The Birth of The Cooperstand

By Susie Coleman

When Daniel Cooper came to Nashville in 2001, his goal was to become a better songwriter. “I’m still working on that,” he grins. He could never have guessed that his background in art and sculpture would wiggle its way into his musical future. But over the last two years, Daniel has sold over 30,000 Cooperstands, the innovative instrument holder he designed in 2009.

The Cooperstand is a highly stable yet compact device that folds and unfolds in the blink of an eye. When collapsed, it fits neatly beneath the headstock in most guitar cases. When popped open, it becomes a low profile instrument stand that is without question considerably more dependable and flexible than any of its competitors. It holds wide or narrow instruments, even electric guitars (if they’re using a cable with an L-jack) and resonator backed banjos. Daniel took his time with the design, making sure nearly any kind of instrument would be safe in the little stand. Somehow, he managed to get it just about perfect.

A good part of the Cooperstand’s popularity is the small footprint of the stand. Musicians often find themselves in cramped quarters. Onstage or in the studio, they frequently use more than one instrument so space is at a premium nearly all the time. A second point of appeal is the stability it provides. The Cooperstand keeps an instrument nearly erect but balanced so that an accidental nudge or even a light push will not topple the guitar or banjo. It’s one heck of a relief to know your prized $5,000 acoustic guitar is safe but still close by as you work out on your mandolin.

While attending a songwriter session at Douglas Corner one rainy night with his partner in life and business, singer-songwriter Melanie Rose Dyer, Daniel realized the difficulty of opening the door with a guitar in one hand and a guitar stand in the other. He thought to himself, “Someone needs to come up with a fully functional stand that will fit inside the guitar case.” With Melanie’s enthusiastic encouragement, Daniel hand-fabricated a couple dozen prototypes and after much trial and error, he had figured out a stable, yet compact solution. Once Cooper realized what a unique design he had created, he began to consider mass production.

A guitarist himself, Daniel knew that musical equipment takes quite a beating from years of use. So he experimented with a wide variety of woods and parts, keeping his focus on stability and a long service life. He studied various aspects of function, materials, hinges and finishes. “Instrument finish was a huge issue,” Daniel said. “It had to be absolutely harmless to the instruments; we couldn’t risk any damage to an instrument that would be in contact with the stand for an extended period of time.” It was Cooper’s attention to such detail that is making the Cooperstand so appreciated by those who have one.

The first 65 — created for guitars — were made primarily by hand in maple or other wood. For machining reasons, most woods tested proved to be inadequate. Today the Cooperstand is made from African Sapele, a sustainable, high grade tone wood related to mahogany. “We utilize the same first-quality factory that makes Northfield Mandolins,” Daniel said. For rigorous stage use and the eco-conscious, his stand is also available in recycled industrial grade ABS composite. And a new, smaller Sapele version has just hit the market sized for violins, mandolins, ukeleles — or even your iPad®.

Daniel was a skilled artisan before he tackled the Cooperstand. Originally from California, he served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, then attended Rancho Santiago Community College as an art major. Ceramics, pottery, sculpture and woodworking were his favorite media. After college, Cooper headed to Hawaii where he spent much of his time on a surfboard. While in the islands, he spent ten years as an art teacher for a U.S. Army morale support facility. After returning to California, Daniel continued to create, making fancy hunting knives, gorgeous display pieces carved from antlers and horn, plus arrows, wall hangings, statues and other items with a Native American influence. Each individual piece is an exceptional work of art with thoughtful attention to detail and form.

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Photos by Daniel Cooper

Over the years, Cooper has won numerous awards for his artistic vision. Today he’s winning contracts with major instrument manufacturers. “Melanie and I were poking around our first NAMM show when we saw Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars . We simply walked up to him and placed a Cooperstand in front of him. He took a look at it and said, ‘Can I have this?’ and of course I said yes. A week later we got an order for 500  Cooperstands, each imprinted with the Taylor logo.”  They’re now available online in the Taylorware Catalog . One of Cooperstands biggest supporters, and also a co-brander, is Tom Bedell of Two Old Hippies/Bedell/Breedlove Guitars. Other instrument builders are following suit, including Jay Lichty Guitars, who provides a branded unit with every axe they sell.

The Cooperstand is available online at www.cooperstand.com and at local outlets including Gruhn Guitar, Simon Ripley, Artisan Guitars, Nashville Violins, The Rock Block, Two Old Hippies, Shiloh Music and others. It’s also distributed worldwide and domestically through numerous dealers like Amazon.com and Elderly Instruments via OMG Music. In addition to a “Best in Show” award, Daniel picked up a sweet little thumbs-up at the 2010 Summer NAMM show when, in an interview, Vince Gill identified the Cooperstand as the coolest new gadget at the show. Full endorsements are held, among others, by Chris Hillman, Steve Cropper, Nashville studio wizard Chris Luezinger, songwriters Tom Rush and Bob DePiero and Bluegrassers Ricky Skaggs and Carl Jackson.

When there’s a little spare time, Daniel works with Dyer — whom he refers to as his “better half” — on her musical projects, most recently a CD entitled The Long Way Around, a semi-autobiographical record with a roots-rock sound ready for release in 2012. Though Melanie has long been a welcome presence in the Nashville songwriter scene, this will be her first CD and it’s a good one. Three years in the making, it features an eclectic but top-notch crew: Jim Horn (the most recorded saxophonist in pop history), Shaun Murphy (the female voice of Little Feat), Jack Pearson, Tim Lauer, Charlie Judge, Mike Durham (Dave Matthew Band), and Mark Prentiss (Hootie and the Blowfish).

So what’s up next for Daniel Cooper? Could be a cello stand or a bass stand. And if we’re very, very lucky, more cool antler people.

I’ve been an acoustic guitar player since I was ten, and besides teaching rhythm guitar to little girls who want to play like Taylor Swift, I still play folk and old time music on a regular basic. My honey bought me a Cooperstand last year for Christmas, and I can tell you that it has become a piece of equipment I really depend on. I truly admire and appreciate the thoughtful design of it; my instruments are really safer in its arms.

To learn more about the Cooperstand, visit cooperstand.com.
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