Fritz Ober (1955-2020) was born in the town of Rosenheim, Germany. He spent his youth in the small village of Uebersee am Chiemsee, where he learned to play the guitar and discovered a love for woodworking early on. He built his first guitars primarily for himself, and much of his instruction in those years was gained by reading books on the subject.
As Fritz became more skilled and firmly on the path to becoming a professional guitar maker, he apprenticed at the workshop of Helmut Buchsteiner, who was the only known Luthier (besides Hauser II) in Upper Bavaria at that time. After completing the 2-year apprenticeship, Fritz opened up his own workshop in Munich, where he found quick success and surprising demand for constructing pre-Torres instruments, including Panormo-style guitars and renaissance lutes. At this time he met Robert Lundberg, who was a leading expert in historical stringed instruments with deep knowledge of construction details and techniques of the old masters. As Fritz learned these arts, he honed his skills in the traditional methods of working without machinery or sandpaper, using natural hide glues and resins, hand-splitting spruce logs, and even seeking out his own trees in the nearby Alps.
As his reputation for this style of lutherie began to spread, he found himself being frequently approached to do restoration work on some of the most important instruments from the great collections of Europe. These included guitars of Torres, Hauser I, Santos Hernandez, Manuel Ramirez, Esteso, Simplicio, Bouchet, Friederich, Fleta, etc. As Fritz began to understand the guitars and minds of these monumental builders, he absorbed and extracted the subtleties that would continue to influence his own developing style. Currently, Fritz is dedicated almost exclusively to building guitars in the ‘Torres/Hauser I’ tradition. He explains, “What I try to do is create the deep and profound singing qualities of the Spanish tradition (Torres), combined with the harmonic clarity, evenness and transparency of Hauser I. This should produce a guitar capable of powerful projection and quick response as well as light/easy playability. Some players think I have found a good way.”
Recently, Fritz did some restoration work on the famous 1856 Torres, ‘La Leona’ (FE 04), and despite his disposition against building reproductions, he found himself inspired to build a copy. We have ordered one and look forward to seeing one of these guitars here at GSI sometime in 2011 or 2012.
Fritz’s roster of players includes such luminaries as the Romeros, Wulfin Lieske, Jurgen Ruck, Earl Klugh, John Ingwerson, Doug Rubio, and Andy Summers. Although Fritz works alone and produces just 10-12 handmade instruments per year, we believe his output of guitars are phenomenal and well worth the wait. GSI is proud to be Fritz Ober’s exclusive US dealer. We hope you enjoy his instruments as well, and feel free to comment below about your Ober guitar.
The latest issue of Orfeo classical guitar magazine boasts a triple-feature of master luthiers Hermann Hauser III, Edmund Blöchinger, and Fritz Ober. Orfeo magazine interviews each luthier and gains substantial information about them all; Hauser III tells about his family legacy in guitar-making and the popularity of the Hermann Hauser I Segovia Model, while Blöchinger lets us into his building philosophies and techniques, and Ober gives thoughts on past masters and contemporary luthiers. All the wonderful intricacies of a luthier’s life are included in this issue as well as a gallery of their phenomenal works of art. Click here for the full issue of Orfeo.