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Are there down sides to low action...?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by terribilino, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. terribilino


    Nov 22, 2008
    ... or are there advantages to high action?

    I just handed over my bass to a colleague to take to a shop in Italy, because she knows a guy who is supposed to be one of the best bass techs in Piacenza.

    I wrote the guy a little note saying that I wanted a full setup done, and that I like the action low. I'm a newish player, though, and it occured to me that I've been asking for low action more or less because most people in this forum seem to see low action on a bass as desirable. I've noted that some players, though, seem to prefer higher action.

    What are the advantages/disadvantages of high/low action?

  2. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    it's just preference, though low action does make it a lot easier to tap, but it may limit your attack if you don't want fret buzz
  3. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    It's not an advantage/disadvantage sort of thing. It's more about playing style and how the strings feel on your fretting hand. In broad strokes, I'd say that folks who "dig in" more on their plucking hand will probably want higher action to minimize fret buzz and such. Those with a gentle/light plucking style will probably lean towards low action. But these are very broad and general descriptions. If you're just starting out I'd suggest an action setting on the low side. You'll find it easier on your fretting hand. Also, there's no "magic" to doing a set up and setting your action. It's a very straight forward process that is explained in detail in many places. A good place to start is the stickies threads at the beginning of this section. Good luck...
  4. Bardley


    Nov 16, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    It depends on how you play. If you have a lighter touch, low action is probably a good thing as the bass will probably feel "faster" or easier to play. If you dig in a bit more or use a pick, medium to higher action may be better to keep away from fret buzz. It really is just a personal preference. I prefer med to low action. String selection plays a big part in the feel of the action as well. Lower gauge strings will have less tension and could cause a med action to feel easier to fret. Hex core strings, like DR Lo-Riders, are stiffer feeling and can be lowered a bit more with less buzz. I prefer the Lo-Riders on my Warrior.

    It will just take some time and playing lots of setups to figure out exactly what you like. I didn't figure out exactly what I liked for years. Everyone likes a different setup. Find what is comfortable to you and learn how to setup your basses yourself and you will be a happy bass player. (A search on these forums will yield lots of info) It was was one of the best skills I ever learned as a bass player. With simple tools you can get a great playing bass without spending a small fortune over the years getting your bass setup regularly to a spec you may or may not even like.
  5. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    I much prefer low action. I use pick for better to me sound. Light to moderate picking and light fretting. It really really is best to learn to do your own setups. Only you can get it fully tweaked custom wise for you for best playing string to string.
  6. I used ultra low action after watching stuff by gary Willis and Matt Garrison explaining how they set up their instruments . Its fun but in the end I decided the whole low action, ramp thing was not for me . I reverted back to say " medium ' action .

    Its all what you want . Action is a very personal thing . In my opinion I would say go with whtever you feel is good but from the working bassists' point of view and again this is just my opinion I would avoid ultra low action . Again, just my opinion .
  7. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    I agree. I use LaBella 760M flatwounds with a high action and use ramps.

    It's all about what works for you.

  8. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
  9. gregmerrill


    Jul 27, 2009
    To me I think it best to get the action as high as you can without messing up your touch. I feel that you get more punch and tone out of our instrument with a higher action. Jamerson had high action and his bass would really punch thru the mix. Miller says he will raise his action throuout his tours as his chops get stronger. Jaco was said to use high action also. But if you set your action to high where it messes up your timing and finess then I think you have gone to far. For example if you like to slap a high action will make your slap volume so much louder than your finger volume because you have to hit the strings harder with your thumb and fingers to get a tone. But having a lower action will keep your finger and slap volume more consistent. Everyones hands are different and that is why everyone will generate a different tone regardless of what bass they are playing. So I think finding an action that sounds best to you and works good with your technique is what you should aim for. Try setting a real low action for your 1st set on a gig then for the 2nd set set it higher and see what you notice.
  10. terribilino


    Nov 22, 2008
    Good advice, all!

    As usual, the answer is 'it depends'. As I've only just re-started bass, I don't really have a particular style, but lowish action seem safe for most things. This particular bass is active and will be strung with roundwounds, so it's more for the modern, digging in kind of stuff: Rush, 80s rock, slap, etc.

    I've also got a passive Precision with flats for the classic sound - Motown, early finger funk, classic rock. Maybe that one could use higher action. I'll play it by ear.

    Thanks again.
  11. Bassdude404


    Oct 23, 2010
    Had a guy that is in three different bands tell me last year that my setup is totally wrong...The action is too high, and offered to adjust both my Fender P's...I tried to tell him that my playing style (aggressive) doesn't work with a low action, yet he still insisted on letting him setup my stuff...Now I've been playing in bands since my 20's and I'm 46 now..I think I know what's gonna work for me, and what won't...The drummer at that time suggested that I follow this dude's advice also...So I told the drummer to let him setup the Ibanez SR800 that I had sold him a few months earlier...I played it during practice one day, and the drummer was wondering why the bass sounded like crap...:rollno: Switched over to my P and he finally understood what I was trying to tell him...It's all about your playing style...What works great for one person is all wrong for the next person....
  12. Surly


    Feb 2, 2007
    South Florida
    Good advice by all. It's a personal thing, like string choice IMO. I recently put medium guage 50-105 Chromes on my P-bass. I was able to get the action so low on my bass (without buzzing) that the strings actually could not vibrate as much (I'd say this is the downside, if you go really low). I have since raised the action to about what Fender recommends on their site for setup. About 5/64" between the 17th fret and string. I would consider this to be fairly low action, but normal and playable.
  13. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Lower the better to me as I play fingerstyle the vast majority of the time.
  14. terribilino


    Nov 22, 2008
    Great strings, aren't they? That's exactly the gauge and the brand I chose for my Precision. First flats ever, and I'm never going to take them off. Sometimes you get lucky the first time around.

    Interesting what you say about the vibration of the strings with low action. My only problem is that I find them a bit clackity (for lack of a better word) - but I'm not sure if that's the low action or just my bad technique. They've been on for about 6 months, so they've settled down nicely. When I dig in, though, there's a definite 'click' which I could do without. I'm thinking of raising the action a bit to see if it gets any better. With a lighter touch it's not a problem, though. But digging in's fun...
  15. Surly


    Feb 2, 2007
    South Florida
    Yes when I had the action extremely low, the E sounded dead. Raised the action to normal levels, and all is well..."normal". It also relieved some of the tension which is a good thing since they're slightly higher tension strings. I think the high tension may be why you can get the action so low on these. I think the clank can be resolved with technique and EQ'ing. Also I don't think you can necessarily hear it in a mix.


    Dec 29, 2009
    I crank my action way up. I don't get fret buzz with it and my sound is a lot clearer, but my tapping suffers, and I like to tap my lines a lot. It's entirely dependent on your style.
  17. pandaman37

    pandaman37 Banned

    Sep 17, 2009
    Clovis, CA
    yeah im actually cursing my low action atm cos i have that really rhcp-fret-buzz-funk low action on my jazz atm, but im trying to learn assassin by john mayer, and pinos playing that really mellow, groovy spector funk, just cant get the sound.

    i love how its incredibly easy to slap and the tone is great for certain music, but really its up to the player.

    ps, they should make some sort of bridge that can snap inbetween low and medium actions for such shenanigans...
  18. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
  19. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    What's a "hash pipe-style truss rod wrench?"

    Mind you, I don't even know what a hash pipe looks like.

    It's a nice kit that works for all my basses and for people paying $75 or more for a setup, it's cheap! :)

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