Falling Leaves

Falling Leaves Pierre is certainly not a newcomer to the world of custom Alembic basses starting with his Stanley Clarke Brown Bass to his present project, Falling Leaves. Over the years Pierre and Susan have nurtured a unique relationship when it comes to his customs: he tells her what model, number of strings, wood choice, and a general concept for the inlay design. Then he just waits for the completed instrument. No photos, no mock ups, no changes. He entrusts Susan with total aesthetic control over the specific pieces of wood and design of the inlays, without his overview. He wants the surprise when he opens the case for the first time.
Since almost all customs are shipped to the person that ordered or their music dealer, we rarely get to witness that first look. This past January, Pierre was attending the NAMM show, and so after he came up to our shop. We could hardly wait for him to arrive. The case was on the sofa in the showroom. We kept peeking out the window to see who drove in. Is it him? Who knows? We didn't know what he looked like.
After our initial greetings, hugs and a brief chat, the moment had come to open the case. After he resumed breathing, Pierre said it was better than he could have hoped for, and that it was love at first sight.
The top wood is Jarrah Burl, a type of gum tree from Australia. We've positioned the wood to highlight the subtle color gradient so that it almost looks like a natural sunburst.
The neck is a slight take on our classic combination of Maple and Purpleheart, with the addition of two Walnut laminates in the neck for a little more attack. When we came up with the wood recipe for the neck, we were considering the rest of Pierre's collection, and wanted this bass to have its own distinct voice.
Falling Leaf At first, we were going to make a design of Oak and Maple leaves, but after several attempts, we just weren't satisfied. Susan made the decision to concentrate on the Maple leaves. Each one is a unique shape. All the leaves feature sterling silver for the veins and for the tip of the stem. The leaves themselves are golden mother of pearl, most with a curl showing the back of the leaf in abalone. Though they serve as position markers, they seem to naturally float down the fingerboard.

Maple Seed Inlay At the 24th fret, we've inlaid a Maple seed for a bit of whimsy. The shape is also perfect for the available space. Like the leaves, it is cut from golden mother of pearl and abalone shell.
Visitors to our shop are frequently surprised to see us actually cutting the inlays here, since many builders subcontract this type of work. Equally surprising is the lack of lasers in the process - every inlay is cut by hand right here at Alembic.
peghead peghead
We make the front and back peghead veneers here from the same piece of wood as the top and back of the body for a perfect match. In this case with the dense burl figuring, we decided to not bookmatch the front veneer of the peghead.
Pierre's bass is the first example of this logo inlay where we outlined the golden mother of pearl rays with sterling silver. We selected a figured piece of mother of pearl for the cloud and an actively colored abalone for inside the dragon.
As a surprise for Pierre, we added an inlay of a leaf on the back of the peghead.
hardware For Series II basses gold plated hardware is part of the standard feature set. The gold color complements the Jarrah Burl and coordinates with the golden mother of pearl components of the inlays.
We handle the plating of our hardware a little differently than most builders. After we machine the brass hardware here, we do a complete setup when about half the finish is on the instrument. While the bass gets the rest of the finish, we polish the parts and send them to our plater. By the time the bass is out of spray, the hardware is back in our shop and ready for the second setup.
It's a bit more work to do the plated hardware this way, but then each of the slots in the string nut and the bridge saddles are fully plated, leaving no place for corrosion to start. The plating also doesn't flake off because we never cut through it for the strings.
LEDs Way larger than life, a super close up look at the carving of the Omega tip. The Jarrah Burl top sits atop a Maple accent laminate and two pinstripes of Purpleheart and Maple. Like all the shaping on our instruments, this detail is completely hand carved.
Logo When Pierre returned home to Switzerland, he wrote to us:

"What to say but a huge thank you for the wonderful time spent in your company. I really enjoyed the tour sprinkled with all those vintage Berthas and Nancies, the unique electronics room that looks 'mad-professorly', in short, something very unique, in a very discreet wrapping!
"What to say about the bass, the most incredible of them all, 'tout en nuance' like the french would say. The top is magnifique, and the inlays are absolutely stunning. The colour sandwich is very fitting and so chic! A real work of art... I know each bass that comes out of Alembic is a work of art, but I must admit that I am completely blown away by this last achievement."

We cannot express enough how much we enjoy making the ideas you present to us become basses.

Front Back


  • Series II 4-string bass
  • Jarrah Burl top and back
  • Bookmatch to center top
  • Maple, Walnut, and Purpleheart neck
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Custom "Falling Leaves" fingerboard inlay
  • Secret leaf inlay on back of peghead
  • Inlaid logo with silver framed rays
  • Continuous wood backplates and truss rod cover
  • 24 karat gold plated hardware
  • Side LEDs in amber
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Text by Mica Wickersham Thomas © 2016 Alembic, Inc.
Photos by Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2016 Alembic, Inc.

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