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Senior Member
Username: glocke

Post Number: 974
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 7:46 am:   Edit Post

Was doing some web surfing a little while ago, and came across some old discussions on the Level42 boards…

Seems like quite a few guys over there claim that alembic basses they have owned were not conducive to being setup with light gauge strings for slapping…One guy said he went through 4 or 5 alembic basses and was not able to set any of them up with light gauge strings because the basses didn't have enough neck tension.

THoughts on this?
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 2067
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 11:37 am:   Edit Post

Ya think there's any fanboys on the L42 boards? MK has went through so many different basses, and I daresay if he was favoring his Alembics these days instead of this week' choice, they'd be all over those instead.

I'm always amused by the slapping posts along the lines of 'X-brand bass' fingerboard widths are too narrow', when Stanley Clarke wails on his SC's which are short-scaled with neck widths that would make a Ric seem like a 2x4. For me it's always the horse, not the course. Remember, any aerodynamic engineer will tell you it's impossible for a bee to fly.

Somebody forgot to tell the bee !

J o e y
Username: jos

Post Number: 69
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 12:45 pm:   Edit Post

Personally I think that Alembic is one of the few basses, if not the only bass where you can use light strings and get away with it! Stanly uses something like 30-90 but still sound fat when he plays in regular tuning. He is smart enough to split the signal and make sure that the low end is safe. In my opinion Mark King sounded the best when he did play the Alembic basses………or did you mean that the basses get “back bow” when using light strings?
Senior Member
Username: glocke

Post Number: 975
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 1:29 pm:   Edit Post

"or did you mean that the basses get “back bow” when using light strings?"

Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 3077
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 2:06 pm:   Edit Post

I am not a slapper but I use light gauge strings . I like to play bass chords from time to time. I have been using Dean Markley Blue Steel XL 40-95 # 2670 for years on various Alembic and Fender Bass's . I honestly can say that I have never had a "back bow "problem. The fact is when ever I have acquired a Bass I set the action ,intonation and truss rod and after the truss rod has settled I have very rarely even had to make any further adjustments afterward. I have had good results. I get plenty of well defined crisp growly bass . I like it. My Bass's sound great set up like this .(to my ears)
Username: jos

Post Number: 70
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Monday, October 28, 2013 - 9:33 am:   Edit Post

Yes I have some experience about the “back bow” when changing to lighter strings! This happens sometimes, not only with Alembics, but in general with basses that have Ebony fretboard! Rosewood is probably the safest wood to use for fretboards ….. but, I love the sound of the Ebony and have Ebony fretboard on most of my basses!
I use mostly 45-130 for 5 string basses and the Alembics have been OK with this. I think they are mostly set up for this gauges? I remember I have tried lighter strings like 40-125 on my basses and did get “back bow” the truss rods where all open so it was a bit painful….a friend of mine suggested to take it to service where they “heat” the neck and then bend it somehow…. Or something like that….. but I decided to do otherwise! I did raise the bridge, loosened the truss rod (they already where loose) tuned up the bass 11/2 step with regular strings 45-130 , so it was quite tight, and then let it be for a week! After that my bass worked with also lighter strings and no damage was done!
Senior Member
Username: hammer

Post Number: 424
Registered: 9-2009
Posted on Monday, October 28, 2013 - 10:20 am:   Edit Post

I'm not a technical person at all when it comes to this stuff, but would be interested in knowing how a thin fretboard (of ebony or any other wood) would contribute to back bow? Wouldn't the neck wood or combination neck sandwich (e.g., maple, mahogany, etc.) have a much greater impact on this than the fretboard?
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 3078
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, October 28, 2013 - 10:37 am:   Edit Post

Of course you are going to get a change in the neck position when you change to lighter strings abruptly , that is just the law of physics. It is also an indication of inexperience without ever having done that before.

In my 43 years of playing bass I have learned to be conservative with truss rod adjustments. I have made mistakes decades ago and they have been part of a good learning process. What I suggest in doing when deciding to a BIG change in string gauge is to some preemptive preparation for the tension change. With the heavy set of strings still on the instrument detune each string a half step each day over the course of a week . After three days you are going to get an idea what to expect and you can loosen the truss rod if necessary only a 1/4 of a turn the first day . Next it is important to carefully observe what the neck does. You can carefully ease your bass into getting use to a lighter set without any problems.

My point in my post #3077 is that once the neck has settled I have had no problems.
Username: jos

Post Number: 71
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Monday, October 28, 2013 - 11:02 am:   Edit Post

I am not a technical person either so it’s only my personal experience. I had basses with thinner and thicker Ebony fretboards and either way with “back bow”.
Some manufacturers put graphite on the sides of the truss rod to keep the neck stiff but in my experience that is not a good idea because it might cause a “bump” at the third fret. I seen it happen many times! Wood want to move but graphite wants to stay stiff so it’s a problem. I had discussions with people who manufacture graphite necks for basses and surprisingly only a few agree that graphite necks “moves”, they are not forever! They are much stiffer than wood necks but they needs to be taken care of too! I have seen from almost every brand graphite necks with serious “bow”! Some of them might have really light strings not to be discovered but please be careful with graphite necks!
I spoke with Geoff Gould (about 15 years ago) and he told me that he have never said to anyone that graphite necks are forever!
I must also say that I live in Finland where the summer can be +30C and winter -30C so its tuff for the instruments. If you live in California and only perform there then everything can be OK!.....and again, this is only my personal experience!!
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 2142
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 2:20 am:   Edit Post

Okay the only reason Mark King uses 90 gauge is that when he first started playing bass he was using a Gibson EB1(I think that is the model, the one that looks like a SG) and it had light gauge strings. Now he didn't have a clue about basses because he wantd a job in Macari's in London and he was a drummer so he blagged his way into a job telling them he was a bass player!. So all his basses have used 90 E string gauge 'cos a) he likes to bend them and b) he can do extremely fast slap solos. Alembic approached him back in 1987 when L42 were doing a gig supporting Steve Winwood and offered to build him a bass so he told them he used the light gauge strings hence his basses are all set up for that gauge(bridge slots, nut slots and neck tension. Mine MK is set up for either 105 or 100(which I use). I did put a set of 90's on it once and boy I could build a shed at 100mph but it just kept going out of tune and the strings would not secure in the nut and bridge.
So you can put light gauge on an Alembic or any other bass but you have to modify it to suit.
Hope this helps(almost anorak L42 fan since the band started out in 1980)
Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 1609
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 9:48 am:   Edit Post

EB-1 = violin shape.
EB-0 (1 p/up) & EB-3 (2 p/up) = SG shape (though early ones were LP Special double-cut shape)
EB-2 = 335 shape, 1 p/up; EB-2-D, 2 p/up.

And I can't see how a harder fingerboard (ebony) could cause/increase back bow.

Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 1646
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 10:49 pm:   Edit Post

The Alembics I've owned have both been very versatile in terms of string gauge. My standard gauge is 100-40 for a 4 string (120-30 for 6) for a long scale. I guess some would consider that light, but I don't think it's super light. 90 is definitely getting pretty thin, but I guess it works.

As far as ebony contributing more to back bow than other woods, I'm not sure I've experienced that, but I can see how a stiffer board might have a different dynamic at play, especially in relation to how much the rest of the neck might move due to temperature or humidity. I've even heard of luthiers dealing with neck issues by using wider or narrower fret tangs. Anything is possible.

I also know that graphite necks are not immovable. My Moduli both respond to differences in string tension, perhaps even more than my wood basses do. It's a bit frustrating and I will my Q6 TBX had a truss rod.
Advanced Member
Username: willie

Post Number: 226
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 6:50 am:   Edit Post

I am having a Mark King Deluxe bass built specifically for playing Marks style of playing. Medium scale with 90 70 50 30 gauge strings like Mark uses. To deal with the possibility of back bow, I had it built with a single dual action truss rod instead of 2 single action truss rods like most Alembics. That way I can adjust the neck to the extra light strings and avoid needing a heat bend.
Intermediate Member
Username: svlilioukalani

Post Number: 102
Registered: 6-2008
Posted on Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 8:01 am:   Edit Post

I just don't buy it. I have 4 Alembic basses. All set up with extra-light gage strings. All slap very well, with extremely low action.
Advanced Member
Username: hankster

Post Number: 345
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Friday, November 01, 2013 - 7:39 pm:   Edit Post

I have the perfect solution for setting up an Alembic for slapping - or any other style, for that matter.

Step 1: Take it out of the case.

Senior Member
Username: mario_farufyno

Post Number: 1014
Registered: 9-2008
Posted on Saturday, November 02, 2013 - 10:22 am:   Edit Post

This matter seems fairly simple, every time you change string gauge or height, you have to fine adjust your touch on strings. If strings are lighter or action was lowered compared to previous setup, we have to soften our way to hit the strings to prevent fret buzz (since tension is smaller now).

Also be sure checking neck relief to set the truss rod, in case of back bow (or excessive bow), since string tension will change too.
Intermediate Member
Username: musashi

Post Number: 197
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Saturday, November 02, 2013 - 3:55 pm:   Edit Post

Seems like folks are inventing problems where there are none. I have run .35 -.95 roundwound strings across LSB, MSB, and SSB Alembic Series I instruments and I have never had a problem-- not even when tuning down to C# on the short-scale. Alembics... ahem.... effin' Rock.
Senior Member
Username: bigbadbill

Post Number: 538
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Sunday, November 03, 2013 - 3:02 am:   Edit Post

It's not imagined. This is indeed an issue with many Alembics over here in the UK. I couldn't put anything less than 40-100 on my Triple O and I know of several other people who've had a similar issue; any lighter and it back bowed really badly. I believe Mica has responded to this in the past and it's something that has to be factored in at the factory.
Senior Member
Username: bigbadbill

Post Number: 540
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Sunday, November 03, 2013 - 4:25 am:   Edit Post

I'l add that in some cases it's been remedied with heat treatment, and in every instance we've been talking about brand new Alembics.

What I will say is that with the supplied 45 gauge strings my Triple O had the best set up I've ever seen.
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 3693
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Sunday, November 03, 2013 - 7:15 am:   Edit Post

bigbadbill, I had 45 to 105 on my elan 4 bass and that was choking the strings due to back bow. I tried another set of strings recommended by FC_Spoiler which were RCocco and they fixed the problem so they must be a higher tension string than the same gauge strings that were on the bass before. Just today I had to adjust my neck relief on another bass due to the strings choking out in a freezing cold rehearsal room.
I think I'm getting more confident with making my own neck adjustments now. :-)
Senior Member
Username: bigbadbill

Post Number: 541
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Sunday, November 03, 2013 - 9:21 am:   Edit Post

Hi Jazzy,

Obviously neck relief will need adjusting from time to time; it's been many years since trussrod adjustments phased me and some of the people I'm talking about were extremely experienced. In the instances I'm talking about there simply wasn't enough adjustment in the neck.

Maybe Mica could chime in and explain, as I believe she may have done before.

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