- bass guitars
- electric guitars
Ron and Susan Wickersham founded Alembic in 1969 as a consulting firm that worked with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash & Young to improve the quality of their live sound and live recordings. After improving the technical aspects of the PA systems and live recording techniques, Alembic turned their attention to the electronics used in the guitars and basses the musicians were playing to further improve the live sound. Touring bands were experiencing was too much electrical interference and unreliability with their instruments. Ron Wickersham designed low impedance pickups to increase the bandwidth. This also made the pickups low output and so he had to design an active on-board preamp to boost the signal. These were the first guitars with active electronics.
Alembic began installing these new active electronics in player’s guitars and basses. They also did modifications on the instruments like re-manufacturing the peg heads with a fourteen degree angle, machining solid brass parts for the bridge, tail-piece and nut, carving necks. This eventually led to Alembics own line of guitars and basses. The first Alembic bass, number 72-01, was made for Jack Casady, then of the Jefferson Airplane. In 1972 the bass cost more than four thousand dollars. It sounded and resembled nothing that came before it and was to be the bass that has influenced and shaped bass design ever since.
When Stanley Clarke's career took off around 1973 it massively increased the profile of Alembic basses. The bass had been relatively neglected as an instrument and Alembic concentrated on making finely crafted basses. They continued to improve their Standard Series I and II basses and guitars until 1979 when they introduced the first of their lower priced lines, the Distillate. Since that time, they have further enhanced the Series I and II models and have been introducing a new model every one or two years.
Circa 2015 Alembic employed 11 people, still mainly the Wickersham family and their friends.