Handling. In the world of vehicles, this is the catch-all term for how the car behaves as it corners and stops as it is pointed and driven by the operator. Outside of exotic sports cars or modified canyon carvers, generally old cars handle poorly. Some are too big on mushy suspension with numb steering, many have narrow tires and small brakes, and most are riding on suspension concepts from the 1800s.
Now I happen to do just fine with old cars, simply because I’m used to the way they respond when you try to steer them and step on the brakes; what happens with bumps and uneven lanes. I know that no matter how burbly that big old V8 up front sounds, the most base level Toyota Camry sedan made will run circles around my 1967 Plymouth Valiant. On a winding 2-lane with hills and dips your average Honda Accord is a Ferrari compared to my 67 with its skinny tires, manual steering, drum brakes and no sway bars.
It might be a cool old machine but nobody in their right mind would ever say it’s all that comfy or it handles well. Old basses can be like that too… imbalanced, neck-diving, heavy; they’re cool and maybe they were state of the art in the ‘60s but just as increased performance is expected out of a later model car, it would stand to reason that a bass guitar should be made to today’s standards of ergonomic acceptability – not those that were considered ok when the instrument itself was of barely legal age.
I’d have posed the Birdsong near the modern equivalent in cars, but there is none – nothing new is simple or easy to work on. Everything performs outstandingly, handles like slot cars, and is comfortable and responsive. But they all cost what a 2-bedroom house used to. (And yeah, they may last a pretty good amount of miles – but will they still be running in 48 years? I’m betting the Birdsong will.) So I put it by a tree. When I was designing the Cortobass, I started with the balance; shaved down the weight; put the curves where they fit the player; then made the rest into a responsive instrument and connected all the dots until it was beautiful. I kept it simple. I build them strong. Though we prefer you swing on them in a musical sense, you could clear a stage of gig-crashers swinging anything out of our shop.
It’s like an old classic where the best parts and the strength and the soul were saved, but where all the faults and compromises were designed out. An enlightened bass, if you will. Let go of the neck? It stays put. Move around and it moves with you – it doesn’t fight you. Light, nimble, quick… like a new sporty car. Power and low end like an old musclecar. Built like a ’67 Valiant! Not exactly the ad catch phrase of the year, but what the hell – it fits.
See you in 48 years and we’ll see what’s still working. Meanwhile, call for your dream bass – 512.395.5126.
Listening to: V.M. Bhatt & Matt Malley “Sleepless Nights”; David Grisman & Jerry Garcia “Not For Kids Only”; and I just got Kamasi Washington “The Epic” but haven’t listened to it yet. I can’t wait – it’s a three course meal!