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Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by jsbassist, Oct 17, 2002.
What does low action, and high action on the neck mean?
You will get a lot of responses about "fractions of an inch" and bull-hockey about using spark plug feeler gauges about what is "right." I've always found the predicated measurement to be B.S. You learn what works for you best by learning how the various components of your bass interact - string gauge/bridge design/saddle design/nut design/tuner design/ truss rod and stablizer bar design/ et al.
But, what it all comes down to is a compromise;
-between the tone you desire and the height the strings off the bass neck;
- the strings and their gauge
- how you adjust the truss rod to have flat/back/forward relief.
That's what make this instrument so wonderful - the action isn't standardized. The woods and construction vary. We're not all after the action that makes the strings closest to the frets.
Pickup height/saddle adjustment/body design/headstock design/et al make huge impacts.
Otherwise, we might as well be like all the turntable knuckle-draggers who can only make sounds that REAL MUSICIANS have produced,
You could have just said how high or low the strings are from the fretboard.
Here is the answer he was looking for:
High action: Strings are relatively high in relation to the frets, or fingerboard
Low action: Strings are relatively low in relation to the frets, or fingerboard.
Action is usually adjusted at the bridge with the little screws in the bridge saddles. (the screws at the end of the bridge are for intonation and this is adjusted usually when you put on a new gauge of strings, but not necessarily when you change strings with the same brand that was on there to begin with. "Gauge "is the thickness of the strings, and you can usually get light, medium light, medium, and heavy (and custom sets).
Now to address your points which are obviously addressed towards me:
1) I never said there was a standard for everyone
2) Each bass DOES have it's sweet spot for a unique player. It is a good idea to find that spot, THEN measure it so you can get back to it if things go bad (neck bends due to weather change, etc).
3) However, when making a statement in these forums, like "I like low action..." It helps to quantify that so that it makes sense. Otherwise, what may be low for someone might ne high for someone else.
So, WE AGREE that a predicated measurement is BS. BUT, once you get your settings down, it helps to measure for future reference. Indeed, it might help when purchasing a new bass to set up the bass with your preferred measurements from another bass, and use that as a starting point.
I could have said "this the CORRECT way" and we'd all still be Fender/Jaco-jerks.
Well, I would tend to agree with the statement that it is entirely up to oneself as to what is low. I have had guys at music stores comment on the low action of the bass I was playing when I felt it was way too high for my tastes.
I use a rather unscientific method (or maybe semi scientific). I set the neck and then the string height to what feels good for me. Then I adjust the intonation.
Once you have that set, all you should need to do is to adjust the trussrod when the weather changes (if it does substantially where you live).
I use a precision ground straight edge and set my necks so that the neck has about a notebook papers thickness relief around the 8th fret or so (almost completely flat). My fretless basses have virtually no relief at all (especially the Pedulla)
but the key is that once you set everything up, if you have a repeatable method of setting your neck, then you should be able to keep your bass at the perfect setup for you with minial adjustments.
Sounds pretty much of what I do. First, set the neck...(don't have a straight edge though)... left hand digit depressing E string at first fret, right hand thumb at the 12th with middle finger of same hand pointing towards nut and tapping string around the 5th or 6th fret for relief (area where string is greatest distance from fretboard)...approx paper thickness...can hardly see a gap...just listen for a pinking noise as I tap the string on the fret. Next, string height...about 3/32 inch at the 17th, all the way across consistent with no fret buzz. If too much buzz at the lower frets then back off relief slightly. After setting intonation, make sure all is ok at 19th fret aswell...recheck string height...recheck intonation. All measurements with Bass on lap in play position (seated obviously!). PRESTO! Not everybodies set up but works all the time for me. Only found my right setup by taking measurements and keeping notes.
Finally, slight relief adjustments as weather changes through the year.
To me, that would be low action setup. I consider action to be BOTH truss rod adjustment and string height. Good luck with experimenting, take measurements and keep notes.