Bird of Prey

Bird of Prey Bass This wasn't the first custom Alembic Valentino ordered. However, selecting the features for your ultimate custom bass is a bit more daunting when you live and breathe Alembic everyday at work. Like many of our customers, our own Valentino had some difficulty narrowing down infinity options to create his dream bass. For instance, originally, Valentino specified this bass as a Series II with a Rogue body shape. Oh how things have changed!
While Valentino was settling in on his features list, we were developing the Balance K body shape (first seen on the Out of This World Featured Custom). The design intrigued him, but he wanted to start it off with a pistol grip horn. On its own, the horn looked out of place. So the paper plan was spread on the drafting table, and Valentino added a point. Then Chip, Tony, and Mike added more points, lots of points. In fact, there were too many points, but after some erasing and creative curve blending, the 5-point Balance K shape was born.
Bird of Prey Tailpiece Since it's the namesake of Valentino's bass, let's start with the Bird of Prey tailpiece. This design was a collaboration between James, Mike, and Valentino, with everyone else chiming in with opinions. When one of "our own" gets something built, you can imagine there is no shyness with opinions (tell me how you really feel). After the test piece was made in Maple, the wicked but lovely shape took our hearts. Since the string nut and saddles are made of Ebony (more on that later), the tailpiece needed that little Ebony shim under it.
Ebony saddles Valentino wanted to have the sound of the open strings more similar to the rest of his playing, so he asked about Ebony saddles for the bridge. We were concerned about the wood cracking, and the first try did develop one very soon after fabrication, but that helped us learn how to make them better. We also made a spare set of brass saddles that we're happy to report Val hasn't needed in the year and a half since the Bird of Prey was completed.
If we do this on another build, we'll likely make the threaded part of the saddle from brass and the top part from Ebony, like an inverted tailpiece.
Ebony string nut Meanwhile, at the other end of the bass, this quiet little strip of Ebony completes the "wood only" contact for the string concept. Note that it is not adjustable in height.
Valentino reports that the experiment was successful, that the open notes sound more like the other notes, and that overall, the bass is closer to an upright bass tone. Plus, it looks really, really cool.
peghead The Omega peghead shape was something Valentino considered for a while. It must have been at least a year that we heard him saying how cool it would look. That was followed by a few months of how cool it was going to look on his next bass.
Like the multiple points on the body, the Omega peghead is time consuming to carve, but the finished result is more than worth it.
Logo inlay Excellent logo inlay in sterling silver with mother of pearl behind the cloud and abalone behind the alembic and the dragon. We inlaid the logo rays in more abalone.
Continuous wood backplate You can't imagine that Valentino would have anything but continuous wood backplates for this instrument, can you? Each is a mini construction project unto itself, comprised of layers of Maple and Purpleheart for stability, with Coco Bolo on the face you see and the inside surface as well (though the inside is covered with silver for shielding).

Pickup covers There isn't much else that could be continuous wood on this bass. On the front, the truss rod cover, pickups, and bridge block are all covered in the bookmatched to center Coco Bolo. It's a stunning swath of pure Coco Bolo delight, and sure to bring a big smile to Valentino's face for many years to come.
Front Back


  • Series II 4-string bass
  • Coco Bolo top and back, bookmatched to center
  • 5 point Balance K custom body shape with Omega cutout
  • Continuous wood everything
  • Ebony string nut and bridge saddles
  • Custom Bird of Prey tailpiece
  • Gold plated hardware
  • Ebony center neck laminate
  • Blue side LEDs
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Text and Photographs of bass © 2006 Alembic, Inc.

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