The Birdsong Basses
The Birdsong Guitar
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PO Box 1745
Wimberley, TX 78676
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Maggie the shop dog...
Your bark of quality!
Attention all Birdsong family and potential clients - there is a
guy in Florida about to get his balls chopped off by his wife if he goes
through with with the bass he signed on for me to build him. What I'm
going to do to help him out is to offer up "his spot"... he
ordered a Fusion but this spot can turn into whatever YOU want. I'll take
care of all of that numbering & paperwork stuff. What you get by
helping to save this poor man's family jewels is 10% off and a jump start
on your build. Let's call it the "Saving Ryan's Privates"
special. Order this special and cover what his first half amount was
(which I'll just pass back to "Ryan") and your total will
reflect 10% off of whatever it is you order. He's a good man, he's a
paisan, and if you're almost ready to do the deal and join the family (or
come back for another)... and you can close the deal on your end...
you'll be getting a great deal and you'll be helping another man's
applebag stay in his pants for at least the time being. Or at least one of
them. And this will make a vas deferens in his quality of life!
(Thank you, thank you very much). Don't leave a brother on his knees
sacrificing walnuts to Testiclese (the Greek God of Balls)... step in and
make a difference.
It's fun to have friends all over the world - being a guy
who has colored outside the lines a bit and has let life color me outside
of "my" lines, there are bits 'n pieces of goodness from all
over, places I've never been and probably will never see, that have have
woven their way into my life's tapestry in many different ways. Musically,
culturally, spiritually... and then we get to HP Sauce. Very difficult to
find here in central Texas, HP Sauce is a bottled brown condiment from
across the pond that happens to be delicious, amazingly versatile and as
rock 'n roll as it gets; Keith Richards toted cases of this stuff on tours
and, being the magical concoction it is, God knows what it substituted for
in momentary attempts to keep all the chemicals balanced. It's that good.
Heck, it might just be THE thing that has kept him going all these years.
So imagine my delight when, after conversing with a client from the UK and
mentioning it, a gray package turns up in the PO box with four bottles of
the stuff inside! Thomas, you are my hero. I can't thank you enough... so
I'll just build you a great bass! This stuff on pizza... I see this
happening again very soon.
Here are a couple of cool basses leaving the nest shortly - a
rustic Texas Pecan & Rosewood rear routed Fusion, and the 10th
Anniversary Corto2 of Mahogany with Texas Chinaberry headstock &
Guitars! Got a jump on them, worked them in with the bass orders
and various stages. For those who missed the news earlier this month,
there's a little gold link under The Birdsong Basses that says The Birdsong Guitar.
DEMO is right here, and you can
check out the rest coming together on the current
builds page - that page got a bunch of pictures; it's been another
very fun, very productive week.
Here is the neck of the prototype. The life of a prototype
is not easy. It goes together, it comes apart. Pickups are swapped, new
holes are drilled for alternative parts or alignment adjustments. And once
it is together in a most harmonious way, with those extra holes covered
and it singing and working as a whole, the whole thing is again taken
apart to make templates from it for shapes, routing, and drilling so all
that follow go together at least as well as this one in its finalized
version. In a perfect world, these pre-builds go back together again and
live out happy lives as creative tools in appreciative hands... not always
the case. I have boxes of prototype parts that used to be firsts. This
one? I'm going to make sure it realigns and sings in my hands as
soon as possible; I hope that's good enough for it. It's certainly good
enough for me!
All goodness to you - from my workshop of life to yours.
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Eric Clapton's
Rainbow Concert; anything John Lee Hooker; Alice In
Chains Dirt; Grateful Dead Dick's Picks #3, disc 2.
With the July 4th weekend 10th Anniversary shindig a rousing success and a
round of builds to get to before we can even think about starting on
those, it was time for a wood shopping trip. Tune in now as our intrepid
reporter sets out on the mission.
||Ahhh, setting out in an old truck on the beautiful
2-lanes of the Texas "Hill Country" in search of wood
for Birdsongs. I have a list of general wood planks (General
Woodplanks? You remembeh him from the academy...) to get and some
specifics for certain builds with certain grain patterns or
special features to be looking for. My trusty steed is Joe the
Truck, '74 Dodge. Everything a great 40-year-old machine should
be: strong, simple, reliable, steadfast, and the right tool for
||Closer into town on the four lanes, we begin to see
the Distractoids & Oblivians. Sure I took my eyes off
the road for almost a second to take this shot, but the girl
texting in the Bimmer was looking UP for almost a second at
a time. Like most (and like most drunk drivers) they're not doing
as well as they think they are, even if nothing happened... this
time. Just parked in the left lane, speeding up & slowing
down. This is why I drive a '74 Dodge.
||After a major shakeup in the "Scott's Favorite
Eateries" department last month (2 of my favorite pizza
places - completely unrelated - seized for back taxes and the last
real funky little small town restaurant over by the marina in
Canyon Lake ousted by investors that bought the strip of
property), it felt so good to be looking forward to breakfast at
Star Seeds Cafe in Austin. Small & funky as ever. Just a
universe unto itself with its own gravitational pull. I just love
this place - it represents the eclectic nature of Austin. Tunes
playing, oddball collection of people, great food, breakfast all
day, open 24 hours. I'm pulling in the driveway and I catch a
whiff... no, can't be. No way.
||Way. The biggest liquid waste truck I've ever seen,
parked blocking the side street, with a huge green hose going
in through one of the windows. We pull in the driveway,
and we pull out of the driveway. Said a friend, "It
was really the only call you could make." It was offal.
(Thank you, thank you very much.)
||With my taste for breakfast pretty well keiboshed, I
continued into far north Austin to my favorite lumber supply
house. After telling a rather prickish young salesman to get lost
and get Paul, one of my main wood connections again came through
with the same great service, laughs and solid deals I've been
getting since before what turned out to be the owners son
was still whacking it to his Avril Lavigne posters. This is where
we get a lot of the Maple, Walnut & Mahogany that becomes
Birdsongs. Birdsong has always stayed small enough that I go
select the wood by the individual plank - it doesn't just show up
on a pallet. Not that my way's better necessarily, but I like it
better and I like the results of it better.
||With 9 or 10 planks nestled into the bed, we hit the
road and stopped at another favorite place that, from the highway,
looks like some oddball ethnic convenience store... but you walk
in and Ali Farka Toure is on the stereo and there's a great
menu of outstanding Indian food and a bar with about oh, say, 300
craft beers. Un-freaking-believable. Given my recent history with
eating establishments, I was a bit nervous walking in. But
the Chana Dal (yellow lentils, sweet potato & red pepper on
rice), side of spicy collards & Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla
Porter were all savored without incident.
||It doesn't look like all that much, but that's
'cause it's in Joe the Truck. It's plenty. It would look like more
in the little '83 Econoline shorty I usually take or (for sure)
cut to fit in a trunk. I think this was Joe's first wood shopping
trip in a couple of years - the first with his current engine,
which was being built for a Road Runner when his let go. Joe being
Joe and higher on the pecking order than any of my other cars, in
it went. .060 over, 4-barrel, aluminum intake, 9:1, big
cam, headers... a strange brew of sensations from the cab, some
bizarre mix of dump truck and stock car. Like someone bred a
Rottweiler with a Greyhound. He sounds like a '70s car chase. Felt
good to be doing this first post-10th Anniversary wood trek in
Joe, as he helped build life over the past 14 years into what it
is now in every way. More on him in a bit...
||It's official, Austin is a C.F. At least half of
these people had their eyes on little screens and just tap tap
tapping away or reading, slowing the already gummed-up works into
a snail's pace of barely avoided mishaps and baiting the weavers
who think that six feet of road in front of you is worth
risking life and limb for. I don't get out into the big city much
anymore; years ago I gigged up here all the time. Now if I go to
Austin one time a month it's really something... still the
greatest city if I HAD to live in one. I'd just live IN it though,
because getting in and out of it and around in it is just nuttier
than squirrel dookie.
||Continuing down the interstate a ways I visited the
old San Marcos shop, now home base for the basses of Muckelroy
Basses... and here's a brace of them, by Brady! A brace of
Brady's basses from the base of Muckelroy Basses. (What is
this, Dr. Seuss?!) Brady got his thing together in the corner of
the Birdsong shop, just as a woodworker a bit down the path named
Johnny let me get my building thing going in his years back. It's
a great thing to see such a good man and superb musician as Brady
become such a world class craftsman and have so much good stuff
going on. He has helped out (and still does) Birdsong and some of
our other luthiery endeavors. Pick up one of his, too: www.bradybass.com
||He's got a couple of big tools of mine we only need
once every couple of weeks, so I pop in and also pick up &
drop off his Birdsong work. I'm the face and the words and I get plenty
of sawdust on me but without the great helping hands over the
years this whole Birdsong journey wouldn't be what it is &
what we are. While there I cut out two Spanish Cedar and one wild
Pecan Cortos, a Koa D'AQUILA guitar, two half sets of Mahogany for
some Birdsong guitars, and made some thin flats for headstock
||Joe being the beast he is, it was inevitable we'd
need some juice at some point. So I pull into the gas station and
it looks like yet another Distractoid got here
first. Hope that text was worth it; you could've blown the whole
block into the next county, you big ol' doof. It's the Leaning
Tower of Petrolia. If this were of the caliber to be
newsworthy I wouldn't be able to resist spraying the story with
related puns - I'm sure they'd be pumping folks for details on
what they saw, fueling speculation it was some octanegenarian...
but it was a regular, who gushed "Isle never do that
again!" I'd have a blast. Tanks a lot!
||Headed back into the hills to the workshop, the core
of my world, the nest of your Birdsong. After creeping for quite a
ways at 40-45 miles an hour, this guy finally continues one
particulary good starboard weave and pulls aside to let the
rest of the known universe by. Not sure if it was deliberate, but
I waved anyway. Of course in rural areas a wave can mean many
things from "Thank you" to "We both know you're an
@$$&%?#." Either way, we seized the chance and blew by
him like he'd powershifted reverse. I don't want to be behind
this... I don't want to be anywhere near this. This was a
HUGE leather couch - hundreds of pounds up there. How do you not
know anyone in central Texas with a pickup truck?
Good God; it's a field day out here.
||Back up safely at the magic workshop, here's most of
the haul. Varying shades of Walnut, planks of gorgeous dense
Mahogany (no lightweight stuff - we'll use Spanish Cedar for those
requests, it looks very similar, works & sounds about the
same, but is consistently lightweight), Maple, Hickory, and a
couple of Mesquite planks. I picked up some Poplar to prototype
something with and some other odds & ends... plus the cutoffs
from the long planks. Dense Mahogany brings an interesting
combination of dense-wood clarity & depth in with the glorious
Mahogany midrange "warmth" - still there in even the
most dense of Mahoganies in my experience. A Cortobass out of this
wood will still only be in the mid to high 8 pound range complete.
It's beautiful too - I bought three planks of it.
||For those new to the family after the big July 4th
weekend sale, a quick bit about Joe. Joe is a '74 Dodge D100 - he
was the first tool I bought when it was time to settle a piece of
rough land fourteen years ago and he'll be the last tool I work
when I'm old and in suspenders, gathering with the geezers at the
gas station a ways down the path from now. He worked his but off
for me, us, the homestead, the company and a whole circle of
friends (here's a shot from 2003) and has been an inspiration to
me personally in my attempt to be strong, simple,
reliable, steadfast, and the right tool for the job. I still work
at it; Joe's got it down. There's a little bit of Joe built into
in every Birdsong.
Big update on the client/current builds page, it's been a busy week!
Thanks for checking in!
Wherever you're standing, there you are!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Bob Dylan Slow Train Coming; Robert Plant The
Principle of Moments; Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot; Chris Cornell
Euphoria Morning; David Bowie The Man Who Sold The World; The
Allman Bros. The Road Goes On Forever (disc 1); Eric Clapton's
Tuesday, July 8th
(Snuck one in early...)
Ok, back to normal! The 10th anniversary weekend was amazing; hello
to all who joined the family, came back into the fold, and stepped up for
another of our little manifestations of devotion & gratitude carefully
disguised as wood & wire.
With the first couple of days of this week spent getting four
basses shipped and taking care of things shoved aside in the buildup and
the weekend and the launch of the new Birdsong guitar, I'll be back onto
the many projects at hand - with the music playing, the breeze breezing
through the workshop, the sun shining and the smell of worked wood in the
I'll be getting the client build pics updated as they are taken and
hopefully later this week will be going on some wood shopping odysseys -
this is why I'm doing this week's update a bit early, because by Thursday
& Friday I want to be getting my lists of work done early in the day
in the workshop and then roaming the roads and highways to my favorite
sources in search of the planks and pieces I'll need to build more.
To do this, I have to get Joe The Truck ready. He's been sitting
patiently with building scraps from some workshop expansion in the bed and
I need to top off all his fluids and do a dump run later this morning. It
excites me to think of the hours in the workshop this week as the first of
some kind, them being the first of the NEXT ten years. And there's no
vehicle I'd rather take this "first" wood shopping trip in than
my faithful old companion that helped build and grow Birdsong in his own
ways of service (not to mention the homestead, others' homesteads, various
shops, etc.), my '74 Dodge. He's hauled a lot of wood!
Now I've got to haul butt out of here & get a few things
done. All the best to your world from ours! Regular Friday updates will
start again next week, and I'll have a full wood shopping report for you.
Thanks again so much for being with us!
That's awl for now!
Captain Of The Ship
JULY 4th is HERE!
FIRST - we would like to thank the brave for their sacrifices for
we the free. Not free in no cost, not free in no price, not free as in no
responsibility or anything goes... just free to have opportunity that can
be gardened and potential that can have some chance of being realized.
I'll take that and run with it, thank you. Thank you to those who serve...
without you there would be none of this to talk about.
SECOND - I want to wish all of you a happy & safe fourth and
weekend, and thank you for checking in to see what's up around here.
The 4th is also Birdsong's ANNIVERSARY. This one? Our big number 10! In
2004 a couple living in a school bus with a dream launched Birdsong
Guitars. They had some ideas, they had nothing to lose, and they decided doing
was going to garden more than dreaming. Without YOU none of this would
have happened - I
SALUTE YOU! Ten years, three moves, and
several hundred hand crafted instruments later it's time to make THIS
milestone anniversary something extra special.
THE BIRDIES that nested in the shop and their little ones have
flown the nest, and so it is time for some other little
"Birdies" - these of wood & wire - to fly this nest as well. So...
HERE WE GO.
"What? Where are we going?!" ~Maggie the dog
TO GO TO THE 10th ANNIVERSARY PAGE
On behalf of Jamie and all whose hands have graced our workshop
tools, thank you again for an amazing first ten years!
Captain Of The Ship
"What's about to happen?"
Starting at 12:01 AM CST
...and see what we've got for you
Announcements, specials, deals, packages, and something new...
Talk to you then!
...and that's the deal, O'Neil!
Captain Of The Ship
In beer terms we're a microbrewery.
Far south of factory but well
north of homebrew in terms of technique and result, both what we craft and
how we craft it. 600 instruments will do that to (and for) you, honing
every process like a blade and every tool in the shop - including you.
It's the "Ten thousand hour rule" put forth by (just looked it
up) Malcolm Gladwell. Never read his stuff and I know like everything else
these days from existence down to a head of lettuce it is hotly debated
amongst the talkers of the world. He puts forth that this is the time it
takes to get really good at something. Obviously that will vary, but the
principle is sound ~ any doer can tell you an hour doing is worth a hundred
of discussion, and years of doing are their own reward you get to re-bring
to what you do at that higher level.
I can't nail down exactly how many basses that ten thousand hours
is, as every one of
those varies too just like every day's list of next tasks. But I can
definitely say I felt its signpost go by and I think we blew past the big
number in about 2008, catching rubber on the 2-3 powershift. We grew a
little since then, but it's mostly in honing & refinement. There's a
bunch more to do but we're that much better at it, so that dance works
out. There have been crossroads to factorydom but we opted for the scenic
two-lane instead of the highway. Not everybody
understands microbrewery mentality. Why not strive for Budweiserdom? Or...
why not brew your own in the basement? Can't be that hard. Both are
extremes and have their place. Well, somewhere
between the two nestled in amongst "Different strokes for different
folks" and the diasporas of individual context and vision, there are
many shades of happy workshop craftsman bliss to be had... we have our
It's in those levels I found my home as a luthier. Between the idea
and results are layers of fascinating process... part chef, part
carpenter, part alchemist & medicine man... where you are allowed according to your
skill set and creative vision and various disciplines and honed intuitions
the honor of playing
a role in the manifestation of an instrument from wood and components. But
it's no fun to just count numbers and cash checks; sorry. I
want to smell it, taste it, feel it in my hands, and wash it out of areas
you wouldn't even believe at the end of a good day's progress towards a
few more little "Birdies" flying the nest. Sure, I eat off of
this ~ but most of it is still a labor of love. I love doing it, and I
love being able to do it on this side of probably thirty thousand
hours. I wouldn't trade the getting here, but I'm glad I'm here now and
don't have to climb - and figure out how - at the same time quite as much.
As a scattered jack of all trades I never had the tool kit those sustained
hours of devotion bring you in one area. Until this I always felt like
more of a "jack off" all trades; now I'm only a jackoff in other
This is why our friend Henry is building the deck off the workshop,
and I'm in here.
Speaking of nests and birdies and flying, and my humble workshop
being a space where this year a little shelf became the launching pad for
a few much smaller and fluffier "birdsong projects" belonging to
two little birdies, here's an update on our little friends. No pictures as
I'm giving them their space; once some attempted flight happens I'll try
for a picture. For now, they trust me and I don't want to test that. The
nestlings have hatched - I can't get a good
count, but I know if you go anywhere near the nest these little open beaks come up and start swaying around, and two little birdie parents
have been busy night and day bringing food and talking amongst themselves. They're
starting to chirp; this is exciting and an honor to have new birdsong in
here. New life in the shop! Hope they're digging the tunes.
DEAL OF THE WEEK: "Woodcraft package" for $50 and your
choice of hardware!
A fun thing here in the workshop is figuring out what to do with the
cutoffs & scraps. For a C note I craft (for those who request it) a
goodie package of little rustic bandsaw boxes, incense boxes, miniature
oil lamps, pendants and whatever else the pieces tell me they want to be.
I tuck a handful of pieces in with the bass shipment. Sometimes they're
even from the very wood of your bass - this makes for great gifts for the
significant other who let you buy your bass, or as cool pick boxes &
talismans for the home or studio. Or YOUR workshop! So anyone with a bass
in process or a new order can get half off of that this week, and on new
orders THAT PLUS pick gold or black hardware with no upcharge... through
next Friday's update!
THIS WEEK'S TOP TEN LIST:
Ten tools of meaning and their stories
Uncle Johnny's drill press gets plenty of mention, so here are some
||Soldering iron holder
This was given to me by a guy I knew when I had my little music
store in Melrose, MA back in about 1997. It's been in all the
workshops and helped wire up most Birdsongs.
Uncle Johnny wasn't my uncle - that's just what everyone
called him. That's who he was. My real uncle Pat was this cool
Italian dude from the Boston area. I inherited a small workbench
when he passed away; it too has been in the shops, and this chisel
was in it. I use it in edging headstock laminates among other
||Small needle nose pliers
Picked up at a yard sale at least 15 years ago. They make my
life a whole lot easier when I'm wiring up the instruments!
A piece from the original SD Curlee workshop in the Chicago
area, early '80s.
Bought in an Army surplus store in... well I forget. But it's
cleaned out a bunch of nut slots, opened untold shrink wrapped
parts, and cuts out the hole for the jack after I copper line
inside the cavity. It's done these things for years.
Pretty sure this one Dremel has worked on every guitar, bass
or lap steel I've ever built. To say it is a well made tool I've
gotten my money's worth out of would be an understatement! At this
point it's just about a talisman.
These belonged to a cabinet maker in town who died in a
motorcycle wreck. The early Birdsongs had some wood from and some
of the joining and planing work done in his shop. I'm honored to
have these and they still have his dried glue on them - now mixed
This is the hammer I crush Turquoise with to do my special
"Turquoise package" inlaying like what's on the 10th
Anniversary bass (lots of pictures of that coming!). I bought
three well-used, taped-handled hammers in a homemade wooden
box from a lady whose father had passed on. These were his. All
respects to woodworkers passed... we will keep your tools working
and the woodchips flying!
This belonged to my friend Jake, who put in a number of years
with us at Birdsong before moving along. He also made some of my
favorite guitars and the wood was squared up for joining on this
tool. I passed Birdsong's jointer along to Brady Muckelroy with
our last workshop, promoting this one to be the official Birdsong
planer in our current shop.
I love old spokeshaves; they represent the craftsman to me.
This one I got from an older craftsman named Michael who was part
of our intentional community circle a few years back before moving
out to the west coast. Michael was a retired electrician and did a
lot of work on our current workshop, along with the others in that
group. The tools I love best are the tools of those I have known
and respected. It's as if a part of them is still here with me,
walking this amazing journey together.
Please read last week's entry below for current info on the 4th of July
happenings... more next week!
And that's the story, Morning Glory!
Captain Of The Ship
Really just a whole bunch of Grateful Dead this week. The Dead and feeling
"in bloom" go together like red wine & tomato sauce; like
peppers and a flame; like pizza & beer. Hey, it's Friday! They might
just have to go together...
Leading up to the July 4th Anniversary
update with a bunch of special
stuff going on are... updates with special stuff going on! Specifically
each week you, the reader, get:
1 (one) "Top Ten" list.
1 (one) "Special deal of the week"... and...
Some (some) clues and previews
of what will be offered as JULY 4th 10th
Anniversary specials, both DAY OF THE 4th SPECIFIC and for that whole
weekend. It's big. I promise.
It sounds like a used car sales pitch,
but it's just some words based on
experience over the past ten years as Birdsong (and other things) and the
past 17 as a builder of instruments and springer of surprises... you might want to
approval to reward yourself for all of YOUR hard work & devotion ahead
of time. That, or gird your loins for the "It's easier to apologize
afterwards than get permission in the first place" approach I'm also
familiar with from this side of the screen.
THIS JULY 4th (and I mean it goes up early!):
"The vault" is opened - prototypes and very low serial numbered
stuff, one-offs... all offered, most for the first time. This is the right
way to celebrate the ten year mark! They all belong with you guys.
A new model is coming... something I've wanted in the line since before
day one, but for one reason or another it wasn't the time. Now is the
Special sales & offers... big-time on July 4th itself but some will
last all through the weekend.
Links to special posts on Birdsong's Facebook page
(and my own too!)
Corresponding sales at www.Hy5basses.com
(the 5 string basses) and www.SDCurleeUSA.com
Videos of a lot of this stuff launched on our YouTube channel.
Surprises: you can count on it, bub!
So here is this week's fun...
SCOTT'S TOP TEN FAVORITE BIRDSONGS
Well ok, that's impossible at this point. But here are ten I really,
||You might notice the body is slightly
this is one of the first handful of Cortobasses. The first ones out varied in this - #002 was
fitted with a revised body that became the template for most late
2004 and after Cortobasses to follow. This is #004, Cherry &
flamed Maple - it got the
original 2004 shape. . I've always had a soft spot for this one out of
those early builds.
||Cortobass of the gnarliest rustic Texas Mesquite
This is Kent Finlay, he gave me my start in so many ways back in
the late '80s when I was just a hungry kid with a notebook and a
guitar 2000 miles from home. He's a little under the weather right
now, but it won't be long before he's back to thumping on this
most rural Texas of Birdsongs!
||Cortobass #64. That's Ebony - thick
slabs making up 2/3rds of the thickness of that body. The light
center is the light edge of the plank. It was a wild slab. I still
have a cut of the light part I make the occasional nut out of. As
you walk the journey, some things you just have to try one time.
It's as close to a solid Ebony body as I'll ever do. Stunning.
||Maple & gold Cortobass...
Maple and gold go together in a very complimentary relationship.
Where gold on some instruments can be a little blingy, it really
brings out the golden in a piece of Maple... which in turn
provides its expanses of amber goodness and tones down the gold a
notch. I also remember loving that this piece of Maple, while
not boring, was very natural. Not bookmatched, not gradeably
figured, a piece so many luthiers would reject. And it turned into
||Something about Walnut's brown,
Maple's golden off white & Purpleheart with black hardware...
in the past, every time I've shown a picture of this bass I've
gotten an order for something with this same combination... your
turn! Go ahead, click on it. I dare ya.
||"Custom" Odyssey body with Cortobass
pickups & rear rout
Family wood! Extinct wood! Wormy Chestnut & Elm from this
client's family history, now singing in heirloom form. An honor in
so many ways.
||"Custom" Fusion body with Cbass pickup
& rear rout
SOLID "Exhibition grade" Quilted Maple - I have a thing for Quilted Maple ~ a '70s BC Rich
guitar I picked up in the '80s had body wings of the stuff (solid,
not topped) and it was THE transformative moment when I realized
that, at least with that guitar, "Somebody made this..."
and on went the lightbulb. This client began upgrading the Maple and, well, just kept going.
||#108... went to India. Wasn't planned... at
least not by me. Namaste.
||Fusion #2 coming together. This bass
was the ad bass and then made the rounds in some special hands...
to me, it represents the beginnings of my most favorite model. I
wanted a little Jazz guitar to the trimmings and I wanted it to
look like it sounds. I know, I know... a little synesthesiatic but
hey, you use the tools in your bag.
||Sadhana #12. I've got a thing about Maple
& Walnut with gold. This one does it for me. The
Sadhana evolved into the Bliss... but this is where the Fusion's
upper horn came from. Should I bring it back? What do you think -
new Sadhanas? What about a Sadhana with the Corto2 soapbars &
rear routing? That'd be one sexy beast.
OF THE WEEK: Oh the hell with it, ORDER A SADHANA and I'll make it
for you, dress it up however you want and get it out to you (continental
USA) for $1500.
Multi-wood and fancy woods, ehhh... a little more but I'll do you so
right, I want to see this happen. You'll get the HUGE DEAL and be credited
as the client that brought it back! SOLD!
(But stay tuned for other deals... or just call!)
Ok, I'm off like a prom dress at midnight.
And that's the jist, Sist!
Captain Of The Ship
The Grateful Dead Dead Set; Levon Helm Dirt Farmer; John
Scofield Time On My Hands; Ennio Morricone Crime And Dissonance.
If you have never tasted empty you will never know full.
This week's theme is "Special birds..."
Here's an Artist that recently flew the nest.
Last week we showcased elegant simplicity, this week artistic
embellishment. I still don't like things to turn visually into some
combination of a clown car and blinking disco Nativity scene... it's
got to be coordinated and, no matter how far we go with it, it still has
to retain its dignity. This is the very high end of what we do - carved
from solid Mesquite burl, embellished with a little pearl & Turquoise
(real), and trimmed out in Cocobolo and custom solid engraved silver
pieces by the Clint Orms shop.
Artist builds are rare and expensive and they take a long time.
But if you have a taste for something like this, we can make the
arrangements and craft you an heirloom piece that can still get down on a
And here is a little friend
that has been borrowing a little shelf in the workshop. With doors on both
ends, these little birds sometimes fly right through the shop. Well, this
one stopped and made a nest and before I could gently dissuade her there
were four eggs in it. Like the condos going up covering over the hills, it
went up and they went in so fast it seems like just yesterday nothing was
there. A week ago that was a shelf. But in this case, to me those eggs
Two poignant little tidbits about this situation - my woodworking
mentor Uncle Johnny (not my uncle, yet everyone's uncle in a way), who
taught me to turn my guitars into art (while I showed him how to turn his
wood art into a few guitars) had some birds that would come nest every
Spring on a high shelf... this reminds me of that. Truly makes it a rural
workshop instead of a city factory, doesn't it? And second, of all the
shelves high & low and corners to pick, this one nestled up behind a
little woodcraft project. It's a special project, this little box... it's
for a friend, for the ashes of his wife's father. That this new life is
literally happening right up against this box is a symbolic irony not lost
It speaks volumes of our chapters and comings and goings and how really,
it's all just change and part of some greater system and cycle. As we
depart, other life comes. It's nothing to fear - we just try to do and be
our best while here. She seems pretty content, nestled in with the eggs,
peeking out at me as I walk by.
For all I know after so many years out here, those birds talk amongst
themselves - "These unfeathereds are allies - they never harm us,
they leave us seed and stale bread occasionally. They train their four
legged companions to leave us be and filleth our baths with water when the
skies are barren." Who knows really? I sure don't. I'm not them. But
I like all the wildlife out here and let them know in little ways... the
main one is by just peacefully going about my business as they go about
theirs. So with a piece of plywood now sheltering her shelf from the rest
of the shop and its dust and movement, our lives carry on with the tasks
Mine seem so small compared to hers.
THIS WEEK'S TOP 10 LIST:
TEN SPECIAL BIRDSONGS!
Yes, every Birdsong is special. But here are ten that are
truly something different. "I didn't know you did that!" will be
a common comment - yeah, well we didn't know either but it was the right
challenge at the right time, a convincing cool client... or the rent on
the shop was coming due which historically loosens the yes muscle in the
tongue a little bit. THERE ARE MANY OTHERS - consider this just a ten
10. The factory white Hy5
Other than the hot rod primer flat black "Rat Rod" builds,
this is the ONLY Birdsong that has ever left the workshop painted. Back
when the Hy5 was in its formative years as a part of the Birdsong line
(now it's its own thing at www.hy5basses.com)
she begged, pleaded, cajoled and set the third-party finishing deal up. I
caved. It had to match her Vegas outfit... how do you say no to
9. The T-Vee
Yeah I know. "He wouldn't put active electronics in my bass
but he DID build a Flying V that thinks it's a Tele?!" Yep, WTF
indeed. I have no idea how to answer for this. I last saw it in a pawn
shop years ago after getting a call from the manager asking what the hell
it was. Shown being picked up by the client (excellent blues rock player
with a handshake like a vice), it rocked & rolled... but much like a
Chihuahua/Great Dane mix, it takes a sick mind to think up and in the end
watching it happen is the most entertaining part.
I swear I have never taken acid. But look closely and you'll see
certain design elements that keep resurfacing in Birdsongs & side
projects, like little songs that keep being revised & rewritten into
the script. For example, that round upper "horn" area with the
little cut-in out of it, that evolved through other instruments over the
years. It can be seen reversed in the headstock of the very first Birdsong
(we'll get to that in a minute...), and the guitar in spot #6, in the
control plate of my Shortbass
I build on the side today, and in something coming in about a
The first time I looked at the scrap pile, two thoughts hit
home. One, "Gee, this never occurred to me that it would pile up so
fast..." and two, "I bet if I cut those into strips and joined 'em
all together, it'd look cool." This was the first we did. We did a
small run of them a few years later and boy, let me tell you, I'm
seriously overdue to make a few more. In fact, this will be the SUPER
DEAL OF THE WEEK - for those inclined to such visual
insubordination, I'll float an offer for a Cortobass, Corto2 or Fusion
done with random strips of wood for no upcharge. That's insane considering
how much work is involved in doing this! So I'm going to cap the offer at
two for now. Call 512-395-5126 (no texts) or email email@example.com.
6. Electric Jazz guitar prototype
This is the forerunner of something coming... a couple of
things coming actually, one to Birdsong and one to the D'AQUILA lineup
later this year. That's where the electric jazz guitars I love to design
and play around with as concepts & creations will finally find their
home. D'AQUILA started not long after this, but this one was a Birdsong.
It sang at few gigs (including the "Birdsong Gathering") and I
think I remember it went to Japan.
5. Tribute to Dad...
A deeply mourning but very cool client commissioned this
woodburning on the back of his Cortobass. It's a poem by his late father
and all those symbols represent events or people past or passed. They
ended up all over the bass. The client - one hell of a bass player -
actually played it out quite a bit and then for some reason years later
sold it... and it now looks very different than this, but I'll leave it to
whomever's it is now to reveal the identity of their bass as they see fit.
Last I heard from the original client he was doing much better. Good, good
4. Dax's guitar
Another interesting one-off guitar from the original workshop.
Notice the top of the headstock is basically a tiny version of the top
half of the Electric Jazz guitar prototype. Look at its hump &
cutaway, then look at this headstock. These relationships between curves
& cuts keep turning up; they're like specific licks to a guitar player
or certain motifs to a sculptor. They're a design / artistic fingerprint.
I'm fascinated by these things in musicians & writers and other
luthiers - I don't think all that much about it here, it just
3. Greendog's bass
Cool dude with serious hand issues wishes to keep playing. It
is a concept that since has included calls from those with back, arm,
nerve, shoulder, wrist, accident, age and other issues... it's an honor to
know our little basses can help! Back then, we didn't know but gave it a
shot for the G man. We designed an easy to handle bass and set it up to
play with barely any pressure. He's still playing it and became one of the
early clients I now count as friends, along with us through it all. Thump
on, good sir!
2. Cortobass #007
If the woodburning doesn't grab you, the client requested
corresponding inlayed chakra stones up the back of the neck just might. To
those versed in such matters, they're inverted so the higher vibrations
correspond with the higher notes. To those not, those little precious
stones also behind the fret positions where the dots would be. This
client, his visit, and that bass are stories unto themselves! But so were
the early days of Birdsong...
A big, beautiful guitar from an amazing chunk of Walnut... and a Holy
Grail of sorts. See, this is the first Birdsong ever, as a
brand. First to wear the feather. It predates the company by a few years,
was crafted by me in my late friend Uncle Johnny's workshop in the woods
(he even sanded & finished it), and set our tone with a story that
will be told... because the strangest part of this guitar is the fact that
these are not old pictures. These were taken today. It's here
again, and on July 4th as part of one of the special Anniversary packages,
someone is going to own the first Birdsong ever.
That's the info Bro!
Captain Of The Ship
The Grateful Dead Dead Set; Frank Sinatra.
Here is a bass that just left the nest this week,
a great example of what we're all about - simple elegance, outstanding
function dressed in beautiful design, and small workshop craftsmanship
& attention to detail.
This is a 7 pound Cortobass ready to go.
A marriage of Mahogany, Maple and Rosewood in the right amounts to bring
the best of what these woods have to offer tonally. This
"seasons" the main tonal voice from the pickups & positions
that have proven themselves in a ten year trail of very vocal happy
clients and an entire company built around that. On this bass, visual
upgrades of a body wood matching headstock overlay and hand made Rosewood
control plate accentuate what's already there... dressed out in black
hardware. Everything "bass" that comes out of the workshop is
based on this design - shorter, lighter, easier to play but most
definitely a REAL bass with a tremendous set of tones. (Next week we'll
showcase the OTHER extreme visually with a WILD build...)
The Cortobass has been like a great song. If a song itself is really
something, you want to hear the blues version, the reggae version, the
jazz instrumental jam version. You want to hear someone sing it to a piano
and a hard rock band riff it to pieces. I mean, at least I do - that's why
there is more than one Birdsong model! The past couple of years I've been
going back through the folders with sketches and variations I haven't
gotten to... basses, guitars, other instruments. I do some consultation,
but there's so much... so much stuff, so many designs and ideas. Being
creative has always been like a faucet for me and when it's on it really
comes out. What you see in Birdsong is just the first layer - the things I
really want to build. There are more, but they will just have to find
their time and place.
Usually that place is right here and the time is July 4th for one
something-or-other appropriate to Birdsong to make it from the page and
into the lineup. So what are we unveiling this year on our 10th
Anniversary? You mean other than the 10 special packages of current &
old Birdsongs and souvenirs from over the years? Nine of them are still
available... mainly because I haven't said what they are yet. So...
besides these recents and relics?
Something I've wanted to do for years. Since the beginning
actually! But for various reasons in the various chapters of our first
decade it just wasn't the right time. Well now it is and there will
be an addition to the lineup coming. Here's a hint though: it's not a new
So for this week's SPECIAL DEAL...
through next Friday, FREE upgrade package on any Cortobass
- including body wood matching headstock, wood control plate, and your
choice of black or gold hardware upgrade. That's over three hundred
smackeroonians in options gratis non costibus from yours
truly as a tip o'the hat and a helping hand to get OUR smokin' little bass
into YOUR sweaty little palms!
And this week's TOP TEN list:
Top 10 excuses for no top ten list this week
10. Monday was a holiday I actually took, so I ran out of days for a
9. Traffic was bad on the way in!
8. Quoth The Bandit "I'm too pooped to pop."
7. Too busy doing really important things...
6. Uhhh, my alarm didn't go off?
5. I was out with your mother.
4. "Hey, I'm only two men!"
3. I finally adjusted my old-school mechanical clocks and lost the hour I
had set aside for it, but at least I'll stop being an hour late everywhere
I go... or however that works.
2. I blew it off to roast peppers with Jamie
And - the number one excuse for no top ten list this week...
1. "My dog ate it..."
It's actually #10; and that's the 10-17, Jimmy Dean!
Captain Of The Ship
Pink Floyd Meddle; Stephen Stills Stephen Stills; Bob Dylan
Infidels; Boston Third Stage
This week's TOP TEN list and SUPER
DEAL OF THE WEEK... but first the news!
Have a great Memorial Day weekend -
a special thanks to all the veterans past, passed, and present. If
you're one and you want a Birdsong or anything else I do (other basses -
guitars - lap steels - gimme a call!),
you get 20% off whatever you want if you order this weekend.
In my own little, tiny, humble way... I salute you.
(Being as the holiday is Monday, basses going out next week will go out on
inner circle luthier Brady Muckelroy in this month's Bass
Player magazine. You subscribers have it - it'll hit the newsstands
shortly. It has Lee Sklar on the cover, which is a heck of a good start...
but the highlight is definitely the piece on Muckelroy Basses. On the side
from his own line of basses, Brady does a lot of work on any neck-throughs
(Embraces, the occasional singlecut) for Birdsong and a bunch on the SD
Curlee basses, and helps with some of the sanding & setups. A better
piece couldn't have been written about a nicer guy or a more devoted bass
Up in the Birdsong workshop
deep in the woods, much is going on too - here are some shots of just some
of the fun this week... finishes curing out, basses going together in
assembly (black stripe deliberate - some things will wait 'til the 4th of
July), and - like the instruments themselves - something new coming from
something old. I've talked about my love for templates - making them,
building with them, refining them - and often when a new
something-or-other is getting prototyped, I check my old stock of past
templates to see if there's anything close to start with. Well, this
something-or-other is being spec'd out for a run with a template last used
in 2008. Given the amount of stuff I've built over the past 17 years I can
usually find something to start with. So here is a good old plywood
template getting revised & refined here in 2014; tree to instrument,
who we were to who we become, seed to flower and back again, what was to
what will be; it's all just change and becoming... and this
"whatever-it-may-be" will be coming shortly!
SUPER DEAL OF THE WEEK:
2004 PRICING on any Standard Cortobass -
Mahogany body, Maple neck with Rosewood fingerboard, chrome hardware,
black sculpted-look control plate... just like it was designed. It was our
real beginning in 2004 and celebrates its 10th year along with the
company... all other models came from it and all of anything good that has
been done for or to anyone or their music through us (or to us) is a
result of it in some way. It's a great little bass and was (and still is)
a game-changer for everyone who builds them (us) or gets one (you). SO... between
this update and the next (next Friday) order
up a "Standard Cortobass" for $1500 including case &
That's about 23% OFF, "used bass" pricing on a new, warranted,
money-back guaranteed, new-Birdsong-smelling little wonderbass. And
I'll even do my best to get it out the door in 60-90 days, just like 2004!
Can't beat that
with a stick. A humble
offering of thanks from us!
Now the TOP TEN LIST!
A "Split 10" list this week: top 5 big moments in a bass build /
top 5 favorite woods
This list also serves as a tip o'the hat to the split
7" ~ no that's not a chapped appendage, it's how we used to find
out about cool new bands back in the day. A 7" was an EP - Extended
Play - as opposed to a single which had a song on each side. Not quite a
full LP (Long Play), a 7 was maybe 2 or 3 songs per side. So a "Split
7" was a way to get two bands' best few songs in front of people who
may not have heard of that second band. Here we have our Birdsong Bass
Moments/Fave Woods Split 10, in excellent condition - with no skips or
scratches. Unless of course you DO have anything chapped. But that's your
SIDE ONE: FAVE WOODS
When I close my eyes and think of the word "wood", my mind
pictures Walnut. Its dark browns, its swirly grain; like a chocolate
sundae. Tonally I find it even and exciting, responsive, bringing out all
that's good about wood with no peaks or valleys. It's a joy to work and
always holds surprises for when we rub that first coat of oil in.
To me, visually this defines "Exotic wood" with its
incredible golds and reds, browns and blacks. Wild grain. Breathing the
dust in will brutehump your lungs something fierce, so even in a shop with
a perpetual breeze and a fan blowing working dust away from me, I wear a
particle mask when working with Cocobolo and get the dust off of me pron-to.
But a carved, contoured something of Cocobolo is about the most beautiful
thing on the planet.
Yeah I know, Cocobolo is a type of Rosewood... but if you're listing
your favorite drinks, you'd put Merlot and Chardonnay even though they
both come from grapes under the category "wine"... they're two
different experiences. In this case that's true partially because of where
the woods are used and not just the different look or (gag, cough) the
taste. Whereas Cocobolo is used mostly for tops 'n trimout pieces, nice
brown Indian is my #1 favorite fingerboard wood of all time. Using
1/4" thick pieces, I love the seasoning this wood brings to a
"sonic soup" and use it on 90% of what we make. I can't tell you
why, but if I had the task of carving something for royalty - from man of
respect to Divine avatar - it would feel right to do it out of a beautiful
chunk of Rosewood. Here are a batch of necks with Rosewood fingerboards.
Not a wood commonly seen in musical instrument luthiery, I have
personal connections to this wood as well as being locationally close to
it. To me it speaks of the Southwest; an ornery, wild wood that has lore
all the way back through Native America. It brings its own seasoning to
whatever it's built into; I prefer it for body wood when I use it and
sometimes the more severely weathered & character-filled pieces find
themselves getting adorned with Turquoise in the secured knots &
cracks & bugholes. Not for everyone, but the coolest things in life
sometimes aren't. Working with Mesquite is a challenge and a joy; it feels
like there's a story already in it.
I love Mahogany. It has a bump in the mids right where the ear seeks
woodiness & warmth; it works like butter; it finishes beautifully with
a nice reddish-orange glow; it's not as heavy as you think; it sings even
as a huge plank. How can you go wrong? You can't. My favorite wood for
bodies on basses and for necks on guitars.
SIDE TWO: BIG MOMENTS
5. Body template tracing
I like to follow certain grain on an instrument as it's worked from
plank to finished body. I hone in on a cool area as I'm laying it out on
the slab of wood that will become it and watch it as the wood transforms
around it. Tracing the body out onto the surface of the raw, cut piece is
when the process of transformation from piece of tree to its destiny as a
singing tool of creation begins.
For all the routing of cavities, drilling of holes and shaping that is
done on a solid body bass or guitar, once I round the edges over it
crosses over visually into a real guitar in-process from a series of tasks
and a piece of wood. That one move changes everything.
3. First coat of finish
Rubbing in the oil blend is a sensual experience. It's akin to rubbing
life back into the wood. It glows; it exposes its secrets to you in grain
and color and figure. Only then do we really know what shade it will be
and what it will have for subtle shadings and figuring. I use my bare
hands to rub the oil into the grain. I wouldn't miss this moment with
these little tools of creation that manifest through the workshop. Others
dip, spray, splash... we rub oil into the wood. It's just about a ceremony
Finishing shot from Spring of 2010
2. Mounting the neck
Now it's definitely a bass guitar with a few pieces missing rather
than individual parts. We undercut the neck pocket and fit the heel in by
hand - a little shave here, a little sanding there - until it squeaks into
place as a good, tight neck pocket... then we torque down the five
mounting screws. No movement here! (Shown is a Cortobass of Hackberry with
an Ebony fretless board, 2009 I think)
1. Its first notes!
And that's the suds, Buds!
Captain Of The Ship
Grateful Dead Grateful Dead; A Perfect Circle A Perfect
Circle; Iggy & The Stooges Raw Power.
This week's TOP TEN list and SUPER
DEAL OF THE WEEK... but first the news!
Okay, time to start talking about what's going on for Birdsong's tenth
In a matter of weeks, there will be 10 super package
deals. What'll be in them? Heh, heh... that's the surprise. I've been
teasing you with in-process pics of the 10th Anniversary bass, and I did
post for interested parties to inquire, and as seems to be the way things
happen with lots of in-process builds it has been claimed. BUT I
got so much reaction to the Turquoise work, similar embellishment is - as
of right now - officially an option on your Birdsong build.
So you can grumble about the one 10th Anniversary bass being pre-sold
(this is what they're here for...) or you can say to
yourself "Self, I really wanted a Fusion anyway..." and order
one of those (or your other favorite) with the "Turquoise
Package!" And hey, there are NINE other attractions yet to be
revealed, and we're opening the vault... so you can imagine the cool
stuff & package deals coming up. Best to stay tuned... and it's rarely
a bad thing to be on your toes, so get spousal approval now for
whatever may happen!
As for ordering that special Birdsong (with or without the fancy
shmancy stuff), each week we do some kind of special deal. Honestly so
much is going on right now I don't have time to come up with something
interesting so I'm just going to do the ol'...
10% off & FREE shipping as
THIS WEEK'S SPECIAL for you on anything you order or
buy out of inventory (except where noted) between today (Friday) and
the next update (next Friday). Nice and simple, and it'll probably save
you $250! One of my little "Thankyas" to you as we celebrate
new video up on Birdsong's "Wingfeather
Workshop" channel on YouTube: How
To Pack a Guitar. Check it out - I show you how we ship these all
over the world with very few issues.
TOP 10 LIST THIS WEEK:
The Top Ten Albums Birdsongs Have Been Built To (So Far)...
As you can guess if you've been tuned in for any
length of time, besides being the Captain of the Birdsong ship and
pit-deep in projects of other kinds involving wood and wire and sound, I'm
a huge music enthusiast. Not only is it food for everything inside of me,
it's the soundtrack to the various scenes of life's movie as I live out
this role. Plus as a wise Italian mechanic Leonardo DiBartolomeo once told
me while we were talking about working to music, "Oh you GOTTA have
tunes on while you work, or fagheddaboudit." Amen that.
So LOTS of music has been - and is - listened to during the making of
Birdsongs. James Brown to Jerry Cantrell, Levon Helm to John Coltrane,
Ravi Shankar to Fu Manchu, CSN&Y to Rage Against The Machine. I like
to know YOUR music, what moves you, and sometimes listen to that during
the crafting of your bass. But there do rise to the top even among genres
I find go like pizza & beer or cheese & wine to my particular
craft (and the particular "vibe" it has to me) such as Delta
Blues, Dub Reggae and Classical guitar, certain specific collections that
have ended up as companions in the workshop over the past ten years.
10. The Rolling Stones
A greatest hits set. Get Yer YaYas Out is a good
work album too. I love the whole '69 - '73 Stones chapter but not
necessarily as whole albums to work to. The contact high off of Keith
during that era may be a bit too much!
9. Augustus Pablo
King Tubbys meets Rockers Uptown
Dub Reggae is fantastic to work to and really sets
an atmosphere for more focused, detailed work. I love it all and have a
bunch - helped out by a very cool client who, after reading a past update
about how Maggie the shop dog's favorite music is Reggae, sent an entire
BOX of great CDs. This is one that was in there; a definite favorite among
8. Los Lobos
(Warner Bros., 1996)
For ten years you might have heard this one had you
been a fly on the wall at any of the Birdsong workshops - a few Los Lobos
CDs are in rotation but this is the biggie. I'm going to put this one on
in the shop right after lunch and rout and measure and fit... not
necessarily in that order though!
2 CDs of the great Luciano Pavarotti - an epic
sountrack to routing and other tasks that make a lot of noise and
violently throw around shavings and dust.
6. Standards 2000 by the Dred Scott Trio (Robertson-3-2,
Wonderful Jazz versions of '70s FM tunes. This
version of "Never My Love" is one of my favorite
5. Zen Guerilla
Trance States In Tongues
(Sub Pop, 1999)
When I feel myself bogged down or losing steam, this
is what I throw on. Imagine the bastard child of The Ramones and Hound Dog
Taylor and you're close. I put this on and start flailing around the room
like some sort of muppet. Their cover of Bowie's "Moonage
Daydream" is worth the price of admission alone; I've done an hour
with just that on repeat. Huge.
Hooker 'n Heat
Oh this is just a treat. John Lee Hooker recorded
and partially backed up by Canned Heat in 1970. A great show of respect to
John Lee and just fantastic music to have in one's life. Other blues
commonly heard here is
a 3CD set from Vanguard records called Roots Of The Blues and the
"Basic Blues" series (Platinum/MCA, 1998) I inherited from a
friend, those being multi-CD collections of old Blues by various artists.
3. Grateful Dead Europe '72 Volume 2
Lots of Dead & Garcia gets played because -
acoustic or electric, songs or jams - it all somehow seems to be the
natural, organic sountrack to being out in a rural environment with the
sun shining and all the doors open. The Soundtrack to The Grateful Dead
Movie, Aoxomoxoa, Workingman's Dead... love it. But this second batch of
Europe '72 material includes an hour long jam on disc 2 that's a stunner,
and stuff just happens whenever I put it on.
2. R.L. Burnside Come On In
(Fat Possum Records, 1998)
Beat-heavy remixes of an old Blues cat. Just
1. The Segovia Collection (Vol. 3)
(MCA Classics, 1988)
To me there is little like the pairing of Spanish
guitar music and working wood into musical instruments. Others like John
Williams' "Spanish Guitar Music" and Flavio Cucci are favorites,
but this collection of Andres Segovia is tops to me. This and a little
mouse in here somewhere and that's a proper workshop.
(If a "Box set" soundtrack to Birdsong was
assembled, I'd add one more CD of misc. acoustic music, Native American
flute, bhajans from India, Dixieland Jazz, and John & Alice Coltrane
tracks on it... and you'd have a good library of what's going on in here
at any given moment.)
Didn't get to many client page pics
this week, sometimes I'm too busy to stop and shoot. Hang in there - more
will go up over the weekend and early next week as I wrap up the huge
list of tasks I'm running down and get some shots for you. The weather
here has been AMAZING and I've been in the workshop having LOTS of fun!
not leastly, a Birdsong tradition -
my mother's birthday is Sunday the 18th, so I
request as a personal favor that wherever you are, please hoist a beverage
of your choice in the air and proclaim out loud "Happy Birthday,
mmmmmMMMumford!" Give it a good long "m sound"
buildup and make it
loud enough for the folks around you to be completely baffled! That's half
the fun of random outbursts. If you'd
like my mother to know where this little ceremony happened in her honor,
send me an email and I'll make sure she knows. I thank you!
And that's the beat, Pete!
Captain Of The Ship
Los Lobos Colossal Head; Aerosmith Rocks; various
from the top ten list and some Dave Brubeck.
I'm even more grateful than I am happy...
As reported last week, from here until (and
including, of course!) the
July 4th "10th Anniversary" SPECIAL DAY and weekend, every week
will bring a TOP 10 LIST and a SUPER DEAL O'THE WEEK.
The BIG question is... what will the
Anniversary day bring? There are
always specials, surprises and we've been known to introduce a new model
or two on that day. This one? I don't know... we'll just have to
SUPER DEAL O'THE WEEK:
Your choice of hardware (chrome, black or gold) with no upcharge
free shipping (Continental USA only) on any new orders! Now through next
Friday's update. That all will save you a cool hundred bucks or so.
And here's this week's list...
The Top 10 Birdsong Shop Hands!
Yes friends, return with us now to meet - in somewhat reverse
chronological order - the ten in-shop helpers who swept and sanded and
soldered with Jamie & I in the Birdsong workshops so far over the
years. Characters every one, all were touched in some way by
the experience - making the experience of them touching the basses &
guitars so much more than just that of "hired hands". Birdsong
was truly built by a bunch of misfits - many of them students of mine from
the music shop years. We're the Bad News Bears of bass companies. They are
inner circle Birdsong family forever and we thank them for their sweat
& devotion ~ we wouldn't be where we are today without the hands that
helped it happen!
||10. BRADY MUCKELROY
Nickname: "Brado", "Bradorama"
Latin classification: Curvelearnus Verticalus
Story: Amazing player grows tired of unsatisfactory
performance of his instruments and begins designing and building
his own, while helping us make ours. He quickly becomes
amazing at all aspects of this as well.
Current whereabouts: www.bradybass.com
In a former Birdsong workshop, still doing work for us as
Muckelroy Basses takes flight under its own power.
Lasting legacy: Oh, he occasionally glues himself to a bass
body, but really his claim to fame is just being Brady Muckelroy.
If you knew him, you'd know exactly what I mean. If he was a drug,
it'd sell by the gram and you'd buy it by the pound.
||9. JAKE GOEDE
Nickname: "Yake", "Johann the Village
Latin classification: Tornadus Mumblus
Story: Called us in 2007 for advice; was headed off to
luthier's school. Hopped in with us once he was out and rose to
feats of bass making (and his guitar making on the side)
excellence. What a ride, eh bro?
Current whereabouts: Local, still comes by.
Lasting legacy: Homemade salsa that'd make a Bishop kick a
hole in a stained glass window, and giving 150% to the cause for six years. They
don't just make right hand guys like Jake... those are fermented
over time under pressure. A legend around Birdsong.
||8. SCOTT HOLT
Nickname: "F***in' Holt!"
Latin classification: Disruptus Humerous
Story: An odd mix of heart of gold and Full Metal Jacket DI,
this ex-Marine is on his way to having two Master's degrees. We
know they are flipsides of the same coin, but was he more genius
or madman? Never has one man spun through the shop in quite the
Current whereabouts: Local, still comes by.
Lasting legacy: Most of Holt's exploits shall remain
classified. Those aside, I'd say his prank call messages - all in
character - inquiring about basses that will aid him in "...fracking
sensitive ecological areas" and increasing phallic endurance
(among other things) take the cake.
||7. DON D. DODD
Nickname: "3D", "D to the 3rd"
Latin classification: MacGuyverus Temporarius
Story: '80s Cape Cod friend now nomad locates former nomad now
somewhat known bass builder in 2010, pulls in off the road, helps us move
into a new shop, rigs - fixes - builds anything needing doing or
inventing, sands - wires - whatevers a whole bunch of Birdsongs
over the next couple of years, then points it down the highway
Current whereabouts: Chicago area.
Lasting legacy: Sunglasses. 24/7.
||6. TRAVIS REED
Latin classification: Genius
Story: Soft spoken former guitar student gets gig at mechanic's shop next
door to the first workshop, then comes aboard when the shop help
spot opens up.
Current whereabouts: Somewhere in central Texas
Lasting legacy: Memorization of insanely long strings of numbers. Came
in handy at his previous gig - he'd rattle off VIN numbers from
memory - and in the armed forces afterward, where he went in as a
mechanic but was quickly hustled away from wrenches and live ammo
to help with "...other endeavors."
||5. WYATT ELLIS
Nickname: "Wymeister General" "Monkeyboy"
Latin classification: Prodigus
Story: Incredibly gifted and sentient young former bass student
came aboard and proved himself a natural at many things. He made a
bunch of varitones!
Current whereabouts: Austin TX, family man, works at a much
bigger guitar company. I still see him every now and again.
Lasting legacy: Driest sense of humor to grace the shop. My
breathing mask would have a big open mouth with teeth and uvula drawn on
it or "Ironically, I can't breathe!" His? A straight
horizontal line. We'd also, with just a glance, stop and pick up
two guitars and improvise sonic rapture for 10 minutes like one
four armed polytonal beast, then just
casually return to task. Met the Mars Volta with this guy. Mad
Scientist's Assistant during some serious wiring
experiments. Because of him, to this day I call ear protection
"Ear goggles." The purest strain of smartass money could
buy. Wyatt is ALL legacy.
||4. WES ARDIS
Latin classification: Musicus Divinus
Story: Former guitar student and incredibly gifted soul, after
working at the music store I had, comes on board with us for a bit
before marrying his sweetheart and becoming a well known guitar
slinger & band leader in worship circles.
Current Whereabouts: Austin TX, just became a father.
Just a cool, kind,
inspiring dude we think about all the time.
||3. LYZZ RAVEN
Latin classification: Spasticus
Story: Step-daughter of the mechanic next door to the original
workshop. Straggled in all goofy and we put her to work... by the
time she left she was a fearless seeker and headed to the Great
White North 'cause it felt like the right thing to do. She was
still goofy. Heck, she's STILL goofy. But it's a groovy kinda
goofy and that's just how her light shines! Shine it for the
A guitar shaped CD holder she gave me that's been in every
shop since, holding my favorite CDs to make basses to. (Hey,
that's another Top 10 list...)
One of the coolest cats to ever sweat on my basses, former
bass student Tommy literally left a hundred and twenty five pounds
somewhere in the shop by the time he left to go to art college in California.
Always busted his butt 110% for us, always funny, never
complained, sweated his ass off, and gave US the privilege of witnessing
one of the most
inspiring transformations I've ever seen. It's never easy
being a true original in a paint-by-numbers world... turn that
into fuel and go create your own.
Not sure but I'm sure there's great music, laughter, and
Lasting Legacy: He made the funniest faces that'd just crack
me up. But he'll forever be best known for showing up in costume
one Halloween... dressed as me.
||1. DJ GOLDSTEIN
Nickname: "Nap time"
Latin Classification: Slackus Quarterbacchus
Story: Former guitar student figures out hanging at the workshop
with Scott beats what the other seniors are doing for their intern
assignments. Only here for a bit very early on, he never saw
much sawdust - mainly the broom and pen help that was needed up
Current Whereabouts: Unknown. Somewhere at a party with some ladies and a
beer is my guess.
Lasting Legacy: The only picture we have is of him during
strenuous parts list making... when he fell asleep. He'll never
know how close he came to having some heinous sign over his head
or sharing a picture with a scrotum, but we're professionals and
besides - I'm
sure plenty of that came later at college.
Here's how the Anniversary bass is shaping up...
And that's the lowdown, Motown!
Captain Of The Ship
Rough mixes of a few projects in the works; Basic Blues (compilation);
Van Morrison Pay The Devil; The Best Of Paul Desmond; John
Scofield Trio Live EnRoute; Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-71 (both
Smaller pebbles than you
have rippled the water,
my friend. Go forth and make something big happen.
I was going to do a batch of pictures this week, a nice little sampler
of random shots of shop & instruments and the peripherals of life in
the workshop. But in my mind right now, the one thing I just can't get
past... here's the picture: Ten years! "Ten years." There's your
picture. This year, in dog years we turn 70. In rock band years it's
probably 140. In small business terms, statistically we outlived 70%. In
our business, I'd say among guitar companies that aren't "side
projects" of the builder's day job - real, full-time-gig, dedicated
workshop, paying help, tax ID number kind of endeavors - I wouldn't be
surprised if that's closer to 90.
Birdsong hasn't just kept right on chugging away filling the world
state by state then country by country with great little basses for ten
years; it hasn't just fed us for a decade. On a personal level, it grew ME
into who I am and built to another level everyone that touched it. While
we built it, it built us. I had no doubt the little bass that could would
go the distance... I just had no idea where that distance would be. You
know the road somewhere so you just point the hood down the highway.
Sometimes you have the journey of a lifetime... sometimes the journey
becomes your life.
You know going in the odds are against you but you're driven by
passion and fueled by things greater than so-called rational sense. It's
like trying to "make it" as a band. I look back and shudder but
it does make a whole hell of a lot more linear sense now on this end of
the big 10 than it did back then when I couldn't even see the mountain to
climb. Ten's big. It's like turning 40. "Ok, at best it's second half
time... what changes in the game plan?" 40? Mostly perspective and
priorities. Birdsong's 10? Not much. Mainly just keeping a lid on the top
of the thing. I like the way the beans taste better in a pot I can carry
back to the kitchen.
So given it's now 60 days countdown 'til the July 4th "big
date", heck let's start ramping up this shindig. From here on out,
every week there'll be a special, a top 10 list, and sneak peeks at what's
getting unveiled on the 4th.
This week's Top 10 list....
TOP 10 BIRDSONG WORKSHOP SOUNDS
Things you may have heard over the years if you visited...
1. "Pwoooh!" (The blowing off of sawdust - decreed early on by
Jamie as our official sound)
2. Joe The Truck rumbling up outside
3. Zen Guerilla (I put on Trance State In Tongues when I'm just
about worn out - instant second wind!)
4. A tool hitting the ground by Brady's bench
5. "Hank the burned out luthier"
6. The BIG planer (you can hear it down the street - sounds like an air
raid siren... WRRRRRR!!!!)
7. A really bad pun (don't fret, you didn't miss anything really)
9. Birdie rustling & footprints on the roof
10. The mumbling of Jake
And lest we forget, THIS WEEK'S SPECIAL - Now through next Friday
(when there'll be a different special) 10%
OFF anything & everything. That includes the Walnut Corto2
that just hit inventory all together, any orders, whatever. This will save
you around $200 plus on the average Birdsong, and who couldn't use an
extra couple of Benjamins left in the pocket in addition to a really great
Call with any questions 512-395-5126 (no texts) or email me directly
Sneak peek pics: stuff for the Anniversary packages...
And that's the swing, Bing!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Boston Don't Look Back; The Clash London
Calling (@3:06 in song 7 is perhaps the greatest lyric ever
improvised); Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills & Nash; Singerman!
Blood And Fire Allstars (Reggae compilation).
I'm designing something,
so that's where my mind is... here are some ramblings from inside the head
of a guy who designs and builds guitars & basses for a living..
Design has a few areas - form, function, and flow.
At least that's how I see it - the basic form - the shape, the
measurements, where things are; the function - how it does its job; and
"the flow" - do the details work together? Do these curves
compliment each other? Is the way this interacts with the player
harmonious? In other words, to get all Granola for a second, does the
player and their music flow into this thing as a whole, and does this then
flow out of this instrument? You can look at it like a toaster or
snap-together model kit if you want, that's not wrong. Those elements are
there but the sum and purpose of a musical instrument is more than those
measurements and part numbers and simple processes. "Aaaah bull.
That's all bunk. Bolt it together and get it out the door." Hey, that
works too. Good luck to you... but don't tell me there's no difference in
a dish prepped by a short order cook and one presented by a chef. With
respects to both, there is. Which someone prefers is fine - that's opinion
- but facts are different and we all too often confuse the two.
Design in my opinion
should start with FUNCTION. If anything is going to do what it does well,
this will have some bearing on what can go where and why. An example of
this on a bass guitar is the upper horn; the reason it's there is so the
bass will balance. That long (compared to a guitar) neck sticking out
there with the headstock and the tuning machines acting like a pendulum
will dive for the floor every time you let go of it on an unbalanced
instrument. I consider that a flaw in the design; I don't care HOW cool a
design may look, it simply compromises the function too much to be
imbalanced. Some players are so used to that as normal they don't know
it's an issue, they just spend half of their energy holding up the neck
all night while playing and wonder why their shoulder and back have
problems. If a short-horned bass DOES balance it's because the body weighs
12 pounds - so one problem is replaced by another. With a moderate sized
headstock, lightweight tuners, and the strap button somewhere up near the
12th fret (thanks to the upper horn), a medium weight bass should balance
much better. But to get back to the looks, you now have this point in
space to deal with, that "dot" to connect.
Ergonomics is a concept that only works when
function in context is considered. "Oh, this not only has to
work, it has to work strapped to a human being." Given that's
a wide parameter of shapes & sizes, this instrument will still have
hands playing it (so don't put things in the way) with fingers (are the
knobs accessible?) and when seated - a thigh. Don't poke it, and put that
curve where it will somewhat balance the instrument. Will females be
playing this? They have curves up by where that upper horn is; don't poke
them there either. That's a great example right there of the tap dance of
ergonomics... my preferred strap button location on the upper horn is on
the back of it. This fits the strap to the bass with no twist coming off
of your shoulder - allowing it to work its best, which flows that
percentage into the overall balance of the instrument. But in reality
there's a good chance of interference with the female form with it there -
so I move it to the end of the horn in these instances. The other 99% of
the bass will balance just fine by design, and the client is comfortable.
This kind of attention to detail is what I like to see from the service
through the design to the execution of the instrument, right down to the
details you'll never notice. Why won't you notice them? Because they're not
jabbing you, poking you, failing, or falling away from you while you're
trying to play!
So then form takes over - if this is a certain size, then it ends
here. For it to do this other thing it has a curve here. To get that
particular tone flavor in there we'll put this here. If that's here we
need to move this a little. And so forth until there are a bunch of
metaphorical dots to connect... visually, since you've connected the
functional dots and the ergonomic dots. Now we have to connect those dots
with lines and curves and make it beautiful. Beauty is subjective; someone
thought the '62 Valiant was beautiful. I dig it, but "beautiful"
would not be the adjective that I'd use. I wouldn't even be reaching for
that pocket in the bag. But in a musical instrument, if you get the dots
& components to where they work nicely, you're probably not going to
be that far out design-wise. For example, try designing a 25-1/2"
scale double cutaway guitar that hugs the body and balances without coming
up with something close to the Strat shape. Maybe if you redesign the
human body first, some wacko pointy lightning bolt thing will be the
answer. But for now, FACT is the Strat will behave better ergonomically
than, say (with all respect), a BC Rich Ironbird. Again, you can like
whichever - but unless you're a cubist drawn by Picasso, one will
tend to fit a body better than the other. If that's a primary concern, it
leads you towards a set of ingredients; if it's a secondary concern, that
leads you to different ones. Past that, it's in the details - how the
curves flow, what flavor you give the cosmetics, what details you
incorporate that makes curvy comfy tool of creation A different from curvy
comfy tool of creation B. That's flow - how the parameters of the
structure, the tonal ingredients, the ergonomics, the cosmetics... work
with their own issues and then work with each other down to the details.
Deliberate, styled, and pleasingly functional - inspiration from an
instrument is equal parts bringing something special to you and NOT
getting in the way. Like a good mix in the studio, in the end it should
all melt together as one experience. It all becomes one dish. Mangia!
(Next Friday pics, pics & more pics! Shop, projects, Anniversary bass,
Maggie the dog, and more...)
And that's the key, Lee!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Yabby You Dub It To The Top; Big Star No.
There is a hilarious book
written by John Kennedy Toole called A Confederacy Of Dunces. One of my
favorite books ever - it's hilarious and completely over the top. In it is
the stale old factory of Levy Pants. I never want to be a Levy Pants if
for no other reason than I have to stay happy & excited to bring my
best to what I do, and once those chips start to lose their crunch I
realign myself - and my company - right back
into line with where the fun is. I think that's a secret to keepin'
on keepin' on in life all too many miss.
For us, every few years a change
of shops or a few new models or fresh blood keeps things exciting and
evolving. It's never "Aaugh, another run of pants." That's not
what we do. So this being a time of such deliberate and positive
evolution, I was in my workshop on a chilly morning aligning the
centerline of an old template with one on a new template so I could add
some more locating holes onto it. It was a poignant moment. I have a
template for life and what I do, and it keeps all of
my holes in the right place; helps all of my life components fit
together. When I veer from it, stuff starts to not line up, and then the
fun spills out pretty quick. I've been revamping Birdsong's templates over
the past few months, literally and figuratively.
Templates are fun.
Not just that they bring speed & consistency - hell a CNC would do
that and I could just throw chunks of wood at it and have bodies come out
the other side, right? Let's just do everything that way, right? No. It
has its place for us, but the vast majority of what we do is hands, tools,
templates, and sawdust. Why? Partially because this is fun! Even the
templates are fun to make; it's part of the workshop experience to figure
out how to repeat necessary steps without re-inventing it all every time.
So you grab a part, a piece of plywood (or lexan) and start figuring
out... hands, measurement, tools, work, and a resulting "bigger"
tool. Bass, template, more similar down deep than not. Tools and hands
crafting tools for hands to help things get made. It's the process. The
What steps? Will I need two?
How will I attach it? Can I shape it around other parts I can have
attached already? Center lines, millimeters and half millimeters and
quarter millimeters... holes for pre-drilling & marking, and holes for
real-deal hole drilling and cavity routing. Workshop
processes are hand
built just like some of the tools and the instruments themselves.
Setting up is half the fun.
Being intimate with a design like I am with the basic Birdsong parameters
at this point makes it even more fun. It may surprise some that our
templates & techniques are still evolving ten years in (and 17
years of doing this, for me), and others may be shocked to learn that we
still use some of the original templates from the first few years! But in here,
it's a constant evaluation and upgrading of the templates as need be.
Things that work better do tend to save time but that's a by-product; my
passion is for
things to work better, for the well working system
Hey, let's move that mounting hole a little. Hey, let's adjust that
body curve a little. Hey, can we bring the sides in a half millimeter each? Hey, let's call the
laser guy and combine these both into one thick lexan template. Wow, what
Things are not done like this in factories.
This is not how Levy Pants worked. In the right hands the greatest guitars
in the world are crafted more like this than "that", in little
workshops all over the globe. A few years back when we decided to (in
Emrilese) "...kick it up a notch" I knew we'd figure out when it
was time to stop dicking around with templates and "workshop"
type techniques (as opposed to factory type processes). We did, we reached
that point. And whereas most would grow further and make that changeover, I
used the realization to know - know, not guess - what bits of
"bigger" can work in with how I want to be doing it, and (this is
the important one) just how far we could push it. Birdsongs are
small-batch, workbench, workshop, luthier built tools. When I reached the
point to where "Factory" would be better, I backed off the
throttle. Simple as that. I like my templates. I like playing with them in
the workshop and making things of wood. Period.
So 2014 has been a time of growth.
And not in numbers - more hands, more sales, more basses, more wood, more
square footage, more... more, these are not always the answer. Growth is
refinement. One prunes a garden and grows better vegetables. I have a good
friend who, when introducing me, always mentions I have a "Bass
factory"... I don't correct him; I tried to gradually
introduce the term
workshop but it just never took. And every time he says
the word factory I picture Levy Pants. Understand that's just me in
relation to what I do; there's nothing wrong with a factory, they can be
cool too. Not as mine, though - this will
not be that. Height, width, and the shadow
you cast... growth is all of these. But growth can also be measured in depth
too, and sometimes that's the most important one.
Here... what's happening with the 10th Anniversary bass package?!
Inquiries can now start... call or email.
And that's the 4-1-1, son!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: The Wallflowers Bringing Down The Horse; R.L.
Burnside Come On In; Singerman! (A Blood & Fire Records
Reggae compilation... great!)
Shipped this week:
While whittling on your basses
(and in the times between said whittles) I've had a batch of
musical experiences this week I'd like to share. First off, I went to this huge-by-large legendary Austin TX car gathering
last weekend and I want to tell you about some music that kicked my butt
like a clutch-pop in a dual quad big block. If you don't know what any of
that meant, it's ok - you can still come into the clubhouse.
Though some of the lyrics
took a certain amount of hubris to deliver with
a straight face, their music was a great blend of blues-rock-influenced James Brown type
soul-funk-goodness... I stood and watched Barfield The Tyrant for a half
hour... and you know it probably took a good sized sack of awesomeness for
me to stand there with oh, say,
2000 hot rods and custom cars from all
over the country behind me. The frontman was laying it on thick with Hound
Dog Taylor-style stage banter ("Thank you, baby!" to the whole
crowd), the guitar
player was really happening, drummer had a good groove... but the bass player
just knocked me out.
Mostly I want to give props to this guy on the far right - an absolutely
fundamentally rock solid groovemaster of a bass man. I think he said his
name was Mike Keller, freelances in Austin. Bad... to... the... bone. Go
hear this guy play some fingerstyle James Brownian groove - you'll pick your 'fro in
I got to see one of my favorite guitar players too,
and had no idea I did
until I got home and looked up the band name. Grady. I knew I was digging
that HUGE guitar tone and the whole bluesy Texas stoner rock riff thing going
on, but being completely oblivious to the Austin scene with my head down
and woodchips flying for the past dozen or so years, I had no clue I was watching
a bearded Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar backed
up by the rhythm section of Dixie Witch. (Here's Big
Sugar back in the day. They had a great album called 500 Pounds. Man,
I've built a lot of stuff to the sound of this dude's guitar...)
No wonder they tore the roof off the sky
and caused the earth to tremble.
In another life I'd stalk this guy to be his bass player. That's obviously
a different life than the one where I'm a jazz chord-melody guitar pro...
and also the one where I'm Segovia. The
last time I unknowingly got to experience one of my favorite players
close-up whilst having no idea was around 2000 when I jammed with Michael
from the psychedelic-era band Fever Tree; a guitar player I'd been trying to find
for years. I kept right on looking after the jam 'til some time later I
put two and two together.
And then, of course, there's Johnny Cash's new album. Yeah I know
he's long gone, but the beauty of art is that our departed favorites
aren't really gone - they are like gardens that keep feeding us and
re-seeding themselves in our lives. Well, his son found an old reel and on
it was an album that didn't come out. You know what? It's good. It's a
Johnny Cash album. Any critic who will bemoan it not having any
"Folsom Prison Blues" legacy tracks on it can, quite frankly and
completely, get behind me and pucker up. Critics will never contribute to
the world nor be remembered by it the ways a man like Johnny Cash is, has
been, and will continue to be. At the risk of being mildly crude, I'll
offer that even a legendary and very entertaining critic of Lester Bangs
quality isn't even fit to carry Mr. Cash's nuts in a spoon. Just go buy -
Out Among The Stars and enjoy this unexpected new blossom in the
garden. I'm loving it... I'll give it a definite four prison-gig middle
fingers out of five. Speaking of blossoms...
Lastly, music for the eyes - it's Bluebonnet season here, a sure
sign of Springdom. A picture can't convey the beauty of rolling fields and
rural road shoulders full of these little beauties out here on the
backroads of the world, but I can tell you it makes me feel good and I
hope it brings some of that to your world, wherever it is and whatever it
may look like right now.
Next week, shop pics
as I start in on a little batch of Fusions and take the 10th Anniversary
Corto2 to the next level...
And that's the dirt, Bert!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Johnny Cash Out Among The Stars; Budgie
Bandolier; and some Queens Of The Stone Age.
Shipped this week:
April 1st is the second most important day to me, second only to the
July 4th Birdsong birthday. April Fool's Day was the day I handed over the
key to a little music shop in Melrose, Massachusetts in the year 2000.
That was the day I had not only climbed out but went over the wall. That
was truly the first day of the rest of my life; that chapter began in 1995
when I handed over a different key and drove out of a different driveway
and out to Interstate 35, at that time my new home. The van's name was
Spirit Of The Wind. By 1997 I was 2000 miles away starting my first
business, a little music shop. It was what I added up to.
In 2000 I came back to Texas in a different van, the noble ship of
freedom Blue Moon. That's when a new man with an old van and a better plan
started building his world, 2x4 by 2x4, tool by tool, day by day, and
eventually guitar by guitar. Just as with July 4th, I try to schedule some
coming major event for that day specifically... so Tuesday after getting
the daily progress on basses & guitars happening, I went into the
recording studio to start on a few projects. What will happen with that
stuff, who knows... but quoth John Lee Hooker "It's in him, and it's
got ta come out. Let that boy boogie woogie."
year's ride to this weekend's shindig...
I slipped this update up on Thursday, big hot rod gathering in Austin
this weekend... I'll be there. Maybe next year the '48 will be road ready
and I'll drive that. This time though, just me and the old Econoline van
(this one is "Stardust") camping out with other motorheads from
all over by the main events. (Look up "Lone Star Roundup"). This
weekend is my gift to myself for 14 years of focus, sweat, being steady at
the helm of my own life and not letting any random bastards get me down or
anything veer me off the path... and let this all be an inspiration to you
who may have a general direction and a goal that feels like home. Fight
the good fight every day, one step closer, walk it to you with every
decision. And most of all, embrace the moment whatever it brings and live
it. It's a piece of the puzzle, whether it all turns into a hot rod or a
bass guitar or a workshop or a happy life. These are results; they don't
just happen. This weekend? Van trip, freedom and hot rod cars.
But don't be surprised if you see some new model or some little
custom detail that looks vaguely like that curve of an old wheel well or
accent line that's vaguely reminiscent of something on an old car; this is
a major source of inspiration, of design components, of curves and
concepts and how things fit & flow together. And let's face it,
inspiration is a glorious spore that spreads onto and into everything you
do... so the day a chair under the Texas sky with a cold one in my hand in
a sea of car nuts and their hand built rides doesn't inspire me, somebody
better check me for a pulse.
And that's the ride, Clyde!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: John Scofield Still Warm; Miles Davis
Kind of Blue. And (believe it or not) I've got this double CD set of
what I can only describe as "Chinese restaurant music" I got in
San Francisco I've listened to for years. I love it. Kotos and zhengs are
Still available, make offer, see inventory.
You might wonder about a typical day, but no two are the same.
I can, however, tell you this...
When you wake up before dawn from the morning nap, give your thanks
& do some stretches and write some business papers, throw on
yesterday's jeans (day one just breaks them in you know) and today's shirt
(Los Enanitos Verdes! It's important to put on shirts of meaning to do
meaningful work), answer a couple of emails and check some things online,
gather the camera and keys and cheater glasses because I'll be wiring
today, then fire up the flavor of the day (it feels like a cruise in the
Valiant day - I'm so happy to have brought this car back to life and just
this month really turned the corner to where it's no longer a project I'll
eventually drive, but "my car" that I'll occasionally work on,
replacing the worn out '69 Dart) and drive the 40 minutes into the San
Marcos shop in a rumbling '67 Plymouth Valiant with a V8 and dual
When the list you leave for yourself before you left last time gets a
couple of things added to it so you put on some John Scofield and get
after it, the high point being to fit the pickup, wire, nut & string
and do a preliminary setup to a Bliss made of solid figured Hawaiian Koa,
and while this and other things get checked off the list Brady's helper (www.bradybass.com,
he's growing into the San Marcos shop after building in there for a few
years) tells this amazing story about an (another) Austin music venue
cultural landmark going under to make way for more condos, and the venue's
piano the last patrons push out to - and down - the street, all through
the wee hours for three miles, across the bridge, stopping for jam
sessions along the way, to get the piano to its new home... that's Austin
right there, folks. Do the jokes not write themselves? Yes, they do. So I
offered that there's the brute force method to anything, and then the
smart way... one might say the "Neanderthal way" and the "Einsteinway"...
this resulted in a three-way back and forth of piano puns. (It's the back
and forth that's key.) (Sorry.)
All the while answering calls, listing parts for the next orders,
laying out wood for an SD Curlee build, ordering packing material, and
fending off aggressive solicitors for everything from monogrammed pens to
"listing updates" (sir I respect you have to work too but nobody
with that accent has ever been named Henry, so we're not off to a good
start here), to grouping for oil well investment ("Well just answer
this Mr. Scott - is a hundred thousand out of the question?") Oy vey...
When the return trip takes you by the post office and there's a check
for a balance on one bass and go-ahead to start another because the
client's so happy this is good. And a musical instrument catalog which is
always fun because (surprise) I love guitars & basses, even the
predictable and pedestrian of the breed I find beautiful. I could read
descriptions and look at pictures of Strats & Les Pauls and Jazz
Basses and assorted other orbiting models from other companies all day
long. Well, not all day... there's another list of fun things to do at the
homestead workshop! But wait, there's more - I wrote a song on the way
home, too. It's a sure hit... you just wait. It's called "I'd Rather
Slam My Dick In a Window Than Open The Door For You"...
Green shop, truly Birdsong World Headquarters. Rout some rear
cavities! Gather templates & notes for the next batch of basses to
start on - a flock of Fusions. Nice. Get back to sanding to fit &
mounting three now-finished necks onto three now-finished bodies, noting
anything missing under my assembly bench I might need to bring here
tomorrow to do a put-together round on all three. Note it on paper, on
tomorrow's list. Too much going on for little things to remember. I have
to remember to stop and eat, that's what I need to remember. Drink water.
Change the CD when it's on its fourth play through. So I roll up the dirt
road, run Maggie the dog around a bit, grab a half of a peanut butter
& homemade jalapeno jelly on wheat and we go to work in the green
shop. On goes Eric Clapton's There's One In Every Crowd. I wonder if a guy
like Clapton's ever written a song like mine... probably not.
Once that list is done I force myself to stop. That's enough. About
that time Jamie rolls in from her day and we get supper going while I
answer a few more emails. Kulimar Behoovest wants to transfer ten million
dollars from a deceased banker into my account ("Dear Hello To friend
you, in purest confidence I Contact...") and all he needs is my
personal info, wow. Yeah I'll bite on that, pal. Right. But there are more
emails from clients who got their basses and are thrilled, and that's what
this is all about. Ten years man, ten years and counting! All over the
world from these little workshops. They look & feel like basses but
they're happiness. They're inspiration. I'm honored.
(A favorite wine opening device - simply incredible design work.)
When you finish the evening with a little wine, The Band, Tom Waits,
and some cheese & chips (Cheddar & kettle style) on the porch,
that is a day my friends. Time to look at pictures of guitars and maybe if
sleep won't come take in a documentary on space exploration or watch the
guys from Hot Rod bolt a truck turbo on a Chevy V6 in an old 240Z... watch
a Joe Pass video... as they say, stick a fork in me - I'm done. Tomorrow
will be another shuffled deck full of adventures. I can't wait.
Here's the 10th Anniversary bass this week...
And that's the plan, Stan!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Eric Clapton There's One In Every Crowd; Tom
Waits Frank's Wild Years; John Scofield Still Warm; The Band
Music From Big Pink.
I'm honored, but we have to stop this before things get serious.
Somebody... somebody with little fuzzy wings, to be exact... has been
sneaking into the workshop and setting up little twigs in a nest-like
fashion over the past few days, in a little cubby where I keep the random
orbital sander. I truly am honored, I love birds. Out here in the woods
they are a part of the magic to me. And the irony of this one picking the
Birdsong nest as a place for theirs is not lost on me. Years ago I
remember there were birds that nested in Uncle Johnny's shop for years -
in a similar spot but up much higher. Once they'd show up, he'd leave a
window cracked open for them. A number of little birds learned how to fly
in his old shop, and that I relate to as well. This, however, is not a
safe place for little mama to be building a nest - I'll carefully put the
twigs outside by the door so she can reuse them.
This one was just started, but already the pieces are deliberately
placed and intertwined in this amazing little circle of craftsmanship.
That they do this all instinctually just blows my mind... we - with
rational thought and mathematics and IQ quotient and thumbs and size -
most of us couldn't even feed ourselves if the grocery store went away.
It's been said that all of power in this world works in circles; and all
who work in circles understand the powers of this world. Me? I'm just
amazed at what these little beings do without tools.
Speaking of tools, here are some of my favorites.
On the left is an old small adjustable wrench I picked up at a garage
sale from an old farmer - I use it some on instruments and some on the
shop tools. Then there are the Fiskars, gifted to me by a guy who helped
out in the shop for a couple of years, 3D. I had no idea these existed,
but for flush cutting & trimming things like wire ends soldered
through components and side dot material, they're the greatest. I think
these were his father's... honored to have them and keep them working. The
tapered reamer finalizes hole sizes, fixes holes in components that don't
come correctly sized for other components from the same company that are
supposed to fit in to begin with, and just generally does its thing as a
perfect example of a "Right tool for the job", because if you're
doing what this does with anything else, it's probably not working nearly
as well and it's taking you five times longer to do it as un-well as it's
The tiny needle nose pliers are my fingers in a crowded control
cavity when I'm wiring up the pots and switches. I bought these at a yard
sale in Melrose, Massachusetts years back. The pocketknife came from an
Army surplus place in Saugus, MA. These days it cleans out nut slots,
opens wrapped components, and pokes out the jack hole in freshly
copper-lined control cavities. Heh heh, "jackhole." It's a
fairly aggressive tool for such work, but if I ever get accosted during
such tasks, I'm ready. The next picture is of a little ruler in
millimeters... the greatest invention ever for small scale precision work.
Believe me, you want me routing to 16mm or shifting something a half of
one rather than tying my brain in knots figuring out what's between
27/64ths and 17/32nds. Some of you might say using millimeters is
un-American, just another long slow slide into pure old-fashioned
Communism. And I'd say you need a hobby. Sometimes if we just sit around
and stew in our own juices we start climbin' up our own butts.
Speaking of which, just a personal note since I do have this podium
and believe it or not though it's not "cool" these days I do
care about you, you are reading this and you probably think I'm an alright
guy with some kind of sense or you wouldn't be here reading what I
have to say... not to generalize but most of you are male and within a
decade on either side of me (I'm 45). Brothers, there'll come a time
you should get your colonoscopy and just get it over with. I had one the
other day, it was nothing to be scared of, it was nothing to be ashamed
of. They're all pros and we're all adults, and it could save your life. I
want you happy and inspired and playing a whole collection of Birdsongs,
SD Curlees, Hy5s and the stuff I do on the side. But if you're sick 'cause
you didn't want anybody messing with your butt, that's a poor-ass excuse
for not being able to fly Birdsong and make music with your friends. If I
can do it, you can do it. Go get it done. You're probably fine, and
there's a kind of a buzz that comes with any clean bill of health that'll
inspire you too. If you need a pep talk, call me. Life's hard enough
without having to worry about things you shouldn't have to be worrying
about. Just a little personal note to you from Brother
Over the next few weeks
I'll show you some more of my favorite tools and, as always, share
something completely random yet somehow related. When life is luthiery and
luthiery is your life, it's all related. But I guess that's all
I'll also be sharing pictures
of the 10th Anniversary bass, in process in the workshop...
And that's the ROM, Tom!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step; Smashing
Pumpkins Gish; Bucky & John Pizzarelli Passionate Guitars;
Radiohead OK Computer; Gordon Lightfoot Gord's Gold.
("Carefree Highway"... Scott's #1 choice for songs to kick off a
road trip to.)
This is Uncle Johnny's old Delta drill press.
Though I respect and bond with all of my tools, this one probably
means the most to me. When I used to go to Johnny's workshop out in the
woods, it was the first thing I'd see as I swung the big door open. Johnny
wasn't my uncle, but he was my woodworking mentor... and he gave me
a corner to start a little guitar company in. When he died, I knew that
tool belonged in my shop; it's the highest respect you can pay the legacy
of a teacher, to keep their tools working. I can't tell you how many
miniature oil lamps he bored out with this thing. I can tell you
it's drilled thousands of string-through and neck holes in Birdsongs. It weighs about a
hundred pounds and is an absolute bitch and a half to move. I want you to
look closely at where it is.
It's in a workshop in the woods, where it belongs.
My workshop in the woods. Where I belong.
Yes friends, over the past few months, tool by tool and task by task,
a little bit at a time, more and more of the process by which a pile of
parts and planks of wood become a Birdsong bass has been happening in a
place of much magic, out in the woods where these singing birds' ancestors
gave me the name for the guitars I was building, bass I was designing, and
- though I didn't know it at 31 - my future. So though my designing &
building dates back to the '90s and a little music shop in Massachusetts,
Birdsong the instruments date back to a little corner of Johnny's shop in
the Texas Hill Country, and Birdsong the company dates to July 4th of 2004
when we launched this site and the Cortobass... Birdsong the name and much
of its flavor dates to 2000 and the dawning sunrises of a new chapter for
me living on the land. I named the company after the music that I
awoke to every morning.
When you have a hit song,
an analogy very close to what happened with Birdsong - let's call it a
"small hit", maybe opening act status - you owe it to all that
caused and helped and taught and nourished this thing to get off the
ground to run that mother through the gears and throw your all at it. To
let it grow as it wants, to become what its destiny is. It is a path full
of compromises and challenges, but you grow into the new day's role for
you and the ride is amazing in ways so much deeper than decimal points and
more fulfilling than fame, even relative, niche-corner-market fame. It
builds you as you build it. But it comes down to, for me, do I grow again
into a more factory-type arrangement or do I take it down a notch and keep
it magical... if you know me, you know that was a no-brainer. We came from
the green shop to the big shop four years ago. Four years is a chapter of
education... so what have I learned? And of what use is it if I don't then
Along the ride it's important to stay grounded
and aimed for your personal True North... to keep connected to the
parts of what you do that hold the magic, and not let the rest of it all
diminish that magic. For me - and thus for Birdsong - right now, with the
music playing over in the green shop (Today it's Jerry Cantrell's Boggy
Depot), Mahogany dust and chips in places you don't even want to think
about, the sun shining and yes the birds singing, with a couple of Corto2s
on the routing bench, I sit here and take a break to type this and tell
you I am so in love with what I do and I so look forward to Birdsong's
NEXT ten years. Six months ago if you had asked me that, I'm not sure I
could have answered you quite as earnestly. The big shop is great and the time has been
glorious... but increasingly, leading up to our 10th Anniversary in July,
the pictures and scenery will look a bit different as the transition back
to Scott's magical green workshop continues.
Part of why one works for themselves
in the first place is to be doing what you want to be doing; spending
yourself on what you WANT to be spending yourself on in trade for your
living. But it's just as important to be doing what you do where it feels
the most right to be doing it. Where you feel most at home. That's where
the magic is, and that's what makes something already great become
magical. Life changes, lives change, we grow as we go and we either leave
ourselves enough latitude and leash to evolve with these changes or we
start to get stuck and go routine and lose our way... and life starts to
lose its magic. We owe it to this gift of life and blessing of whatever we
have to NOT let this happen.
When change comes to Birdsong
the basses only get better and I only get happier. It happens every
time. There may be a cycle there because for better or worse, in sickness
or in health, these instruments - this whole Birdsong thing - and I are linked. I can't promise "Til death do us
part," that part I just don't know. But for now I know a shop works
best when its tools are where they belong. And this is one tool that now
knows for sure where he belongs.
And that's the drill, Bill!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot; Charlie Haden Nocturne
(one of my favorite Jazz albums); Alice Coltrane
Journey in Satchidananda; Paul Simon There
Goes Rhymin' Simon. (Eclectic? Yes! Life's a buffet; fill your plate.)
|Oh yeah... so what's going on with the
"big" shop? Well, Brady Muckelroy is gathering his
gumption (and a whole lot more) to give it a run in a big shop of
his own! Muckelroy Basses has been sharing the Birdsong space for
a few years and everyone that gets one of his basses is
blown away by them. If you'd like a medium or full scale with a
natural look and wonderfully natural sounding active electronics
(his own preamp design!) to go with your Birdsongs, check out www.bradybass.com
- every order will help a good guy put his dream into 2nd gear -
and a fantastic bass into your hands! A Charger32 neck-through
with the Muckelroy pre and a couple of soapbars is a perfect
companion piece. Tell him you heard about him here!
- a wild Birdsong Custom! This is a sale from in-house of essentially
a new bass from 2012. There's nothing like this out there and there'll
never be another Birdsong like it... three pickups, wild woods, incredible
detail. This as a custom order would be a long wait and a much bigger
check than the $2800 with case it will find a home for... call for the
whole story on this one-of-a-kind Birdsong. 512-395-5126 (no
texts) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Completely hand made - wild Bloodwood, Ebony & figured Maple
body... Maple neck & fingerboard with Abalone dots & flame
Maple headstock. Huge variety of tones & combinations!
For your viewing pleasure:
Three new videos up:
A talk about solid
body wood choice
A demo of a fretless
A peek at some
projects in progress
Hey everybody! Happy Friday. Despite yet another freezing spell, we
got some good stuff done on some great basses this week. Now, a freezing
spell Wimberley, Texas-style would make many of you in the more Winter
prone areas laugh... I'm from Boston, I get it. I was there for the
Blizzard of '78. But here it's a different story. A night below freezing
is an inconvenience we cope with, but the whole infrastructure from the
lay of the roads to the R factor of the walls are designed for the way
things are - usually - for the other 364 days of the year. Above freezing
at least, and usually at least warm enough to get some shop time in with a
little flannel and cap action.
This year I've come out of the casa
to find my cars looking like popsicles four, five times... for two or
three nights at a time. I understand there's a balance at work and I know
those aren't doctored pics of the entire frozen ice cap melting... but I
can tell you it's been a weird winter for the Hill Country in
South-central Texas. I mean I'm three hours from Mexico and I had to
scrape my windshield off again?
Yeah, I know. "Waaah."
You all are digging cars out of snowbanks with your bare hands. You're
having to drive backwards up hills and pee on your locks to get into your
front gate. But you have sidewalks and guard rails and salty roads and
snow tires and lots of other cars to absorb your impact. Between my
homestead and where the main workshop is for now, when the weather is with
me, is twenty something miles of curvy 2-lane with breathtaking views and
plenty of fields and trees. When the weather is against me, it's an hour
of sphincter-puckering combat driving where if you lose it you either go
over the edge to be found days later or you end up mired on the side with
no cell phone service.
The beauty of this latitude,
however, is that no matter how cold it gets, in a day or two it'll at
least be back in the 50s. I'll take that, but I've drifted enough cars
over enough icy roads in my life thank you. I've used up my chips for
last-minute saves, and I'm well in debt in the column of roadside
assistance by everyday angels. So when it rains and freezes, I don't go
anywhere. If I had an Audi Quattro maybe, but when the best ice vehicle
you have is an '83 Ford Econoline... some odds you play, and some you
But I do like taking pictures
of old machines with snow or ice on them - you get the sculpture of
the metal, the color of the paint and patina, and the texture of this
other ingredient that also seems to give a context. It's a lot easier to
think there's a story in a picture of a snowy fender than a sunny one.
Maybe that's just me, I don't know. But a sprinkling of snow or an icicle
or two is like a pinch of emotion into your picture stew. So here are some
artsy shots of frosted vehicles.
And that's the weather, Heather!
Captain Of The Ship
Grateful Dead Live/Dead;
Dred Scott Trio Standards 2000 (I love this album - five stars from
Scott! Or five pizza slices. That's how good it is.)
2005 special order Cortobass in Alder on consignment - client says
to give someone a deal, was up for $1695 - NOW ON
SALE FOR $SOLD! 512-395-5126.
(Call - I don't text.)
Had a new Birdsong family member call and ask about this single
humbucker prototype... usually with stuff like this someone says
"Yeah, that'll be mine!" and then it gets finished. If you (or
anyone else) would like it finished up as yours, I could have it ready in
30 days - $1475... call for details.
And... just got word the two ancient Kauri wood & Cocobolo
Cortobasses are for sale by HD Custom Guitars - these are new,
they're a dealer. Look on Ebay for items # 291091344127 and
Like navigating by star cluster, it's always good to check where you
are in relation to where you're headed, and thus have some idea of any
course correction you might need to take to ultimately get wherever it is
you want to go. Music is my star cluster. It draws me towards my True
North. It gives me a tune up that washes away the daily dust and allows me
to see and think more clearly. I'm not talking the words, I'm talking the
deep stuff - the rhythms, the rivers of notes, and even inward beyond that
to the way - like a note on a piano makes the hanging guitar ring
sympathetically on the wall across the room - the vibration of the music
affects the vibration of "the ME." I am the guitar hanging on
the wall. But sometimes, I can be the piano...
In a nutshell, regardless of how it all came to be, if it's all atoms
there is space there. Space within held together by or holding
together the tiniest particles' movement; by vibration. And vibration is
sound. So that screen you're looking at is made up of little vibrating
particles. Such vibration might give us, with our senses and perceptions,
the illusion of something solid. But vibration is not solid. Vibration is
movement. Sound is made when something vibrates and everything is
vibrating together. That's big music. It might not be arranged like a
Beatles tune, but it doesn't know that. And here's the thing - that skin
bag you see in the mirror? It's made of the same stuff. So now we have a
choice... vibrate harmoniously or vibrate in dissonance. You can't change
it all or even conduct the symphony of it. But you can tune up what's
inside you, thereby what's around you with your big note of the moment.
And then life changes at its most fundamental level.
I see music - and potential harmony - in everything. There are
people I barely speak with because they only move in circles of conflict
and disharmony, and the resulting cycles of their lives are nothing I wish
to be a part of. The perspectives of the fly in the web are not going to
get me where I want to go. Vibration and music say to me "Don't
analyze me, come fly with me." I don't listen to the long jams of the
Grateful Dead because, "Oh my God - it's Jerry!"... I listen
because in the moment rivers of notes flow and combine and stack together
something that just as quickly changes into something else, also in
layers, and in this magic I find the God in IT. That is what life is to
me. So its soundtracks tend to have harmony with that, even if the tunes
at times seem meandering or chaotic. For example, Jazz is not so much a
technical exercise for my entertainment but a transcendent electricity for
my enlightenment. I'm not listening for some bumper sticker hook line; I'm
feeling so much water flow over me. Sometimes I like rapids and a dose of
Coltrane is in order; other times still waters run deep and some dub
reggae will do. When I listen to Aerosmith I'm driving a '70s musclecar
with mirrored Aviators... it's a contextual thing. But the most important
music to me - though I do love so much of its so many forms - is the music
between what I am and what I do. Whatever in the moment helps these to
harmonize, that's what's on whether it's The Fixx or Sonny Rollins or the
drummers of Burundi. It's ALL "the fix."
You might see it as a battle or a dance but it's music. You might feel
it like rain or sunshine but it's music. You might know it as a '48
Plymouth or a lover's hand but it's music. Once you know this you can
never UN-know it; only ignore it. And to ignore it relegates you to being
reactive to the waves of disharmony flowing - or pushed - at you. To keep
it in mind is a star or two to navigate by. To work with it is to feel
"the magic." You become the piano. To help in the manifestation
of tools to summon and serenade with it is a calling. To make one's way
through this world and this life by designing and crafting these tools is
the most divine thing I have ever known. The potential inherent in a
musical tool in inspired hands is far beyond what I, a mere drop of spirit
soul and bag of vibration, could possibly have the hubris to box up and
define for you just because I may see it one way. It's between you and the
space. Go fill it with something.
And that's the way, Jay.
Captain Of The Ship
Grateful Dead Live/Dead;
a variety of New Orleans "Brass band" Jazz;
some great Eastern-inspired electronica.
A Journey Through The Past... not just an obscure Neil Young project,
but this week at the workshop! In addition to all the new stuff we work on
(you can peek at what's been started on the Current
Builds page), I've had the privilege of working on a handful of
instruments from my past.
Long before Birdsong was even a name I was building under - let
alone a company - I was designing and putting together some really
outside-the-box instruments. I couldn't have cared less about what Leo
Fender did or what the "correct" pickup for a given position was
or that anything "wouldn't work"... I was too busy
experimenting, turned loose in a new world of parts and questions. One of
the designs of that time that really worked - amazingly well - was an
ergonomic little 24" scale guitar I called "The Bean." I
honed my building chops on these so they were a little crude in execution.
But boy, what personality! The one on the left is mine, I still play it
all the time. On the right, that was just sold by the original owner and I
got to tune 'n tweak it before passing it along. These two hadn't seen
each other in a long, long time...
After that, in the next phase - the "corner of a friend's
workshop" chapter, when I was living in a truck parked out in the raw
Texas "Hill Country" woods... ("Returning to the earth like
a seed to regerminate," I believe I referred to it at the time...) my
rustic shop-having friend helped me turn my guitars into artwork with some
woodcrafting mentorship while I helped him turn his woodcraft art into
guitars. He didn't make that many - he didn't have that many years left.
But here's one of his lap steels I had the chance to restring &
My little side chapter of lap steels (Texas
Lap Steels) came much later, so it was very interesting to see one of
his with these newer eyes. This is a pretty good steel; I took
measurements & specs on it while it was here, and I remember helping
him with the pickup & wiring options.
That workshop, by the way, ended up being pickup trucked to my
homestead in big pieces where it was put back together and serves as an
assembly / adjustment / office and general musical hangout room. So some
of what I build here 14 years later is still being worked on "in
Johnny's shop", I do the updates from here, and this lap steel got to
rest on my bench in sunlight coming through Johnny's windows in the place
- albeit reconfigured - of its birth. I sometimes feel similar to that
myself in here.
And I've been doing more and more work in my absolutely magical
homestead workshop, built by a circle of brothers & sisters about 7
years ago. To do this I've been rearranging things and some of them have a
little history... take these two. The first is an obvious prototype of
what became the Cortobass. But this was before Birdsong was even a
flirtatious gesture. Crude but good enough in every other way that I sold
all my long scale basses and committed to short scale as soon as it was up
& playable. And the one next to it? That's the Hound Dog Taylor of
guitars! It's the Blues Dawg, the first guitar I ever built. Raw? You bet.
But the beginning of so much...
Being as this July 4th is Birdsong's "official" 10th
Anniversary - which to me is just huge - you might see these relics again
this Summer... maybe a few more, too. Almost a shame for them to just be
hanging on the walls or tucked away in dust covered cases. Stay tuned...
Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane. Nostalgia sure
isn't what it used to be!
And that's what's on, John.
Captain Of The Ship
John Lee Hooker; Luciano Pavarotti Pavarotti Forever,
Grateful Dead, Live Dead; Basic Blues
Miles Davis Kind of Blue;
Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac.
More videos to come on the YouTube channel - a Fusion demo, a talk
about the effect of body wood choice (I get asked about this a lot) and
other things. Keep watching & subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/user/WingfeatherWorkshop
Going to talk about some basses this week...
First up, a very special Bliss. Now, Blisses ("Blii?") are
very special to begin with... hand carved scroll on the upper horn, super
high output wide frequency German pickup, single piece figured wood
body... our flagship. Our top of the line. Not cheap, not quick, and not
anything you'll ever pull out of the case and be asked what Guitar Center
you bought it from. And even amongst that small number we'll build, this
one is special.
The client has a major thing for Hawaii and Koa wood, so this bass has
a body sculpted from a single piece of incredibly figured Hawaiian Koa.
That same chunk also provided the center of the 3-piece set-in neck and we
took a piece and shaved it into a veneer for the headstock. This is just
the first coat of oil finish, too - 8 or 9 more and in sunlight it'll look
like the 4th of July.
Now back to our roots... in for sale is Cortobass #10 from early 2005.
The first out the door was #002, so this is actually the 9th one sold.
Alder body, Maple neck with Rosewood fretboard, the old-style hand
woodburned logo, not all together that different than one you'd order
This was our first rear routed bass, too... being offered by the
original owner who isn't playing as much these days. He's keeping his
Last but not least, check out the Kauri wood Cortobass pair. These
Cortobi are soon to be available at www.hdcustomguitarsupply.com.
These are the only two we've made out of this ancient wood. This Kauri is
ancient, preserved in frigid water off of New Zealand for some 50,000
Logs are brought up and milled, and then
this rare wood finds craftspeople to make beautiful things out of it...
but ours will sing, too! Nice light weight, beautiful golden amber iridescent
glow, and a story to tell the grandkids about. As a beautiful touch, I
made the control plates & truss rod covers of matching Cocobolo. What
a treat for wood fans! Get in touch with HD Custom to pick one for
yourself or as a gift for someone really special - these basses are one of
a kind, even though there's two of them.
And that's the word, bird. Happy Valentine's day everyone!
Captain Of The Ship
Allman Brothers The Road Goes On Forever; Aerosmith Pandora's
Box disc 1; Grateful Dead Dick's Picks Vol. 3; Hound Dog
Taylor, John Lee Hooker, and assorted Delta Blues cats.
Hi everybody! It's below freezing and lightly raining again, the sort
of precipitation our old friend Johnny used to call "Misticating."
So the heater in the homestead work-on-guitars & office space is
whispering its warm air, there's a blue heeler curled up over on the
couch, and there's a creamy mug of hot chocolate involved. It's been a
great, very productive week and now it's update:30 my friends; happy
We have a YouTube channel where we post videos, the Wingfeather
Workshop channel. The latest will be kind of a curve ball for some of you,
it's a video of yours truly demoing a D'Aquila Bluenote guitar. This is a
little guitar building venture with right hand man Jake where we decided
to get together on a batch of Jake's guitars and get 'em out there (I've
got three of his personal builds, I can vouch for them). This is one of
that batch and it's ready to go. These will be some pretty rare beasts so
if you want what I consider - and I'm absolutely not shitting you - the
best guitar in the world, jump on it. If I didn't think it was that, I'd
just say it was "...a good guitar." There are plenty of good
guitars to play around with; this is the kind of guitar you marry.
Speaking of which, well well - that was quite a superbowl! Wife
Jamie & I went to a little place for Mexican food, multiple screens
and hoppy libations. Neither of us is an active sports fan so early on we
chose teams and bet whoever lost would cook a really nice dinner Thursday
night. Given the choice 5 or 6 minutes into the game (though would it
mattered had it even been 1?) and almost always siding with the underdog,
I spoke valiantly. "I'll take the orange team." Hyeeah... so
while I don't claim to know jack crap about betting on football, I will
say the stuffed roasted red peppers with Thai-wine-cream sauce sided with
cold fruit-stuffed roasted jalapenos under butter-cream-brandy sauce and
sweet port was a dinner that was a winner.
So much about instrument voicing (and design if we move the analogy
into the visual realm) parallels cooking. There are many who can slap a
burger on a grill but high end vegetarian cuisine is a bit trickier. You
can probably trust a guy who'll combine (among other things) Sriracha,
port wine, apples and peppers roasted over an open flame - served both hot
and cold - on the same dish to make you a flavorful tone machine. A recipe
is a recipe and good cooks have their own, they don't always paint by
numbers. Combine what's needed with what you think would be interesting
layered in, bring the best out of your basic ingredients themselves before
combining them, and be daring in your sauce making - much of it is in
balancing the flavors as you blend them. Make it with love and serve it
Speaking of which here's a little something else we've got cooking...
#C288 is a beautiful dark chocolate Walnut Corto2 just awaiting pickups
and some warm sounding yet clear D'Addario flats. It'll be done and ready
to ship this month to someone wanting an "easy fretless" with
lines... I'm no great fretless player but I could go play a gig with one
like this tonight. So user-friendly with the lined board! It's got that
really nice premium Ebony board, a body matching Walnut headstock, and
chrome hardware (I always forget how well it sets off Walnut since so many
choose black with it) to make this a really classy dish visually.
Tone-wise there's no comparison to any other short scale, just float a
search for Birdsong. We have some pretty good recipes and this is one of
the best! It's now available at $2400 including case &
continental USA shipping (worldwide at extra cost), as usual with a money
Well it's time to do a little tweaking on the SD
Curlee site and the Hy5 Basses
site, TCB (Elvis lingo) with some paperwork, and email & chat with
some of you today about basses and guitars, builds past & present...
and maybe some in the immediate future! Have fun, eat something good, and
turn your ears on with some good music. Feed your soul - body - mind in
that order and I'll catch you later!
And that's the know, bro.
Captain Of The Ship
Allman Brothers The Road Goes On Forever; Larry Carlton On Solid
Ground; Count Basie This Time by Basie (God I love this big
band stuff - another complex flavor that, given time, I found the taste
for. So grateful...)
Yep, we skipped a week in update-land. Last Friday bisected two weeks
in which we had two freezes and one computer breakdown. January always has
its kinks to work out and this one has been no different. Right after
dethawing from the first freeze, the computer went down. Well, it didn't
really go down - I'll get to that. The next freeze, just a few days ago,
found said computer ready to be picked up at the repair shop... but I was
iced in at the homestead. Which around these parts (south central Texas)
is pretty well something! Heck that first freeze actually got us some
snow! Well, not real snow... but enough for the entire region to shut
down. All those bubbas in the big pickup trucks? They were getting pulled
out of ditches left and right. Austin reported 40 wrecks an hour. I'm from
Boston - this is laughable. But hey a snow day is a snow day!
Snow days remind me of being a kid. We'd listen to the radio for a
list of school closures while the plows scraped by outside, walling in
driveways, and when they call your town you do a dance, a little kid
dance, maybe an impromptu song with some gestures that invite stern
reprimand. That's when it was the best. In later years the payback was
"Well since you're home, go shovel the stairs."
"But Ma, it's still snowin'!"
"Well then you can get some practice in for later on."
I hated shoveling, even when I pretended I was a Mack truck. My
stepfather, however, lived for times like this. Because when it snowed and
we were plowed in, Jay got to fire up one of his machines. That's who he
was at his core - a man who knew how to fix machines and which machine
would fix the problem at hand. Primed and tuned and ready in his garage
was a nine horse Ariens ("The Cadillac ah snow blowahs.")...
he'd put a 12 horsepower engine on it. It would blow snow onto the
I don't know what's sadder, that I wrote this in a notebook because
morning had revealed a computer that thought it was brand new with nothing
in it, or that I've been waxing all Winter nostalgic over about 1/4"
of frosty frozen rain. It's not even snow; it's a very thin slurpee. The
only flake around here is yours truly. Hey, if my computer wants to be
born again, that's fine. But then I had to risk neck and limb to get it to
someone that can help it reintegrate back into its life. Someone who can
help it balance its "Brand new day" with the same old Friday
it's needed for. Here a road frozen with ice is roughly akin to traversing
the frozen tundra of Bering Sea-side Alaska, where you really CAN see
Russia from there, it's colder than a well digger's ass at least 364 days
a year, and when it really gets cold your pee will tinkle down onto said
tundra in tiny, yellow cubes. And in another twist, by the time you read
this it'll probably be 70 out.
Boy, that was a rough Winter. I know, I know. Thank God we
survived! It's a miracle we didn't have to eat anyone. (Sarcasm mode
turned off.) So we're here, all is fine, we actually got plenty of work
done (check out the Current Builds page) and here's a little pictorial of
some exciting things...
In on consignment is a great old friend... Cortobass
#10 from 2005. Wouldn't it be great to have bought Birdsong's 10th
Cortobass during Birdsong's 10th year? Yes it will be!
It will have been... it will have - oh nevermind, just buy the bass.
It's the first rear rout and a piece of Birdsong history with early
years mojo and just enough play wear to prove it's a real player's
bass! $1695 w/case 512-395-5126
Also just in, a loaded Sadhana! Those of you who
didn't jump on Jake's when it sold, here's your second chance - same
year, three numbers earlier, this one has twin Maple stringers.
2009, one owner, gorgeous. Minimal play wear... played but with
respect! New this would be $2700... $1995 w/case 512-395-5126
Here's what I think will be this year's main driver, a
1967 Plymouth Valiant! I've been bringing it back from a 23 year nap
over the past few. It's a cruiser with an economical & great
sounding little warmed-over 273 V8 swapped in. Quite a story to it,
you can read about it in the vehicle section of my "side
project" site if you're into old machines and their stories
like I am. www.sbeckwith.com.
Did manage to squeeze in a wood shopping trip in too,
picked up some Spanish Cedar, Mahogany & some really nice
Walnut. Some of this stuff is already bass guitar body blanks... 'swy
I went and got it, you know! I still pick each board myself based on
grain, weight & "vibe" - the hardest one to quantify
but probably the most important among the boards in the running to
make it into the old Econoline.
Speaking of friends, Maggie the doggie loves her porch
time but it's been a wee bit chilly by her standards. We can learn a
lot from simple beings and their enjoyment of simple things... she's
smart enough to savor every minute. I should be too.
BX-024 is an inventory Custom we've started on. A "Custom" is a
mix 'n match of Birdsong body shapes and pickup arrangements; there will
only be a few of these in 2014, here's your chance to grab one special
recipe... this one a beautiful Walnut Corto2 body with a Fusion pickup!
It'll basically be a rear routed Fusion in a Corto shape. Call for
details... and to add yours in!
Last but not least,
there's a new page on the site - Behind
The Music goes deep into the background music around the
workshop, with more to come...
There is a sneaking suspicion in my head that my computer
going haywire was maybe God getting me back for referring to Phil Collins
as a "Charlie Brown headed stick twirler" in the last update...
I wasn't aware ol' Philbert still had that kind of pull.
Superbowl Sunday is coming up, I can't even tell you who is
playing. Kidding, kidding... of course I can. Seattle and Denver. I just
looked that up. I like a good ball game every now and then and this should
be a doozie; enjoy with friends in moderation, somewhere the snacks are
munchable and dark beer means more than Negro Modelo. Ok, back on my head!
And that's the truth, Ruth.
Captain Of The Ship
Steely Dan Pretzel Logic, Dungen Tio Bitar, Neil Young Harvest
and some atmospheric India-influenced electronic chill-out stuff. By
the way, do you know about www.somafm.com?
Well you should, so there you go. Pay it forward.
Am I staying busy?
You tell me... three at once!
So I opened up a box of "Savory twists" the other day
and inside there was a bag. It was half the size of the box. So I
proceeded to open up this bag... and it was half full. Now, some may
accuse me of finding fault or being anti free market. Just some Capitalist
hating Commie, sitting there dissatisfied with my 25% full brand new box
of savory twists. No actually, I just felt hosed is all, because I
absolutely didn't get a box worth. I didn't even get half a box
worth. I got 25% of what I was offered, a quarter of a visual agreement.
It said right on the box, "Some settling may occur." Funny,
there weren't any crumbs in the bottom. The only settling going on here
was ME settling for what some bean counter decided was sufficient to put
in the box they were selling my ass. HOSED. Waaaay over the line of
"Maximizing profit." Who's to say? The sucker with
8" of box and a handful of savory twists, that's who. He matters. He
deserves the respect of something a little closer to fair. "Who's
to say what fair is?" Well, past a point if you can't figure it
out you might need to have your personal compass realigned. I bring this
up because I want you to know...
YOU will NEVER get that 25% box feeling from a Birdsong.
That is NOT Capitalism, it's fraud. It's "Carnival
Capitalism." I realize there's a fine line at times... but not
anywhere near our workshop there isn't. I've felt it before once the shine
wears off something and you realize it's just another piece of dookie.
Uh-uh. Not here. I'd fall on my own sword before I'd put a good looking
box full of mostly air on your shelf. We care about what we do, have pride
in our reputation, and our clients mean SO much more to us than just one
more ring-up at a register. That's precisely WHY a Birdsong has the
reputation it does, and why I'm a no savory twist having, handful of empty
box chump. Given the chance, we're gonna fill your whole box with
Here's a neat old friend just in for sale on consignment -
the 10th Cortobass ever, from early 2005! 1-piece Alder body, Maple neck
& Rosewood board. One owner, a little play wear by the pickup,
original case & papers. This was the first rear routed Birdsong bass!
Freshly gone through & fully set up with new strings, it's ready to
take out of the box at a gig. Brought back some memories for sure!
$1650 includes shipping. (512-395-5126 anytime, email@example.com,
reference number 5C-010.)
Watched a great documentary the other night.
I tend to just nap when it's time and be up at all hours... I think when I
was primed with melatonin, it was a Monday morning and someone grabbed the
LSD instead. So I use the wee hours after twiddling with the sites, or
pondering how a walk across the room could imbalance the earth (how many
zeros out? Has to do something...), or fiddling with a guitar (or
bass or tenor banjo or bouzouki or whatever's in reach) to kick back and
watch something. I like documentaries. So this one was about Phil Collins'
Big Band. Wait! Wait! Where are you going? Hang in with the, this
is good! I promise. Now, I'm no big Phil Collins fan. With all respects to
him and the music he's made and millions have loved, you simply aren't
going to find one bit of it anywhere near me. I'd go so far as to say I'd
rather slam my head against this desk repeatedly than listen to anything
he's ever done. I know, kind of strong. But it's the truth. And I thought
what he pulled at Live Aid party crashing the Zep reunion was a Dbag move.
He should've tried that with The Stones... Keith would've had that little
Charlie Brown headed stick twirler off the stage halfway through the first
song, comb-over first. But that was 1985, and I don't want to hold a
grudge. Some of his music of that era, though, I'd rather listen to Yoko
Ono fronting Faster Pussycat. Wait, let me think about that... no, I
can't. I won't. Anyhow, it turns out some years back (like, 1996)
ol' Philmeister decided to put a swingin' "Big band" together to
play Jazzy instrumental versions of his tunes. Not cheesy Jazz lite, I
mean bigass Count Basie-style stuff... live. So they (the
they people, you know, they do everything) did a documentary. And... wait
for it... it was GREAT. I really enjoyed it, I thought they pulled
it off incredibly well, a whole stage of top musicians played their asses
off and Phil led from the back Buddy Rich style and completely rose
to the occasion. Shocked the hell out of me. So sit back, grab a beverage,
and watch it if you dare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTwA5k6A8zQ
Speaking of grabbing a beverage, it's Friday and I think I'm
done. Be well, stay tuned, and play nice. I'm off like a dirty
And that's a fact, Jack.
Captain Of The Ship
Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy
and King Tubby dub reggae stuff.
Fixed the coding glitch in the Birdsong Story
Now you can read everything I wrote for it... it
will be expanded over the months to come, with early pictures and more
memories. Ten years... wow. In one way it seems like only yesterday and in
others another lifetime. Also got all the pictures up on the Client & Current Builds
Available in Inventory
pages. I'm continuing to assemble the new page
of Media & Video Demos.
Also, yes, there have been a few pricing adjustments for 2014. If
we were talking about a build late last year these don't necessarily apply
to you. But for the rest of you, just to be clear, these things do happen
occasionally as a business' own costs of doing what they do rise. It's not
an effort to get some more out of you just for the sake of it, but
adjustments to help keep the ship sailing smoothly. You still get quite
the value for your dollar in a Birdsong, especially compared with others
we are consistently mentioned along with. If a little bump is somehow
offensive to you or a deal-breaker for a build you are considering, please
get in touch so we can come to an understanding. I own this place, you
know. I can make things happen around here.
Thanks so much and again, Happy New Year!
Captain Of The Ship
Happy New Year!!!
Back at it and all over it
like butter on a biscuit, we roll on into 2014 ready and rockin'. Yep,
site's new. I know, I liked the last one too... but time for a change is
time for a change. This one's simpler and that's where we're at as we get
into our tenth year. That's right ladies 'n gents, kids of all ages,
Birdsong has been filling the world with its little gems of basses for
10 YEARS. Can you believe it? If you've played one,
you just might!
To kick off year 10, here is a batch of
Cortobasses & Corto2s (and one Bliss) we're working on for
inventory. Call 'em the "Spring batch." Feel free to jump
in and claim one and tell us how you want us to finish it out for
you! Any of these could be ready in about 90 days, probably less if
I already have the hardware you want...
...also this one with its neck,
C288 is a Walnut Corto2 with a lined Ebony fretless board &
Walnut headstock, special inventory price of $2200 with your choice of
chrome, GOLD, black, or gold hardware. Boy oh boy would this look good in
Just call the ol' mobile number anytime, eves & weekends
are fine, and we'll be happy to answer any questions , talk bass
with you, and even take an order if you're ready to treat
Here's a special message on the dawn of
our 10th Anniversary.
Brady has a new website up,
check out Muckelroy Basses at www.bradybass.com
and at NAMM
- yes, that's right, one of our "home team" has gotten the chance
to hobnob with the major leaguers at the show. Get in touch with him to find
out exactly where he'll have his basses, and follow him on Facebook for
up-to-the-minute posts & pictures. Congrats Brady!!
We've focused a lot
& simplified a bit, the better to serve you for another ten
years. Thanks so much for being with us!
Captain Of The Ship
Peter Gabriel So - Donald Fagen Morph The Cat - Grateful
Dead Fillmore East '69 & Great American Music Hall - Laksmi
Nrsimha das Chants Encounter - A Perfecr Circle Thirteenth Step