Care and Adjustment of Your Alembic Bass

Your Alembic bass has been made with the highest degree of craftsmanship in the art of instrument building. While we have done everything possible to create a bass that reflects these values when you receive it, there are a few things you can do to preserve this quality and ensure a lifetime of enjoyment from your instrument.

Springless Pickup Height Adjustment

The pickup height is governed by four screws, two upper and two lower. The lower screws set the height of the pickup and the upper screws keep the pickup from falling out. There are no springs in our pickup mounting system.

Some advantages to the springless system are that if you need to remove and reinstall the pickup, the replacement pickup will drop in at exactly the same height as the original pickup. Also, when you remove the pickup, the springs in conventional mounting schemes tend to go flying out all over the place and can be hard to replace if lost. This type of pickup mounting is rigid and allows the edge of the pickup to be used as a thumbrest.

When you want to change the pickup height:

  1. Loosen the two upper screws.
  2. Adjust the height of the lower screws to where you prefer.
  3. Tighten the upper screws enough to secure the pickup in place, just enough to hold the pickup snugly.
Use some amount of care when adjusting pickup height because if you overtighten the top screws, you could possibly crack the pickup housing.

Brass Adjustable Nut

Our unique brass adjustable nut is featured on every Alembic guitar and bass. There are three adjustment screws on the string nut. The center screw locks the nut in place and must be loosened before attempting to raise or lower the nut. The two outer screws determine the height of the nut. The 5/64" hex driver supplied with your instrument is required to make these adjustments.

Here's how to do it properly:

  1. Detune the bass a little bit.
  2. Loosen the center locking screw.
  3. Adjust the outer screws to the desired height. When you tighten one of the screws, the height increases on that side only.
  4. Tighten the center screw once the optimum height is achieved.
You will need to change the string nut height when you change the gauge of your strings. Larger gauge strings may not rest at the bottom of the original slots, and smaller strings may "wiggle" side to side in a slot that is too large. If you dramatically change the string size, you should order a new nut than can be slotted to your new string size. You also need to raise the nut if you have a persistent buzz on open strings that goes away once you fret.

The nut does not need to be adjusted equally on both sides. You may want the nut to slant in certain situations. For cleaning, see the brass care section of this document.

Fingerboard Care

The fingerboard of your bass is unfinished ebony. It will respond to changes in humidity and if not properly maintained, may need to be replaced due to excessive checking and cracking.

You will need to oil your fingerboard at least twice a year. We recommend using pure lemon oil (available at health food stores in the aromatherapy section), but any transparent lemon oil will do nicely. Avoid brands that are cloudy, their high wax content only leaves your fingerboard dirty and all that wax makes your strings go dead more quickly.

To oil you fingerboard you should:

  1. Remove the strings.
  2. Saturate the fingerboard with the oil. Let it absorb for at least thirty minutes or until most of the oil is absorbed.
  3. Wipe the excess oil with rags or an old T-shirt. Make sure you get in right next to the fret edges. The cleaner you get the board at this stage, the longer your next set of strings will last.
  4. Re-string with your old strings and play the bass for a day or two before putting fresh strings on.
You may notice that the first time the humidity takes a big swing that the fret edges may protrude over the edge of the fingerboard. These can be easily filed flush and you will probably only have to do this once. You can get a service sheet from us if you'd like to do this job yourself.

Brass Hardware

If the brass parts of your bass are not plated, exposure to air, but mostly sweat, will cause these parts to tarnish. You can avoid most of this tarnish by simply wiping off the sweat from these parts after playing.

When tarnish does build up, you will need to use a metal polish, like Flitz brand, to restore the metal to its original luster.

Adjusting the Truss Rods

Maintaining peak performance of your Alembic bass may from time to time require adjustment of the truss rods. This is especially true if you live in or travel to an area that experiences drastic changes in humidity.

You should learn how to adjust your truss rods because it is really a very simple procedure and you can always adjust it yourself in an emergency. However, if you are still uncomfortable, hire a qualified repair person to do the job for you.

First, you need to understand the terms "forward bow" and "back bow." When your bass has a back bow, the strings may rattle on the frets because there is very little clearance at the twelfth fret between the frets and the strings. A forward bow is the opposite, enough clearance so the strings don't buzz on the frets. Extreme forward or back bow needs to be corrected.

To adjust your truss rods:

  1. Use a small Phillips head screwdriver to remove the truss rod cover (located between the bass pickup and the end of the fingerboard). You will notice two 1/4" stand off hex nuts. These are independent from one another; each adjusts one side only.
  2. If you want to increase forward bow, turn the nut(s) counterclockwise. You will need the 1/4" wrench supplied with your instrument to make this adjustment.
  3. If you want to increase back bow, turn the nut(s) clockwise.
  4. Replace the truss rod cover.
After you adjust the truss rods, you may need to change the bridge height. Turn the two vertical hex screws at either side of the bridge to regulate the height. There is no need for individual string height adjustment because the radius of the slots in the saddles exactly matches that of the fingerboard. It's a good idea to check and set the intonation now if necessary.

Battery Life

Your bass was supplied with an Energizer or Duracell alkaline 9-volt battery. Most people only need to change it once a year.

Keep in mind that whenever your bass is plugged in, it's draining the battery. So if you're not using it - un-plug it and save money on batteries!

Finish Care

All finishes that we use can be cleaned safely with Alembic's Supreme Polish for Guitars. Simply spray the polish on the instrument and rub until the surface is free from polish. Then, take a second dry cloth and buff until the finish is brilliant.

We use a polyester finish for all of our high gloss coatings. The finish on the Epic, Orion and Rogue is a specially formulated polyurethane that is intended to have the appearance of an oil finish. It does not need to be oiled and should be cleaned with Alembic Supreme Polish for Guitars.

Should the finish on your bass become extensively damaged, refinishing is an option, and although while not cheap, our refinishing makes the instrument look new again.

The best care you can give the finish of the bass is to store it in a proper case when you're not using it.


The knobs on your bass are a collet style. You cannot simply pull the knobs off. Doing so will literally rip the shafts right out of the pots.

To remove the knobs, you should:

  1. Pry off the cap of the knob with your fingernail.
  2. Loosen the collet with a slotted screwdriver.
  3. The knob can now be safely lifted from the shaft of the pot.
The skirt on the knob is securely glued to the main section of the knob and will not come off.

If for cosmetic reasons you would like to change from the original knobs, you will need to get 1/4" shaft knobs. All the pots are fitted with plastic wave washers, so you can use either plastic or metal knobs without any concern about static electricity noise.

NOTE: Older models were supplied with set-screw knobs that require a 1/16" hex driver to remove. On models with a pickup selector switch or CVQ controls, a .050" hex driver is required.

Instrument Files

We keep a permanent file on every bass we've ever made. It keeps a record of the woods we made it out of and any other special features. We also keep track of owners.

When you register your bass, the information goes in the instrument file. If you ever sell the instrument, simply have the new owner fill out a registration form. Owner information is strictly private.

Likewise, if the bass should be stolen, let us know. We don't sell any spare parts for instruments without serial numbers. We help people who recover their stolen basses all the time.

But the information is only as good as you make it. Please send us anything you want to keep in the instrument file clearly marked with the serial number.

What Next?

Stumped? Confused? If you ever need help with you bass or have any questions, please feel free to call and ask! The Alembic Club (bulletin board) is a great resource to get in touch with other Alembic owners.

You can also plan to visit our factory when you're in the San Francisco area. We are located one hour north of San Francisco. Factory tours are free of charge and no appointment is required for 11:00 am Wednesdays. Every visitor to the factory receives a special gift.

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