Alembic Bass Guitars: what makes them so darn special?

There are many fantastic bass guitar manufacturers out there, and everyone has their favourites, but there’s something about an Alembic that sends shivers down a bass player’s strings. They have a reputation for being the best of the best (often with a price tag to match), but what is it exactly that makes this brand of bass guitar so sought after and special?

Although the cost of an Alembic bass is significantly higher than other bass guitar brands, there’s no denying that the quality of an Alembic really is second to none. Every guitar is incredibly well made, and as many Alembic basses are pretty much custom-built, every model is a little bit different, making nearly every bass unique. Even though the likes of John Entwistle (The Who), John McVie (Fleetwood Mac) and Stanley Clarke (Return to Forever) all played an Alembic Series 1, you’d never mistake their playing for one another as they all sound completely different, and this is the magic of an Alembic. The design of the guitars produces a more natural sound meaning you hear the bass player, not the bass guitar. The level of customisation available is also mind-blowing. As well as a choice of scale, wood and finish, there is a broad range of additional features available to enable the creation of a truly individual piece; including gold-plated hardware, side LED lights (in any colour or combination), special inlays, body shape, bespoke fingerboard dimensions – the list is endless.

Alembic was founded in 1969 with a mission to create the finest quality American made instruments ever known, and this philosophy is still ingrained in the products they make today. The numerous customisation options are outstanding and the team of specialists at Alembic successfully combine expert knowledge, experience and a passion for guitars and the music they create. Despite the many different visual variations available – including a beautiful selection of woods that no other bass guitar brand comes close to – it’s the sound that really resonates when you play an Alembic. The way the electronics and pick-ups work together is truly awesome.

Don’t just take our word for it though; John Entwistle, Cliff Burton, John McVie, Phil Lesh, Jimmy ‘Flim’ Johnson and Stanley Clarke are just some of the talented bassists who have played/owned Alembics at some point in their careers. Bass players of this calibre have their pick of the best bass guitars, so when you see them choose to play an Alembic, you know its quality.

It has to be acknowledged that alongside this five-star quality comes a certain amount of, shall we say… quirkiness. Anyone who has perused the Alembic website will have seen that it’s not your average online set-up, which can take a while to get used to. Some would say it’s difficult to navigate, others would argue that it’s all part of the Alembic charm, and if you want one bad enough, you’ll power on through. (What’s life without a bit of whimsy, right?!) Regardless of your opinion on the website, there’s no denying the quality of Alembic bass guitars, or the passion and knowledge that goes into creating them – and all of this combined is what makes them so special in the eyes (and fingertips) of bass players across the globe.

Due to the high price tag of a new Alembic bass, there is a massive demand for second-hand Alembics, so if you’ve got one you’re looking to sell, we’d love to know about it, so get in touch!

Facts and links about Alembic Bass Guitars

  1. The Series 1 bass is the model that Alembic has been making the longest. They started producing it in 1972 and it’s still a popular model today.
  2. Alembic welcomes customers to view their factory in the US and runs tours every first Wednesday of the month. For those customers who don’t live locally in Santa Rosa, a picture-based tour of the Alembic factory can be found on the Alembic website here:
  3. The Alembic company was founded by husband-and-wife team Ron and Susan Wickersham, and it was originally a consulting firm which aimed to improve the quality of live sound and recordings of live concerts.
  4. John Entwistle’s first Alembic bass guitar was a 1974 Alembic Series 1 in eye-catching zebra wood. It was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2003 for £13,200 – smashing its estimate of between £2,000-£3,000!
  5. Check out Stanley Clarke taking centre stage with his Alembic at a live performance with Return to Forever at the 43 Jazzaldia Festival in 2008 here:
  6. Watch Stanley Clarke perform Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ alongside fellow bass players Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten here: