The Innovators

Michael Pedulla
By Jim Roberts ,

If you had to pick one word to describe Michael Pedulla’s work as a bass builder, it would be consistency. “When I get what I want, it stays that way,” he says. “I don’t keep changing stuff that I’ve already done. When someone picks up a Buzz Bass, they expect it to sound like a Buzz Bass.” But that doesn’t mean he’s just repeating himself: “I tweak everything, in the building, so the basses get better and better. In my opinion, my basses are better than they’ve ever been.”

And that’s saying something. Michael has been making basses since 1975, never faltering in his commitment to playability and premium quality, establishing a solid reputation as one of the best in the business. His company has been through a number of changes over the years, growing from a one-man shop to a larger operation with ten employees and then returning to its roots. “I got tired of having a bigger business,” Michael says. “I was working 16-hour days, filling in for people who didn’t come to work, plus making payroll and doing all the things I had to do to run the business. So I decided to get back to what I started out doing. Slowly but surely, over a period of about five years, I got down to just me.”

Working solo in his Massachusetts shop, supported only by a business manager, Michael builds three or four basses a month. The fretted MVP and fretless Buzz neck-through models remain his mainstays, available in 4-, 5-, 6-, and 8-string models. His line also includes the Thunderbass, Thunderbolt, and Rapture “modern vintage” models. The most recent addition is the Nuance. “With that one, I was looking for a bolt-on bass with a different sound, a deeper sound,” Michael says. “It has a great core bass sound. Sometimes you can have all these cool things going on, but a lot of them aren’t useful when it comes down to core bass playing. Tim Landers bought a Nuance, and he said it has all the tones you need, both in the studio and onstage.”

Landers is a longtime Pedulla enthusiast, as is Mark Egan, who has been playing Michael’s basses since 1980. Egan’s collection of signature instruments includes fretted and fretless 5-strings as well as a double-neck with 4-string fretless and 8-string fretted necks. “It’s been great working with both Mark and Tim for so long,” says Michael, “and also with Ric Fierabracci and Doug Johns. They’ve been very helpful—and they’re great friends, too.”

Looking ahead, Michael says he has ideas for new models but does not want to preview anything yet. “I never talk about stuff until I’m done with it, because I don’t know how long it’s going to take me, or whether it will even work out. With electronics, for example, when I do a new bass model, I go through a whole bunch of pickups and variations of the pickups and electronics, and I tweak this and tweak that. It’s been great working with Bartolini over the years; they make a lot of stuff that’s just for our basses. When I get what I want, that becomes the sound of that model.”

Although he’s aware of the many online bass forums, Michael prefers to let his instruments speak for him. “I don’t go into the chat rooms,” he says. “They’re for the players.” His approach to the current trends in social media and the changing nature of the musical-instrument business remains, unsurprisingly, consistent: “I just want to make basses. I’d much rather do that than supervise people, which is why I got back to working on my own. It’s been like that for about ten years now. I concentrate on the product. I’ve always said, play it and listen to it and feel it, and if it works for you, that’s great. That’s why I do what I do.”

For more about Pedulla basses, go to pedulla.com.

Jim Roberts was the founding editor of BASS PLAYER and also served as the magazine’s publisher and group publisher.

He is the author of How the Fender Bass Changed the World and American Basses: An Illustrated History & Player’s Guide (both published by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard).