Karen is a drummer. But an injury forced her to lay off the drums for a while and take up the bass guitar. What a great opportunity to expand musical horizons, and a great way to look on the bright side of an otherwise dim situation. Karen decided to make it even brighter with a shiny new Alembic custom bass especially for her.
The design started with an Essence bass, to keep the weight down and have the bass in proportion to her frame. It also pairs well with the short scale. That's because hidden in design of the Essence bass is the Small Standard body (you know - the one made famous by Stanley Clarke). The lower body half draws its form from the Small Standard shape, though on the Essence it's a tad smaller. On the upper body half, the upper horn is long enough to balance extremely well even at a long scale.

neck laminations Wow. Even after seeing thousands of necks, it's still exciting to see new combinations! The little pinstripe veneers of Maple and Purpleheart only reveal themselves up close.
With Mahogany as the main neck pair, this bass has a deep, authoritative tone. The center stringer of Ebony reinforces that deep sound, but with Ebony's signature increase on fundamental sustain.
peghead peghead
We've recently begun to use the Orion peghead on Essence basses instead of the Cone peghead. The front and back of the peghead are faced with Purpleheart veneers, with Maple and Purpleheart interior veneers.
On the back, you can see the junction of the satin neck and the gloss finish. The finish is actually the same, it's just the final treatment. For the glossy areas, we sand then buff with fine abrasives on a buffing wheel. On the satin neck, we wet sand with progressively finer sandpapers up to 3500 grit. That paper is so smooth it just feels like paper when you touch it.

Wood Purpleheart as a top wood is all about the color. It's a shockingly violet color, and many that aren't familiar with exotic woods are quite surprised to learn that this is the natural color of the heartwood. There's a slight mottled figure to this piece of Purpleheart.
We've backed the top with an accent laminate of Maple and a dashing little pinstripe veneer of Purpleheart.

Hardware Perhaps easy to overlook, goldplated hardware adds a touch of elegance to the bass. While it's cosmetically very similar to the polished brass hardware, the plated hardware has a smooth finish on the tailpiece, and of course, doesn't require polishing.
LEDs Two-tone LEDs - red all the way down with amber accents at the 12th and 24th fret positions. Makes low-night navigation a little less stressful, and the coolness factor is way up there too.

 inlay Abalone oval inlays are the perfect compliment to the Purpleheart top laminate. The shell's natural colors include a healthy dose of purple, mixed with blues, pinks and swirls of green.
We were so happy making this bass. Even though it's not as ornate as some instruments we've made, it's very satifying to make exactly the instrument someone wants. Karen was fun to work with, and we're hoping this bass keeps making music with her for a great many years to come.

Front Back


  • Essence bass
  • Purpleheart top
  • Mahogany body
  • Mahogany, Maple, Ebony, and Purpleheart through body neck
  • 30.75 inch Short scale
  • 2 Alembic MXY pickups
  • Controls: volume, pan, filter, 2-position Q-switch, on/off for LEDs
  • Ebony fingerboard with abalone oval inlays
  • 24K gold plated hardware
  • Sold by: Bass Central
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Text and photos of bass by Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2010 Alembic, Inc.

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