Left is Right

Ernie's BEM Series II Rewind - 1972. Ernie was going to a bunch of Grateful Dead concerts and couldn't get the sound out of his head. Fast forward - 2004. Ernie heard a friend's Alembic at a live show running without effects. It was then he realized he could get his ultimate tone machine. It had been a long time since he learned to play bass by watching the performers on the Grand Ole Opry and playing along on an upside-down Sears and Roebuck 4-string "guitar," and he was ready for his first Alembic, a fine Series I 4-string bass in Walnut. The tone was fantastic, that sound he had in his head since 1972.
After some time with his 4-string, Susan received an email from Ernie with the subject line, "May I get another?" That's when the 5-string project began, and the result is the bass you see to the right.
Ernie was absolutely floored by the bass. His bandmates are also enjoying the new sound. One significant side effect: increased playing time. Ernie found himself playing along with a CD, wondering, "could I do that?" and he'd start twiddling with the bass tone controls and his SF-2, playing that one riff over and over, exploring. Time does fly when you're having fun!
Birds-eye Maple First stop, the wood. Bird's-eye Maple top and back is nicely dappled with a generous amount of bird's-eye figure and remarkably free of grey-streaked mineral deposits. Each dimple of bird's-eye is accompanied by a gentle bit of curly figure. It's difficult to fully appreciate from a static photograph, but this wood "sparkles."
To check out the tummy contour, click on the Bird's-eye Maple image to enlarge.
Tip of the Tail Ebony and Maple make a massively powerful neck combination. Ebony is responsible for a significant increase in fundamental sustain, a characteristic we've not found in other woods. Sustained notes are usually mostly the second harmonic, almost a ringing sound. Not so with Ebony. That initial "push" of the fundamental is carried through the sustained note. It's an experience that must be felt to be fully understood.
Bridge Bridge, tailpiece, bridgeblock, string nut, and tuners are all chrome plated. This hard plating is over our normal solid machined brass parts. It won't corrode and only needs a modest wiping from time to time to keep its shiny new appearance.
peghead Since the body wood was so unusual, Chip felt compelled to make his own veneer for the peghead face. That light quilted pattern appears superimposed over the bird's-eye figure, and looks almost magical. Keeping with the simple theme of the bass, Ernie elected for a sterling silver logo without the Alembic script. We love how it looks!
Peghead back More of Chip's custom made veneer on the back face of the peghead. Interior peghead veneers are Maple and Purpleheart, instead of the typical Maple and Walnut. This is to coordinate with the Purpleheart and Maple acccent laminates in the body.
We don't want to scare all the righties out there, but each Alembic is setup by James or Jonathon, both lefties. Left is just right for them. For some odd reason, it seems to take a little longer for left-handed instruments to get through setup. Maybe it's because they're used to right-handed instruments, maybe.

Front Back


  • Series II 5-string
  • Bird's-eye Maple top and back
  • Mahogany body with Purpleheart and Maple accent laminates
  • Balance K Point body shape with tummy and elbow contours
  • Left-handed, strung right-handed
  • 34" 7-piece Maple and Ebony neck
  • Chrome plated hardware
  • Abalone oval inlays
  • Series II electronics with stereo/mono switch
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Text and Photographs of bass © 2005 Alembic, Inc.
Autumn Vineyard © 2004 Mica Wickersham

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