Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Oscar Prat…
How did you get your start in music?
I played the recorder and guitar when I was a little kid, nothing serious. But I always wanted to play music. In my first year of college, my friends had a rock band, and their bassist left the group… so it was my opportunity.
Are you still an active player?
No, I wish! Family and work don’t leave me much free time!
How did you get started as a Luthier?
When I was a kid in my father’s workshop, I built an inspiring “mini harp” (a frame with rubberband strings!) But seriously, how it all started was a life chance. I met my American wife in college in Barcelona and I later came to the USA to be with her. To get the funds to move, I sold my own bass and the music equipment I was using. I knew how to work with woods, so I decided I would craft my own bass. As you can imagine, this first bass was a piece of crap! But this first attempt at building sparked curiousity me. That’s where the passion to craft a perfect bass began… ahhaha! Years and years of learning; in the beginning through books and studying theory and later in the workshop of the master luthier Steve Higgins. Prat Basses has only been around 10 years of professional building and I’m still learning!
When did you build your first bass?
I can say I built my first real bass, the first “good” instrument, in the year 2000. I never wanted to make a Fender copy or something like that. Maybe it is a smoother route to understand some concepts, but I always wanted to develop my own idea and so mine was a longer path.
How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier?
I started seriously with the theory. At that time the internet was in its early stages, so the only resources I had were books. Like you know, I lived in Barcelona at that time, and my English was really limited and the few books I had were in English. It took a lot of effort to understand all the concepts. With these books I built a few basses, but then I met Steve Higgins. He was an incredible American luthier living in Barcelona, making classic and acoustic guitars. He accepted me as a student, and it was cool because he had never built an electric bass, so we both learned together! We crafted a few instruments together, until I developed my own style.
Who would you consider a Mentor??
Steve was my Master Luthier and mentor. Our friendship taught me what is was to be a Luthier. Back in the USA, I marketed my instruments and myself as a Luthier. It was risky, because I had never really compared my basses with other professional basses, ever. But I always believed in my work.
How do you select the woods you choose to build with?
The wood says a lot just how it shows. I always had a connection with wood, because I worked restoring antique furniture in Spain, and also I had my own antique store in Barcelona for years. I think it is a mix of intuition and past experience. I always choose small quantities of the wood, selecting the very best of the pile!
How about pickups?
I really don’t have any preference for pickups. The customer should make their choice. But of course I like to work with companies that have good customer service and can fulfill my requests for custom pickups or electronics.
What electronics do you use right now??
Currently, I’m using Nordstrand pickups (USA) and Noll preamps (Germany) for my standar orders, but like I said, all pickups and electronics are available.
Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses??
Before I moved to the USA, Josep “professor” Merchant, and Charlie Moreno. Here in The USA, Garry Goodman and Jared Lees, to say some.
How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?
To build a signature bass we first need to have a connection, not just agree to build a “different” bass. I need to know the artist personally, and I need to have a positive feeling. Normally it is “easy” to work with a great bassist, because they know very well what they want! I have a clear idea of what the artist wants before I start building – almost like following instructions… hahaha!
What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?
There are so many good Luthiers! I am truly humbled when I go to the NAMM shows and I can see the work of other colleagues. Almost everybody comments about my instruments playability and choice of woods. I agree with these opinions.
Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?
All of them.
Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?
I’d say not to choose this work for money. It is a very difficult profession, because the industry has its own standards and stars and it is very hard to be recognized. You need to believe in yourself and love the work firstly.
What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?
Go to the music shop with a blindfold. Play a few basses with the blindfold on and make a mental list of which is your favorite, the second favorite… buy the first one if you can.
Sometimes we just look at brands!
What is biggest success for you and for your company?
I consider myself so lucky. I won the Bass Gear Magazine award for best bass product in my first NAMM show in 2010. I have always had so much support from everybody in the industry; from so many amazing players, so many great companies… but the most important to me is that I’ve made so many good friends through my work.
Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design?
I’ve had my standard models for a while now. I’m playing with some new ideas and objectives, maybe moving to Europe, again, who knows? New models always resulted from personal life experiences… It is an artistic projection!
What are your future plans? 2 words:
Visit online at www.pratbasses.com