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High action vs. Low

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by nunk6, Aug 29, 2000.


  1. nunk6

    nunk6

    Jul 29, 2000
    Just what everyone's opinions are; High action better tone?
    Low action sloppy? thats what i've come to think
     
  2. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    N6, You can't dig into a real low action setup without having to deal with string noise, but you can play it with a soft touch and make it sound great. On the other hand with a medium to high action you can dig in but you can still play with a soft touch to get the expression that you often need.

    On the other hand, a low set up is easier to play physically. Most of my experience has been on URB. The difference in high action and low action is much more evident on URB but the principle is the same.

    The action on my bass would probably be a medium to slightly high action. I believe it's a matter of choice rather than absolutes.
     
    zontar likes this.
  3. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Iowa
    Because of the style of music I play, I prefer LOW action. I actually wouold like mine so low, that I could play my bass, just by breathing on it....:)
     
    Dug2 likes this.
  4. Ever since I figured out how to adjust the string height on my bridge I've had my action crazily low. Just high enough so that I can play every fret on every string with a semihard pluck with no real buzzing. In fact..when I first set the height, it was way too low. Everything past the 15th fret buzzed... I had it set that way like 2 weeks before I changed it..and yes I actually do play high sometimes.. I am just lazy.

    I can definitely see how a high action would have it's place...but low is where it's at for me. Before I lowered it I really wanted to get a new 4 string, and my fretting hand got tired very easily. When I first lowered it, the first coherent thought in my mind was "wow..my bass feels $400 better now." My fretting hand feels a lot better now, but I still need work on my position. I am totally happy with my lowend peavey that I spent a whole $150 on now.
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'va always preferred a low action and I would say that this hasn't affected my tone - if anything I found it has been better like this. I suppose it depends on what tone you want - if you want to sound like James Jamerson or any of the Motown records, then you probably want a high action, but I don't particularly like that tone anyway.

    I also find other advantages to low action - like better intonation higher up the neck. With a high action you are pulling these notes - just beyond the 12th fret - down quite a way and you are undoubtedly going to pull the intonation out, so if you are trying to play chords in this area, they are going to sound out of tune. Whereas with a low action, my basses intonate perfectly with open strings all the way to the 24th fret. You just can't do this with a high action.

    I also think that witha high action you are going to have more chance of making mistakes and mis-fretting causing the tone to suffer. Now if you are only playing simple lines, then fair enough, you can have a high action, get a very rounded full tone and concentrate on each note. But I find that life is not that simple and playing fast runs, unison lines and tricky parts are a day to day thing, so low action is the only way to go. 16th notes with a high action, is just a non-starter for me, for example.
     
  6. White_Knight

    White_Knight

    Mar 19, 2000
    USA
    I prefer a high action. To me, it seems to add a "sweetness" of tone, almost like a URB. While low is nice for faster playing, I tend to dig in fairly hard (even on softer jazz songs) at some points through a song and I just hate the buzzing that it causes. I like my high action because it allows me to do everything without worrying about string buzz. Sure, it takes quite a while to get used to it - my hands used to hurt for a couple of hours after playing (yes, my action is extremely high) but now I'm used to it. Once you do get used to that higher action you'll find that it's also a lot easier to play faster with it. It's all about YOU though so do whatever suits you the best.
     
  7. Xeo

    Xeo

    Aug 21, 2000
    Deynn, what style of music DO you play, that involves the ultra-low action?

    I like low-action too, but only because do tricky slap stuff so I dont have the chance to slap it hard.
     
  8. theJello

    theJello

    Apr 12, 2000
    I prefer very low action. I play with a really light touch though. Your tone will actually be better. Some guys say the complete opposite of this but they dig in more.
    Jeff Berlin, Anthony Jackson, and Gary Willis all subscribe to the lighter touch and lower action ideal. Jeff and Anthony both adjust their neck so they are almost straight.
    Im not quite sure how Gary does it but I bet its pretty straight. I think this works great. Of course your bass must have an impecable(sp?) fret job or you will get less than disirable results.
     
  9. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    I also find other advantages to low action - like better intonation higher up the neck. With a high action you are pulling these notes - just beyond the 12th fret - down quite a way and you are undoubtedly going to pull the intonation out, so if you are trying to play chords in this area, they are going to sound out of tune. Whereas with a low action, my basses intonate perfectly with open strings all the way to the 24th fret. You just can't do this with a high action.

    ===============================================
    Bruce, I respectfully disegree with your thoughts on intonation/high action. My bass is a cheap(relatively) bass and it intonates very nearly perfectly all the way to the 24th fret. In my opinion the compensation is there for just that reason. To correct for increasing string tension as a note is fretted. With an extremely low action it is impossible to get the sharp attack/slow decay envelope that is possible with a higher action. Keep in mind that a string doesn't just vibrate horizontally. It vibrates in an orbital motion that is made up of both hor. and vert. motion. At some point. if you keep going lower and lower with the action the vert. motion is going to reach the fingerboard.I.E. buzz. On the other hand, with a higher action, a soft touch with the picking hand will give you the same sound as a low action setup.

    We might keep in mind that high and low are pretty subjective. What's low or high to me may be just the opposite to someone else.
     
  10. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Iowa
    I play a lot of original music which has an Eastern flavor to it. Also...I just have a light touch and find that I have NO problems playing any kind of music using low action.
    I also have found that I do not have as many with my fretting hand with the low action. So there are also some physical aspects to my choice.
     
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I must admit that I don't understand most of this at all. Fistly, what do you mean by "the compensation" ? The rest makes no sense at all to me as it doesn't fit in with my experience of playing hundreds of different basses, but I'm keeping an open mind on this.

    As to intonation - OK, hold down a 3-note chord at 12th fret or just above. Now play each note individually, while checking the intonation with a tuner. Is each note spot-on with the tuner?
     
  12. White_Knight

    White_Knight

    Mar 19, 2000
    USA
    Yes, intonation (expecially with my high setup) is a killer! It takes forever just to setup the bridge so that it doesn't sound too horid and I still have to adjust a lot with my fingers, but that's the way I like it. Maybe I should consider getting a fretless bass? Anyway, it just adds to my "style". :)
     
  13. DB

    DB

    Aug 29, 2000
    High action, Low action ?!
    I've pretty much stayed with the factory setup on my Fender P lite (japanese model but I love the sound!)
    I have lowered it just a hair to correct intonation....but I find going to low causes problems with playing 'slap' styles...noisy.....
     
  14. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Low is where all the action is...at least for me...
    With a good setup and a good fretjob I can get it as low as ca. 2mm's at the E-string (24th fret) and 1.2-1.5 mm at the G-string - without buzzing...and a great tone for all occasions - from groove work to slap,pop and tapping...But every fool is different (as we say in Cologne :D). I totally agree with theJello, deyn and pkr2. Just try to provide the best possible environment for your playing. Playing is a lot like sports technique-wise...there are certain sets of muscle motions that have to be performed on a subconcious level in order to enable the player to be creative...and you try to optimize the motions to reduce 'friction' or increase effectiveness...Playing bass is hard enough - no use in making it harder by not using the best possible setup...

    Hope you're able to unterstand my English - it's only my second language, and a bit rusty...



    [Edited by JMX on 09-12-2000 at 07:02 PM]
     
  15. Craig H

    Craig H

    Mar 23, 2000
    Kansas City
    Action height really depends on the "gig" for me. When I play on Sunday morning at church, I like a low action. I run directly to the board and I play with a fairly light attack. However, on Saturday night, playing at full volume...that's another story. I prefer a higher action because I'm digging in much further.

    BTW, this theory helps me justify multiple basses to my wife! "Well honey, these are my church basses and these are my......" ;)

    Craig
     
  16. White_Knight

    White_Knight

    Mar 19, 2000
    USA
    Just a short update here: on the reccommendation of a friend of mine, I re-did the setup on my bass. I followed the instructions in a book that I got from Musician's Friend (can't remember the name right now).

    I setup my bass so that the action is comperable to a Fender Jazz bass (the bass that mine is modeled after). Oh my, what a difference! Intonation is at least 10 to 15 cents better (measured on my Korg CA-20). The bridge saddles no longer have to be maxed out and playing overall is just so much easier. Wish I'd tried it before.

    Every once in a while I get a little bit of buzz, but I think that's more due to my heavy attack (which I'm working on calming down).

    There truely is a huge difference. It's like night and day! Oh, BTW, one thing that I do need to mention is that "tone" that I loved with my high action didn't change at all. Well, maybe it's actually slightly better - "thicker" if you will.
     
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Congrats - welcome to the low action fan club!
     
  18. I've got the kicker of all stories about action. I have two basses (A Kramer Baretta 422S and a Squier Affinity P-Bass). My Kramer is great, i've had it for a week now (it is a veteran! ;) ) I have not had to touch any of the settings, and it plays like a charm with low action, even though I sometimes get a slight buzz on the 1 or 2 frets when my finger slips between the pickups, but I normally play right over the bridge pickup, so no problem. My P-bass on the other hand is a piece of crap. I have to have the action set to like ONE FULL CENTIMETER off the fretboard, by adjusting the bridge, and on top of that, I have had to place stips of paper under the nut, becuase the damn thing leaves my E and !A! string resting on top of my 1st fret. No matter how light I touch the string, it buzzes... So my p-bass has now been adjusted again (finally found that damned alan wrench) and the bridge is WAY down now, but I have to leave the paper under the nut, or I still buzz. My strings start high off the board, and get lower as they go.. or else I buzz to death..Any ideas? I know this is not really on this topic, but kinda? right??

    Thanks
     
  19. apollo bassist

    apollo bassist

    Sep 23, 2000
    I prefer a low action. I can do more with my fretting hand without cramping, like fast runs, octave jumps, triads, etc. Doing stuff like this with high action kills my hands and makes me play sloppy, but that's just me.

    White Knight is right, it depends on what YOU like.
     
  20. I like a low action with light strings. Plays like BUTTAH! High action makes me all VE CLEMP!