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Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 188
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Friday, October 20, 2006 - 2:08 pm:   Edit Post

Fellow Alembic Club members: I plan to order my 2cnd custom Alembic within the next 12 months, possibly as early as when Susan gets back to me with a quote.

I would very much appreciate it if fellow club members could share some info/opinions/experiences with me, especially with regards to some specific issues/questions.

I'm fairly knowledgeable about Alembics in in general, and have a pretty clear idea already about what I'm ordering. But there are a couple of important and significant details that I'm not clear on yet... and THESE are the things I'd like some thoughts/advice/opinions on.

For starters, the bass will be a replacement for my stolen quilted maple Elan-Plus 6-string bass, and my custom 8-string Europa, "8 Strings of Power" (COTM June '99). While I would LOVE the Balance K Omega body, I'll probably settle for either the Europa or Elan body -probably Europa.

I'm set on using Alembics preferred "house recipe"... I'm getting a coco bolo top over a mahogany body... Mica agreed that this is a good combination in general and that it would be good for me too, as it would be a different and contrasting sound from the fundamentally ebony/maple sound of "8 Strings of Power."

I also know that my neck will have mahogany, maple, and ebony in it. I'm going to only spec two laminates of ebony, as Mica tells me that 1 or 2 laminates are sufficient to provide most of the sound you'd get with every other lam being ebony -but with less weight... and cost.

And I'm going to get Europa electronics, with an added mid-range switch, and either a 3 or 4 position Q switch.

The MAIN questions that I want to ask club members pertain to TWO issues:

(1) Issues pertaining to the benefits of adding back laminates; and

(2) Issues pertaining to performance of the B string -on an ebony-fortified neck- AS A FUNCTION OF SCALE LENGTH.

(1) Posts I've read on this site indicate that at least several club members seem to believe that adding back laminates tends to improve the sound. Is this so? Could I get confirmation, testimonials? What I've read indicates that people feel back laminates improve the sound quite simply by increasing richness -by adding the additional "flavor" of whatever wood is put on the back. I spoke to Bill at Alembic, who suggested that perhaps increased stiffness from the additional laminates was at least partially responsible...? I've read several posts from club members who say that otherwise similar Alembics with front AND back laminates sound even more awesome than those with ONLY front laminates.

Let me tell you what I'm tentatively planning/considering, so you can comment on that.

As a backup plan, I could always put either coco bolo, rosewood, or tulipwood on the back. If I go this way, I'd prefer tulipwood for (color) contrast, and because I'd prefer for the back to be a little less fancy than the front. But I'm REALLY trying to keep costs down... I may not be able to afford back lams at all... so, if I do get them, as I'd like to, my preference would be to use one of the "standard" (as in, "no extra charge") woods... something that would be complimentary with the coco bolo... something which would hopefully enhance/compliment... but at least not take away from/negate... the coco bolo sound.

As I understand it, the current "standard" woods are: birds-eye maple, flame maple, zebrawood, wenge, walnut, vermillion, purpleheart and bubinga.

What I'm currently considering, and would especially like thoughts/opinions on is this:

Coco Bolo top over HOLLOW(ED) mahogany body, BUBINGA back, and 1/8th inch SINGLE walnut accent lams on front and back.

I've never played or heard (to my knowledge) a bubinga bass, but I've heard it being described as having pronounced full lows and snappy clear highs -similar to the description of coco bolo. Are there any members who have experience with colo bolo and bubinga, and who can comment on their similarities and compatibilities?

If bubinga wouldn't work for some reason, which of the others might be good/bad?

I pretty much dismiss zebrawood and purpleheart from consideration. I love the look of both of them -but I can't see them fitting in harmoniously with the look of this bass. I'd also pretty much dismiss flame maple just because my 8-string is made of it, and I'd want something different, so if I did get a maple back laminate, it would be birdseye -by process of elimination. And I'd like to use walnut for the pinstripes... spec'ing 1/8th pinstripes on either side would be like having a 3rd 1/4 inch laminate... and I'm specifically interested in the walnut pinstripes because Alembic says that walnut sounds very close to mahogany... BUT has a "fast attack" quality. I think a LITTLE of this would be nice.

If this recipe isn't good for some reason, I could always fall back on birdeye maple for the back, with the standard purpleheart & maple accent lams. But what about wenge? I once read somewhere (and it was only one opinion) that wenge supposedly DAMPENED certain frequencies... the opinion wasn't favorable of wenge as a tone wood. Any thoughts/opinions on this?

(2) The second issue, again, pertains to scale length, and the performance of the low B string.

My old Elan 6-string was a great bass, but frankly, the B string didn't seem anything special to me (it was standard 34 inch long scale). My custom Europa 8-string was thus ordered with an EXTRA LONG (35 inch) scale... and the difference is STAGGERING... but of course, there are two variables here. Mica has told me HER EARS hear differences in MATERIALS in the neck much more than scale length... that HER EARS hear the difference between ebony vs lack of ebony in the neck much more than scale length. I tend to think that BOTH the added scale length AND the ebony in my neck contribute to the difference.

I've got my heart set on a MEDIUM LONG (33 inch) scale for this bass. Mica feels confident about the sound the standard 32 inch medium scale ebony-fortified basses deliver... but has also said she doesn't hear the low B very well or use a B string on her bass. Are there any members here who have both long scale AND medium scale basses WITH EBONY in the neck, and who have experience with them? If so, I'd really appreciate your thoughts/experience on this.

My concern is in the CLARITY of the notes on the B string -especially those below the low E. Almost all B strings I hear -even on good quality basses with 34 inch scales- tend to sound muddy and unclear. But the B string on my Europa -with the ebony in the neck and the extra inch in the scale- sounds crystal clear. You can hear the notes just as clear as can be...

I'd really like to get the shorter MEDIUM LONG scale for this bass. I'm used to the extra long scale, and while I'm pretty adept at it, it's a big ol' bear, and I just know I'd totally rip on a medium long scale. Between playing long scale all my life, and getting an extra long scale that I'm now used to, it would be like switching to the moons' lower gravity for me.

My only concern is the clarity of the notes on the B. Hopefully, the 2 ebony laminates in my neck will improve the sound satisfactorily.

But I've wondered about the idea of having a REVERSE in-line peghead... as a method of increasing the "length" of the lower strings. My understanding is that the increased length of the string (of longer scale lengths) (and related issues pertaining to the physics of music, and the nuances of vibrating strings) account for the improved sound. I'm not an expert, but I'm more knowledgable than the average bear, and my understanding indicates that doing this... having a reverse peghead to lengthen the string from tuning peg to bridge... would improve the clarity. BUT another club member once disputed this when I suggested it to someone else, claiming something to the effect that only the "speaking length" of the string matters. Is this so? It seems counter-intuitive. Imagine 3 basses that are identical in every respect but one. Bass A is a true extra long scale bass, 35 inches of string from nut to bridge -with a cone head. Bass B is standard 34 inch long scale -with a cone head. Bass C is also standard long scale, BUT has a reverse in-line peghead that adds a couple of more inches to the length of the B string from tuning peg to bridge.

Now, my understanding is that the whole reason the longer scale length sounds clearer/better is due to increased tension on the string; shorter scale lengths result in floppy strings, and the longer the scale length, the tighter/less floppy the strings become.

If this is so, it doesn't seem the the "speaking length" of the string should be relevent. For example, if I were to fret the 1st fret of the B string on Bass C, it seems self-evident that the B string of bass C would have the greatest length and tension, and would simply be equivent to playing a slightly higher fret on an even longer scale bass. Am I missing something? Is my reasoning flawed in some way? Imagine we removed the nut all together (of Bass C) and put extra frets ON THE HEADSTOCK right up to the tuning pegs. So now, Bass C is actually the equivelent of roughly a 36 or 37 inch scale, and the 1st fret is now the 3rd or 4th fret. (I'm obviously not really proposing this, it's just to explain my thought process). So now, when I fret the (normal/proper) 1st fret, it's just like playing the 3rd or 4th fret of a 36 or 37 inch scale bass, RIGHT? What would be the difference? I can't see any reason why there would be a difference. And if not, then when we "magically" put the nut back, the whole "speaking length of the string" viewpoint would seem to collapse. The nut would be just like "fretting". In fact, it seems like a capo.

If a 35 inch bass DOES sound better than a 34 (on the B string specifically), putting a capo on the 1st fret shouldn't make it sound any less good/less "extra long" any more than fretting any fret. If the tension on the string resulting from its length affects the clarity of the B string, it seems like the tension would have to be a function of the distance from the bridge/tailpiece to the tuning peg, and the nut would be no more relevant than fretting the 12th fret -which functionally cuts the string in half, but DOES NOT suddenly cut the scale length in half, making the notes floppy and unclear.

So... can anyone explain this/offer opinions on this?

Aethetically, I prefer the cone headstock... and it would also clearly seem the best for string options... I should be able to use standard long scale 6-string sets with no problem. And a reverse headstock would likely limit string options, possibly even requiring custom strings, which of course would be a downside.

So in fact, if I'm wrong and it makes no difference, then sticking with the standard cone headstock would be the way to go... although, depending on what people think, I might go up to stand 34 inch long scale... but I'd really like to get the medium long scale.

Okay, I know this was long and detailed, but since I'm asking for help, I want to make my thoughts as clears as possible, for the benefit of any who respond! Thanks in advance, fellow club members!

Mark, the "8-String King"


(Message edited by the 8 string king on October 20, 2006)

(Message edited by the 8 string king on October 20, 2006)

(Message edited by the 8 string king on October 20, 2006)
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1354
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, October 20, 2006 - 10:36 pm:   Edit Post

Wow - very theoretical questions. Here goes...

1. Wood recipe / back lams / ebony in the neck / scale length: I have had my SC for about three months now. It is vermillion core with cocobolo top and back. The "aesthetic" laminates between core and top/back are 1/8" purpleheart sandiched between maple veneers. The neck is ebony in the middle with maple/purpleheart/maple going out each side. The report on tone was that this recipe "did not sound like a short scale". I agree.

From this information, I can suggest that a single ebony lam is enough to nail down the fundamental and add clarity. I suspect that the cost of one extra ebony neck lam is about the cost of adding a standard backplate, if not greater.

In terms of weight, I have an 11.5 pound short scale bass. It appears that the gold plated brass plates add most of a pound and I am told that the single ebony neck stringer adds a pound over the weight of a purpleheart stringer. Be careful or you may end up with a 15 pounder...

In terms of intermediate laminates, I suspect that the maple/ph/maple between core and top/back is quite stiff compared to any single layer. It's hard to say what the impact is, but I would guess that the stiffer this layer is, the less the actual top/back lams matter. Scientifically, I would think that stiffer and denser is better if your goal is clarity.

2. With regard to scale length: Since you already have a great bass for this, tune your B string down to Ab. That will put the B at the first fret. Play this B note and compare it to the open B before you tuned down. The first fret B would approximate a 33" scale instrument. If this still sounds good to you, tune down another half step. The B at the second fret will approximate a 31.25" scale instrument. Since you're interested in making a 33" scale bass, the first test should be enough to convince you one way or the other. At least, assuming you intend to use the same strings you're using now...

2a. With regard to peghead styles: I believe I would have been one of those who would doubt any benefit from adding to the non-speaking length of the string. I don't believe you get any additional tension from having a longer distance from nut to tuning peg. The thing you appear to be missing in your 35 vs. 34 B string question is that the note is changing as you fret up the neck. In that case, there is no change in scale and no change in feel/tone. If you put the LOW B at the 12th fret, effectively cutting the scale length in half, I assure you that no amount of distance to the tuning peg is going to help that string sound tight. A 36" scale bass tuned down a half step would have about the same string tension as a 34" bass tuned normally or a 32" bass tuned up a half step.

Make sense?

Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 725
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2006 - 12:22 am:   Edit Post

(While I was writing this, Bob/bsee posted his comments. I completely agree with his thoughts and advice, but I'm going to post my more exhaustive discussion on the peghead style issue anyway, in hopes that we may finally lay this to rest.)

About all I can really address is the speaking length issue (I've only ever had one Alembic, and never played others more than a few minutes at a time).

This is going to be a bit hard to explain, especially after the next glass of wine... so let me get a few things out of the way before I forget.

- Yes, I am absolutely convinced, especially after fooling with a spreadsheet (again) for an hour or so, that the speaking length "theory" is in fact correct.

You may prefer the look of a reversed peghead; you may even convince yourself that it will somehow improve the tone, and (I'm not joking here) end up getting better sound out of it... or at least believing that you do. But it will not be because of the physics :-)

- Yes, I am aware that some people claim Hendrix played upside down because of the peghead effect on tension (in his case, perhaps to loosen the high E rather than tension the low?). While I believe he was an absolute genius on guitar, I don't think anyone ever accused him (or the people who make such claims) of being a brilliant physicist.

- Assuming you go with a 33" scale, do you intend to use 32 or 34" strings on this? Unless you plan to fool around with custom gauges, this is a fairly important factor. If you put 34's on a 33, they'll be looser than on a 34; 32's will be tighter. I think it is *really* important that you think about this up front. You can have a bass built any length you want, at no extra charge within reason, but getting custom strings is a completely different story.

- I recall a fairly interesting discussion about laminate complexity and combinations a few years back, which you could probably turn up by searching on "hippie sandwich". Without any practical experience to back it up, my gut feeling is that by the time you have a mahogany core with coco bolo top, and a nice set of neck laminates (as you propose), I suspect you can pretty much treat the back laminate and accent layers as decoration.

Again, with no real experience to base this on, if you want the most benefit from the front coco bolo, I would be careful not to interpose too many, or thick, accent layers (plus the glue that goes with them). And if you want some combination of different factors, I sort of feel like you'd have a better chance of accomplishing that with different wood for the front and back, rather than sticking laminates between the core and outer laminates.

But I really don't know.

- Though somewhat off-topic, while looking for the fret spacing formula I stumbled onto a site that might be of more general interest:

Haven't tried out the applets yet, but the discussion of overtones, and in particular how they are affected by plucking at different positions, is one of the clearest that I've seen so far.

Now it gets ugly. I will eventually address the "capo theory", which I agree has an intuitive appeal, but I believe it is flawed and it will take a while to demonstrate.

For those who believe in the speaking length theory, the magic formula is this:

T = 4 x (FxF) x L x M / 980621


T = tension in kilograms
F = frequency in Hz
L = length in cm
M = mass of length L in grams

(I've offered a reference for this before, perhaps in my first ever post, but I'm not going to waste my limited energy looking it up right now.)

For the moment, let's just assume this applies to the open string frequency F, such that L is the distance between nut and bridge. And to keep things (relatively) short, let's consider a low B string, with a frequency of 30.868 Hz.

We know F and L, but T and M can be a bit of a problem - unless we happen to have a string for which we know one or the other. So I chose to use a set of TI Jazz Flats as an example, specifically the JF345 set, 34" scale with a low B of .136 gauge, which has a specified tension of 15.8 kp (assuming it is used on a 34" scale and tuned to low B).

(By the way, "kp" seems to mean "kilopond", which has no "U" in it so do not confuse it with pounds. I'm a little unclear on the precise conversion factor, but you can at least get really close by thinking of 1 kp as 1 kilogram as 2.2 lbs of tension. I'm going to do everything below with metric units, just because they're better.)

With a little algebraic rearrangement, we can say that:

M = 980621 * T / (4 * F*F * L),

and substituting the values for the TI low B we get:

M = 980621 * 15.8 / (4 * 30.868*30.868 * 86.36)
M = 47.07 grams, for the speaking length of the string

As a sanity check, I weighed a brand new one, still in the paper envelope and untrimmed, and it was 62 grams. Considering how much I would need to cut off, plus the amount beyond the nut, we're in the right ballpark. As we go on, it becomes useful to know the weight per centimeter, which is 0.545 grams (divide by 86.36 cm = 34").

For those of you following along at home with your own spreadsheets, a good warm up exercise might be to see what happens to the tension, if we use this same string, tuned to the same pitch, on scale lengths of 33, 34, and 35 inches. Using the first formula I mentioned above, to solve for T, I come up with tensions of 14.88, 15.80, and 16.74 kp, respectively. In other words, same string and pitch, is looser on a shorter scale, and tighter on a longer scale. I don't think we have any arguments so far, right?

It's also somewhat interesting to see what happens if for some reason we wanted to keep the tension the same. Rearranging again, and eventually taking the square root to get just F itself,

FxF = (980621 * T) / (4 * L * M)

To keep the tension at a constant 15.8 (nominal for the 34" scale), we end up with a frequency of 31.803 on the 33" scale, or 29.986 on the 35". In other words, same string, same tension, on a shorter scale yields a higher pitch. This is consistent with the results above - to use the string on a shorter scale, we would have to tune it down a little, thereby reducing the tension - same string and pitch on a shorter scale is looser.

One last point before getting into the capo theory... so far, all of this discussion assumes we only care about the speaking length, and we have only been talking about playing the open string. So what happens if we play fretted notes?

I'm going to simply state as fact that within the speaking length, the tension is the same at any point on the string, and further, that simply fretting the string (assuming reasonably low action) will not significantly change the tension or effective length. True, you will ever so slightly stretch the string, and make it a tad bit longer, but we would be out at least a few decimal places in overall effect.

To use the simplest example, if you play a note at the 12th fret, then you reduce the length and mass of the remaining speaking length, each by half. Since tension remains the same, you must therefore increase (FxF) by a factor of four, which is the same as doubling the frequency. One octave doubles the frequency, so it works.

(I sure hope someone takes the time to check me on this stuff, because I'm at a point where I could easily make a typo or accidentally state something backwards...)

Okay... let's play the peghead game.

First, assume the bridge and whatever string length extends beyond it doesn't matter. We have some wonderful bridge design that locks the strings right at the bridge saddles, and can ignore any length or potential stretch beyond that.

Next, we are using exactly the same string we have been discussing so far. However, we now eliminate the nut, and just extend the fretboard up to the tuner (okay, the open string isn't going to sound very good, but just "play along").

Here's the thought experiment, and the resulting numbers. Let's pretend we want to build a really long neck, so we can get some extra tension on the strings, and then put a capo on it where the nut would normally be. To emphasize the distance between tuner and nut, let's make it so that if we considered the full length from tuner to bridge, we would be placing the capo (nut) at the 5th fret.

If we build an instrument in which the 5th fret is 33" from the bridge (to go with the proposed design), the formula for fret spacing (look it up) says that we would need the nut to be at 44" (more than an upright!). That's slightly approximated, and the 5th fret would actually be at 32.957", but close enough, eh?

Now somewhere in here is where the confusion arises, I think. We want the note at this capo/nut position to still be a low B. That means we have to tune the open string 5 half steps lower, to an F# at 23.1245 Hz.

Take a frequency of 23.1245, scale length of 44" (convert to cm), grams per cm as specified above, plug them into the formula... and you come up with a tension of 14.85 kp.

That's the tension of this string, if we tune it straight from the tuner to the bridge over a distance of 44", such that we can get a low B at the equivalent of the 5th fret position.

If you scroll up a few pages, you will find that using this same string on a 33" scale instrument results in a tension of 14.88. So we are off by a whopping 0.03 kp, which I am convinced is due to rounding or minor errors in the constants by the time we get out to several decimal places.

So by extending the peghead something on the order of 8 inches or more(!), we end up with an essentially immeasurable difference in string tension. In contrast, just using the same string at pitch on scale lengths of 33, 34, and 35", results in a a full 1.0 kp difference per inch.

Honestly, I thought the capo theory was quite clever, and intuitively convincing - but I don't believe it holds up. The best way I can explain it so far, is that if you want to pretend the nut isn't there, so that you can somehow take advantage of extra peghead length, then you have to tune the string to a lower pitch to play the same notes in the same positions, relative to the bridge.

This is really, totally, separate from the physics of how the string itself delivers a particular pitch. What matters is how the string vibrates, given its mass, tension, and length, and that only applies to the speaking length. For a given set of those values (plus a mysterious constant), you will get a particular pitch.

It seems that people hope they can somehow change the tension, independently of the length and mass of the string, and get better tone out of it. No, this will just give you a different pitch.

You can change the distance beyond the nut as you please, but the bottom line is that you still have to get the tension of the speaking length to be the same. And - somewhat to my surprise, having never gone through the exercise before - if you approach it as if using a capo on a much longer neck, the math happens to work out very nicely.

Again, I could be wrong, and would appreciate it if someone would run through a similar exercise. Until then, you should probably just consider this my opinion.

Regardless... congratulations on your plans for a new instrument. It's a very exciting time, but the best is yet to come.
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 189
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2006 - 1:57 am:   Edit Post

Thanks for your thoughts, guys! Wow, that's pretty technical! I wish I could say I fully understood it! Even after reading and re-reading it twice, I still don't get it all! I'll try again tomorrow when I've had more sleep.

By the way, Bob, I've requested a quote for getting your superfilter electronics as an option -even though I doubt I'd be able to afford it! But it sure would be cool!
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 190
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2006 - 2:02 am:   Edit Post

Hey, what do you guys think about using medium scale strings for the 33 inch scale? It would probably be tighter and clearer, right? It doesn't seem like the 1 inch difference would put any excessive pressure on the strings or instrument. What do you think, guys? And is it difficult to get a set of 6-string bass strings for medium scale? (I have no idea.) I see Alembic sells a fair amount of 5 and even 6-string basses in medium scale, so I like to think availability wouldn't be an issue.

Just using medium scale strings would seem to be the way to go -UNLESS it would entail problems...

so, again... whatduhyuh think...

thanks again for the time and opinions, guys!
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1355
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2006 - 7:53 am:   Edit Post

The concept of short/medium/long scale strings depends upon the manufacturer. For most manufacturers, this designation only describes the distance between the ball end and the start of the silk windings. It doesn't have anything to do with the mass of the string. As such, your statement above might lead you astray.

In terms of tension, you really only care about the mass of the string, not the length. Just as with the peghead discussion, additional string outside of the speaking length won't matter to the tone. Ideally, the length would be such that the silk or narrower windings start somewhere between the nut and the tuning pegs. Too long can be dealt with, but too short cannot.

For a 32-33" Alembic, I recommend long scale strings. The typical bass bridge measures just under 1.5" from the ball end to the point where the string crosses the saddle. I checked a Spector and another bass with a Badass on it to verify. Alembic's separate bridge and tailpiece are spaced a little wider. On my four Alembics, the distance between ball end and bridge saddles is around 2.25". That's most of an inch more string, so a 33" Alembic should comfortably fit strings made for a 34" scale bass. If there's any advantage to a reverse inline peghead, it's that you will have more room for the fatter strings to reach their silk after the nut and before reaching the tuner. This would allow you to more easily use a set of strings that is on the long side.
The "medium gauge" 45-105 string set is the most standard in terms of size. Use a heavier gauge if that is what it takes to get the additional tension you want to make up for the shorter scale. Fortunately, most manufacturers make the greatest variety of string thickness for the standard long scale. I generally use the standard 45-105 sets on my short and medium scale basses. One of the short scales came to me with something even lighter than 40-100 on it. It still both played and sounded great.

The B string can be less forgiving, though. There are several Bass discussion sites out there with threads on strings. I have read through them to identify choices that some people consider to be "too high tension" in the hope that the tension will be perfectly normal when they are strung on a shorter scale instrument.

Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1356
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2006 - 8:04 am:   Edit Post

Long-winded Bobs of the world unite! Just got through re-reading all of your physics equations and they make enough sense to me such that I believe them to be accurate.

I hate doing math at this hour, but I am guessing from my earlier examinations and your theories that the act of tuning down a half step reduces tension by most of two kp. Many musicians do just that. I will restate the recommendation that anyone considering a shorter scale tune their long scale bass down a half step. That will approximate the tension loss from a 2" reduction in scale.
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 191
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 2:00 am:   Edit Post

Bob, I appreciate your thoughts; however, after reviewing your comments in detail, they seem to be flawed. You refer -in the thought experiment- to having to lower the pitch of the string... "tune the string to a lower pitch to play the same notes in the same positions, relative to the bridge. "

But really, if you were to remove the nut, the "extra" low frets on the peghead would ALREADY be lower than the "open" (nut) string... WOULDN'T THEY? Sure they would.

As I understand it, the reason the extra long scale B sounds better is because of the TENSION on the string -from the INCREASED LENGTH.

The nut is IRRELEVENT to tension; of course, the "speaking length" refers to the LENGTH OF THE VIBRATING PORTION OF THE STRING... from the nut to the bridge & tailpiece. But is it logical to think that how far the TUNER is from the bridge is of no relevence? I just don't see how that could possibly be.

The tension MUST be a result of the distance of the two end points where the string is affixed. The nut has no more affect on the tension than a capo or fretting a note.

Think about it. You could take an extra long scale bass (let's make it fretless) and inlay a second nut into the fingerboard 2 inches closer to the bridge, and then draw or tape "frets" that would give this bass the same fret dimensions as a 33 inch bass... BUT this experimental bass WOULDN'T have the lesser tension of the 33 inch bass, WOULD IT?

Of course not; installing the second nut up 2 inches couldn't possibly affect the tension; this would be a non-sequitor.

If tension is in fact the factor in the cleaner sound of extra long scale Bs, then the "speaking length" must logically be irrelevant.

What do you think?

Thanks again for your thoughts!
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1093
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 2:41 am:   Edit Post


Adding the 'second nut' would mean you have to detune to get the same pitch - it's the same thing as with the capo.

Good point about the tension required for different string lengths even given the same speaking length: definitely makes sense. But I think Bob's point was that the difference is more noticeable when you decrease the length, instead of increasing, and that there isn't much of an effect in small increments (decrements).

So you would have to add a good couple of inches to notice anything - as in the Fodera headstock option.
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1357
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 3:44 am:   Edit Post

Okay - how about this...

Do you believe that the tension of the string between the bridge and the nut is the same as the tension on the string between the nut and the tuner? It has to be, right?

If you look at the equations Bob posted, you will see that the tension on the string between the bridge and the nut is a constant for a string of particular size and weight tuned to a particular pitch. The only way to change the tension is to either change the pitch or to change the scale length.

If there's any difference in tone as a result of extra length outside of the speaking length, it has to be because of things like string stretch and friction over the nut.

If none of that meant anything to you, try this...

Putting it in simplest terms, you are comparing apples and oranges. Of course a string tuned to Low B at 37" will have more tension than the same string tuned to low B at 34". The problem with your logic is that adding length beyond the nut doesn't move the position of the B note relative to the bridge. If the note doesn't move, then the tension doesn't change.

You're right that when you add that second nut 2" closer on your experimental bass, the tension doesn't change. On the other hand, the bass is now tuned up a half step at that new nut, as though you were barring the first fret. If you still want it to be BEADG at the (new) nut, you have to relax the tension no matter how far it is from the nut to the tuner.
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1094
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 3:55 am:   Edit Post

Come to think of it - if the length of the non-speaking string makes any difference, then you would also notice the difference between having just one or two windings around the tuner post, and having five or more - large tuner posts have like an inch of circumference, right?

So in the end the question must be - as the string tension supposedly changes with the length of the WHOLE string - do you have to adjust your setup (neck relief/bridge height/intonation) for different numbers of windings on the tuner post?

I guess bsee's answer to that would be "no". Not sure how many would say "yes".

(Message edited by adriaan on October 24, 2006)
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 3
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 5:20 am:   Edit Post

OK, I do history, not math, and a lot of this stuff leaves me sctratching my head, so here's an attempt to discuss it in simple logic, rather algebra (or whatever languague that is Bob's talking :-)) The function of tension is to make the string vibrate at a certain frequency, thus producing a certain sound. Said sound is produced entirely by the portion of the string between the nut and saddle; whatever effect the portions beyond that do or do not have on the overall tension, the portion between bridge and saddle still must be stretched to the same tension to sound the same note. Change the gauge, and you have to change the tension. Change the scale and you have to change the tension. But all of this takes place BETWEEN the nut and saddle. Whether you nail the string directly to the nut or put your tuner on Guam, the gauge and scale, and thus the tension needed for the pitch, remain constant.
Advanced Member
Username: dfung60

Post Number: 204
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 10:14 am:   Edit Post

Interesting thread.

Physics is great because is systematically explains most of the behavior of objects in the world around us. It simplifies understanding how high a ball will bounce, for instance. If those two sentences seem overloaded with qualifiers, it's because physics is too! The problem is that there are many forces and factors in play, so if you want to demonstrate a simple collision theory, you have to carefully pick the demonstration so you can see the thing you want to see without the other stuff getting in the way. If you want to demonstrate conservation of momentum, you have to tweak the demo so friction isn't a factor.

This is exactly the problem that's cropping up in this discussion. I haven't looked closely at bob's analysis, but the basic concept is correct - there is a basic interrelationship of string length, string mass, tension and pitch. The empirical observations and the theoretical ones are right too - for a given pitch, a string will have higher tension at longer scale length, or a more massive string will have lower tension for the same pitch and scale. If you used the same string, it would take more tension for higher pitch, etc.

So that's great! The solution to the problem is simple, right? If you want a more distinct low B, then you probably want longer scale. If you want a more distince low B with a shorter scale, you probably want a heavier string. It all ought to work out.

But of course, it doesn't, and the reason is that the formula describes the behavior of a perfect theoretical string, and unfortunately, you can't buy that. What's getting left out of the equation here is that real-world strings have stiffness. The thicker the string, the more likely it is to have higher stiffness. And that's the problem of the "blurry B"! If the string doesn't vibrate properly, then you'll probably find that it will have a hard time cleanly producing the fundamental and the harmonics are very likely going to be out of tune with each other. The stiffness of a fat bass string makes it act vaguely at the ends, which means that the effective speaking length will be shorter than what it should be. This is exactly the problem that the bridge intonation adjustments are dealing with, but even then it's incomplete. When you do a setup, you usually align the fundamental and first harmonic, but there's a whole series of harmonics which are being thrown off by the string stiffness which is really a bear because the stiffness effect is somewhat constant even though the harmonics all have different wavelengths. If you ever have a chance to use an old fashioned strobe tuner that has neon lights and real strobe disks, you can see all the harmonics light up simultaneously on different bands of the wheel, and often you'll see that some are sharp while others simultaneously are flat (most modern strobe tuners are simulating that display and they're filtering out the high harmonics).

The lighter you go in string gauge, the closer you real-world string vibration will come to theoretical and that's when you'll get the truest tone. An 35" extended-scale bass, by the formula and by virtue of greater string length, can take a relatively thinner string for the same pitch than a 33" medium scale bass, and will therefore have truer vibration. You perceive that truer vibration as a more distinct and solid low B.

By the formula, you should be able to use a heavier string on a 33" scale instrument and get the same sound, but it doesn't work that way in the real world. By the time you get the string heavy enough, it's so stiff that vibration and intonation are completely unworkable. That's why shorter-scale instruments generally won't produce the same authorative low-end that a longer scale bass does.

To complete this thought, an upright bass has a scale length of 42-43" or so and is tuned to the same pitches as an electric bass. The strings are heavier, but not as much heavier as you might expect. You'll find that the intonation of that big 'ol doghouse when properly constructed and setup is much better than an electric bass (I'm sure the principal bassist of the NY Philharmonic would still find something to bitch about). That's why the bass viol doesn't generally require a bridge with intonation adjustments.

If you want a medium scale bass to have clear tone and good intonation, you have to use a more flexible string which generally means lighter gauge. That works against a solid low end. This part really is physics (compensations and all), so it's going to be hard to overcome. You can theoretically do things to improve your chances, but the most critical thing is to find appropriate strings, and the problem is that that's the area where you have the least ability to influence.

This is kind of Leo Fender's fault. He was a brilliant innovator, but probably was a couple of inches short when he developed the P-bass. At 34" scale, it was possible to build strings that worked, but their in a zone where it was going to be hard for them to work well. Bless Leo, he did everything else so right, this little blip should be forgiven 100x over.

I think this is also part of why ebony has an effect on tone. In addition to the strings being under tension, the neck is too. Leo picked maple for his neck material which has many good aspects, but the choice of pitches and string sizes puts the resonant frequency of the neck right in the bass range. This is the cause of the famous Fender "dead zone" around the 1st string G-notes. The neck resonance is right in that area and when you play those notes, the neck eats the vibration and you get low output. The laminated neck on an Alembic shifts the resonant frequency by greater stiffness and the variations of the woods change how broad the resonant frequency reacts. Ebony, which is denser and stiffer will have a different resonant response than purpleheart or any other wood. The stiffer neck shifts the resonant frequency higher, into the harmonics where it has less apparent effect on tone. Graphite-necked instruments are even stiffer and have an even flatter apparent frequency response.

Also, as in the previous responses, all the discussion about tension and pitch is dependent on the speaking length of the strings only. The string portion between the nut and tuners, or the section that might string through-the-body at the bridge end doesn't affect the vibrational behavior (stringing through the body shouldn't matter other than increasing the angle that the string passes over the bridge).

Related to that was a comment about Jimi Hendrix having better tone because of the reversed string lengths. I think this is true, but because of better string vibration. The reason that the upside-down stringing improved his sound was that he predated the Floyd Rose locking trem days! Back in Hendrix's time, getting a Strat trem to stay in tune when you vigorously whammied was a black art. By stringing a righty guitar upside down, you put the high E string on the tuning peg closest to the nut. When you whammy, the string slides over the nut and you go out of tune if it hangs up in the slightest. By having a shorter length of string on the back side of nut, you probably can reduce the amount that the higher strings will go out of tune. The low strings probably got much worse in this design, but if you're the lead guitarist, it's probably easier to deal with that then to have your E-string turn into an e-flat.

With basses, you need to be a little careful about shuffling the head order around as it can make it problematic to find properly wound strings and to keep the outer windings out of the tuners.

So, if solid low-B is your priority, you really should look at a longer scale instrument.

Sorry for the length of this tome, but like I, like I said, "Interesting thread"...
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 192
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 6:50 pm:   Edit Post

Hey all you guys, thanks so much, again, for your comments! I really appreciate EVERYTHING you've all said. I'm not completely convinced... but this is quite likely a limitation on my part (just to be clear) as opposed to any shortcoming on anyone elses fault.

I actually, honestly (HONEST) have no vested interest in either theory. (Just to be clear.) Personally, I FAR prefer the symmetry of the cone head to a reverse, in-line peghead.

I'd just like to have a solution... to have the benefits of a longer scale with the physical convenience of a shorter scale. But clearly you all think it's impossible.

Again, I really appreciate your detailed responses. And I'm asking for a little more. Here's a simple question: imagine 2 traditional 4 string basses with 34 inch scale, equal in every way EXCEPT that bass A has a standard/traditional in-line peghead, and bass B has a REVERSE in-line peghead.

Now, would the string tension, on any specific letter pair of strings be the same, or different? Would the 2 E strings have the same tension, yes or no? My interpretation/understanding of what you guys have said sez that you'd say the string tension would be the same on each bass.

I have a hard time processing how this could be. Intuitively, and as I attempt to analyze the principals rationally to the best of my ability and understanding, it seems like the tension on the E string of the reverse-peghead bass would have to be greater...

But (applying the law of the excluded middle)... it either is, or isn't. The tension is either the same, or it's not.

So here's what I'm asking now...

Is there agreement from everyone that there would be NO DIFFERENCE in tension between the 2 E strings (and/or any other letter-pairs) on these otherwise identical (hypothetical) basses?

If everyone agrees that this is so, if you knowledgable folks all are clearly certain that if we had these 2 hypothetical basses in front of us and measured their string tension... we'd find that the tension on the otherwise identical strings was the same, and the reverse headstock difference is completely irrelevant to string tension...

then I'll just accept that it is so, and that the technicalities of the physics of the explaination might just be a little too much for me.

But... IS THIS SO? Are you guys SURE? Again, there is a truth here (of course) and it is what it is.

Thanks again, guys. This is really important to me. The low B on my extra-long scale ebony-fortified Europa is AWESOME, and a joy.

This is REALLY important to me. I want the B on this custom to rock also. So I really appreciate your help, as it is essential information that will shape my decision.

IF everyone confirms that it is CERTAIN/OBJECTIVE knowledge (which is epistemologically redundant, of course), then I will strongly consider spec'ing a standard long scale 34 bass -as my comprimise.

One last thing (for now). Can any Alembic owner who has experience with Bs on medium AND long scale Alembics give me some testimonials on their experiences? I'd love to hear the perspective of an Alembic owner who has heard and/or played BOTH medium and long scale Alembics with low Bs, and specifically on how the Bs compare, especially with regards to clarity!

Mica has expressed confidence in Alembics' medium scale B string basses... but she's also said she doesn't hear the low B well.

And I have no doubt that an Alembic medium scale bass with a low B would dust any other medium scale bass.

But there seems to be universal agreement that the B just sounds better on longer scales, that's the way reality is, and that's that.

Is this so? I've hoped that maybe there can be a creative solution that can give me the best of both worlds... but if it's just a fantasy/wish that is incompatible with reality (IF IT'S JUST NOT POSSIBLE) then I want to know, so I can plan the appropriate strategy.

Thanks again for your time and intelligent, detailed thoughts, everyone!!!
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1360
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 7:48 pm:   Edit Post


I think it's time for you to work for your answer. Have you tried tuning your eight down a half step yet? If not, please do, then tell us what you think of the tone of your low Bb string.

Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 194
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2006 - 1:16 am:   Edit Post

Hmmm. I'm not sure what to say. On the one hand, I'd say the tone isn't "too bad"; but it's noticably inferior in tone, and noticably "wobblier."

On basic test is that with the standard tuning, if I pluck and let ring the low B and my second fret B on my high B flat string, you can clearly hear the 2 notes are the same, even though they're 3 octaves apart. But when I played the 2 open B flat strings together, the crystal-clear unison was not as clear. The low B flat was significantly less defined.

It's been a while since I've heard or played another 6-string... heard another B string up close. So I'm not sure how it's sound compares to another; but compared to usual, the 1/2 drop in tuning results in a noticable switch from clarity to muddiness, from focus to floppiness.

The open low B flat was the worst. However, the 1st and 2cnd fret B and C were not as bad -though they, too, were less defined and focused than normal.

So... is this a simulation of a 34 inch scale, 33 inch scale, or something else? I already know I'd never want to tune it down a whole step... just the half-step was unsatisfactory.

Anyway, thanks again for your help, Bob. I did what you said... now what does it mean?
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1361
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2006 - 3:04 am:   Edit Post

That would be simulation of 33" scale. The distance from the nut to the first fret on a 35" scale bass should be very close to two inches. When you tuned down a half step, the B note moved from being 35" from the bridge to being about 33" from the bridge.

I suppose that if you had a feature-laden tuner, you could try to tune your bass to be a quarter step flat and that would approximate a 34" scale instrument.

As far as what it actually means, it seems that you are hearing that difference in tension. The only way to shorten the scale and maintain tension is to increase the density of the string. Ideally, someone would identify the string that has the highest density while still maintaining excellent flexibility. If there is a "better" string than what you are using, it may be the answer for you.

Personally, I am no expert in strings in general or B strings in particular. I can't say that I have ever really liked the tone of a B string when amplified, at least not below the D note or so. That massive cable just never has a tone that integrates with the rest of the instrument. The point, I guess, is that I don't have any recommendations for different strings to try.

One last thought for you is that Jeff's 32" tribute bass is nearing completion. A well-timed factory visit might get you the opportunity for a sound/feel test.
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 4
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2006 - 6:36 am:   Edit Post

Having no experience whatsoever with basses of more than 4 strings, I'll stick to the headstock questions:
If our 2 hypothetical basses had the same the scale and the same strings and were tuned to the same pitch, the tension on the corresponding strings would be the same (and if I've helped you decide on a cone, I'm sorry - but that's just me; Paul TBO would buy a cone before I would. But then, I'm not buying this one either, so what do I care? :-))
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1062
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006 - 2:37 pm:   Edit Post

THIS is exactly why I stay here . . . I wouldn't take a million bucks for the things Bob and David make me think through. I've always hated the BS involved in instruments; the mystery of them is OK, just don't tell me it's beef when I smell bacon !

I'd agree that after Ebony laminations and cocobolo, I wouldn't get too crazy with extra cold cuts in your sandwich. I played Will Gunn's 'Cocobolo Fantasy': Believe me, you don't need ANYTHING else for big focused bass. Plus, I'd really consider weight: Lots of coco and ebony is gonna add up fast, so you might want to consider that part of the equation. Bubinga is NOT light. I love mahogany, the best choice for the interior.

I'm not fond of any scale (for regular sized people) other than standard long scale from the standpoint that your string choices start dwindling for short, medium, and XLong scales.

I've accepted that B-strings will always feel a bit different, but it varies greatly from brand to brand. I've played fives for so long now, it's a non-issue for me. I find however 'indistinct' it may sound has more to do with me and the amp, than the string itself. Once I added a compressor, the low Cs and Ds tightened up a bunch, and a big dose of EDEN finished that job.

I think anything outside the bridge or nut is just window dressing. I see no difference in strings through the body, longer heads, etc. I certainly hear no difference. The really important thing is the angle over the nut and bridge, and since ALEMBICs have bent heads and separate bridges, that's a done deal.

In a perfect world, I prefer a 'straight pull' over the nut to the keys . . . since this is NOT a perfect world, I HATE cone headstocks ! ! I'd only worry about the angled pull to the keys with other than brass nuts, so that's no problem.
Not likely to saw out your slots in brass.

I appreciate your thinking this through, will enjoy seeing what you finalize on. And do NOT underestimate what Susan and Mica think: They REALLY know this stuff.

J o e y
Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 604
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006 - 2:51 pm:   Edit Post

"The really important thing is the angle over the nut and bridge ..."

Which is one reason I could see reversing the strings on a Fender instrument. By reversing the strings you would get more angle due to the string trees. I have always had issues with the neck to tuner angle on the "E" string of my JB since I have to be sure to have the wraps go completely to the bottom of the peg. If I don't the strings tuning tends to slip. With the angled head stock, as Joey points out, getting enough wraps to maintain the angle over the nut is not an issue.

Advanced Member
Username: dfung60

Post Number: 205
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006 - 3:21 pm:   Edit Post

The string tension for a particular string at a particular scale length and pitch will be the same regardless of how much the string extends beyond the nut or bridge. And, as has been mentioned above, the string tension between the nut and tuner is pretty much the same as between the bridge and nut, otherwise you're about to have a pitch shift when you play!

You actually can test this yourself. You need a small postal or food scale that measures the weight of something hanging from it. Take off the A, D, and G strings, then tune the E string to some pitch around E. Then, hook the scale on the string around the middle of the string and pull it to the side for some significant amount (maybe 1"). This is a rough measure of string tension.

Now, take that string off and move it to the other side of the neck (the G-string position). It won't sit all the way down in the nut, but that doesn't really matter. Tune it to the same pitch, hook on the scale, and deflect it the same amount. You will see the tension is the same (or very close).

This is a little bit of a funny test because you have to play around with strings off and pitches, but it's qualitatively (as opposed to quantitatively) meaningful. You might add more meaning by testing first at pitch and with all strings on, then reversing the E and G strings and retuning everything to pitch. The chances are quite high that this will be the last time you use that G-string however since it will get kinked after being tuned up in the wrong slot.

The tone of medium vs long scale will just be "different" - it may be hard to characterize the differences in any meaniful way. As I said above, I don't think you can beat the physics of the long scale bass. If a string of a certain diameter has a stiffness that negatively affects vibration and intonation, that effect will extend a certain distance from the fixed ends. The longer you make the string, the lower the percentage error in intonation you'll have and I think that will translate to a clearer, more solid sound.

If you're willing to go with a smaller, lower tension string on the shorter scale, you may be able to equal the flexibility of a bigger string on the longer bass. The feel may be a lot different, but the sound might not be. With less string mass, you find that the shorter scale bass has a quicker attack, which may be a factor as well.

I think the problem here is that you know you like the low B response of your 35" bass more than the 34". There are many factors affecting the tone, but it seems pretty unlikely that you're going to make things better with a 33" scale.

The best info on this sort of thing is probably people at the factory as they have a much better chance of seeing instruments that are identical except for scale length, etc. Part of the interesting part of building guitars is that each one is a surprise when you string it up for the first time. You can influence the flavor of how and instrument will turn out with things like wood choices, but you won't know how harmonious the result will be until it's all done.
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 197
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006 - 8:46 pm:   Edit Post

Bob, Bob, Adriaan, Peter, David, Joey, Keith, thanks again you guys, for all your detailed comments and thoughts. I REALLY appreciate it.

I REALLY wanted to be able to have 2 things at once: the benefit of the shorter 33 inch scale, while having the crystal clarity of the 35 inch scale string.

But the combined consensus (aargh, I hate that word) is that it's "either/or".

The reverse headstock seemed like a perfect solution, but I now accept that this is an error in my intuitive reasoning. I don't really want to monkey around with swapping strings and altering tensions. I actually thought about putting the B string on the D tuner and routing it around the E and A strings... to experiment... but I just don't wanna do that to my bass and it's strings.

So in the absence of anyone supporting my theory and uniform agreement that it is incorrect, I accept that this is so -and I thank you all for setting me straight.

I still haven't dismissed the possibility of the 33 inch scale. I'd still like to hear from anyone who has a medium B bass and a long B bass. I've heard 3rd party claims that medium scale 5 and 6-string short scale Alembics sound good... but compared to what? How do they compare to long and extra long scale Alembics?

The tone on my 8-string, the tone and clarity of the low B is far superior to any I've ever heard, period. I can tell ebony is a large part, but so is the long scale. I can hear and feel the difference.

My final decision will be after another talk with Mica and possibly some of the builders.

But at this point I think I'll comprimise and just get a standard long scale, or possibly something just slightly longer for a little greater tension, like a 34 & 1/3rd inch scale.

Thanks again, gotta go!
Advanced Member
Username: tbrannon

Post Number: 213
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006 - 10:03 pm:   Edit Post

You're in Vegas right? Southwest Airlines runs some awfully cheap flights from Vegas to Oakland. A trip to Santa Rosa wouldn't cost much and you could probably lay your hands on the basses there that would answer any and all questions you might have.

Good luck and keep us informed.

(Message edited by tbrannon on October 26, 2006)
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1064
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Friday, October 27, 2006 - 5:45 pm:   Edit Post

AMAZING . . a cat from New Zealand knows our geography well enough to give you the best advice in this thread: I'd DEFINITELY jump a southwest to the Bay Area, go 'hands on' and nail it down. Terrific advice , TB!

Just to muddy the waters a bit more . . . my vintage Yamaha BBs were made with a 33 7/8" scale ! ! (No doubt some conversion of the original length in cms)

J o e y
Advanced Member
Username: tbrannon

Post Number: 214
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Friday, October 27, 2006 - 8:23 pm:   Edit Post


Born and raised in San Diego with a 12 year stint in Orange County- two of my sisters went to UC Bezerkley and one to UCSF- I've got some serious time logged in and around the bay area.

I've been in NZ for about 3 years now. Life is about 1/3 pace here. Good times. Funniest part of the whole thing is that I lived no more than an hour plane flight from Santa Rosa for the majority of my life, but I didn't get my first Alembic until I moved here....


(Message edited by tbrannon on October 27, 2006)
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 198
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Saturday, October 28, 2006 - 11:52 am:   Edit Post

I DID visit the factory when I commissioned "8 Strings of Power", and it was a pleasure to meet the fine folks there and get a tour of the factory. It is quite a thrill to be at Alembic and to see whatever awesome masterpieces happen to be being constructed and/or finished. I saw some pretty mind-boggling basses, including the unique doubleneck with the concentric controls -quite a thing to see up-close. (And it's not at all my cup of tea, but then neither is my custom for most people, blah, blah, blah, etc.)

My money is REAL thin, though, so it's unlikely I'll have the time and money to go there. Any and all funds will go to the bass... to getting options. The sad and simple truth is I'm just not going to be able to get everything I want. As it is, I've tried to keep it as simple as possible, and the list of options as short as possible.

Boiled down to the minimum, my bass will be a 6-string Europa with 29 frets, a BTC coco bolo top with a mahogany body and integrated outer body/neck laminates, an added mid-range "quick change"/"boost/cut" switch, and either a 3 or 4 position Q switch, with 2 ebony laminates.

I've got an original and pretty cool neck concept that should be little to no upcharge other than the upcharge for the ebony, and whatever hopefully-not-too-hideous upcharge for the integrated mahogany neck/body pair/feature. (This is an important aesthetic feature for me, and one that pleases me no end on "8 Strings of Power.")

My neck will look really cool, and original, but I kinda wanna keep the specifics secret and have it be a surprise that everyone sees when it's done.

That's the minimum spec'ing I've got my heart set on. From there, my top three options would be, in order of preference:

Virtually tied for 1&2 are the Balance K Omega body, which I would LOVE, and continuous wood backplates, which I think make the instruments look MUCH better. I love the Europa body, but I think the Balance K Omega is even cooler, and exudes the slickest neo-classic Alembic look.

The third option would be back laminates.

A "wild card" option I asked them to give me a quote on are the super-cool electronics Bob got on his custom Rogue. I'm talking about the (1/2 of a) superfilter that's assignable to either or both pickups, with bass and treble controls. It's a pretty cool set-up, and I've asked them for a quote... how much to duplicate Bob's electronics on the bass. But I'm assuming in advance that I won't be able to consider it. But you don't know if you don't ask.

I asked about a couple other things, like the upgraded "welded palladium jacks", a zero fret, and a couple other minor things, I think.

There's simply no way I'll be able to get all these things. I view Bob's electronics as the biggest long-shot, and least likely option. It's quite likely I won't be able to afford any of the other options, or perhaps I may be able to get just one.

So I'm just anxiously awaiting getting the quote from Susan, and hoping that at least the most essential stuff I've got my heart set on doesn't move the price up too much.

I'll keep you guys informed! And thanks again for your input. It's super-cool how all of us can share our experiences to benefit each other.


(Message edited by the 8 string king on October 28, 2006)

(Message edited by the 8 string king on October 28, 2006)
Username: ampeglb100

Post Number: 83
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Monday, October 30, 2006 - 10:07 am:   Edit Post

I don't know if this is too late, but I thought I would chime in a few things...

I had a 4 string Europa built this year and recieved it a few months ago. Coco bolo top and back, mahogany core, 32" scale length, chrome hardware, std. Europa electronics, purple heart laminates, etc. The build link is:

As far as the back laminate goes I would say get it if you can and make it coco bolo as well. Sound-wise to me this bass is incredibly great. I won't try to describe it in words, but I am very glad that I opted for the back laminate both for looks and for the extra tonal characteristics. To me to have a back lam. in another wood seems... odd, and I think that matching it with the top really helps augment the tone of the body core wood. Anyways, just my two bits, but if you are already spending the money you might as well get what you want and do it right...

As far as scale length I have to say the 32" scale, on a std. tuned 4 string, is absolutely awesome. I have always played lighter strings and have a lighter touch, but having the shorter scale really makes getting around so much nicer, especially with Alembics great neck shapes and especially with a 24 fret neck. Tonaly I think it sounds phenomenal and for me it works well with my playing style, which is to say that I play much more chordally and melodically in the upper registers and much less so in the lower end... sometimes not even using my E string for more than a thumbrest. If you want the best of both worlds as far as scale length, ease of play, and tone is concerned then the only way around it is to look at a Dingwall, but that is a whole other can of worms...

Anyways, I really enjoyed that technical end of this thread and hope your new bass works out for you.

Username: ampeglb100

Post Number: 84
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Monday, October 30, 2006 - 10:08 am:   Edit Post

I don't know if this is too late, but I thought I would chime in on a few things...

I had a 4 string Europa built this year and recieved it a few months ago. Coco bolo top and back, mahogany core, 32" scale length, chrome hardware, std. Europa electronics, purple heart laminates, etc. The build link is:

As far as the back laminate goes I would say get it if you can and make it coco bolo as well. Sound-wise to me this bass is incredibly great. I won't try to describe it in words, but I am very glad that I opted for the back laminate both for looks and for the extra tonal characteristics. To me to have a back lam. in another wood seems... odd, and I think that matching it with the top really helps augment the tone of the body core wood. Anyways, just my two bits, but if you are already spending the money you might as well get what you want and do it right...

As far as scale length I have to say the 32" scale, on a std. tuned 4 string, is absolutely awesome. I have always played lighter strings and have a lighter touch, but having the shorter scale really makes getting around so much nicer, especially with Alembics great neck shapes and especially with a 24 fret neck. Tonaly I think it sounds phenomenal and for me it works well with my playing style, which is to say that I play much more chordally and melodically in the upper registers and much less so in the lower end... sometimes not even using my E string for more than a thumbrest. If you want the best of both worlds as far as scale length, ease of play, and tone is concerned then the only way around it is to look at a Dingwall, but that is a whole other can of worms...

Anyways, I really enjoyed that technical end of this thread and hope your new bass works out for you.

Advanced Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 204
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - 1:28 pm:   Edit Post

Andy, thanks for your added thoughts.

Mica suggested I look at your bass several weeks ago, in the FTC. She was particularily pleased with your bass and said it sounded like the older series basses -or some similar such thing.

She suggested looking at it 'cause I'm planning on getting a replacement/additional Europa, too, and was considering back laminates.

Thanks again for your thoughts, especially about the back laminate.

I actually don't have a preference, as such, either having matching front and back laminates, or not. I've seen LOTS of fine examples of both from Alembic, plenty of which can easily be found right here in the custom archives and in the showcase.

Clearly, matching front and back laminates are more common; but I've seen lots of different ones that look REALLY great. Last month's Balance K with walnut top and birdseye maple back is a great example, but I've seen a guitar or two with coco bolo on the front and quilted maple on the back, that looked really great. I saw someone actually has an Alembic guitar with (quilted or flame) maple on the front, and coco bolo on the back! (This is backwards of how I'd do that combo, but different strokes...)

Anyway, I money were no issue, I would almost certainly get coco bolo for the front and back... or actually, I'd prefer to have coco bolo on the top, and TULIPWOOD on the back. Tulipwood is from the same family, and Mica sez it yields the same sound. And I'd like the contrast.

That's what I'd prefer. But sadly, it's unlikely that I'll be able to afford a back laminate at all. I'm going to likely have to make some hard choices when I get the quote, and get only the most essential things.

If I can actually manage a back laminate, I'll probably have to settle for a standard wood. So the questions become, "which STANDARD woods would SOUND best/worst with the coco bolo top, mahagony body, and mahogany/maple/ebony/purpleheart neck", and "which STANDARD woods would LOOK the best/worse". The former question is the most important. Right now, as it stands, I'm leaning towards bubinga for the back -in the event I can afford it. But, depending on what I hear from other Alembic owners with experience in this area, and of course Mica's thoughts, this may change. SO ARE THERE ANY OTHER THOUGHTS, PRO/CON REGARDING A BUBINGA BACK FITTING IT AS A BACK LAMINATE -especially soundwise- ON A COCO BOLO TOPPED BODY?

So far, I've been told that, with my coco bolo top, the back laminate would "be a decoration."

Of course, soundwise, it seems that the ideal would be to have the back laminate be either coco bolo, or one of the other rosewoods. But that is, again, a big $ issue...

Thanks again, everyone. I'll probably make a decision fairly quickly, when I get the quote, so I'll let you guys know what I decide on!

(Message edited by the 8 string king on November 01, 2006)

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