5 A few weeks ago I was invited up to Rudy Pensa’s private loft-style office. On two conference room tables lay the makings of a book on great archtops and their history. The book will retail for what some generic guitars cost. Anything Rudy creates is mas- terful. Whether it’s a book or a bass, it is made with the same love and passion. The story behind the product was told to me by everyone involved with its making: Rudy himself told me the history, Dean Moody and Jaxon Dillon-Fish explained the marketing and retail aspects, and Phil Rivlin,
Makoto Noguchi and Ulrich Salazar discussed lutherie and construction.
I know Rudy Pensa as an aficionado of
archtop guitars. How did the whole bass
thing get started?
RP: Actually, my first love is the Fender bass.
As a kid, I was a bass player. I played for
many, many years. I always wanted to put my
stamp on something like this.
What is it that gives the Pensa bass
that Pensa vibe?
RP: You need to talk to my guys. They are the
true artists behind the product. I know I just
wanted the best traditional J- or P-style that
you could buy. I provided my input and they
just ran with it.
[ The following responses are from the
lutherie, sales and marketing staff.]
The vintage-inspired product line has been
around a very long time. What is the key
to its success?
First, of a lot of the credit must go back to
the original designers and builders back in the
John Suhr, Mas Hino days. We’ve been building basses since about 1982. Yes, we have had
some tweaks and some minor changes, but
the product is essentially the same.
What are the staples of the product line?
We build a ‘60s-inspired P-style bass that is
active. We build a ‘60s-inspired J-style line
that is really our signature bass. We have
the 4- and 5-string models with the 5-string
available in a traditional 34" scale and a
modern 35" scale. The J-bass controls are
Vol/Vol/Ttreble Boost and Cut/Bass Boost.
The first Volume pot is push-pull for active
or passive, and the second Volume pot is
push-pull for series or parallel.
It’s not that we have ever had trouble with
suppliers. Another brand we use for our
bridges comes from a small source, and
unfortunately they have been back-ordered
due to health issues.
Are your components sourced or
The preamp is proprietary and made in-house.
The hardware is all Hipshot. The Hipshot components are just a great fit, and luckily they’re an
easy source to work with and stock is available.
Every Pensa bass always seems to have the
perfect body. The necks seem to be very
traditional. Do you do your own woodwork?
Have you had trouble with suppliers?
In New York City it would be nearly impossible to
cost effectively cut your own wood. Everything