Interview With Luthier Rybski of Rybski Basses…
I recently had the opportunity to sit and chat with one of the finest luthiers I have the privilege of knowing. Rybski basses have been played all over the world from the US, Europe, Australia, and South America. Not only does he build some of the finest custom basses, he also does setups, repairs and customizing of any bass on the market.
Ty) How did you get started in building guitars and basses?
Rybski) I was always connected with arts and crafts. My dad was a pro musician. I’ve always liked to build things and be involved in music at the same time, so at some time, I felt the two needed to be connected. At age 15, I started to experiment with building musical instruments and by the age of 18 I had some projects done and ready. I built my first pro bass guitar in 1980. I also like to build any string instrument, i.e. (all electric) guitars, violins, cellos, uprights.
Ty) What separates your instruments for the others?
Rybski) I’m not a traditional luthier by any means. Although I have been involved in restoring a lot of classical instruments, my passion was always inventing, designing and customizing new and different instruments. I not only design my shapes, but also electronics, especially pickups. My instruments are a custom fit for the musicians I am working with, which is becoming a rare trait. I also use very unusual and rare materials to achieve different sounds and aesthetics.
Ty) Without going into too much detail, can you give more insight into your custom pickups?
Rybski) As many technologies before, my pickup building happened accidentally. I was in the need for different sounds and started experimenting with what I had and it was much different that what is on the market. I’ve noticed right away the big difference in sound and performance, and after only 35 years of doing it, I’m still getting better. The most important things in my research were tone, noise canceling, and practicality. Soon after, I added the craft part, which is the wooden covers and that was around 1980.
Ty) what are some of the best tone woods that you like to work with?
Rybski) First of all, let’s say it straight. All woods are tone woods and for one reason or another, the traditional art of luthier made people believe that certain woods are better than the other. Personally, I still use some maple, but the range of woods in my shop is only limited to availability. My recent specialty as you may find in my info is “Wooten Woods Camp” material. Mostly it is driftwood from Duck River floods deposited at the campground. Usually this type of wood is rarely used for anything but also very beautiful. With the knowledge and skill, you can use it to create beautiful masterpieces. I also like exotics, for example, my favorites are padauk, purple heart, rosewoods, and burls for looks.
Ty) what types of hardware do you prefer?
Rybski) I prefer to support local US business if possible and the Hipshot comes as the top supplier with a great quality product. I also use the recent superstar Babicz for the bridges, and Schaller from Germany.
Ty) Are your custom builds limited to Rybski designs?
Rybski) Not at all. I offer the build called “One of One” and the concept is to let customer design it and being involved in the process. I don’t care if it’s a napkin drawing, photograph, or email with explanation. I’m set to help design and achieve the required effect. All of my builds are completely done by hand and being a one-man shop, I have absolute control over the outcome of the project.
Ty) what is the typical turnaround time for a custom bass build?
Rybski) Custom Rybski as appears on the website takes an average 10-14 weeks right now, although the more custom involved projects can stretch much longer depending on the availability of materials and the level of customization, like inlays and finishes.