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Action, simply as low as possible?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Robsco, May 4, 2018.

  1. Robsco


    Nov 5, 2017

    When adjusting the action, is the aim to simply be as low as possible without rattle?

    I'm assuming not - so what else is being affected by the action?

    Does this also apply to the relief too? ie, get as "flat" as possible.

  2. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    The aim is tuning AND comfort. The lower the action, the less the string gets stretched when fretted so your notes are truer to pitch. Since you can't get the bass to intonate spot on, all across the neck, up down its length, you have some room there to account for individual taste. Different from relief. Relief IMO, is much like nut adjustment: there is only one correct relief for any given bass/string combination, the truss rod adjusts so it can be kept that way.
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
    Mechanical likes this.
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    The aim is to make it feel and sound the way the person playing it wants it to feel and sound.
    Lownote38 likes this.
  4. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    I naturally play a little harder in a live situation. As-low-as-possible on the bench will be too low on stage. I don't mind if it fights back a little bit. Exception- Fretless ALAP, and it will buzz just right.
  5. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Getting the relief adjusted correctly is critical to getting low action.

    Check out the Sticky at the top of this forum to learn how to correctly adjust relief and action.

  6. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    I like low action, but I do think that when they are super low the tone suffers a little, so I start with the strings as low as possible then I start to raise them a bit until I feel that I can get a real good tone, and also I like to feel a little resistance under my right hand fingers.
  7. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    I usually set my own action to stat as low as possible.

    Sometimes the bass can be set so low, that it feels the pickups get into the way of my fingers. Maybe it’s just I’m used to the strings a bit further away from the bass.

    Either way, I gradually raise the string height until I’m comfortable. That’s my process
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    For me it's mostly about the sound.
  9. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Some basses, like Ricks, were built for and excell with low action.

    However, low action is not the be-all and end-all of set up. Jameson’s action was so high I doubt many other people could play his bass. There is an artical floating around somewhere about Cheap Trick’s Tom Peterson describing his high action and what the sonic differences are.
  10. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    ^^^ Right answer!
  11. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    Sounds like getting the action as low as possible will affect or limit the amount of attack pressure and dynamics on your playing. I like to lower the action to suit my style and attack of playing, for bass and guitars. If you do your own set ups, you'll be able to perfect and fine tune your instruments to your preference.
  12. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    There’s also intonation to consider. High action can cause sharp notes. This is especially noticeable in the center of the fretboard. That’s why there’s specs from the manufacturer.
  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    IME: lowness of strings can match your playing style, i.e., a light touch can be pretty low, heavier hands may need more height. or any 'compromise' which gets your own preferences. i play around with string height on different instruments as i cycle through slightly different playing styles in different bands. fretless = pretty low in the first place.
  14. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Inactive

    Mar 1, 2018
    Action is mostly a matter of taste, some prefer to get it as low as possible other like their action to be on the higher end.

    How the action is set effects how easy the notes are to fret, the feel of tension on the strings and how they respond to your picking and fretting, and to a certain extend nuances in how the overall tone will be, as such it is mostly a matter of personal preferences.

    As for relief actually most of the time you would want a small relief meaning a slight forward bow in the neck, which will result in the strings on the first frets not to buzz so easily, as a rule though you say the lower the action the more straight you would typically want your neck.

    Here's the Fender standard instructions and recommended numbers for setting up a bass: How do I set up my bass guitar properly?

    Though as I said the exact details are mostly a matter of personal preferences.

    Personally I prefer my action to be pretty close to the recommended specs or minimally lower and my neck to be pretty straight with a minimal relief, aka forward bow.
  15. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    May 7, 2021

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