Sometimes when you play a gig there is magic in the air. Sometimes not. In the week leading up to February 19, 2016 I was having trouble with Flattop’s new pickup/bridge. I’d switched to an upright bass piezo and built a new bridge. The projection was bad and uneven across the strings. I picked up an Ibanez ABG at Sam Ash on my way to a gig in Rock Island in January and now I was looking at it deciding if I could make it gig-ready. As I recall I added a couple sound-posts and changed the strings.

Chris and Tommy headed up to Milwaukee early to tour the Pabst brewery and Taylor and I drove up later to meet them at Puddler’s as they made the transition from Bar/Restaurant to venue. We all started scrounging around for extension cords to get all our amps and the PA plugged into the one outlet on the side of the stage. In the first few measures of our first tune my low E slipped in the bridge pin down to something approximating low C. Then a few songs in Tommy’s amp gave out. We wrapped up our eventful set as a trio and I began planning my overhaul of the Ibanez.

Out of necessity, turning the Ibanez into Brenda went pretty quick. I did my chop and channel thing like the Flattop, but kept it entirely hollow. I also installed an EMG music man-style pickup and put in an electric bass-style bridge. What came out of probably my quickest build was a tremendously dependable bass that sounded great. Dumb luck. 

Brenda had a couple makeovers, but has been my main bass ever since. Being such a quick build there are things I’ve wished I did better. Despite that, Brenda has been the workhorse I needed. As much as I’ve wanted to tinker with her, I’ve left her alone. No need to ruin a good thing. 

The Woodwork: Brenda is a bit more petite than Flattop, with the body measuring: 15 1/2” x 19”h x 2 1/2”d. 32” scale. The top is a 1/8” thick Sitka Spruce with a Sitka block under the bridge so that it has something a bit more substantial to screw into. There is a Birch dowel going from the neck block to the heel. In all honesty I don’t think this does much, but my goal was added stability. Other than that it’s completely hollow. The back is a 1/8” Birch ply. The quirky part of Brenda is that I cut off the fingerboard where it meets the body at the 15th position. From there is a decorative truss rod cover/fingerboard extension. I tend to “stay out of treble” and don’t do much playing up there. It does function except for the 15th position which is a little rough. This is one of those things I wish I did a little better. The fingerboard has been de-fretted and refinished. The headstock was stripped and then refinished with a Walnut veneer. Paduak string nut. The sides are stripped and refinished with a distressed look.

The Electrics & Hardware: I did my best to keep Brenda really simple. I originally started out with only a volume control, but later modified with volume and tone control. The pickup is a passive EMG MMHZ and I’ve used their solderless wiring system. She has Hipshot tuners. This was an upgrade I made after a year or so and now I can’t imagine using anything else. The E-string has Hipshot’s bass extender. Initially I found this to be a little fussy, but I’ve grown used to it and it’s very helpful in a live set. The bridge is a Hipshot KickAss. I’ve had Brenda strung with Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Flats for about a year now and completely love them.

She's got a little wear on her these days—finish is worn off wear I put my thumb, some buckle wear on the back and a nasty chip on the back of the headstock. Keeps sounding better though. Here's a clip from early 2020 just before everything hit the fan.