From Griffith undergrad to building a guitar empire

Griffith alumnus Martin Pratley sells his handcrafted guitars to celebrities.

Twenty years ago, Griffith University alumnus Martin Pratley never imagined he would spend his days creating musical instruments for the likes of Australian music legends John Butler and Tash Sultana.

Martin was studying a Bachelor of Design and Technology at Griffith’s Mount Gravatt campus, when he started an ambitious project in his spare time, using his design skills to build a travel guitar.

“I was writing a lot of songs (during the first year of university) and playing gigs around Brisbane, but when I went camping, or on one of many east coast surf trips, I had to leave my guitars behind,” Martin said.

“I decided to design a special type of acoustic guitar for travel.”

Martin said his project guitar became the final assessment piece of his degree, and delivered a high distinction and attention from local media.

“This success and media attention made me think that my guitar making dream could come true.”

He said he started to play guitar when he was 12 years old and grew up making things and taking things apart to see how they worked.

These were passions that would see him through to becoming a luthier (someone who builds or repairs string instruments)and start to build a musical empire, with his Gold Coast based business Pratley Guitars and Percussion.

Martin has made guitars and stomp boxes for music icons from John Butler and Tash Sultana, to The Amity Affliction, Dead Letter Circus and actor Ray Stevenson – just to name a few.

He said has always enjoyed building things but creating instruments brought him a deeper sense of achievement.

“It’s a feeling of great satisfaction to create a beautiful dining table or chair but to design and craft the most exotic woods into an instrument that has its own voice is deeply fulfilling.”