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Advanced Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 367
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2014 - 5:41 pm:   Edit Post

How long did it take you to allow your Bass to show you how to play her?
I don't mean to sound to philosophical but did you ever pick up a new or used Bass (I am referring to Alembics here) with preconceived notions and in the process miss the whole point of what the Bass your playing is all about?
some of you may know I have a 1975 Series 1 short scale bass with a narrow neck. "slender neck" . I'm a previous P-Bass player and my Distillate has some heft as well.
Granted there were some issues that had to be corrected but I struggled with it in every way imaginable. Eventually For some reason I think this Bass may have taken a liking to me because I do pamper her, and slowly she started revealing some of her inner sonic and design beauty. I'm at a point now where each and every time I play her I say Wow this is one fine sounding Bass! Complete joy!

I feel very comfortable to gig with her now, even though my Distillate is so much easier on a stage. But not to sound to hokey these Basses especially Series take some time and once the bonding begins it's magic.

Hope this wasn't to off the wall, just meant to perhaps shared experience
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 40
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2014 - 7:01 pm:   Edit Post

I know *exactly* what you mean Pete - I'm the same way... it takes a little bit for the instrument to teach me how to.play it.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 11502
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2014 - 7:27 pm:   Edit Post

As soon as my six string arrived, everything changed. The style of music I was playing changed. My right hand technique changed significantly. There was, for me, a significant learning curve going from four string to six string as well.

More importantly, practice became a meditation. I began to see how patterns of thought were getting in the way of the music; where what "I" wanted or did not want got in the way of just letting the music flow. Over a long period of time, these patterns of thought slowly began disappearing; and there was a more intimate connection between the instrument, the body, and the heart.

This isn't to say that there still aren't mistakes; and the playing is still sloppy if I don't practice every day. And if I haven't played a song in a while, I'm likely to forget pieces of it.

But when I sit down to practice, the music just more readily flows; mistakes and all. And if all I do is practice the same movement between two or three chords over and over, that's fine. If I just allow that movement to be however it needs to be, to express whatever it chooses to express, then in that moment the experience of music is as it should be.

Often now, I find myself just repeating simple chord patterns, not even songs, and just being with that experience.

So, this bass has taught me a lot; about music, but more importantly, about myself. And it has shown me how even the simplest melodies and chord progressions can express so much and appear so beautiful.

Karma. I never know where she will take me next.
Advanced Member
Username: charles_holmes

Post Number: 356
Registered: 3-2009
Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2014 - 7:42 pm:   Edit Post

I really didn't get to know my "Shorty" Series Distillate until I acquired my rig to run it properly. Then the subtle timbre nuances began to present themselves with each minute turn of a dial, flick of a "q"switch. Then my Distillate began to paint superb aural pictures that no other basses on this planet could match (well, except another Alembic).By the way my bass had a previous owner. My wife bought it for me from Bass Northwest for Christmas 7 yrs ago. And each day that I play my axe has been like Christmas all over again. I have added the TC electronic "G" system for my bridge pickup and "The Great Divide" for my neck pickup. There is no other bass in my area that can touch the combination, period! Everywhere I perform there is always a compliment concerning the craftsmanship and of course "That Alembic Sound" Thank you Ron Wickersham for creating such an amazing instrument!!!!!!!!
Senior Member
Username: pauldo

Post Number: 1261
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 3:46 am:   Edit Post

For a very long time my Distillate has felt like "Home". She has been in my ownership for at least 25 years.

Cripes, that realization made my head tilt!

Such meticulous craftsmanship makes her comfortable and easy to play. The electronics still catch me by surprise and will teach me new things . . . In fact just last Monday evening I was practicing and had one of those "ah ha" moments. Funny thing is I completely discounted the experience until reading this thread.

As we all know, your plucking hand position in relationship to the PU's will have a huge influence on the instruments voice. While I was practicing my right hand position moved towards the neck about 1/2 an inch - and my head said "Yes, that is where you should be for this song".

So even though my Distillate is home, she still reminds me that there are little things that can make big differences. All I have to do is be aware and recognize those things when they happen.
Advanced Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 368
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 7:51 am:   Edit Post

I kind of figured I wasn't alone on this,
David, I can't even begin to tell you how many times I pick up one of my Alembics and not have a clue as to what I'm about to play. Then there it is something beautiful unfolds. I'll put down my bass and say that came from completely nowhere, no real structure and a lot of randomness. But Man did that sound good!
Chalie, I've said it before and I'll say it again, you chose well in your Wife and Bass. Well done sir!
Gregory, Been watching your epoch into the Alembic world and with the determination of Hercules you have found and will continue to find in time a beautiful nurturing Muse who has probably has not fully revealed herself yet.
Pauldo, What can I say Distillates are some truly special instruments. Alembic got it right with this one. I love mine as well!
Always a new day,
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 4211
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 9:03 am:   Edit Post

For me coming from a passive electric guitar background and a short relationship with a Musicman Sterling bass I found getting the hang of the filters a real uphill struggle from the word go, and my earlier threads bear witness to my frustration. I'd play the bass one day get a great tone then be unable to find it again. But a point came when I started being able to confidently move the controls towards specific tones I wanted. I decided to find what I called my starting tone and whenever I picked up the bass I'd move the controls to that setting. That made it easier to change tones during/between a song and being able to get back to a my starting tone.

When I got a series II bass it was virtually back to square one as the controls on each pickup are independent and hence work differently than they do with a pan pot. I have to admit, although I'm getting further quicker with it, it's still work in progress and I've developed a few techniques to help me make this transition easier. I feel I'm getting much more in control of my tone on these basses. Playability and ergonomics have always felt great and whilst I've always strived to be a clean precise player these basses are so responsive and resonant that they have forced me to be even cleaner because they reproduce sloppy technique very well.

Picking up on what Charles says in his opening. Having a high quality rig is a must if you to hear much more of the subtle tonal possibilities that alembic basses provide. When I first had an alembic I had a small 80w trace elliot combo and once I decided to upgrade to mesa boogie and later a rack system with alembic pre-amps I realised how much that first one was choking my sound.

My basses are amazingly rewarding to play and the sound is very addictive and like Dave alludes to, there is a meditative quality in the beauty of their sound.
Advanced Member
Username: 5a_quilt_top

Post Number: 354
Registered: 6-2012
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 9:18 am:   Edit Post

Transitioning to an Alembic after years of using, Fenders, Rics, Music Men, etc. involved a bit of a learning curve for me as well.

Due to the clarity of the tone, any flaws in my technique are magnified (bad) - along with other stylistic nuances that I was previously unaware of (good).

In addition, since the bass is more prominent in the mix, I know that the audience (and my bandmates) can probably hear what I'm doing better than if I was using another type of bass and this makes me want to play more accurately.

Long story short - using an Alembic has made me a better player because I'm more aware of my technique and I'm also able to better hear what I'm playing.
Advanced Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 369
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 9:40 am:   Edit Post

I remember some of the learning curve Series Bass issues you and I shared I earlier posts. And couldn't agree more on having a starting point / tone to always fall back on.
I 'm curious, I to use a Mesa Walkabout and find that the tube pre amp gives me a nice warm sound. You mentioned moving over to the Alembic pre's, did you find that much of a difference in tonal quality? I recently was out bid on an F2-B by a pittance, might have got if I tried harder but I felt I didn't need one because of the Mesa? Having both curious on your thoughts on this.
Enjoy all the honest valuable into you bring to the table.
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 4212
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 11:08 am:   Edit Post

Hey Pete, I still have the Mesa boogie however it is temporarily relegated to home use only as there is a problem with the send/return circuit even when bypassing with a cable.

As for the sound difference. Yes you are right the mesa does have a nice warm sound but I find the F1-x & QSC combination also warm sounding and cleaner. However where I feel it wins over the mesa is that it's cleaner sounding and the greater headroom gives me a more punchy sound at lower volumes as well as when up loud across the whole range of the bass.

I find that the Mesa has to have the gain up pretty high before it starts to sound really punchy.
When the send and return problem came I used it at a couple of rehearsals with the F1-x plugged directly into the return socket which strangely bypasses both the gain and master. It sounds superb warm and meaty and has a lot of punch.

In terms of manipulating your sound off the bass, the parametric on the mesa is great and you have the option to get a heavier sound by boosting the lower frequencies and that has been an asset especially with two cabs and with it being 300w there is less chance of me blowing the speakers.

I got fed up waiting for an F2-b to appear this side of the pond and ended getting another F1-x instead. I've not used both of them on a gig yet but that will come in time. The one thing I do prefer the F1-x for is the DI-out which I use all the time on gigs so I give my sound to the engineer.
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 2240
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 11:59 am:   Edit Post

For me, it was like going from a Pioneer, appliance-store, component stereo, to being dropped headfirst into an all MacIntosh rig playing thru Wilsons or Magnaplanars: I suddenly heard everything, nothing was left out, and I had a sudden, dizzying rush of 'is this how I REALLY sound?': String rattles, buzzes, no big, fat stupid 100hz hump and no high end where I'd previously been relatively comfortable?

And bear in mind, this was without changing amps: If I'd had a truly 'reference' rig, it might have scared me out of playing bass completely.

But it provoked me into learning. I suddenly had to learn how to set up my axe, and then the genius of how they're built allowed me to experiment, find my way, and ultimately learn MY setup. This helped my playing inasmuch as I adapted my setup to me, and my playing to a now proper setup.

After the usual 'why does this knob wah-wah?' we all go through, I finally understood my filters. Only then to feel like, 'is that all there is?'.
This eventually led to me NOT going EQ-crazy (see the previously mentioned cracks about 110hz . . .) and helped me realize a cleaner tone that was easier on the amps and just sounded better. I began to realize the hi-fi ethos of the less that's between source and speaker, the better.

It's utterly amazing to me that these instruments can enforce themselves on you, and as it did me, force me into realizing a better way of doing.

But as I've often said, they are NOT for everybody. You can see the learning curve I went through, and I've been around plenty. There's lots of guys who will never venture beyond a PBass or Jazz into an SVT, and that's just fine. Takes all kinds to make a world, and it is all so very subjective and personal, after all.

But all I can say it is utterly amazing the influence Ron and Susan have had on my playing through their instruments and I've never met them personally. Yet I'm so much better for this 'close encounter' !

J o e y
Advanced Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 370
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 12:46 pm:   Edit Post

That's funny Joey!
I went the Sansui route to McIntosh Amps. But that came from entering the Pro Field first lots of Macs and just about everything in-between. Heck my home stereo still has a MC2505 running it!
It's such a joy exploring and finding and just stumbling on new experience's in sound and craftsmanship. There is nothing better. Monet, Alembic, Macintosh Amps, Mesa Boogie Amps, Studer Tape Machines, Neve Consoles. (All in my Opinion)Craftsmanship in the details that make a difference. These differences come out in the most unexpected ways sometimes.
Good Stuff!
Senior Member
Username: hifiguy

Post Number: 421
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 1:28 pm:   Edit Post

A good big year, and my playing still changes here and here. I quickly discovered I couldn't even _begin_ to get away with the "close enough" that worked on the Rickenbacker, Warwick Corvette ProLine and many Fender Jazzes I had played over the years. And not just because it was going from a 34" scale to a 30.75". I got so frustrated I walked away from the Alembic for a few months despite how much I loved the way it felt and sounded. I was getting way too much feedback about my bad habits, which I had never heard before in nearly 30 years of playing.

Eventually I got disgusted with my own laziness and woodshedded on the Alembic exclusively for about three months. Then I felt confident enough to play it in public without sounding like a doofus.

The stereo analogy is very apt, Joey. My last serious stereo - much of which is in storage for reasons too complex to detail here - was VTL TP 6.5 phono stage, TL 7.5 Series III line stage and MB-450 Signature or Lamm Industries M1.2 amplifiers on Wilson Sashas. An Alembic bass definitely belongs in that quality of excellence.
Advanced Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 371
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 6:26 pm:   Edit Post

Yep, no mistakes they all come through. That's the down side, one that I had to deal with pretty hard as well especially with my Series with its original setup issues. (On another previous post)
The upside is when its right not only does the Bass cut through the music, everyone at least who I play with wants the little nuances to come out during the set. I could never play the way I do with my P-Bass and get away with what I do with my Alembics! Heck the term get away with is a misnomer what I play Belongs there!
Its like they are just as amazed as I am with how beautiful these Basses sound.
It feels like passing into another dimension. Ha!
I better go practice!!
Intermediate Member
Username: wfmandmusic

Post Number: 113
Registered: 1-2012
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 6:27 pm:   Edit Post

Yes it has taken a while to learn how to tickle these basses. Most musicians I play with say "wow, I can really hear that thing".
This is the scenario I think is funny:
You're having a great night, the tone is amazing, your playing is spot on, Then the next time you pick up your bass, you pluck it, say what the hell?, look at the controls, scratch your head and start all over again.
Advanced Member
Username: musashi

Post Number: 227
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 6:15 am:   Edit Post

As I've said before: Alembic. There is NO Substitute. None.
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 1065
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 3:32 pm:   Edit Post

Probably the opposite experience to most other crossovers, but when I first got my Elan (first Alembic), The nut was wide (P-bass) spec, and it rested further from my center of gravity than my previous fretless.... It took some getting used to, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Just thru sheer joy, within a couple of hours the bass was playing me!...
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 1828
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, September 12, 2014 - 10:58 pm:   Edit Post

It's not an Alembic per se, but it took years to get the magic to flow from my Starfire. Finally getting the SII electronics and pickups probably had a lot to do with it, but even long before that, all of a sudden it spoke, as if the voice had been rusty for a while.
Intermediate Member
Username: mtjam

Post Number: 199
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Saturday, September 13, 2014 - 4:52 am:   Edit Post

I struggled with my Series 2 for over a year. It had many buzzes past the 10th fret that I just couldn't get rid of. The bass did not play like what I would expect from any Alembic. In August, I took it to Philtone in Baltimore. Phil's Plek machine revealed that the fretboard was out of whack with hills and valleys, and that I needed a refret (which I planned on getting anyway).

Phil had my bass for a few weeks, and kindly dropped it off to me when he was passing through my town (saving me over from an hourlong drive). Now my Series is a joy to play, and lives up to my expectations. I have enjoyed playing it much more, and have used it on many of my gigs since the refret. I'm lovin' it!
Advanced Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 378
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Saturday, September 13, 2014 - 9:48 am:   Edit Post

That brings up a good point, how many older Basses are played that need this kind of work and some how we adjust ourselves to compensate. In a way your bass was screaming "Feed me Symore" and you had it repaired.
Should learn more on the tell tales signs that my Bass needs a fret job. So far I've survived, I think?
Intermediate Member
Username: mtjam

Post Number: 200
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2014 - 6:13 am:   Edit Post

That's the first instrument I've ever had refretted, and I am so glad I did it. Before that, I had a high fret, a fret with a sharp edge, and various buzzes on the E, D, and G strings. I experimented with different strings, truss rod adjustments, etc. but nothing helped. I have never attempted any kind of fretwork, so I knew I needed to get it checked out by a pro. Since I live thousands of miles from The Mothership, I decided to take it to Philtone. He put it on the Plek, and showed me the computer analysis of my frets and fretboard. I know that luthiers can do great fretwork without a Plek, but it was cool to see the comparison of my frets to what it should look like!

The refret really made a night and day difference in how my bass plays, and now it's ready to make beautiful music for many years to come.

Maybe next year, I'll get my Distillate checked out!
Username: coop

Post Number: 10
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2014 - 12:15 pm:   Edit Post

In my case, I think it was that my bass was waiting for me. I went through P Basses, MusicMan, and Warwick until I got the guts to go in and get what I had wanted since the 70's, an SCSD. For my hands, that neck is amazing and the tone is flexible and outrageous. Is it tougher to get accustomed to over a B/M/T configuration? Yes, but only if you close your mind that way. Treat it like an engineer would treat a two-band fixed-Q parametric and it makes perfect sense.

As far as feel, my playing has never been so effortless and alive. For my hands, the SCSD neck is almost perfect. Can't wait for my custom Rogue - with an SCSD-based neck in 32", Signature electronics, and a coopered back, it should be the bomb.
Advanced Member
Username: rjmsteel

Post Number: 232
Registered: 7-2008
Posted on Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 7:09 pm:   Edit Post

Distillate since 1981, Élan (6 String) since 1989, so the filter electronics have been utilized and understood.

Then I received my Series and it has taken me all of a good two years to be (almost) fully comfortable with her characteristics. This bass is entirely in a league of its own!
When you think you've got her figured out you are once again surprised to learn what sonic abilities are capable, (which when presented can make the operator nervous & even at times more confused).

However I am happy to report I seem to have a pretty good handle on my Series. As an example the way I'd been running my bass (sans filters) through my SF-2 I thought I had dialed up as much punchy bass as I could muster since my neck pup is 1.750" from the end of the fingerboard... wrong! More tweaking (improved learning curve) and well you get it.... Sounds at times like I'm playing the low B on my Élan...
and yes I own a pair of Magnaplaners!


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