Fretless players: what’s your string height?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by project_c, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Question for fretless players: how low / high do you like your string height? Please specify which ‘fret’ and which string (eg. 4 / 64ths on the 17th fret on the E).

    My fretless P is around 6 64ths on the 12th fret of the E, and it feels a little high, I’m trying to work if I’m being unreasonable for wanting to drop it lower than that.
  2. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    On mine I lower the strings until they buzz a little, then raise them a smidge. No measuring required. It works perfectly for me.
  3. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    That's exactly how I set up fretted basses too. Works like a charm.
    Brad Johnson and MonetBass like this.
  4. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    I like my strings on the other side of the neck for fretless, but I don't mind a little buzz. I also keep my neck pretty straight, just a tiny bit of relief. Fretless players tend to embrace the buzz a bit more that fretted players, but other wise it's the same exact process and measurements.
    Element Zero and Skip Chucker like this.
  5. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    My setup routine is usually similar but I need some more specific info if possible please. Buzz is dependant on how hard you pluck, as well as where you pluck. I get that it's personal preference etc but I'd like some numbers.
  6. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    SH on the ABG that sits by my desk is a little under 1/4" at the octave - maybe 7/32's+. All strings.
    project_c likes this.
  7. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Thanks for the info! I'd find that height really difficult on my fretless Precision, but I do have a fretted acoustic bass which has similar action and for some reason I can deal with it a lot better on that.
  8. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

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    ...which works well, OP: by 'feel' instead of by arbitrary. numbers mean nothing except in the context of feel. what numbers will show you, however, is how un-flat your neck is.

    how are you measuring 64ths? what device(s)? thanks.
    MonetBass, Skip Chucker, Gorn and 2 others like this.
  9. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Thanks for your reply - I do know all this, but as I mentioned it's really not the kind of info I'm looking for right now. I'm interested in numbers because it tells me what people consider normal, how hard they dig in when they play, what action they find tolerable etc. I'm just trying to get a general feel for what height other people like, and to see how my action compares. For example, if it turns out that my action is crazy low and I'm still complaining about it, then I know I should probably shut up and work on my technique.

    In terms of how I measure things - my neck is flat enough to hold a credit card in place when I press the E string down the first and last fret, there's less than 1mm relief on there. That's usually how I check the relief. I also always set my basses up by feel rather than by numbers, BUT I do regularly measure the height with a string action gauge as well, because it lets me know exactly how stable my neck is, and how much things like temperature and humidity impact the action over time. If the number doesn't change much, I know I have a stable neck.
    JRA likes this.
  10. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    My string height is about the same on fretted vs fretless. I am in the low camp. Measured at the 12th, 1.8mm~ on the G to 2.0~ on the E. I do have less relief on my fretless than my fretted though. My fretless has maybe .010" at the 7-9 range. A lot of players get buzz on my bass but I don't think I have that light of a touch.

    I should add that the nut height and having a level board make a HUGE difference when it comes to a great playing fretless bass.

    That bass could probably use a visit to the tech. "High" action is in the 2.5mm range.
    project_c and JRA like this.
  11. I use to obsess about low action (less than 2 business cards) & mwah on my Fretless bass until I started playing Double Bass. That really strengthens your hands & changes your approach. I like a medium action now to closer mimic DB tone, growl, feel, clack, slap, etc with mwah tone optional.
    Element Zero likes this.
  12. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Yeah that's definitely lower than mine, but it's the kind of action I would feel comfortable with.

    I do also think finger size and shape may have a lot to do with what we find comfortable. If you have long fingers, you probably find a higher action less difficult than if you have short stubby fingers. Come to think of it, things like flexibility, hand muscles, tendons probably all contribute to this on some level. Then there's the actual music you have to play. If you take solos and have difficult music to get through, these small differences will matter a lot more than if you play simple 3 chord pop tunes.
  13. Skip Chucker

    Skip Chucker

    Dec 9, 2018
    Mine is low enough to buzz when I want it to; and still growl and mwah for days. My neck is almost flat, and I just had it plek'd by Keith Roscoe ( it's one of his basses). I've found that number values matter on fretted basses, but fretless is more about feel than anything else.
  14. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member


    seems like you've got it goin' on! so, i forgot: why do you want me to measure mine?
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
  16. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Mine are 1.50mm (<4/64") on E and 1.10mm (<3/64") on G at 12. I would say 6/64" is high, and getting lower is not unreasonable provided your fingerboard is well dressed and set reasonably flat.
    project_c likes this.
  17. Ross W. Lovell

    Ross W. Lovell

    Oct 31, 2015

    Scales are wonderful things, now if we can just get him to reduce his fractions?
    JRA likes this.
  18. guts


    Aug 13, 2018
    Technique doesn't really factor into it at all. You can set your strings as low or as high as you like regardless of your level of skill. They are two totally independent things.

    There are people with high technical proficiency who like their action very low and people with no technical proficiency who like their action very high. It's only a matter of preference and doesn't matter much at all beyond making sure your bass is set up the way you want it to be.
  19. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I think the technique necessary to play cleanly and musically with very low action takes some skill. You can set it low and play all clanky but a more skilled bass player can play clean.
    SteveCS and MonetBass like this.
  20. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Ok, but instead of getting into a long discussion about technique, let’s focus on the topic - what height do you like to set yours to?