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Username: jtussing

Post Number: 7
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 5:56 am:   Edit Post

Hi all! New here and have my first Alembic (MK-5 Deluxe) on order. Thanks to all for the warm welcomes I've already received.

I play fusion, funk and rock and plan on using my Alembic for most things but will keep my Fender Jazz 5-string (which has been pimped out with EMG's) in order to get the dirty J-bass sound, which it captures SUPERBLY and which I don't expect an Alembic to duplicate.

Which brings me finally to my question: The necks on Alembic MK's, especially the classic taper, are radically different than my J-bass. I'm torn between making the Alembic neck width and feel closely match my Fender in order to minimize the discomfort and misfires (Mica's word, love it) of switching between basses during a gig; and letting the Alembic be what it is and simply learning to play it, which favors the clear preference that dedicated Alembic players have for the narrowness in the upper registers.

Anyone out there want to share how they approached this?

Senior Member
Username: dannobasso

Post Number: 431
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 6:08 am:   Edit Post

I have all kinds of neck profiles on my Alembics. I just try to roate them in my practice and get to where I can play anything that I put my hands on.
Username: 5stringho

Post Number: 59
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 6:11 am:   Edit Post


It's your bass, you're gonna be playing it for the rest of your life, and you can get EXACTLY what you want!
Alembic has their "standard" sizes, which may or may not be right for YOU! If you love your jazz and are truly comfortable with the neck, and your muscle memory is accustomed to that neck, get your dial calipers out, make some measurements, and go for it! Mica can help you with this process.
I MAY be in close to the same situation as you (SHHHHHHHHH!), and I may be getting an MK5 done with the neck specs of my beloved MusicMan Stingray 5, which is 1/4" thinner at the nut and 1/2' wider at the bridge than a "Standard" MK neck. I may widen the nut a tad, and narrow the bridge a bit, but, it will be right for ME.
That's the great thing about Alembic. You can get what YOU want, what is right for YOU! Call Mica. she can give you the best insights and suggestions. She's pretty familiar with situations such as yours.
Congrats on the new MK Dlx., have fun and good luck!
The 'Ho
Senior Member
Username: olieoliver

Post Number: 1037
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 6:30 am:   Edit Post

Hi Jim and congrats on the MK-5.
All my Alembics have different necks and I like them all. My first real bass was a 76 Jazz so I really like a narrow at the nut and wide at the bridge neck. But I don't really have any problems playing a straighter neck.
I do wonder though how much the tone of your MK will change when the neck shape is altered. I would assume any time you change the wood size and shape it would in turn change the tone.
Something to think about.

Peace, Olie
Username: jtussing

Post Number: 8
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 7:11 am:   Edit Post

Man, you Alembicheads are responsive! Thx for the great thoughts! I will definitely be speaking with Mica and will discuss the tonal characteristic impacts this decision might have - actually never thought of that so thanks for the great catch! I want this to sound like an Alembic first and foremost.

Ho, yep, I get you exactly on the neck being whatever I want - hence the problem (I'm asking for more expert advice on what I SHOULD want). But it is a great problem to have!

I'm encouraged to hear that it is possible to switch between necks with practice but am not sure how important the narrow strings are to developing certain techniques. It's kind of like golf clubs - any basic set will get you 80% of the way there but at a certain skill level they must be altered to allow you to exploit the skills you're developing. Not that I'm there, but I want this bass to do everything I need if/when I am there.

You know, there has to be some way of building a model that says something like this: Measure your hands in 10 ways, select the target playing style (speed slap, funk, speed finger, smooth, whatever...) and out pops a neck that just makes you want to take it to bed with you...

Anyway, just rambling! Thanks again!
Username: u14steelgtr

Post Number: 40
Registered: 7-2003
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 8:42 am:   Edit Post

Some thoughts a.k.a. my two cents. Addressing the bass-ics of design...

The reason to have a nut which is narrower than the bridge is ergonomics. The following descriptions are deliberately over-simplified and are intended to convey only concepts.

When you are fretting near the nut and your fretting hand is further from your torso than it would be if you were playing further up the neck the positions which your wrist can easily assume are more limited and a closer-together string-spacing makes it easier to play.

The arc of a strings vibration is greater at the mid-point between the nut ant the bridge than it is toward the nut and bridge. Nominally the lower the note/frequency is; the greater the arc of a strings vibration. So to keep the strings from coliding with each other one builds the instrument with a bridge that spaces the strings far enough apart that the strings do not collide.

The string spacing at the nut and bridge is a compromise which is derived from a lot of factors including:
* how much joint articulation we can comfortably realize
* hand size
* fingertip size
* finger length
* string vibrational arc
* personal preference
* what we are used to (whether or not it is truly idea for you)
* scale length plays a small role too

So a mandolin which has a very small vibrational string arc could theoretically have a neck that was 5/8" wide and the strings would not collide with each other when they vibrated. However we build the necks wider so our fingertips will collide with each other less than they would if the neck were 5/8" wide.

On a side note you might want to think about how much if-any spiral-twist you want the neck to have (do I have your attention now?). I have a 6-string where the entire length of body and neck are built with a substantial twist to reduce wrist-strain when one is playing closer to the nut. I will include a picture of it here and you can see better (larger & clearer) pictures of it at:
This twisted configuration really works (for me). It is probably not something that you are currently used to (or at least not as a desirable attribute).

The above mentioned suggestion of having multiple profiles and rotating them is great. I like to play everything that I have a chance to try out (from the best to the worst). Sometimes playing the worst of instruments enhances our clarity about what we do not want EVER!

I hope this helps and contributes to your ordering what is and will continue to be ideal for you (even if it is not what you are accustomed to currently).

-- Eugene
Burrell top
Burrell back

(Message edited by u14steelgtr on December 29, 2006)
Advanced Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 285
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 10:48 am:   Edit Post

Wow Eugene, that's a pretty cool/freaky guitar! I love it, thanks for sharing the picture.

As far as string spacing goes, I surely cannot say (of course) what's best for you; but I have an 8-String Alembic with a wide neck; a Les Paul; a classical guitar; and an electric 5-string mandolin. And I just don't have trouble switching between them. If I'm playing one of these instruments, and I put it down and pick up another, it doesn't confuse my fingers at all.

To me, it's just like my bikes. At one point, I had a short-wheelbase recumbent, a long-wheelbase recumbent, a mountain bike, a cross bike, and a race bike. They all handled differently, but going from one to another was never an issue for me.

My experience would suggest getting the neck specs you want for THIS bass -whatever they are.

Of course, this is based on my experience, and the fact that switching between instruments doesn't/hasn't posed any problem/challenge for me. Apparently it does/has for some people.

So that might be an important thing to consider/establish. Ideally, if you could borrow another bass with different string spacing and log in some time practicing/playing/switching... it would likely give you valuable information/perspective on this issue.

Good luck with your custom order! They've started mine right now, and it's pretty freaking exciting!
Username: hifiguy

Post Number: 60
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 4:48 pm:   Edit Post

It's partly a question of what you've been playing previously and for how long. I played a Ricky 4001 pickstyle from '73 to '92, when I switched to playing a Jazz and a Warwick Corvette fingerstyle (I discovered Jaco late in my bass-playing life). Now I play my SCStd both fingerstyle and with a pick. The hardest thing for me in recently switching to the Alembic virtually full time was learning how to slap on it. The string spacing made a huge difference and I had to work hard to get used to the narrowness after the big, wide Warwick and Fender. Now my biggest problem is re-acclimating to the Fender's 34" scale on the few occasions when I have to have that barky, slightly out of focus J-bass sound.

Definitely talk to Mica (she's such a sweetheart) and mull it over together. She is truly the Font of Alembic Wisdom. If you decide to change the neck dimensions or opt for the comfort taper there's no extra charge.

Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1101
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 5:34 pm:   Edit Post

I play five 5-strings and the necks vary somewhat. They vary from VERY narrow to one with a contemporary WIDE spacing. I generally work through the rotation and play them all on gigs over the course of a month or two. And I do this without ever thinking twice, my hands know all of them. My two cents?

I LIKE the necks on all of them. They all fall into the 'flattened C-shape' profile, which is my preference. Think classical guitar neck. Really 'round' neck profiles like a 4-string Jazz, are NOT my thing. Actually, I'm lucky in that the ALEMBIC 'classic taper' suits me to a T. The others are different but fine. I also do my own setups, so I eliminate any of those problems, they almost play themselves.

So I'd say any neck you LIKE will be fine, you shouldn't have any problems going back and forth. If it just feels wrong, you're gonna fight it, and just will never be at home on it.

Most fives are going to be flatter than rounder, so thought the fingerboard widths, neck thickness, etc. will be different, I don't think you'll see a huge difference.

But if you're ordering it, get what you want. The whole idea is you're NOT buying 'off the rack', but the axe is being fabricated for YOU.

Besides, the fun is that it's always going to be different than what you imagine to some degree, and that newness is the buzz of recieiving your new axe.

J o e y
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 1939
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 6:15 pm:   Edit Post


Welcome to the club and congrats on your order. As many here know, I have numerous guitars. When I ordered my almost finished custom Further, I tried out many necks and realized my favorite was my '61 Strat which was my number one player for the better part of 25 years. I brought it up to Santa Rosa and had them copy the neck. I've held my under-construction Further many times and I'm very happy with the neck. I say, if you can get whatever you want, get what you like.

Bill, the guitar one.
Username: jtussing

Post Number: 9
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2006 - 6:42 pm:   Edit Post

Hey all,

I can't thank all and each of you enough for the time you have taken and the wisdom you have given. I feel as though I've just joined a family I've always had. Thank you all.

I'm working on the final specs with Valentino and have basically settled on a blend between my J-bass and the classic taper, keeping the J-bass nut width but reducing the bridge width somewhat so that the upper frets will feel more like an Alembic and the lower will be more familiar to me. The final numbers are still being worked on and when they are properly distilled (pun intended) I'll happily share them with you all as well as the results.

Thanks again for all the kind and wise words, friends.

- Jim

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