How high is your action and what do you consider low action?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Kwesi, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. Just to keep things consistent and easy to understand:

    1) Measure in mm
    2) Measure multiple strings, if not all of them and post the rough average.
    3) State whether your measurement was taken in relation to the frets or the fingerboard
    4) Measure at the 12th fret. You can take other measurements if you want.

    I've got my Brubaker JXB-5 down to around 3mm at the 12th fret measured from the fingerboard and it stays just about the same up to the 22nd. I'd say it's low but not crazy low. I think I can get it to go a bit lower without buzzing like crazy too. I'll post if I pull it off.
  2. My E string is about 1mm above the 12th fret.
    Turbo Sparky likes this.
  3. From the top of the fret to the bottom of the string of my MIM Fender Jazz 4-string:

    At the 12th fret 1.2mm, 20th 2mm.
  4. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    By bottom do you mean top? That is a crazy low E string but an appropriate G string height. You'd have a super low G string to maintain the radius.

    I dig in hard so my basses are usually about 2.4mm E-B and about 2mm G-C at the last fret, with maybe .7mm relief, StingRay is .5mm. I don't measure the 12th fret when I setup so I don't know...
  5. ljazz


    Dec 10, 2002
    Cookeville, TN
    Mine vary, depending on how stiff the strings are. The stiffer they are, the lower I'll go on my action. Usually, no lower than 2.0mm, and typically no higher than 2.5mm (from top of the 12th fret).

    I know I can get all of my basses much lower without buzzing, however, while I don't dig in hard, I like being able to when called for, and not having it buzz and clak like crazy. I thinks it sounds nicer when you're playing percussively (lots of muting and ghosting) if you have some space in between the strings and fingerboard.
  6. Mine are at 3mm at the 12th fret but measured from the fret, not the fretboard.
    3mm is considered pretty high IMO, the average is around 2mm and some people who like crazy low (my brother for example) go as low as 1mm.

    I have a few basses that i keep around 2mm (my studio basses) but i usually prefer more.

    (since different fret wire have different height you cant really say anything by measuring between string and fretboard! 3mm on a bass with jumbo frets is going to be low, but pretty high on a bass with mandolin style fret wire...)


    Mar 26, 2012
    New York
    7mm from fretboard to string at 12 fret
    I consider anything below 5-4mm to be low action
  8. My basses have E-2,25mm, A-2mm, D-1,75mm, G-1,5mm... all measured at the 12th fret.
  9. jasper383


    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    I use the Sadowsky setup guide as a start.

    Press down first fret, 3/32" E string at the 12th fret, 1/16" G string at the 12th fret.

    Works for me.
    Turbo Sparky and 5fingerfrenzy like this.
  10. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Inactive

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    Low enough to slap an pop the sh*t out of and still not buzz when I play pizz.
  11. Top_Ten

    Top_Ten Supporting Member

    Jun 14, 2008
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Is everyone measuring with the string pressed down at the first fret? For consistency's sake, it would make sense to measure at 12th fret, top of fret to bottom of string, with string pressed down at 1st fret. That takes the variables of your nut and fret wire out of the equation.

    Anyway, using that method, my general starting point is 5/64th inch on the E and 4/64th inch on the G. I then set the A and D using a radius gauge rather than actually measuring string height, but they come out somewhere in the middle. This is with a pretty flat neck with just a tiny amount of relief. I end up with a bit of string noise but nothing that is noticeable when amplified.

    I don't measure in mm, but for reference those measurements are about 2mm on the E and 1.6 on the G.
    Turbo Sparky likes this.
  12. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    There are about 16 billion confirmed ways to set up your string height. For vintage basses, I do what you do, 3/32" for the E and G measured from fret top to string bottom at the traditional 17th fret, and 5/64" (1.98mm) for the inner strings.

    For modern necks with flatter radius, its 5/64" for all strings, measured at the 17th fret. I do not depress at the first fret.
    drums1977 likes this.
  13. KCLRbass


    Sep 5, 2011
    This is really interesting. All of my axes are in the studio right now (where I'm not), so I can't take precise measurements, but I last set up as follows (all with string depressed at 1st fret):

    Main 5-string (Vadim):
    B-string is about 3.5-4mm at 12th fret
    G-string is about 2.5mm at 12th fret

    higher action allows me to dig in hard with less fret noise in the studio

    Second 5-string (Squier P Special)
    B-string is about 2mm at 12th fret
    G-string is a touch above 1mm at 12th fret

    I can only play this with the lightest touch. Lets me get all sappy and emotional with it.

    My fretless is somewhere in between.

    What do I think "low action" is? Objectively, anything low enough that it chokes out your strings. Subjectively, I think my Squier above is LOW! Very low, in fact. But it forces me to play a certain way (read: very softly), and with my amps cranked and some nasty compression it's getting some SICK sounds for my band's record.
  14. Top_Ten

    Top_Ten Supporting Member

    Jun 14, 2008
    San Francisco Bay Area
    I wasn't suggesting that there is only one right way to set up a bass. Just that, for purposes of this thread where everyone is comparing measurements, it would be useful if everyone measured the same way. If some are measuring whlle depressing at the first fret and others aren't, then the info is not that useful for purposes of comparison.

    Also, if you are measuring without depressing at the first fret, then you are measuring a combination of your nut height and saddle height. That's OK if it works for you, but I like to isolate those two variables when doing a set up. That is, get the nut height correct first, and then take that out of the equation by depressing the first fret and adjust the saddles to my desired action.

    I can see adjusting every string evenly for a really flat radiused neck. The flattest I have is a 12", and I still do the method I described for that -- i.e., measure E and G and then do A and D using a radius guage.
  15. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Everything you said is true, but I can argue that taking string height measurements at the 12th fret is not as accurate as somewhere else, like where the neck joins the body. Necks are made of wood, and wood tends to move.

    The point I'm making is that you can try and take every flaw your bass has--like an inaccurately cut nut--out of the equation to get the right "datum", but it's still wood. Wood is wood. :)
  16. Very good points! I measured from the board because using a normal ruler I couldn't get a measurement I was comfortable with and, at least for me, depressing a string at the first fret made no difference that I could actually measure just eyeballing it.

    So, around 3mm at the 12th fret measured from the fingerboard with jumbo frets.
  17. Action is string height off of the board/frets (at least, I think it is) so trying to remove neck bow from the equation would make the actual measurement useless.
  18. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Is your neck made of wood?
  19. 5StringFool


    Jun 10, 2011
    Greenup, KY
    P-bass - 2.0mm on the E string at the 17th fret, about the same on the others as well... slightly less on the higher pitched strings.

    Spector NS95 - 2.0mm on the B string 17th fret... same as above.

    With the touch I use that's about as low as I like it. Many of the bassists I know locally think that's pretty low, and from what I've seen with their own basses mine is a good bit lower than many.

    Honestly I've stopped obsessing over the number and just set it to feel right for me, although the factory specs are usually a very good starting point.
  20. Geroi Asfalta

    Geroi Asfalta

    Aug 23, 2011
    I got my action set fairly low on my jazz....all the strings are 1.5 mm above the 12 fret. I'm the only person that can play either my jazz or precision (the action the P is lower) without buzz. Everybody else who's played them hits the strings too hard and they'll buzz out.
    Tvrtko and shaggy45 like this.