinese cuisine and
real Italian red? Would the flavors have blended if I had
chilled the wine? (Oh stop it, like I'm some rube. Red's better
that way and you know it!) Would I have kept eating if I hadn't
sporked through the styrofoam and noticed a pending sauce
incident? Well it's a mystery.
The fortune cookie said,"On attachment - the tighter
you squeeze, the less you have." I mean, maybe in an
overall sense but in the here and now? Tell that to my
toothpaste. I'm out of here.
Oh... and Justin Bieber? I've got your monkey right here,
Shop pic of the week:
Hot rodded Gibson for sale - $495
Details on the inventory page.
Archive pic of the week:
Intern DJ Goldstein showing a truly
amazing work ethic. Where is he now?
March 29, 2013
Soundtrack: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon
Jennings... The Ramones, Italian Classical guitar music, Bill
Laswell India-beat atmospheric stuff and Colonel Les Claypool's
Fearless Flying Frog Brigade.
Turn to face the strange ch-ch-changes...
Well the new issue of Bass Player is out... you'll see some
great articles including a rather slim bit on a favorite player
of mine, Billy Talbot of Crazy Horse (Best known as Neil Young's
backing band) - amazing such a meat & potatoes,
root-note-on-the-one basic player got in the mag to begin with.
Billy drilled the fundamentals of basic bar band bass into my
head while I learned to play by playing to Neil's albums. It was
a skeletal view that allowed me to see how these single big
notes hung onto the various drums which hit on certain beats and
provided a foundation and motion. Priceless. So kudos for even
giving him the time of day to BP; I bet they had to take the
paddles to Jeff Berlin.
And many thanks to BP for the ad space over the years -
through different editors, MANY different handlers of the
Birdsong account, and the slim years where the magazine looked
more and more like a leaflet one might find tucked under their
windshield wiper in a GC parking lot. It's better now and I hope
it continues to keep on keeping on. One thing you won't see this
month though, for the first time since oh, about 2004... is a
Birdsong ad. That's right, though it pains me to admit it and
I'm sad, print media is just about a nostalgia trip at this
So with a bittersweet resolve to steer the ship with my
best judgment and not necessarily the way I'd like to in a
reality that doesn't exist, we have abandoned the print ads and
will be producing videos and continuing with more online
presence. Our Facebook page and the old videos we have up on
YouTube are so much more effective... and fun... but the biggest
factor in all of this is how much we're talked about now having
been around for what - in small business terms - is a while.
Used to be I'd hear "I saw your ad in..." but I
don't hear that anymore. I hear "I found people talking
about you online and everyone that has one loves it!"
I hear that a lot. That means not only are we delivering the
goods, but YOU are delivering the word to the others and I can't
tell you how grateful I am for that. We've outlasted dozens of
other brands - probably all of whom started off better funded
and more business-ready than we were - and we continue to grow,
slowly and strong like a sturdy tree, in the face of all the ups
and downs of the last decade. So now it's more important than
ever for you - if you like what we do, if you "get"
what we do, and especially if you've got a Birdsong of
your own, please tell a few friends and tell 'em to do the same.
And get in touch if you're interested - I love answering
questions and it costs nothing to dream.
The new videos will be a whole new thing compared to the
old ones and we're working on getting that side of things
together - model demos, workshop bits, peeks of what we're
working on "behind the curtains" and I might even be
able to talk some bass and some music with the guys if they stop
chiseling and routing and oiling and wiring long enough. What's
amazing looking back at it all so far is that we're STILL a
three person shop. Admittedly we're a hell of a lot more honed
and each of us wears about three hats now, but you might be
looking at all of what's happening thinking "bet that's a
good sized crew..." uh-uh. Three guys. That's six hands on
and six balls to the wall, though sometimes I think Jake might
How do we do it? We refuse to compromise the quality of
our work, and while resisting most process adjustments that
would replace hand work with machines, we bust our asses. That's
what it really is - we work very hard. Efficient for a
hand-craft workshop, honed by hundreds and hundreds of builds,
spinning at a very high level having built to this over so many
years... but it all comes down to hands, hours, and sweat. I
needed to say this because someone emailed and wanted to
"...come see the plant." My friend, the only plant
you'll see in here is the sage I burn for atmosphere now and
then. The only factory here is the OL-factory; you walk in and
smell wood, oil, sweat, and the occasional rubber drive belt in
a tool giving it up. We make things here; it's a workshop.
And WORK to me means more that what I might do as my
job... it has greater connotations to it than the selling of
time. Work is what you SPEND yourself in the process of doing.
And to be doing that doing this for you is
an honor and a privilege. We help make the music happen - thank
you for being a part of our song.
Archive pic of the week:
Cortobass #102 was one of the wildest
pieces of Walnut ever... and we packed the cracks with
Turquoise! Was it 2008? This wood reminds me of Birdsong #1. Not
Cortobass #001 from 2004 when we went legit, but the actual
first instrument with a feather woodburned into the headstock
and called Birdsong. It was a guitar, a gift for an artist I
felt indebted to. If I can find pictures of it, I'll post them.
But wild Walnut of this caliber doesn't come around too
March 22, 2013
The Grateful Dead Blues For Allah; Jerry Cantrell Boggy
Depot; BB King Live At The Regal.
Changes, change is...
As one who finds his "A" game well within
the boundaries of moderation, I regret to inform you of a delay
in the whole Chinese food - red Italian wine experiment
mentioned in last week's news update. I completely used up my
limited gluttony exemption this week on (oh, surprise...) pizza
and beer. Mid-week no less! It was just what I needed and there
was no point in denying it. As for finding a stereotypical
Chinese restaurant in this area of Texas that -
non-stereotypically - serves Italian wine, well now that's
a river we'll have to cross when we get there. There's got to be
one somewhere; I cannot be the only one with a yen for it. (Oh
come on, that was great...)
"You know what this is?"
He's picking at the edge of a tire rut in the dried mud with a
stick. It's a long stick. He doesn't bend so good anymore. Well
that's not true - just some miles on him, that's all, and it's
not the getting down it's the getting back up, the straightening
again - that's the difficult part.
"Come on Scott, you've been around long enough to know what
I'm standing in a junkyard out in rural Texas with the owner.
For better or worse, he doesn't own the land, and this area
isn't as rural as it used to be, and the days of being able to
pick up old '60s and '70s cars for parts on this scale has faded. Most of
what's left out here are big bent car-shaped chunks of nothin'
held together by rust.
They were someone's dream once, and
others' lucky finds for what they needed to fix up different
dreams later. Now that pasture is acreage and that steel is
worth more as scrap.
So now it's not really a junkyard anymore - or an "Auto
Recycling Facility" as the new ones are called, with front
counters and locked fences - and now most of these heaps aren't
I see it now, it's a genuine pull-tab bracelet. I mean old pull
tabs, like from the '70s. During some stripped old Chrysler's last
hoist towards the crusher, or pulling the back seat frame
out of a dented Charger, or maybe it was around that rusty
yellow Mustang's mirror when it had a windshield; this snapshot
- this moment in time - found its resting place. Then it became
something different - an artifact to be dug up years later with
a long stick from a newly cleared spot of land that itself will
become something else in the years to come. All with stories
than can only be imagined and tomorrows yet to become.
We forge ahead musically but every now and then you play
"Come Together" or "Blue Eyes Crying In The
Rain" or "Take Five" or "Mama Kin" and
it takes you back. I drive old cars because I prefer machines to
computers; I drive these particular old cars because they
connect me with the dots of my life. Why are you playing that
old Beatle bass? Why are you piecing that old Tele back
together? I get it, I do understand. Ahhh, you want an old
Mustang that handles like a sports car, goes like a dragster and
is crafted like a Rolls-Royce? This I understand very well
building these handmade bass guitars. Luthiery, guitar design,
these are evolutions and becomings. What was already was; we fix
and craft and carve what it all is to become. These are our
links in those chains - our moment in your music and life and
"...seven tabs, and look it's got a safety pin on the end.
Some ol' gal got this out on a date or somethin'." His
callused fingers pick the dirt out and he unkinks one link, then
another, then another. "I'm gonna give this to yeh to give
t'your wife." She deserves it; those old cars come home a
lot like more basses do. Some nicer than others, many not really needed
per se, some on different ends of the spectrum but they all
follow you home and one day, well, "...here's another
one baby, isn't it beautiful?"
Yeah, it is.
Life's gonna bend. It's the straightening out again that can be
the hard part. As bittersweet as what's gone is, may the downed
trees in your world become beautiful instruments... and the junkyards of your life turn to new Chevrolets.
Shop pics of the week:
Brady carves a Walnut
& Maple Embrace ~
that character in the neck is just cosmetic.
We like natural stuff like that, especially
on these organic little jewels!
"No more pizza
this week, Daddy?"
Some beautiful Walnut;
some see lumber,
I see a bass. I forget who, but a sculptor
once asked how he did it replied he just
chipped away everything that didn't look
like what he was sculpting... as if it was
already in the granite.
In inventory: Used
that's been played FULL of mojo and
sounds fantastic! Ash & Rosewood.
Archive pic of the week:
Before & after ~ Cortobass
The Rolling Stones Out Of Our Heads;
Mudhoney My Brother The Cow;
Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
Fusion is the spice of life...
This is a mix 'n match world. We try in vain to fit it all
into one category, under one label, so we don't have to think. If you can do that I don't
necessarily think it's because life is that simple... it might be
that you're that simple. But the rest of us of all stripes and
leanings are piecing it together from a broad palette of
colors and flavors, options and combos as we go waltzing down
the neon buffet line of this life... fusion. The merging of
different elements into a union.
Sometimes fusion is not a great thing. There is what I
refer to as the El Camino principle, where you end up with a car
that won't hold people and has no trunk and a truck that has no
ground clearance and won't haul heavy loads... at the same time.
Now they're cool vehicles and I'd drive the whee out of one. But
what started as a great car and a great truck is now neither.
Other times it is a glorious thing, like Chinese food and
Italian red wine, or a sweet driving hot rod pickup. You have a
couple of diverse influences and you go for it. You mix it up in
search of the proverbial That Greater Than Its Parts. Sometimes
you get Born To Run or a Willie Nelson 4th of July picnic, or
Rage Against The Machine. Other times you get Vanilla Ice. A
bait & taco shop. The Osbourne kids.
Our Fusion is a fusion of wild 'n mild, of class and edge,
of the voice in the wood and electric glory.
Here are two recent examples of the Fusion. One mild
standard in Walnut & Ebony...
one wild two pickup "Double Fusion" in
wormy Chestnut & Bloodwood!
Either way or somewhere
in-between, built in is lots and lots of hand-craft mojo.
It's a bass you get when you're ready for it and it calls to you
in ways all the others don't. There's nothing like it. The
Fusion was being born on paper and in parts at the original
workshop back in about '06 when - as has happened a number of
times along the way - in comes a call from someone looking for
exactly what we have in parts and pieces on the table in front
of us. You don't argue with stuff like that.
Like everything else Birdsong and Hy5, the Fusion started as
the Cortobass. That's THE basic template we work off of because
it fit and it balanced and it rocked my world visually and
tonally. So what other flavors can we lean this basic all-around
design towards? That was the next question, "Where else can
we go with this?" Well there was the Sadhana,
a Cortobass that looked like a Ferrari (and a model now taking a
break since we can only devote to so many ~ but you can still
order one and it'll be back in some form formally maybe next
year). For looks, I wanted a "fusion" of that
and the Cortobass. Something different but not quite so swoopy
& far out. Tonally I wanted a "fusion" of big
upright and electric bass, something you could play anything on
but leaned more towards the jazzy, bluesy and
acoustic-accompaniment areas I found myself in most of the time.
Visually then, I wanted a "fusion" of electric
bass and jazz guitar, with a wood "pickguard" looking
control plate and luxurious appontments; and a
"fusion" of the way it sounded and looked. As strange
as it may sound to someone who is not me, I wanted it to look
just like it sounded. That was years and a few famous moments
...and though I love them all, here in 2013 the Fusion is
without a doubt still my personal favorite bass. As a player who
brings my sound to whatever I do, THIS is my sound. The pickup?
A weird selection the company I get 'em from has to make for me
because nobody else uses them. Then I use it completely
differently than it was designed, wiring it differently,
installing it differently, and putting it in a wood cover. Don't
ask; what it is gives you no hint of what this bass sounds like.
My Morning Jacket
It's the ultimate hot rod - one you can drive every day,
that's comfortable with air conditioning and plush seats, that
lights your fire and is obviously custom but all goes together,
and works, as a whole. More than just a bunch of parts. Nothing
leaks, no weird fitting hood, and yes that's real Walnut on the
dashboard thank you. Docs & dentists hang their diplomas,
I'll hang my experience. 30 years, thousands played, hundreds
and hundreds built, dozens owned personally. There's nothing
like a Birdsong Fusion.
Here's one just in on consignment -
check the inventory page!
By the way I made that bit about the Chinese food &
Italian wine up; I have no idea how that goes together. But I'll
tell you this - it's Friday night and I just may have to test it
out! I mean really, how can you go wrong?
Next week: Chinese food & Italian wine - magic or myth?
Shop pics of the week:
Very cool little wild Mesquite
two humbucker one-off build
available now in inventory!
Got the gluin' goin' on!
Nice pair? ("Thanks!")
A double order custom Fusion and
D'Aquila Espada guitar of Rosewood
and Maple on Spanish Cedar. Wow.
Archive pic of the week:
A 2003 picture of a 1999 bass - this
became the Cortobass by 2004, and awaaaay we went! I still have
this bass hanging on the wall.
Random pics of the week:
Rebuilding of Ace Hardware in Wimberley, TX begins...
The only thing better than one...
March 8, 2013
Soundtrack: Lots of Ten Years After
As with any loss we can't help but mourn yet choose
to celebrate the life. Alvin Lee, mostly known as the wild-ass
screaming guitarist and frontman for the iconic '60s-'70s band
Ten Years After, has passed. He was a formative influence on me
as a young player and I loved the groovin' riffs and adventurous
music of the band. They went through phases; the blues/jazz
proto-jam-bandisms of Undead, the bluesy psychadelia of Ssssh,
the blend of acoustic and electric on A Space In Time. But
through those and all the other Ten Years After albums, and
anything Alvin ever did, whether up front or just below the
surface was that groove, a bluesy single-note riffy guitar
thing... and sonic explosions that came out of nowhere.
I first saw that band in the Woodstock movie. A rather
tweaked-looking Alvin tore the hell out of his guitar, screamed
"I'm Going Home" over and over again, and the band
sounded like it could drive a skateboard through a brick wall.
That movie was a huge education for me... yes, musically too. In
fact I'd say mostly musically. But the frenetic energy of Ten
Years After was a - pardon the pun - high point. From then on,
I'd buy the LPs as I found them and they - and he - became a
part of the musical fabric, the sonic tapestry, of my life. A
major part of its soundtrack. There were better songs and far
less tossed-off space-filling lyrics than that one but it
defines the band to me.
As a player I got a whole bag of tricks from Alvin Lee, and
TYA was on the list of bands I never got to see that I held
closely as proof I really was born in the wrong decade. Then
they all started reforming for reunion tours... Grand Funk,
Sabbath, and a few years later I even got to see Blue Cheer with
Leigh Stephens playing one of my guitars... but that's another
In the late '90s I got to go see Ten Years After and they
killed. They absolutely rocked it. (Hey TJ you out there?) I knew going I had to bring
something to Alvin, so I grabbed one of my early guitars I
thought he'd dig, wrote him a letter, and off we went. The venue
guy wouldn't let me near Alvin before the show, and he left the
place right afterward. But I did get to the road manager and
said "Here, give this to Alvin Lee with my thanks."
And the answering machine message at the shop the next morning
was quite a thrill. I heard from folks through the years that he
still had & enjoyed the guitar... it feels good to have
given something back a little more meaningful than just another
Because in my life
Ten Years After has never been just
another band and Alvin Lee has never been just another guitar
player. My favorite pieces of TYA are the A Space In Time
album, Recorded Live, Ssssh, and this
video - rough edges and all. So now I will go sit on the
porch of a little cabin in the woods, in the late afternoon
rain, with Ten Years After on the old record player, and hoist a
little red wine to a wild-ass guitar player whose music helped
guide me home.
Next week... a tale of two Fusions...
Pics of the week:
Time, you are a bitch.
But it's hard to stay sad at passings
in a world of new births...
Proud Papa, luthier Jake Goede!
Archive pics of the week:
In the Summer of 2008 we made a few
Cortobasses of Mahogany & Maple like
this - the "Summertime Specials."
And from 2006, Sadhana #12 of Maple & Walnut.
Soundtrack: Black Crowes Lions; Peter Gabriel
Shaking The Tree; Bob Dylan Bringing It All Back Home;
New Riders Of The Purple Sage.
Sailing into Springtime...
Here in the Perpetual Spring I
try to maintain my life to be, being in a constant state of
creativity and craft with all the instruments coming together at
any time and all the writing and home recording I do in the
other hours... there are those occasional seeds that simply
don't take. So with only a few days to go and at about 10% of
the goal, I'm laying the Econoline Dreams CD Kickstarter deal to
rest. I've tucked away those who got on board ~ I thank you so
much and just the offer will get you all something... at some
point this project will happen. None of you will be asked for
your pledges; at Kickstarter if the goal isn't reached, nothing
happens. But behind the curtains of my life "Nothing"
happening is pretty unusual; so I'll figure out how to make it
happen. I'm much better at that than fundraisers anyway.
Speaking of which...
Wife & co-pilot emeritus Jamie and I would like to
take a Springtime vacation down to the coast for a week, and I'm
going to make it happen. So here - in the tradition of the Fix
Joe The Truck bass and others over the years since we began
measuring life in Cortobasses - is the "Give Scott &
Jamie a Vacation Bass!" Jamie and I started Birdsong in
2004 and while she eventually went back for a Masters degree and
currently is a career counselor at Texas State, none of this
would have happened without her. She dug into a very sparse life
and a very big dream with me while I grew into Captain Of The
Ship material. This bass represents the dream as it is today ~
over 500 instruments in, The Little Shop That Could, one majorly
big badass of a little bass with everything we've learned built
in. The Walnut is patiently waiting to speak... then it goes
home to you.
Ok, have a great weekend everybody and as always thanks
for being aboard. Please remain fastened securely in your seats
until the room comes to a complete stop...
Shop pics of the week:
Jake experiencing what we've come to refer
to as the "Porter Cable Meltdown"... sorry, but if
you're going to market a tool that
looks like an army tank, maybe think about putting some
strong parts in it... the only reason we've
had 5 is they don't usually last out the exchange
Archive pics of the week:
Though officially started in 2004
as a company, I built the first Birdsongs starting in 2000 in
the corner of this workshop - this was our friend Uncle
Johnny's. Taken down & hauled to the homestead in 2007, we
then rebuilt it with some friends. I'm sitting in it typing this
Assembly in 2007
Cortobasses and a very rare Birdsong guitar.
Yours truly in one of the most absurd moments we captured. This
was 2005 and when I saw that tree crotch, I immediately pictured
2 things - a flying V guitar out of the useable part, and...
Yep, it happened.
(Nope, you can't unsee it.)
Soundtrack: some Lionel Hampton, Sweet Smoke Just a Poke,
Grateful Dead, and Malaguena - a great CD of Spanish
guitar music, which is some of my favorite music to luthier
Morning Maniac Music...
Life is good, friends and familia, life is very good. I
sometimes wish I could split off amoeba-like into two so as to
spread the load a wee bit but in general you'll never hear me
complain about too much good stuff to do. It's just a
matter of fitting it all in...
I was in the middle of the update last night, selecting
& resizing current build pictures for the client/current
builds page and whammo - it was nap o'clock. And given the day
and a half I manage to squeeze into every day in shifts due to
taking advantage of my natural randomness, when it does become
nap o'clock it becomes it as though the engine room calls and
says "Captain, I forgot to tell you a half hour ago but I
cut all power to breezcruff the warp drive and we've been moving
on inertia and we've got about two minutes to find a dock."
Thanks for the update, engine room.
So it's a beautiful Saturday morning about 6AM - hey,
that's a band isn't it. I remember Nikki Sixx, I was buying
albums in '83. That dude is an archetype - to this day there are
a bunch of bass players in rock bands that look just like him.
Back in the day you could pick a guy out of a crowd as a bass
player in a rock band... he looked like Nikki Sixx. How about a
Spiky sons of Sixx
Painted and all leathered black;
What a pointy bass you have.
Well there you go, you never quite know what to expect do
you? No, neither do I. While making the sawdust fly in the
homestead workshop (call it "Birdsong North") the
other afternoon I heard an NPR story on country music stars Kelly
Willis and Bruce Robison who funded
their new album together... through Kickstarter. Over $44,000 in
donations. Well donations isn't the term I'd use since there are
premiums & cool stuff offered in return, that's why
Kickstarter is great for ummm...
independent art. But 44Gs... two already successful
career writers and performers... one album. Good on them I
guess. Heck, I'm only looking to raise 5 to put out a 2CD
set because I just can't swing it myself the way I think this
one aughta be swung...
Check out the description here and if you feel like
kicking in, I'll make damn sure you get your money's worth. If
that doesn't work, maybe I'll start a fundraiser to build myself
a bass... oh wait, wait... that might just be something I have the
tools to make happen myself...
(Sarcasm mode turned off - I seriously have no ill will at the Country Couple, I'm just busting
their balls a little... "Hey could you move that tour bus?
It's blocking the view of the crafts tent...")
The workshop was crankin' this week, lots of work on lots
of basses for Birdsong and our other endeavors with the Hy5
5-strings and the SD
Curlee instruments. Jake is gearing up to build more
guitars of his own in 2013 - which are always magical -
and Brady Muckelroy
continues to work up new and exciting basses of his own for
clients and inventory - he has some available. Being as we all
are truly independent artists your support is always
appreciated and whether it's a Birdsong, SD Curlee, Hy5, a
guitar by D'Aquila
or JG Guitar Works, a Muckelroy bass, or anything else our
various "Captain Manyhands" here in the shop all come
up with to carve and create for you... we work extra hard to
make sure that whatever you get feels like an absolute bargain.
That goes for a $25 CD kick-in and that goes for a $2500+
And lastly, since it is this morning and not yesterday,
in the "Makes any problems I've got seem like tiny
pebbles" dept., I'll share the news that last night our
little town of Wimberley lost its Ace hardware store in a huge
fire. Just about every drop of the wood finishing oils we've
blended & rubbed on every Birdsong since 2004 (and anything
I built before that from 2000) came from this store. They were a
big fish in our little town - especially in the years past when
Wimberley was a lot smaller than it is now - but always an asset, filled with smiling
faces you knew. Think of it like the Post Office but with
hardware and supplies, and that's what it was. A landmark, a
place you visit with your neighbors, and a happy spot. The only
injuries I'm aware of are in the hearts of our little town this
morning. I will keep the good memories close and all those
affected in my thoughts.
Shop pics of the week:
Ahhh, the new fives!
Rosewood, Maple & Spanish Cedar...
Help make it happen...
it out here
Archive pics of the week:
The "Museum" in the
original shop - prototypes and early stuff 1997-2004. That
Cortobass on the left is #001 - it launched us. (#002,
the first one sold, is back in on consignment for sale!)
Scott, Lyzz, Jamie, Wyatt.
We did it.
Wouldjya look at this
Quick notes from Mission Control
Soundtrack: Beck Guero; Dinosaur Jr. Beyond;
Malaguena Spanish guitar music compilation; Soul
Coughing Irresistible Bliss; T.J. Kirk If Four Was
One; Rhythm Of Black Lines Set a Summary Table; The
Ramones Rocket To Russia. (No, the irony is not lost on me -
it was still in the player when I heard about the meteor - our
thoughts are with all affected.)
||The one and only
prototype Eaglet is ready to fly the nest! It's
ready for you to tell me "Roundwounds or
flats" and is only a string-and-setup away from
heading home to you. Alder body, Maple neck with
Rosewood fretboard, black hardware and cream control
plate. Super light, will be a fantastic, earthy, woody
sounding bass with rounds and a wonderful jazz, blues or
acoustic accompanying bass with flats.
@ $1395 on the inventory
little spin-off kind of like when you prune a garden
plant and seed it into a second bed, is humming along
just fine. Here's a client's "5.two", a
two-pickup model. There is a one-pickup Spanish Cedar
and a 2-pickup Mahogany coming together and available.
Check it out at www.hy5basses.com
& contact us for details.
Kickstarter album campaign is happening, with a
long way to go! Help this album happen like it could
with a little scratch behind it and you get special
perks. It's a give and get to help out
with this. Check it out here:
Thanks so much!
I did it all for the
|Been such a
busy week there's not much left for a big update. But
check out this stuff, the client page, and have a great
Stick a fork in me, I'm done...
Mobile (anytime): 512.395.5126
Shop pic of the week:
Sharp looking pair of instruments ~
a Birdsong Fusion set neck bass
and a D'Aquila Espada
both Rosewood on Maple tops
on Spanish Cedar bodies! They'll
look amazing when rounded
over and carved...
Archive pic of the week:
Goodness! Assembly in 2007 in
the original workshop... left to right:
The "2-tone" Cortobass
A custom of some sort
Spalted Pecan Sadhana
Soundtrack: Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot; lots
of Count Basie; John Coltrane Complete Village Vanguard
Recordings; Johnny Cash Live at Madison Square Garden;
Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti.
Stick-to-it-iveness makes all the difference.
Well my friends and compadres, the big moment is here...
yesterday I launched the Kickstarter campaign to fund production of my new CD "Econoline Dreams" ~ it's pure road music, written AND recorded on this past Holiday road trip in an old Ford Econoline.
The van has a story, and the album is many stories... I would love to master the acoustic CD up nicely and then go into the studio to bang out an electric version, making it a 2CD set. The campaign is to cover recording, production and duplication costs... yes, this will be an actual CD release with artwork and everything! And I'm offering SPECIAL stuff to help-outs of $25 and up... but any amount is
much appreciated. Econoline Dreams... check out all the details here:
~ and thanks so much!
Aaah, the drive to the workshop, this morning's hood was
that of Joe the Truck. I'm so happy to be driving my old friend
a couple of times a week again. I wish there was a soundtrack
for this picture for you...
...but there isn't, so I'll just share one of the views
from the morning drive.
In shop news, big news today as Brady of Muckelroy
Basses (and Birdsong, and SD Curlee) glued his left hand
to a bass body wing. I mean I encouraged him to put a little of
himself into every build but this might be carrying that a bit
far. "Oh, it appears I've glued my hand to this
board." Stuff like this happens in a workshop; you glue
your fingers together accidentally, you sneeze out into the dust
mask, the dust bag on the table sander comes untucked and whaps
you in the nutsack. FWAP! But a full hand... that's something
you celebrate. And we did, taking pictures and offering witty
cracks as he acetoned and feeler gauged his fingers free once
Goofy workshop stuff. I mean, I used to begin drooling
uncontrollably around Spanish Cedar.
"(Stth) are you working (stth) with Spanish Cedar
over there (stth)?"
But now it's not that bad anymore. That was pretty funny, I'd be
dressing out the soapbar pickup routs on a Spanish Cedar Hy5 and
trying to talk to a client and not salivate everywhere or make
bizarre sucking noises every 15 seconds.
You do give of yourself as a craftsman. Some of the stuff
you laugh at now, and other things... you maybe don't laugh so
much at down the road. But you do what it takes; you're
entrusted with the creation of something, the manifestation of
something. Woods. Dust. Oils. Noise. Spinning blades. Splinters.
Solder. And your choice is to make it happen or go home. A true
craftsperson makes it happen. It's a small fractal example of
what we do in a larger picture, trying to fit it in our lives -
and our lives in around it. Fitting things where they need to
If it takes a hundred strokes, you give a hundred
strokes. If it takes two hundred, you give two. Whatever it
takes. Whenever it's required. You suck it up and laugh it off.
It's a blessing, but you pay for the honor. Sorry honey, this
update's going to take 'til 10 tonight. Brady's fingers are
plasticized. Jake has sawdust all up in his brain by now. But
you know, if your choice is to reach the shore or not, and this
is the oar been handed to you, well that makes it pretty clear
what needs to happen! You grab that oar and row like it's the
most important thing in the world.
And through it all you remind yourself that some days
you're the glued; but others, you're the glue.
I hope your weekend is
this peaceful... even just in moments.
Shop pics of the week:
Careful handwork separates the work
of the professional... sometimes however
the hand of the professional must be
carefully separated from his work!
Archive pics of the week:
Cortobass #11, 2005 ~ that
workbench holds my computer. I'm
leaning on it right now as I type.
Group shot of clients, friends and
helping hands ~ Birdsong Gathering.
~ 2007 ~
Anyone up for a 10th Anniversary
party in July of 2014 in San Marcos, TX?
Soundtrack: Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot; Jazz
For a Rainy Day (compilation); Rolling Stones 40 Licks
(Disc1); The Fixx Reach The Beach; Augustus Pablo Original
Rockers (best dub reggae ever, and a gift from a client who roooocks.
If you'd like to roooock send me some music!)
Ahhh the road "...to there from here."
It is taken step by step, mile by mile, no matter how we
think we want to get there. It is a climb; a journey. In some
cases more of a trip. You try to make yourself into better soil
and let the good seeds take. You seek out those good seeds and
plant 'em in the light. There are times that prevailing winds
blow unexpected shade over your garden; I've been there.
But you know, you do what you have to and walk to more solid
ground. Along the way you become that more solid ground. Then
you place your garden where it won't wash away; then you build
your dream where it won't fall over quite so easily. Challenges
and circumstance will be "there" too... but those
sumbiches are gonna have to work overtime to topple something
with a good foundation, and they'll move along to easier
(Anytime the word "Sumbich" is used on this site,
this picture is posted. It's policy.)
I've been the starving artist, the dreamer against all odds.
I've also delivered pizzas, stocked shelves, pumped gas, painted
houses, roofed, swept floors, washed dishes, cleaned toilets.
Whatever it took - sometimes very grudgingly I admit it - but
whatever it took to get forward to the next clearing in the
forest where another attempt could be made.
I've never laid my head on concrete but I did on dirt, and have
parked many times by those who have. I never dreamed I'd have an
impact but I knew all the hurlings of myself against the
seemingly immovable in the moment and all the kicking against
the pricks (hey, it's a Biblical term, settle down) would move
something somehow someday.
||The first new-style Hy5
is available over at www.hy5basses.com
- well it's the first available; we're still
building "the first", it's a more complex
order. But this simple, lightweight Spanish Cedar 5.1 is
on the home stretch in assembly and ready to be claimed.
||And the big news
over at www.sdcurleeusa.com,
we have acquired a lot of NOS (that's "New Old
Stock", hard to find old parts never used just
sitting in boxes) parts, components, instruments in
various states, and much more - lot as in "big
@#$%load of stuff" - stored since the closing of
the original Illinois shop in 1982. Don't ask, there's
only so much I can tell. But details and pictures have
been going up at the SD Curlee site and will continue to
as it all gets unpacked and sorted.
Here at Birdsong, it's balls out (as
they say)... we're burning rubber into 2013, baby. These are the
glory days. The basses coming together are the best ever, I've
never felt better in my life, Jake is a honed blade and Brady
has a seemingly inexhaustible internal supply of gifts and
talents. For a three man shop we are kicking butt and taking
names - simultaneously. Sure it'd be easier with a CNC machine
and a few button-pushers and put-ons. But that's not who we are
and it's not what we do. We MAKE things. And in 2013 if you want
a Birdsong, you call me - I still handle all the sales and bass-talkin'
personally - and we will craft you a lifetime instrument with
our blood & sweat. That's what we do. If you're not out
there running circles around who you used to be, why even get
up? Why bother? That wave comes with your name on it, you get on
it and ride that thing!
Of course in the process of all of this, sometimes I run circles
around myself NOW... this latest album project is a great
example. It takes so many steps to get a www.kickstarter.com
thing going, and my world moves so fast since it's basically a
perpetual double shift (another "challenge" turned
tool - in fact it's 3:12 AM as I write this), the project itself
moves faster than the description and details in the outline on
Kickstarter can keep up. So I've still got about a week's worth
of details to revise and a couple more Ts to dot and Is to
cross. And by then the acoustic stuff will be mixed. It's
coming. It's coming with or without anyone's help or Kickstarter
or whatever it is I have to work around. But I've also learned
when it comes to artistic endeavors, every now and then it's
nice to not have to struggle so hard; to just be able to
concentrate on making the best, truest art you can; to let it
and feel it flow like so much water through you and be able to
hold the oil of the ticking clock and finances at arm's length
long enough for more pure magic to happen.
So sure, it's going to happen anyway... but it'll be a lot more
fun for everyone to have a gathering in the garden, reap a
bigger harvest, and send everyone home with some special
veggies! NEXT WEEK I'll have FULL details... "Whoa, I done
run out of week..." A week or two is no matter. If I'm on
it it's going to happen; it's not an if - just a when!
And that's what a hard road brings you down the road.
That's what the struggle blesses you with. Strength, focus, and
endurance. Sometimes the wisdom to regroup to take another run
at it; I've had to do that also. But that's not stopping. That's
part of the climb. You do it or die trying, but dying is a last
resort when it's not necessary, and a detour often instead - in
hindsight - was the best thing that ever happened, giving you
that last magic pick for the lock. I believe the modern term is
"recalculating". Whether it's a band, a day on the
job, a month on the road, a guitar company - or one guitar, one
song, one gig. One step, one moment. You walk the
"here" to the "there"; you don't just
park and hope it finds you. If I've got a shovel, you've got a
hole in process. If I've got a guitar, you've got a song. If
I've got a chisel, you've got a bass happening. And if you're a
prick, well you've got something coming too! That's how life
works - now it's time for a glass of red wine.
Have a great weekend everyone! Call me with any questions.
Shop pics of the week:
Aftermath of some serious neck carving!
Archive pics of the week:
These are from early 2008:
The original Electric Jazz Guitar
what this evolved into is made by us, under
the D'Aquila name. www.daquilaguitars.com.
It's one of my favorite things in the whole world.
Jake & Jamie in the green
Paul from Georgia visits the
SPEAKING OF JAKE
He makes great guitars and
this wildly carved piece of Walnut is in assembly right now as a
single pickup rocker. Contact me for details!
Soundtrack: John Scofield Time On My Hands; Chet
Baker Sings It Could Happen To You; Grateful Dead Europe
'72 Vol. 2; Miles Davis Kind Of Blue; Led Zeppelin
Music is being made.
New client build pictures can be seen here...
Four happening builds just up and available now in Inventory
Our sister company SD Curlee USA got a new website - after
you're done here go
check it out!
And also see how our spinoff Hy5basses
is coming along.
More than the instruments; music is everywhere
The Song Of Joe
At full wail, steady cruise or rumbling at idle, the sound
of a big-cammed, Holleyed & headered American V8 is - to one
with the blood of a hot rodder - sweet, sweet music. Especially
when it is coming from an old friend and faithful servant given
a new lease on life. Many of you have been on this ride with us
for years, so you'll remember a particularly ill-fated voyage to
pick up a load of guitar making wood last Spring in which one
beloved old 1974 Dodge pickup named Joe... well, parts came
undone in the engine where parts should be all connected and
spinning harmoniously. This after over a decade of hard work in
my hands - workshop moves, homestead building, you name it. So a
special bass was made and sold specifically to fund his fixing.
This week he rejoined us... and with a little extra attitude he
never had. Welcome home, Joe The Truck!
The Songs Of Scott
In my continuing effort to completely spend myself as a tool
of creation until I just pitch off the shop stool one day a
spent, empty shell, I wrote and recorded an album along the
2,475 mile Holiday road trip. I packed some trusty old recording
gear and a full albums worth of songs was recorded bare-bones
acoustic-style in the van in truck stops & parking lots and
in room 300 of a Best Western in Gulfport, Mississippi. You Ford
fans will get the coincidence in that, this van being a six, and
the rest of you can also groove on the fact it was recorded in
Mississippi. Well, it went even better than I thought; magic
happened; the Muse was with me. I have the acoustic album almost
mixed but I want to go into the studio and bang out an electric
version for a 2CD set called Econoline Dreams. That, mastering,
and CD printing & production cost what I don't have. I can
play everything though, and I will by next week have a Kickstarter
campaign to gather the funds and reward the funders with special
stuff... more details next week. For those of you who are
unfamiliar with Kickstarter, check it out - people who feel art
is of a value worth helping to make happen can do so themselves
directly, very safely & within any budget at all... strength
The Song Of Celebration
It's amazing to think but Birdsong is in our 9th year. It
only seems real when I think of who has come and gone in that
time, and then I add up the models' serial numbers and say
"Uhh... wow." Well usually the Anniversary basses are
a secret until July 4th... and I thought about telling you but
then I decided not to. I can tell you they'll be bad to the
bone, though... I'll drop some clever hints as the Spring
blossoms... speaking of which...
The Song Of Spring
I know, I know... it's way too early in the year and most of
you are freezing your privates off. Here in southern central
Texas we've had great weather - a sunset blue zone nap on the
porch with Chet Baker playing and nights in a row sleeping with
the windows open definitely gets one feeling good. And that's
what I want to share with you; believe me we pay for the mild
Winters come August. But Spring is a rebirth and I try to
embrace that in all areas of my life; a reaffirming of
priorities and path, a reconnection with purpose, a reawakening
of that sunrise that happens inside every morning we have the
opportunity to wake up. I'm getting a head start on it this
Evidently, I'm not alone.
I hope your day is filled with music of all kinds...
...and off into the weekend we go. Be safe & have fun!
Shop pic of the week:
Neck blanks of hard Maple... as you
read this the group is becoming
"Batch 1" with - coincidentally
enough - "Batch 2" to follow!
Archive pics of the week:
Uncle Johnny, friend and mentor,
pickin' in 2006. Very much missed.
2004 - the first days setting up the first
workshop. It's a big picture; it's a small
shop with borrowed tools. Start from
wherever you gotta start and dream
big. Believe it. Then get to work...
Cortobass #102 in finishing...
Wild Walnut w/Turquoise (2007)
What a piece of wood! I have one
a little darker but almost as wild...
Legendary guitar blaster
Leigh Stephens, original guitarist
of Blue Cheer, jamming at a much
more recent ('07) gig in San Francisco
with a Strat I worked over, and a
Birdsong cap! Leigh has one of
my first guitars. BIG influence...
(Added some more pics to the gallery I
found while finding these, too...)
Soundtrack: Fu Manchu The Action Is Go; Ennio
Morricone Film Music Vol. 1; Levon Helm Dirt Farmer; Eels
Third has been powershifted.
Four bass body blanks in Inventory -
pick one and start your build! Also in Inventory is another
pre-owned consignment bass, right in there next to #002 from
2004 which is still available despite the Holiday nibbles.
That's THE piece of Birdsong history to have as we truck on
towards our 10th year and beyond... but check out what just
arrived from a client who mostly plays his other Birdsongs...
Embraces are coming together, here are some pictures...
Brady, shown here, who among other things around here does a
bunch with the Embrace series, also has his own line of basses -
Muckelroy Basses. Well he just came out with a little 32"
scale gem called the Charger32 and if you're in the market for a
short or medium scale high-end bass with superb active
electronics (You won't hear me say that very often! But you do
hear me talk about ol' Goldenears and he has his own preamp
in here), you have to go
check this out.
Over at Hy5basses.com the
photo basses of the new line are coming together... there's an
old business saying, "Don't show it 'til it looks like
something." Well I've never followed that, I like to show
the process; that way it's more than just product, you've seen
what goes into it and watched it "becoming" every
week. So new pics of the sleek new Hy5 models are up.
Ok, that's it for this week - next week more about music that's
happening, more client build pics, photos from the shop &
archive, and I might even tell you what we're planning for this
years 9th Anniversary basses this Summer... and since today is
the tomorrow you wondered about yesterday, if this keeps
happening it'll be here before you even know it.
Shop pic of the week:
Wingfeather workshop Jan. 17th
just in case you thought we were napping!
(Compare this with the previous entry's pic)
Archive pics of the week:
Assembly, April 2008
Summer NAMM 2006
Shaking a legend's hand... Mr. Tobias
was very gracious and I learned a lot
in the few minutes we spoke. Two years
in, we went as visitors because it was
in Austin, TX. The whole crew went;
here we are, as we were in '06:
Me, Jamie, our Bass Player rep, Wyatt, Lyzz...
Yep, we were the Bad News Bears of basses!
The big news - this new site! Grab yourself a beverage and
have a look around.
More news - the Hy5 flies the nest! After several years under
the Birdsong wing (and sometimes its shadow) our little 5-string
wonder has grown into its own company solely devoted to the
further development of the 5-string short scale. It can grow and
shine and fly much better as the star of its own show. For all
info on the new Hy5 models check out www.hy5basses.com
and inquire through firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are other changes - there are models you don't see on the
basses page. As a small workshop we have to stay focused; these
are the offerings we are giving most of our attention this year.
If there was another you had your heart set on, like a Sadhana
for example, hey - we're a small shop so call and we'll make you
one! But our promotional focus is on what you see.
The Featherbass is still in the line, but I put it on a page
specifically addressing those players who are dealing with
physical (back, hand) considerations. Over the years as we live
and age the body sometimes throws us issues, and we've helped
many stay comfortable - for some we helped them to keep playing
at all. Here is the Featherbass and
suggestions that have worked.
For some it's inconceivable I know... but the 2500 miles I road tripped in
the old Ford Econoline over the Holidays really left me refreshed. From the truck stop
nights to writing a whole album while the miles ticked by to
jamming "Whipping Post" with some new friends in
Louisiana, touching base with la familia... to ogling the fine machines at the Don Garlits
museum (kind of a pilgrimage for me), it was quite a trip. Here are some
random shots from I-10 through Louisiana & on to FL.
Oh, that album I wrote... well, it's called Econoline Dreams and
I recorded it along the way too in
its acoustic form... in the van and a motel room. I'd like to do a great mastering of it and go
in and bang out an electric version for a 2CD set, package it up
nicely and press up a run. There'll be a Kickstarter page
shortly where you
can help it happen and get special stuff from the trip and from
I've always been a creative force of nature, especially as over
time I get increasingly honed and time gets increasingly short. This is what happens when I get
turned loose... but I'm back, like I tell Jamie "The road
is my only mistress and music is my only drug." Your
basses are going to rock AND roll this year, I tell you what.
Happy New Year & hang on!
Shop pic of the week:
Wingfeather workshop Jan. 3rd...
the calm before the storm!
Archive pics of the week:
The original workshop, 2004
The 1st bass going out, 2004...
believe it or not, this bass is
in on consignment - #002!
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site, please visit the sites of our related companies:
S.D. Curlee USA
Guitars By Jake
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