The Lion's Roar

David's Lion's Roar Why "The Lion's Roar?" you may ask. Well, scrolling down to the picture of the back of the body should reveal it well enough. But it is more than just looks that make this bass king of the beasts. David's had this bass for just a short while, but here's how he describes his time with the Lion so far:
Dear Susan:
After playing my Lion 6 for a month, I must say that it sounds as grand as it looks. What have we created here? Its sustain has been mistaken for feedback, the finish and top wood for volcanic rock, its sound clarity and attack for high-end compression. It always creates a stir where ever we go. Sonically it compares to nothing I have either heard or played. It is in a class of its own. I am proud to own this fine instrument and have it as a part of my musical arsenal. I play Alembic. Can you hear it?

Laminates With so many interesting features, it's hard to know where to start, but since the bass is named after the image on the back laminate, the wood seems as good a place as any. This particular combination of Buckeye Burl faces with Ebony accent laminates and a Purpleheart body is a first for us. It's also the first time we've done a satin finish over Buckeye Burl. The neck is a robust combination of Maple and Ebony. As we expect with this recipe, the bass has incredible sustain. Additionally, the fundamental portion of the note lasts throught the sustained sound. The neck is the heart of our Lion, and it is the neck that contributes most to the roaring sound.
Peghead laminates On the back of the neck, you can see all eleven laminations. We select individual piece of wood and arrange them for maximum strength. Glue joints are clean and tight. The satin finish shows as a dull glow across the neck. With a final rubout using 3000 grit sandpaper, it feels as smooth as it looks.
abalone The inlays are a large slab of laminated abalone. Because the fingerboard is so wide, each inlay has a seam down the center and each half is inlaid on a slope. The design was not intentional. Early on, this bass was to have Black Tahitian Mother of Pearl inlays and green superbright LEDs on the front of the fingerboard. The sample we prepared for David was a small scrap of Ebony fingerboard with a random cut of the shell and the LED at the center. He liked the shape and asked Kris to do something similar for the position markers.
Front LEDs We searched a long time to find the right shade of blue LED. It's difficult to photograph properly, but it's a true blue color. Many components that have nice color are quite dim. Some that are bright enough are much more white than blue. The parts are not available with a diffuser, so we build our own. That way, when you look straight down at the 24th fret, it's close to the same brightness as when you look down the neck at the 3rd fret. There's one LED at the center of each chunk of abalone, with two at the 12th and 24th frets.
side LEDs Side LEDs are matching blue to the front. Each LED is inlaid inside a tiny sterling silver circle. This allows the position to be seen when the LEDs are off. David had us install a 3-way switch to control the LED operation: off, side only, side and front. He can add the front LEDs at appropriate times during a performance.
Backplate 1 When the back laminate is so special, it's important to preserve it with continuous wood backplates. These are mini construction projects unto themselves.
First, Chip maps out the plate locations, then Bob carefully scroll saws the shapes out. Then comes custom plywood time: Buckeye Burl on the top and bottom with layers of Maple and Purpleheart for strength and to inhibit cupping like a solid plate might do. These then go through the same finishing process as the rest of the instrument, resulting in a continuous flow of the grain from the back laminate over the plates.
Battery backplate
Preamp backplate
peghead peghead
Peghead is cut in the Knob shape. This design was originally used for our 8-string basses in the mid-seventies. It's smaller than some of our other designs, which is very important to keep a 6-string bass well balanced on a strap.
Also to keep the peghead weight down, David specified Hipshot Ulralight tuners with a drop tuner for the B string.
hardware Complimenting the glow of the satin finish, we felt the warm color of nickel plating would look best. The bridge is our concealed hardware design, with intonation screws accessed through holes at the bottom edge. Chris buffs the hardware to a mirror like finish before taking it to the plater.
James handmade the tailpiece in our "Mustache" shape. It took about four hours for him to file all the details just right. This is the first time we've made one for a 6-string bass. We wonder if David's own mustache had anything to do with the special request?
Truss rod cover The Buckeye Burl top is unusually dark. We really felt it a shame to cut out the truss rod cover and pickups, so these are also continuous wood.
In places where there was bark or other inclusions in the wood (like stones), we've inlaid from another part of the board. Some of the inlays are very hard to see. Other ones, like the eyes of the lion on the back, are intentionally made for high contrast, and they accentuate the natural beauty of the wood. It is also important to really study the wood before using it - in this case, the Buckeye Burl had to be bookmatched to center to preserve the face of the Lion.

Front Back


  • Series II 6-string bass
  • Buckeye Burl top and back bookmatched to center
  • Purpleheart body core
  • Ebony accent laminates
  • 36 inch scale Maple and Ebony neck
  • Continuous Wood Everything
  • Abalone custom inlays
  • Blue front and side LEDs
  • Polyester satin finish
  • Nickel plated hardware
  • Mustache tailpiece
  • Concealed hardware bridge
  • Hipshot Ultralight tuners
  • Series II electronics with LED switch
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Photograph of Pacific Ocean at Sonoma Coast Shell Beach © 2004 Mica Wickersham
Photographs of bass © 2004 Alembic, Inc.

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