Well I finished up my latest bass for myself and I’d really like to make a few of these “Signatures” next year, it was REALLY fun to create, so I figured I’d share it with you – if something like this is of interest, please get in touch and let me know. What we have here is a Birdsong Especial Supremo – functionally and tonally a Fusion model, but crafted far beyond even that wood lover’s model.
The pickup and control specs of the Fusion give the bass a tone that almost has some upright bass mixed in there with its very woody electric voice. It’s a special recipe and my favorite bass tone – to my ear what “bass” is. Like when someone says “Wood” my brain pictures walnut; when “Bass” comes to mind, this is the tone I think of. In fact when I designed the Fusion I wanted it to look like it sounded – so it got plenty of dark wood with all wood covers & plates and some sharp curves.
The Especial model was a combination of the tone & trim of the Fusion and the body shape of our Cortobass body, our original model. It built the company; the first Cortobass was sold in 2004. Anyone who took the chance on us early on could not believe a short scale bass could work so well or sound so rich. It still makes converts to this day and all of our other offerings have used its basic specs as a starting point.
Combining the Cortobass body and the Fusion features into the Especial model happened a ways back when working up a design for Marciano of Los Enanitos Verdes. The Especial also used different woods and combinations than the Fusion recipe. Here are a few Especials. (Especii?)
So when we take that and add a German carved edge, hand carved scroll, brass & gold hardware, and all that rosewood (board, headstock, nut, truss rod cover, pickup cover top, control plate, knobs, body center stringer)? Supremo, amigos. Meet my bass. What does the guy who makes Birdsongs happen play? This right here.
This particular bass has some very meaningful materials in it, so here’s the scoop on those - the body wood is an imperfect piece of Wimberley flood cypress. After the devastating flood of 2015 that tore through anything near the banks of the Blanco river (which runs right through our little town), I knew I couldn’t fix what had happened but I could do my part to heal it. So a plank from one hundreds-of-years-old tree found its way to my shop where I could turn it into musical instruments to sing and bring people together. After putting the best pieces of this plank aside for client builds, I didn’t want any to go to waste (and I have a soft spot for imperfect wood, pardon the pun)… so, this.
The neck is an old cosmetic B-stock test neck that has helped me mock up models & builds & test things in the workshop for years and deserved a promotion. There are still scribbles and markings from its prior lives on the back. The brass screws are NOS 1970s SD Curlee bits, and the unplated brass bridge is special order from Hipshot - a further SD Curlee connection because I use it on some of those to mimic the old ‘70s bridges’ look but with modern quality & adjustability. (For those who don’t know, SD Curlee was a ‘70s brand of medium scale basses very influential on me that I revived & refined several years ago). The two wood visual theme is a favorite of mine too, in this case the golden cypress (and maple of the basic neck) and the brown rosewood; what is not one is the other.
You’d think with all the fancy stuff something would poke or prod you somewhere but no – the way the curves of the bass are it just tucks up against the body and in balance & form this is the most comfortable bass I’ve ever played. It’s so alive - it makes me want to go turn up an amp and jam out. And isn’t that what an instrument is supposed to be? Not just a tool that can be price-shopped for features but in addition to that some sort of talisman? Some kind of divining rod with strings? That’s what they are to me, so that’s what I try to craft for you… whether it’ll be a full-dress exotic carved Especial Supremo or a simple mahogany Cortobass. It’s in there.
Whoa... what the hell is THAT?! Well, before I sign off this week I want to mention and tip my hat to Carvin. Carvin has been a maker of good American built gear for 70 years – a few years back the family spun the guitar division off as Keisel (a different company which is doing fine), and kept the Carvin name for the amps and PA. Well, Carvin has closed its factory doors. I’m sad to see it - my first big 100 watt rock ‘n roll amp was a Carvin X100B head, shown here with a bunch of hoodlums making quite a racket. I can’t believe that was 32 years ago, but that’s another blog entirely. I came of age drooling over the big glossy Carvin catalogs of that era, more than likely learned a bit about guitar & bass features from them, and have only known a world where Rome’s in the dirt, God’s in the sky, and Carvin’s in California. Well… things certainly do change. Thanks for helping the music happen for so long, Carvin – and so long! I wish everyone involved the best.
Listening to: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Songs and Music from She’s The One; Miles Davis Kind of Blue; Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers; fantastic interview with Steve Vai on Make Weird Music; a Neil Young interview from 1988.