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Username: glocke

Post Number: 23
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 8:37 am:   Edit Post

Just out of curiosity, for those that have placed a custom order (esp. for basses), how did you go about making your decision as to model and scale length? I would love to place an order for a bass built the way I want it, but it seems to me there are alot of things to consider in terms of scale length, model, etc.
Senior Member
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1193
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 9:24 am:   Edit Post

If you've only played one scale length, then you might want to purchase a used bass in another scale length to see if you like it. Most of my basses are 34", but I do have one 32". They are significantly different; both have their advantages and disadvantages. I haven't owned a short scale 30.75" bass. If you aren't sure what scale length you want, then I think you might want to try playing each for a good while, maybe several months, before placing your order. I'm suggesting several months because that seems to be how long in took me to really appreciate the difference between 32" and 34".
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 678
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 9:36 am:   Edit Post

The short answer is you really have to strap them on to find out what scale length and body shape fits you the best. Since I'm not one for short answers, here's the rest of my thought...

I pretty much had to play them. I started wanting to get a custom back about eight months ago. At that point, I did two things. One, I started a search for used instruments that were in the ballpark of what I thought I wanted. Two, I went to the local and not-so-local dealers to put my hands on Alembics.

While there isn't an Alembic dealer on every street corner, hopefully there's one in your vicinity. I have no idea where you are located, but I can say that just about anyone in the US can afford a 3-4 day weekend trip to Florida. With airfares under $150 round trip, a getaway to Orlando puts you at Bass Central where they have a tremendous stock of new Alembics. I was fortunate to get down there, as well as have my company fly me to Seattle for a few days where I was able to stop in at Bass Northwest. Then, there's a trip to Santa Rosa to the factory itself, with another dealer down around San Jose somewhere. In short, if you can afford to spend the $5K+ you're likely to put into a custom Alembic, you can probably afford to spend a few hundred on a short vacation that will help you get it right.

In my search for used basses, I ended up buying a couple of older Alembics to play with for a bit. The first was a '90 Persuader five in medium scale. The second was an upgraded '82 Spoiler with new Signature electronics. I have enjoyed playing both of these instruments and expect that I will be able to sell them for what I paid once my custom order is delivered. Also, if you get really lucky with your used purchase, you may decide that you can be happy with it and save money over the custom route. Worst case, I figured I would eat a couple hundred dollars to buy and resell a bass that didn't quite fit me. Again, this is pretty cheap compared to what a mistake on a custom order would cost you.

Playing all these basses, here's are the opinions that I developed:

1. A 32" five string can sound great, though I believe that heavy neck woods are critical here.

2. I am faster, cleaner and more comfortable on a 32" than a 34". With four strings, a 30.75" is even better, though I wouldn't gofive strings at short scale.

3. The stock pickup position on an SC bass is pretty tight sounding, but moving the neck pickup closer to the neck warms it up.

4. Even the most simple electronics package with a filter has amazing tone shaping possibilities.

5. I prefer vol/vol to vol/pan. I have no idea why.

6. The regular string spacing on a Signature bass is too wide for me on a 30.75" scale, but it's okay on a longer scale. Also, spacing that felt too wide became comfortable with more play time.

7. 10 year old basses with brass hardware look a bit beat if not well cared for.

So, what does this mean in terms of custom options:

1. I wouldn't consider a bass that doesn't at least have Purpleheart neck laminates.

2. Body shape, scale length and neck dimensions are personal things. No one else can tell you what you will feel comfortable with. You can try to guess as a comparison to basses you have played, or you can seek out things closer to what you think you want.

3. I would pay the extra for plated hardware. If you're planning on having the bass a long time, it will stay nicer looking down the road. You won't get your money back on it if you sell it soon, though.

4. Everyone who has LEDs loves them. Maybe it matters, maybe it doesn't, but I was swayed.

You're going to be spending a lot on an instrument to custom order. If you're not doing it to own for life, you probably shouldn't do it. If you are, then get the cosmetic options that will please you. A few hundred extra to make the bass more special to you will be worth it over 20+ years.

All this is my personal opinion, certainly there are others who will disagree with things I have written above.

Good luck-

Username: glocke

Post Number: 24
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 10:15 am:   Edit Post

Thanks for the replies...I do have a Series 1, not sure of the scale length (it just seems really big). At first it was a little hard to get used to the size, but after playing it for awhile I am used to it, but the bass does still seem big, especially coming from Fender Jazz basses.

I have a 64 jazz bass that has a neck that just seems right to me. Could I get a bass from Alembic based on those neck dimensions?

Also, a trip to florida does sound good...i could definitle swing that...
Advanced Member
Username: flaxattack

Post Number: 313
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 10:33 am:   Edit Post

yes you are correct. there are tons of decisions to be made.
firstly , i strongly recommend speaking with val or mica.
as bsee said- its a process. i began thinking about my custom in july last year and did not place an order until end of september. and even then i made some significant changes ( body woods and lams) AFTER i placed the order.
Think of this as the ultimate bowling ball. I customized the string spacing as i have short fingers went to a 32" scale, which i have never played, the width of the neck, the back of the neck shape.
another strong recomendation is to find yourself a good dealer to work through. I love steve from superbass. he is a bass player and this is all he sells.He gave me some great advice
Senior Member
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1194
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 11:24 am:   Edit Post

Measure the distance from the nut to the 12th fret in inches, then multiply that number by 2; this gives you the scale length. If it's 17 inches, then it's a 34" long scale; 16" - 32" medium scale; 15 3/8" - 30 3/4 short scale.

And yes, you can have Alembic make a custom neck to the dimensions you specify.

"Ultimate bowling ball" ???!!!
Senior Member
Username: palembic

Post Number: 1874
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 11:35 am:   Edit Post

I am not sure of this but i THINK Brother Roger (the one with the dragon) had this made with the neck-specs of his Rickenbacker 4001.
I remember even there are some JAzz-bass necks already around.

Paul the bad one
Advanced Member
Username: flaxattack

Post Number: 314
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 11:46 am:   Edit Post

yes the ultimate bowling bowl
its drilled to your fingers... the weight is balanced to the type of ball one throws
front end hook, back end hook....spacing- type of ball composition- ok it isnt the best analogy but it works
ever bowl dave? lmao
mica knows what i mean
Senior Member
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1196
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 12:12 pm:   Edit Post

No, I'm not a bowler; I'll have to take your word for it!
Advanced Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 250
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 12:32 pm:   Edit Post

O.K., I'll bite. Why measure from the nut to the 12th fret and then double it? I always thought you measure scale length by measuring nut to bridge, I mean this is the same thing, right? Of course you could measure nut to bridge, double it, and then divide by 2, or nut to 12th fret + bridge to 12th fret. And do any of these take into account the rotation of the earth and the hemisphere in which the instrument is being measured? Do you measure nut to bridge above the equator, but bridge to nut below the equator? (Like water circling clockwise vs. counter clockwise in the drain as you move across the equator). The possiblities are endless, the mind boggles!!!! LOL

Bill, tgo

Username: tom_z

Post Number: 95
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 12:43 pm:   Edit Post

Yes Bill - but how do I measure the scale length of a bowling ball??
Senior Member
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1197
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 12:56 pm:   Edit Post

I think it has to do with the fact that the distance to the 12th fret can be precisely measured as one half of the scale length; whereas when you measure to the bridge, there isn't any point on the bridge that equals the scale length, unless the intonation for your set of strings puts one of the saddles there. That's my guess anyway.
Senior Member
Username: hollis

Post Number: 585
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 12:57 pm:   Edit Post


Man, you musta put a little extra sugar in your Wheaties this morning! You’ve had me laughing out loud all morning.

Username: beelee

Post Number: 15
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 4:24 pm:   Edit Post

Dave the bowling ball one is correct .....Scale length is determined by measuring from the fingerboard side of the nut to the center of the 12th fret wire ( in inches) and then multipling the total by 2, most of my basses are 34 scale as well, I also have a 35 scale fretless 6 string bass, there are alot of choices, Val is very helpful, you can also look through the featured custom archive to get some ideas, it really comes down to how much you can afford to spend and personal choices, I have a used Alembic Series I /SII elec. 5 string, and I put in an order for a new Alembic 6 string bass (its over the top !!) it will be my first totally custom instrument and I plan on keeping it till I am no longer able to play, everybody here has given you great advice, I usually like to try an instrument before I buy it, but something as high end as an Alembic, I don't think you would ever be disapointed, I got my SI 5 without playing it first and I'm more than happy with it. best wishes and good luck to you.
Username: glocke

Post Number: 25
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 6:18 am:   Edit Post

Ok...very helpful. Looks like mine is 34" in length. At first I thought it was impossibly large for my small hands, but I think I have "grown into it". I guess I need to just keep playing this one and maybe try and pick up a shorter scale bass and see how that works. MAybe a SC would be a good choice.

So many decisions, so many basses!
Senior Member
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1212
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 7:06 am:   Edit Post

Glocke; another thing to consider. The distance to that first fret is significantly affected by the body style. With a standard point body the first fret is further away than with say a Rogue body.
Username: byoung

Post Number: 1
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 6:35 pm:   Edit Post

Going back to the original question (scale and model), here's how I chose:

1) The scale length was simple for me, I already play a 34" scale and like it.
2) The model choice was simple, too:

It had to be coco bolo, so the most affordable option was a Mark King Signature Deluxe.

As to all the other stuff (bookmatching, carved headstock, gold hardware, etc), I basically spent way too much time surfing the Factory to Customer threads on the Alembic Club. This gave me good ideas about what I really *needed* to have (coco bolo, ebony lams) and some nuce stuff, too (like the carved headstock, that I'd've never thought of on my own).

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