Vincent Van Trigt, Master Builder at the Fender Custom Shop, brings years of guitar building experience to Fender Musical Instruments. As a Master Builder, Van Trigt works to make players’ dream guitars a reality. Van Trigt graduated from the Conservatory of Music in Utrecht, Netherlands and then went to school for restaurant management in Haarlem, Netherlands. Van Trigt believes that his experience in the restaurant and hotel business has helped him immensely with his business communication skills today. When it comes to guitar building, Van Trigt learned everything at Fender, but also amassed deep musical knowledge during his 30 years as a musician, which has informed how he builds basses and guitars today.
Van Trigt started his Fender career in 2004 at the company’s Corona facility, and took a position as a tuner/tester on the production line shortly after. In 2010 he moved to the Fender Custom Shop, where he worked for two years before moving to the Gretsch Custom Shop to work with Master Builder Stephen Stern. In 2014 Van Trigt started his apprenticeship with Fender Custom Shop Senior Master Builder John Cruz. The two worked hand in hand on many high-profile projects for top artists, most notably the Gary Moore ’61 Fiesta Red Stratocaster, the Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan 30th Anniversary set, the Irish Roots Telecaster and Stratocaster and most recently the Phil Lynott Precision Bass. In his new position as Fender Custom Shop Master Builder, Van Trigt is looking forward to working with more artists and building replicas of old Fenders as close to the originals as possible.
When Van Trigt isn’t building iconic Fender guitars, he is likely at home spending time with his wife and two children – playing and listening to music. Van Trigt’s deep knowledge of music comes from both a lifetime of playing and his 15-year career at Fender. During his time with the company, Van Trigt has crafted and played all kinds of incredible instruments, but counts among his favorites a ’74 Mustang Bass and, in general, the Fender Precision Bass because of its simplicity, sound and feel. “The Precision Bass influenced the way music sounds to me in a huge way,” he says.
We caught up with the recently promoted Van Trigt to talk custom bass builds, his process on the work bench, and which basses and players have influenced his career the most.
First of all, congrats on becoming a Master Builder. That’s quite an honor. How does it feel to officially have that title?
It’s quite an honor indeed, and a dream come true. I’ve always loved Fender instruments and I've loved the company since I started working here. There is so much history here, so much knowledge, such cool stories from back in the day. To be part of a legacy like that is beyond words.
Has it always been a goal of yours to land the role you have with this iconic company?
Fender was the first instrument builder I heard of as a kid. The guitars I stared at in the local music shop were all Fender, but I never thought about becoming an instrument builder. When I moved to Corona and got a job here, I saw how much love and creativity goes into it, as well as the passion that people have for building guitars. That was very contagious for me. It wasn’t until I started in the Fender Custom Shop that being a Master Builder became a dream.
What do you, personally, want to bring to the table when it comes to instrument building?
I like to work on bass designs and re-creating vintage guitars and basses. Working with artists is very inspiring too, because they live with these instruments every day. Their feedback is hugely important.
That Phil Lynott Precision that you worked on is a masterpiece. Tell us a little about the process of recreating that bass.
John had to go to Ireland to spec out that bass, and unfortunately, I didn’t get to go. But when he came back with all the pictures and specs, we laid it all out and came up with methods on how to create a prototype. It was very inspiring to be part of that.
How does your mentality and approach differ when you’re working on basses rather than guitars?
Not that much. Besides the obvious differences, they are both musical instruments that require a certain feel and sound. To bring that out as best as possible is the goal.
Which bass are you most proud of building/working on so far?
I recently refinished a ’54 Precision body and built a new neck for Johnny Bradley (Gary Clark Jr). He’s a great guy, the bass came out sounding awesome, and to hear his reaction and see him play it at the Hollywood Bowl with Gary was mind blowing to me.
Leo Fender seemingly perfected the Precision bass on his first attempt. Is that somewhat of a bar that builders are always striving for?
That is definitely something to strive for. It’s pretty wild how right he got it the first time, so many times. He always listened to the artists wishes and feedback, so that helped him, but to design instruments that are still loved, produced and hugely important 60+ years later is mind blowing.
What skills or lessons did you take with you from your studies and expertise in restaurants and hotels?
Attention to detail, communication with costumers of course, and maybe attitude; always making sure people leave your place happy.
Fender is constantly creating new lines of basses and redesigning the instruments that players trust and love. How important is it to evolve in the field of instrument building?
I think it is very important. As long as you keep an eye on the tried and tested classic models. Fender is great at that in my opinion - making it modern with a vintage feel.
How have you evolved personally as a luthier since first joining Fender 15 years ago?
I came here just knowing how to tune a guitar. I started in the warehouse, loading the guitars in the trucks. But soon I was learning how to test, inspect, wire and repair guitars. When I moved to the Fender Custom Shop a whole other world opened up. I learned the art of aging, sanding, fretwork, etc. Then, when you start learning from master builders and get some freedom to create it gets super inspiring. I’m very thankful for the opportunities and professional guidance I received here at Fender.
Who are your favorite bass players that have influenced you?
James Jamerson, Jaco, Paul Chambers, and tons of others that were in some way influenced by one of these three. Lately I’ve been a Fred Pallem freak. He’s a French film composer, and his arranging genius really shines through in his bass playing.
Your favorite bass you own is a ’74 Mustang. What do you love about it?
It plays comfortably and it cuts through while still holding down the bottom. It responds well to dynamics. I love how short scales make you play just a little different.
What can we expect from you on the bass side of things in the future?
On one hand I’m always experimenting with aging, trying to make replicas look more realistic, on the other hand I like to incorporate new ideas into the building side by using different sorts of woods, electronics, and specifications. Hopefully collaborations with lots of artists!
What is your best advice for a bass player in picking out and choosing the right bass for them?
Take your time and try out as many as you can. Find one that works for your situation, and don’t buy something just because someone else plays it. On the other hand, if you aspire to do studio work for example, it is good to read about what other players use in those situations.
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