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Alembic Club » Miscellaneous » Archive: 2006 » Archive through August 16, 2006 » Narrow neck-width 6 « Previous Next »

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Username: studiorecluse

Post Number: 31
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 9:25 am:   Edit Post

I recently saw a bass for sale on ebay that was a 6 string custom built on a 5-string neck and body. This sounded pretty cool. Because I spent decades as a guitarist before seriously taking up bass, I play a 6-string that I tune E-A-D-G-B-E, just like a guitar, only an octave lower. We have discussed this already on a post: all of my scales, arpegios, etc are already in the
muscle memory, plus I can use 4-string tab and arrangements on the lowest 4 strings. It really works great for me.

The problem is that the neck is so wide that I struggle, and thus interest in the narrow-6. I never understood why basses need huge string spacing, so I thought that I might have a bass built with a narrow neck- a 6 string on 5-string neck dimensions. Tension wise I am OK I think because of the lighter strings. I know I have to watch the pickup for spacing of pole pieces. There are bridges available of required width.

Do any of you have any experience with a narrow neck like this? The Fender Bass-6 from the 60's doesn't count because of the baritone scale length- I'm thinking 32", since the low is E, I think that I don't need the full 34" or 35" length. Nobody sells these that I know of, which poses two problems: I can't test drive one, and I have to wonder why they don't make one. What am I missing? This sounds like such a great idea, but then why doesn't hardly anyone do this? And why is the string spacing so wide on basses?

Any thoughts???
Advanced Member
Username: dannobasso

Post Number: 334
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 9:50 am:   Edit Post

I have 2 32' Spoiler 6's beadgc. Narrow spacing. Alembic will do it. When I ordered my first 6 in 86, that's how it came.
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1251
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 11:05 am:   Edit Post

First, string spacing is wide on basses for the same reason that it tends to be wider on classical guitars. The way they are played tends to require the extra space. If you're planning on playing the instrument with a pick only, then you can approach the spacing of an electric guitar. Bass players that like to play fingerstyle tend to need a little more space than that. Those that like to slap tend to need even more. Of course, the fatter strings also play a part in that you need a wider neck to allow for the same space between strings as you would have on your guitar.

As Danno points out, the earliest five and six string Alembic basses were made with a tight string spacing. The necks of the five strings had the same nut width as your typical classical guitar.

With regard to scale length, short or medium scale should be fine if you're not tuning down below the standard bass range. I would recommend that you order some dense wood in your neck if you reduce the scale, though. A significant amount of purpleheart and/or a little bit of ebony will help the shorter scale to sound more full and stay more stable on a narrower neck.

As far as bridges and pole pieces go, Alembic will take care of that for you. In fact, the pickups don't have pole pieces so that's never a worry.

If it is your intention to chord on this instrument, then don't discount string tension issues. You will want to use a guage of string that gives you pretty high tension in order to get chords that don't sound like mud. I wouldn't want something like this that didn't have Alembic guts in it for the same reason.

Username: studiorecluse

Post Number: 32
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 11:22 am:   Edit Post

You have got to be kidding me, I never saw that link from before my time on this forum. 10 absolute beauties.
Back to my topic, if I can think straight now...
How narrow is the spacing at each end of the neck?
How's the 32" sound compared to 34"?
Would you get them like that again?
How do they compare (sonically, etc) to a "normal" (aka wide) neck 6?
Please share some insights and anecdotes of playing on the narrow 6. Honestly, the more I think about it the more I wonder why everyone isn't doing it. You seem uniquely qualified to comment.
Username: studiorecluse

Post Number: 33
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 11:49 am:   Edit Post

Thanks for your insight, but it begs a comment regarding classical guitar necks. As a guy who is primarily an acoustic guitarist, and 20 years of that on a classical guitar, my observation is that classical necks are like that because people "think" that is how they are supposed to be. The intricate music can be played on a steel string with a radiused narrow neck, witness Kottke or Hedges (RIP). There is a world of modern nylon string guitars with narrower, radiused necks because, in the opinion of those not raised on wide and flat, they are simply better. Easier to play, fast or slow, fingers or picks.
Sometimes we do things a certain way because we think that is how it is done. Sometime we do them that way because it is better. Which one is the wide neck, is my question.
I think you are bang-on with the advice on neck laminates and string tension, thanks.
Username: gtrguy

Post Number: 68
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 5:55 pm:   Edit Post

I am a guitar player from way back who also took up the bass 25 or so years ago. I have a Yamaha TRB-6P and an Alembic Elan 6 string. The Elan has a narrow neck and the Yamaha has a WIDE one. I actually like the Yamaha and do much better on it because it retains the same string spacing as a four string bass but has six strings.
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 907
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 7:13 pm:   Edit Post

I think fingerboard widths are subjective, but are definitely proceeding into a case of they think that's how it's done.

Fingerboard widths are much wider these days as it's become the accepted way for people who play thumb/slap style. Yamaha's TRB6P is a wonderful bass, but I don't know that I need string spacing wide enough to put a postage stamp between each string at the 12th fret.

Any of Mica's insights about Stanley Clarke's basses reveal that he plays a VERY narrow neck with GREAT BIG hands . . . so as I say, it's all very subjective.

I have a Spoiler Five with Alembic's 'classic' taper: 2" at the nut, 2.5" at the 24th fret, a moderate to narrow spacing by current standards, but I'd always have this neck as it feels perfect to me. I have several Yamaha BB5000s, the first commonly available production five string from the mid to late 80s. They made a five out of a four, so it's 1.75" at the nut and 2.25" at the 24th fret, VERY narrow by modern standards, but for me it's fine, and I prefer the tight spacing for flatpicking.

Try as many as you can, and get some idea of what you like and want. ALEMBIC can build you ANYTHING, so it really is up to you. For me, I just don't like the VERY wide spacing.

PS I also like their 'classic' taper, as it's a very slight taper: The strings almost feel parallel all the way up the neck, very little spread-out.

J o e y
Intermediate Member
Username: room037

Post Number: 114
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 8:10 pm:   Edit Post


I love and own narrow spacing basses.
But now, these narrow neck basses are custom order basis

My bass career started 25 years ago with Distilate bass. ( I was also guitarist.)
All Alembic basses had narrower spacing than Fender's at the point.
So I have never own wide spacing basses.

After few years, extended basses (5, 6 strings) were made by several makes, and I got Tune 6 strings (low-B to C).
Tune TB-6 has very narrow spacing just like my 70's Alembic 5 strings.
It was very comfortable for finger style, but not for slap.
The bass was ritire to my main with some reason.
One is the weakness of the neck due to single trass rod.

Now, my main bass is 77' LSB 5 strings (low-B to G).
But I dream my bass has 32' scale, 70's narrow neck 5 strings (E to C) with D-tuner.
I think 32 inch with hi extended range is best.
Alembic basses are easy for play on high frets, then the note ranges are enough for my style.

If you don't play so much with highest E string, let's try 32' narrow 5 strings.
It's MAGIC !

Danno's Spoiler basses are incledible !
Do you play these basses with pick or fingers ?
I can't believe it for finger style.

Advanced Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 242
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2006 - 6:41 am:   Edit Post

I finally sold my Jerry Jones tic-tac bass this past week... If you're unfamiliar with the instrument, it's 30", 6 strings tuned E-E, 1.75" nut, 2.25" bridge, custom string sets guaged .084-.024

In many ways it's like the Bass VI. IIRC Ernie Ball made a similar instrument too, only glorified w/ double coils, a comfy body shape & birdseye maple neck..... IMO all these instruments are great for a guitar player who switches over for a while~ even the electronics imply that these things are gonna get plugged into a guitar amp.

The biggest downfall for these instruments (for me at least) is the fact that I've been playing bass for about as long as guitar. I cant justify playing an instrument that's supposed to be a bass, w/ a pick all the time.
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 505
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2006 - 7:27 am:   Edit Post

Along similar linest to why 6 string basses have wide necks. Why do guitars and basses have a neck that tapers outward from the nut to bridge.
Why aren't the necks parallel all the way along?

I can't see any benefit other than if its a bolt on neck, you may want more meat under the screwed on neck plate. But in terms of playing surely a parallel neck would make access to notes easier in the upper register on the 4th, 5th and 6th strings.

It may be similar to what Studiorecluse says "people think thats the way they are supposed to be"

I have two alembics with a narrow taper, a SC 4 and an orion guitar and both feel much easier to play up the neck than the my Musicman bass and fender strat guitar.

Any idea's?
Username: studiorecluse

Post Number: 35
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2006 - 7:46 am:   Edit Post

Great insights.
Eiji, I use the high 6th string not so much because I need the range, but because I take my cues from funny places. You get used to going up a pattern, land somewhere, and come back down a different way. The 6th really keeps me from having to think while I'm playing, and that's a good thing.

Yeah, Alembic can make anything, that is for sure, but it IS important to play everything first to get a feel for what you like. However, it isn't always possible/easy to play the things that you think you would want because they aren't readily available. For example, to me the difference between J-bass and P-bass spacing is a universe, even though it is only 1/8 of an inch. How would I have known that without playing both? Having said that, if the wider spacing was all I ever had, I would have been perfectly happy with it. Hmmmmm.

Danno (or anyone), would you be willing to measure your neck width at the 1st, 12th, and 24th, along with string spacing at the bridge? I haven't been able to find Alembic classic taper 6 dimensions on the web.

All interesting questions. Alembic's flexibility is a two edge sword. You can get whatever you want, but for most of us a new Alembic is a significant event emotionally and financially. It is scary to take big risks on unproven assumptions.

Pace, where we draw the line between guitar and bass is a good question. Do I want a low guitar, or is there something intrinsic to it being a "bass" that affects the way you approach it? In the old days of fiddling with MIDI guitar controllers, the trick was to approach your playing from the standpoint of the patch you were playing. If it sounds like a flute, don't play it like a guitaist, THINK like a flautist. Is that true here too? Am I erasing the lines that distinguish the instruments? Oddly, BTW, I play guitar and bass without a pick. Yup, electric guitar with my fingers. So much more intimate.

Jazzyvee, the only reason I can think of that the necks should taper is so there is room to pluck/pick/slap. You don't need a lot of spacing to push them down against a fingerboard, but you need a little more room to grab them from the side.

Thanks for your two cents everybody!

Username: davehouck

Post Number: 4130
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2006 - 8:07 am:   Edit Post

The nut and 24th fret widths are shown here.
Username: studiorecluse

Post Number: 36
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2006 - 8:31 am:   Edit Post

Is that "classic taper" at that link? I took from the above that new stock basses are different from the classic taper that danno has on his Spoilers.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 4131
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2006 - 8:47 am:   Edit Post

It is my understanding that there are two standard neck tapers, classic and comfort. The signature and series basses have the classic taper as standard, all of the other current models have the comfort taper as standard. Spoilers had the classic taper as standard.
Advanced Member
Username: dannobasso

Post Number: 340
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Wednesday, July 26, 2006 - 2:54 am:   Edit Post

At home I play fingerstyle and slap, for bar jams etc. combination, with DOOMTREE pick only with the exception of i song where I tap. I'll measure for you this week.
Senior Member
Username: flaxattack

Post Number: 1199
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 - 2:08 pm:   Edit Post

i may be the exception? i love tight spacing whether it be pick or fingers. could be my short fingers?
the spacing on direwolf and scooter are both 1/2 inch and i have no issues "tripping" for lack of a better term- i found that the std neck orion i had took too long to get from string to string
ok i am a-old, b-burnt out. c- slow d-all the above
i am faster on my customs- if i ever see them again- bad joke....

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