10th Anniversary Globe BassWelcome to “Meet Your Maker,” a series dedicated to bringing you closer to the individuals behind the instruments that inspire us.
AS MANY OF OUR PREVIOUS PROFILES demonstrate, most luthiers begin their venture into the world of bass building alone, unaccompanied by the support that a mentor or partner could provide. Not so with Fibenare Guitars, a Hungary-based company founded by three brothers dedicated to the task of making high-end basses and guitars. Their success challenges the adage that one should never work with family.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN
For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, the “Iron Curtain” stood as a powerful metaphor for the divide between Eastern and Western Europe. Most poignantly represented by the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain effectively isolated Eastern Europe—ideologically and physically—prohibiting the trade of many material goods, including musical instruments. Into this world, in the town of Kecskemét, Hungary, were born three brothers whose musical ambitions would later be fueled by such limitations. Attila, Csaba, and Árpád Benedek grew up surrounded by classical music, but the Iron Curtain was not strong enough to save the brothers from exposure to rock & roll—and all that it promised. “We were just entering our teen years, and we all thought that if we became rock musicians, we could get more girls,” Attila explains. Unfortunately there was only one music shop in town, and it had only one guitar—a Gibson Les Paul—that cost three times their father’s monthly salary.
A mathematics/physics teacher, the elder Benedek specialized in problem solving, so he devised a plan that would enable all three boys to play guitar. He talked the store owner into letting him and his boys borrow the guitar for a week, during which they took it completely apart for the purpose of learning how to build their own instruments. The Benedeks then set themselves to the task and built three instruments: two guitars and one bass. Thus equipped, the three brothers set out to conquer the world—and get girls—with Csaba and Árpád on guitar and Attila on bass. They spent the next few years playing locally, honing their hands and ears with tunes from the Rolling Stones and the Doors.
NEW HORIZONS, NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Attila (left) CsabaAfter the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Attila and his brothers decided they would move to Budapest, Hungary’s center of music and home to numerous universities. “You can imagine all the fun we had, moving from a small town to a much larger one,” Attila says. “There were more bands, more small clubs, and just more opportunities in general.” The brothers quickly established themselves as quality musicians and experts on guitar repair and maintenance. They also began attracting attention with their self-made guitars, which led to requests for custom instruments. In the mid ’90s, the brothers decided to take advantage of the diminished travel restrictions in Europe and journeyed outside their country for the fi rst time to an exhibit in Frankfurt, Germany. “It was our first time seeing people and places outside of Hungary,” Attila recalls. “We were incredibly excited.”
That trip introduced them to the excitement and energy associated with musicalinstrument exhibits, so they decided to make it their goal to take their instruments to as many shows as they could. Early on, their participation was largely limited to exhibitions in Hungary, but by 2003 they were exhibiting at Germany’s Musikmesse, and by 2007, at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. “Meeting players is crucial to our business,” Attila explains. “We love hearing from people in the field. Their feedback helps us design better basses.” The year before he died, the brothers’ father travelled with them to Musikmesse, where they all got to meet one of their idols, Michael Tobias. “It was thrilling to meet Michael, and to have our father meet him, too.”
A CORD OF THREE STRANDS
“A cord of three strands is not easily broken,” as the proverb goes. That certainly seems to be the case with the Benedek brothers. Each brother has a specifi c role and expertise in the company. Attila is the oldest of the three and the businessman of the crew, while Csaba is the primary builder. Árpád, the youngest, is the artist among them, coloring and fi nishing the guitars. He’s also the one who still plays out the most. Back in 2004, the brothers brought in a friend, Gábor, to take over pickup and electronics construction. Together, the team works to build almost every part of the bass in house. They even make their own hardshell cases.
Since 1998, the brothers have found themselves building primarily 5-string basses, especially from their Globe Bass line. “That’s been an interesting development,” Attila remarks. “Initially we weren’t knowledgeable enough to know what the market demanded, so we built everything. But along the way we started to focus on building excellent fretted and fretless 5-string basses. That has worked well for us.” Attila points out that those years of playing small clubs in Budapest has served them well. “In rock & roll, the bass is fundamental,” he argues. “Being rock musicians really helped us learn what worked and what didn’t in that kind of music.”
ÁrpádFibenare builds 70 to 100 guitars a year, and the Benedek brothers like it that way. Although they hope to continue to expand their clientele, they are comfortable with their current product line. As such, they continue to build basses with careful attention to consistency in materials and construction, using Hungarian woods and custom electronics. “We put our soul into each and every instrument,” Attila says, “and we want to keep doing just that.”
Builders Attila, Csaba, and Árpád Benedek
Price range $3,000–$6,000
Mission Constructing and manufacturing high-quality, handcrafted guitars that create an individual world of sound.
Notable players Ariane Cap (Cirque du Soleil), Martin Matzinger (Falco Tribute Band), Richard Scheufler