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How Low is "Low Action"

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by BJMtz, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. BJMtz


    Oct 18, 2010
    Tucson, AZ
    I currently own and use a Peavey Grind 4 as my main instrument. It's a great instrument for the price and could not be happier with it. I'm always tampering with setups and trying to achieve setup for my tastes. When it comes to action how low is low action? I don't have any feeler gauges but I'd like to know if what I have setup is pretty average or if I'm trying to achieve unrealistic string height. In the pics attached is about the lowest I can go with and I have very little fret buzz. I can just barely slide a CD under the E string at the last fret without it pushing the string up.



  2. 5StringFool


    Jun 10, 2011
    Greenup, KY
    That appears to be very low to me, but I'm curious: what is your action at the 12th fret, or maybe frets 15-17?

    That's usually where the action measurement is taken.
  3. BJMtz


    Oct 18, 2010
    Tucson, AZ
    Trying to find household items that are universal to everyone to measure with; I can fit 1 credit under the E at the 12th fret but not 2.
  4. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
    That's low, 3/16- 5/16" @ neck joint I believe. Duh, That's 32nds.
  5. powmetalbassist

    powmetalbassist Supporting Member

    I've read about various measuring option. The width of a dime at the 1st fret and the width of a quarter at the 12th. I've also heard of using a credit card as a standard measurement at the 12th.
  6. At the last fret:

    -jazz bass, 4 string: E at sligthly less than 2mm
    -G&L L2500, 5 string: B at -/+ 2.2mm
  7. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    To me low action means
    .016-.018 at 1st fret
    .006-.008 relief at 8th fret
    .085-.090 18th fret on E string .075-.080 G string

    Fret's need to be level.
  8. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Six inch rule.


  9. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
  10. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's

    I'd say that is pretty darn good action. I have only been able to get like that with just one or two of my instuments - my Cirrus 5 and my USA P. The frets and neck have to be just perfect to get that low.

  11. ppal


    Sep 1, 2006
    Sacramento, CA
    the "measurement" method never made any sense to me. Its all about "Feel" anyway. I believe there is a "Window" of height that is neither too low or too high, but just right for "you" and the type of bass you have. Now you can adjust within that parameter and make fine tune adjustments. To me its a 2 part process (Neck Relief and Bridge Height). First, set your neck relief as straight as possible on the bass, once thats done, set your bridge height as low as you can possibly normally go--another-words, you should be able to play everything that you normally would in any musical situation from tap to slap and everything sounds good, no excessive buzzing. Then try and find the upper height of that acceptable range, from there you can make micro adjustments for "your" perfect feel. Remember to always use your bass tuner to keep the tensions up to pitch. Although time consuming, this method has given me great results. this works great of you keep the same gauge and type of strings, but if change those factors you'll have to go back thru this whole process.
  12. spacebassed


    Jan 31, 2009
    I used to know a girl who had a 6 inch rule...

  13. Measurement is about consistency when comparing... That's why we have measuring systems in the first place..

    For the record, that setup is very low... I personally could not play something that low, my style/technique would not permit it.
  14. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    If you can slide a piece of paper under your strings it ain't low enough!!!
  15. If I could get action that low I'd be a very happy person! I suppose I'll have to settle for my current 1.3mm @ 12 on all strings...
  16. spacebassed


    Jan 31, 2009
    For me it's about finding a happy medium, I tend to bounce back and forth between styles and want to do so without changing instruments. So even though my left hand would like it as low as it can go, my right hand won't permit it.

    ...and really I have found through the years that even though it seems like lower action is beneficial, it's actually a detriment because you end up losing hand strength. I like to practice with a little more relief in the neck than when i gig.
  17. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    I set mine up with around 3/32" on the E string at the 12th fret and slightly less (5/64") on the G string. I add a little to the B string, to around 1/8" and maybe up to 5/32", depending on the instrument. I can't really tell, from the OP's photos, what I'm looking at.
  18. BJMtz


    Oct 18, 2010
    Tucson, AZ
    Thanks for the replies all. It's all very helpful. I am probably just going to buy a string action gauge and a straight edge that way I'll always have the appropriate tools.
    I agree with mjac28 where if you you can slide a piece of paper under your strings it ain't low enough, but I can't get it that low on this bass.
    I guess my action is quite a bit lower than say, guitars I test out at music shops. But I've always attributed that to improper setup at the shop. Maybe it's just a mental thing because sometimes I'll look down near the 24th fret and I'll see what I perceive to be a huge between the strings and fretboard but maybe it's just me.
  19. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    What's low is what works for how you touch the thing. If you have a light touch, you can setup much lower than if you're shooting arrows with it. Other factors are string tension (a heavier tension can withstand a lower setting than a low tension string - the low tensions strings have a lot more movement) The nut height is often completely overlooked, when it comes to the playable action and perceived string height. I like the nut cut dangerously low. If I get a little hint of buzz from playing too hard when I hit an open string, that's OK for me. It reminds me to back off my attack, makes the rest of the bass play easier, and to be honest, I don't care if the open strings sound a bit different. I view it as an 'effect'.
    All that said, to my eye, your strings are sexy low.
    Grahams Groove likes this.
  20. spacebassed


    Jan 31, 2009
    IMHO, a properly cut nut is the most important part of a smooth playing instrument.
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