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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Michael Pedulla

Michael Pedulla - decades ago

How did you get your start in music?

I inherited a violin when I was about 13 and that got me started. I attended a music college and violin was my major instrument, so I have a classical background. I did not pick up a guitar until I was in college.

Are you still an active player?

I no longer seem to have the time it takes to maintain any serious level.

How did you get started as a Luthier?

I first began while in college, we had an open end assignment in one of my ethnic music classes, I chose to build an Ud. I had picked up playing some banjo as well as guitar and the Ud was so much fun to make that I made myself a banjo next, then a dulcimer while still in school. Had a blast.

When did you build your first bass?

I began building instruments professionally in 1975 and my first bass was made in 1976.

How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier?

I always loved making things, somehow wood was always the attraction. I began helping my Dad with some projects when I was five. Although he was not a professional woodworker, he taught me many basic skills and, most importantly, to do it right or not at all (he was an Air Force pilot). I did not get in to working with instruments until much later. I learned design form doing repair work and the woodworking skills came with experience and always trying new things. I always had a love for engineering, physics, music and wood, so I put them all together and went after it. I did have formal training in classical music and violin but I never did have have any formal training in woodworking, I learned on my own.

Who would you consider a Mentor?

There is no single mentor, I had none in my profession. The tools I had to put the bass thing together came from my folks and inspiration from a vast array of people that chose to do something in their life with purpose, regardless of their profession. I did catch some breaks, I did have some help, no one accomplishes much without either. And I accepted failures, learned from them, and went back to it.

Michael Pedulla carving a bass neckHow do you select the woods you choose to build with?

At first it was all trial and error, the only way I could ever tell what would work and what wouldn’t was to try it. Currently, I choose my woods from what I’ve learned by building basses over the past four decades . They are different for each of the bass models I make now. They are chosen primarily for sound and looks. Within each type of wood there are many different factors: flat sawn, quartersawn, difference in density, color, figure etc. Unlike other materials, every piece of wood is different and must be treated as such.

How about pickups? What pickups did you use in the past? What electronics do you use right now?

My first electric guitars and basses had DiMarzio pickups, back in 1976. By chance I went to my first NAMM show in Chicago in 1978 and my booth was adjacent to “High A” pickups, Bartolini. Pat and Bill Bartolini showed me the ropes of doing a NAMM show, they gave me a few sets of pickups to try, and I have been using Bartolini ever since. Over the years, Bill designed our proprietary pickups and electronics, tweaking them to the sound I wanted for each new model. I use them exclusively, they are part of what provides the sound of each Pedulla bass.

Pedulla bass guitars

Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses?

I worked with a number of great bassists during the mid to late 1970’s. Mark Egan and Tim Landers were the first, and both still play Pedulla basses. Mark was playing with Pat Matheny, Tim was with Al DiMeola. There were new demands being made in the role of the bass, and they were each looking for a new tool to meet those demands. We became good friends and have worked together to this day.

How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?

I don’t do custom basses. The problem with “custom” basses is that some people’s ideas of what they want just won’t work as well as they think. I’ve spent a lifetime putting together basses in various combinations of woods, electronics, designs, hardware, and I pretty much know what won’t work well together. It’s so much more than the components, it’s all about how you combine them. Like the million things that go in to an ecosystem that allows it to work, take a seemingly insignificant part out of it and it dies. Perhaps not on the same scale, but that is how it works for me. The only “Signature” bass I have done is the Mark Egan Signature, most recently a 40th Anniversary Edition.

MARK EGAN SIGNATURE MODEL - ANNIVERSARY EDITION

What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?

I consider the whole, and they are unique. The appearance and feel are unique and the sounds are signature and always will work because it is the heart of working bass. I build only my own bass designs.

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

They all are.

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

It’s harder than it may seem and in addition to being able to build truly useful and quality instruments, you’ll also need to know how to run a business and deal with the unexpected if you’re looking to make a living at it.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Don’t pay attention to the “flavor of the month” or the latest “fad” and don’t judge an instrument on looks alone. The only way to find the right bass for you is to try them. You may want to pay attention to what works for other bassists but not necessarily who endorses what because some companies give away instruments or pay for endorsements; The endorser may not have actually liked the bass enough to pay for it. We’ve never paid anyone to play a Pedulla bass and don’t give away basses… Pedulla Artists have all wanted their Pedulla basses enough to pay for them.

What is biggest success for you and for your company?

Working on year 41 and the basses are better than ever!

Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design? Or maybe some new gear amps, etc.

Yes. I am always working on something new, sometimes it takes years to go from thought to execution because I’m so busy filling bass orders, but it’s always there. I’m also constantly improving on current models in subtle ways, like improved electronics and more lustrous finishes.

What are your future plans?

I’m in my 60s and have been doing this full-time (often more than full time) for 41 years. Although I still love what I do, I may consider “semi-retirement” soon. Owning your own business is really a 24/7 job and I’d like to make more time for other things I enjoy doing. My schedule has been booked at least 3 months out with bass orders and if I “semi-retire”, that wait time for new basses may become longer.

Michael Pedulla - THEN AND NOW -MVP

Is there anything else you would like to share that we have not included?

I’d like to thank all of our customers, especially those who have been avid supporters and have provided great reviews, comments, social media posts, etc. All of those Pedulla bass (& Pedulla Bass Strings) buyers and supporters that have spread the word about the quality of our products and our dedication to what we do have contributed greatly to our longevity. We appreciate them very much – and appreciate you providing this opportunity to thank them!

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www.facebook.com/PedullaBassGuitars

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