Tym T-Byrd Bass


Not many people get the chance to have a guitar they’ve designed actually built… I did!

My main bass is a beautiful 1972 sunburst Fender Precision Bass with a factory custom Jazz neck. It’s the first bass I ever played that blew me away as soon as I’d touched it, and I knew I’d found my ‘Number 1’. I bought it pretty cheap as the neck had a slight crack in it that had been expertly repaired by Chris Kinman so I managed to screw the guy down 300 bucks. This bass became my baby which I flogged to death touring with The Tremors & Sixfthick for the next 4 years. After about 200 shows (I think) the Fender was starting to lose a lot of that awesome sunburst finish and the amount of dents on the neck was getting ridiculous. Along with the fact that the prices of 70’s Fenders had become ridiculous, I decided to retire my baby and use her for recording and special gigs. Anyway, after a failed attempt to use a Japanese P-Bass as a substitute (just didn’t feel the same) Tim from Tym’s offered to build me a substitute based on my #1. Instead of getting him to build another P-Bass clone I thought that it would be cool to get a bass that looked totally different but felt exactly the same as my P-Bass. Being a big vintage Maton fan, I thought it would be cool to base the design on the 1963 Maton Fyrbyrd, with the cool ‘sharkbite’ cutaway. It’s basically a Stratocaster crossed with a Gibson SG (the sharp horn), with a little bit Fender Jag (the offset bottom) and a touch or Paul Bigsby (the sharkbite). The best bit was the awesome boat paddle headstock, which suited the design perfectly. This guitar is pretty much the coolest design Maton has ever designed and I’m amazed they haven’t reissued it. (hint, hint Maton) Another cool thing is that Maton never made a bass version of this design, so my bass would be totally unique.

First step of the design was to illustrate the bass in Adobe Illustrator. I’d taken a photo of a Maton Fyrbyrd at a gig we’d played in Sydney. The support band’s guitarist had a red one and had modified it with modern humbuckers, but it looked goddamn cool.


So I traced the outline of that guitar and also the outline of my P-Bass. I then laid the Maton over the P-Bass and stretched the outline of the Maton so that the height & width were approximately the same as the Fender. This is so that I could fit the bass in a standard Fender hardcase. The body shape took a while to get right, as I couldn’t just enlarge the Maton body shape to bass size as it would’ve been huge. So I had to squash and stretch the various bits so that it looked good AND fit inside the Fender outline. The sharkbite was a bitch to get right and I ended up completely changing the shape and position of it from the original Maton version as it just didn’t sit right and needed to be changed to fit the modified bass outline. I ended up opening up the ‘bite’ a bit more so that it followed the top line of the bass and moved it further down.

Picture 2

The neck step was to do the headstock. This again was to fit inside the Fender design outline. One difference is that the tuning peg side of the headstock of Fender guitars is straight, while the Maton is curved. I knew that it had to be curved to look authentic, so I drew it up and hoped that Tim wouldn’t kill me.

Here’s what it ended up like. Tim did an awesome job.


The final part of the design process was the overall ‘look’ of the bass. After seeing the Sydney Fyrbyrd I knew that it had to be red with a black headstock. The scratch plate on the original Maton guitars is quite huge and looks great with 3 massive chrome pickups and a million switches, but looked like a massive ocean of black plastic with two tiny P-Bass pickups floating in the middle. I flicked through a few of my guitar books and found a picture of the Gibson Victory bass, whose scratch plate looked pretty cool.

It was retro but modern at the same time. I used the bottom half of the Gibson as it really complimented the sharkbit, with the top half of the Maton. I also got the scratchplate to cut through the pickups, which looked cool. The final piece was the gold sticker that sits on the top corner. I also thought this was the coolest thing about the original Matons so I really wanted to have it on my bass. I based the artwork as close as possible to the Maton’s sticker, but named it the T-Byrd, as it was a Tym bass. (Though, my also name starts with a T so that might’ve had something to do with it!) I was concerned that I was going to destroy the sticker as it’s in the exact spot that I strum, so I had to think of something to protect it. I walked past a bus stop on my way to work and noticed the poster behind the plexiglass, so that solved that problem.

I printed out full-scale outlines of the body & headstock and handed them to Tim, along with my Fender P-Bass. Tim measured my Fender’s neck and I also asked if he could round the fingerboard & fret edges so that the neck felt worn in, and also sand down the edges of the pickups so that they looked worn and smooth. I also asked for a BadAss bridge and Seymour Duncan vintage P-Bass pickups. Everything else was up to Tim.

Tim started by sending me a photo of the body outline, making sure that it all still looked ok. He also glued the neck blank together, with a strip of jarrah down the centre from strength. This was because the nut width was going to be very thin and the jarrah would add strength.


3 months later Tim emailed some photos of my finished bass and I was amazed how close he had built it to my original design. I tried it that night at rehearsal and was stoked with how it played and sounded. It felt very close to my Fender and sounded great. I then toured with it for a few months and got Tim to make a few more adjustments.

First was to get Tim to swap the volume & tone knobs from vintage ribbed knobs to chromed Mosrite knobs, as the vintage knobs were very sharp and I’d actually cut myself on them at a gig (I hit the bass very hard and swing my arm a lot when strumming). The Mosrite knobs were perfect and suited the look of the bass design perfectly.

Second was that the A & high E strings were rattling due to the angle over the nut not being enough. On a normal Fender bass this is fixed with a standard round string tree, but as my headstock was curved, the string angle was too extreme for the string tree to do anything. I tried solving this by gaffing the strings down but it didn’t really work. I then saw a photo of the string trees on 70’s Musicman guitars, which were a solid block with 2 holes drilled through. I showed Tim and he handmade a perfect string tree out of a block of aluminium. No more string rattle.

Third was I asked Tim to make my an aluminium nut as I’d broken the plastic nut on tour by accidently smacking the drums at a show. This way the bass would be bullet proof. Tim handcarved a nut out of aluminium which was perfect. It also added a bit of brightness to the sound, which is great.

The final thing I did was put a chrome Mosrite bass pickup cover over the BadAss, so that the bass looked more vintage. The BadAss worked fantastic but looked too modern. This solved that problem, and the bass looked more like a 60’s Maton which I what I wanted.

I’ve had the bass for 3 years now and have played it at probably 100 shows. I’m still very happy with it, and it’s been a great dependable touring bass. There’s a few things I would change if I got it made again, which is to be expected as this bass is basically a prototype. I’d probably modify the sharkbite so that I wouldn’t smack my forearm on it when hitting the bass hard (nearly broke my arm once!) Next, I would definitely lengthen the top horn so that the tip was in line with the 12th fret. I’d made it shorter to keep the Maton look, but afterwards found out that Leo Fender designed the Stratocaster’s horns that length so that the guitar sat even when worn on a strap. My bass is slightly neck heavy and I think this would’ve solved that problem. Lastly I would’ve gotten the bass made with hollow chambers, as I’m a wuss and am over playing heavy guitars!

Here’s the finished beast!

Tym T-Byrd Bass