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Is It Normal To Compromise Between Low Action and Fret Buzz?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by BassGod, Dec 23, 2005.

  1. BassGod


    Jan 21, 2004
    Just a simple question really.

    Right now, my bass is set with super low action, it feels remarkable to play. However, with low action comes some fret buzz. And when I dig in some (or play fast), the strings click against the frets (think Steve Harris), which I guess is another product of low action.

    I've done so many adjustments to find the right balance between fret buzz and string height, and I think I'll stick with where it is now.

    I was just wondering though: Is it normal to have to make a compromise between these two things? Have you had to do this for your bass?

    Finally, with low action, is that clicking normal? I don't think there's a problem with my technique, I was just wondering if anyone else gets that (for those with low action).

  2. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Yep. With the exception of some perfectly made necks, you usually have to give a little either way- either deal with a little buzz or deal with slightly higher action.

    The thing about using lower action is that you'll need to use a lighter touch to avoid most of the fretbuzz, and you can to the point where it's minimal to unnoticeable-particularly when playing amplified. We often set up our instruments at home and the slightest bit of fretbuzz seems terrible to us, but in the real world that same fretbuzz is probably inaudible when playing plugged in, particularly with other instruments.

    If you're digging in to the point where it's making clicking noises, you probably don't need the action as low as you have it. As far as playing fast goes, there's no reason why playing faster has to affect how you hit the strings. I remember early on in my playing, I'd have to swing my fingers pretty hard to get a good speed going, often ending up with clicks. I had to work quite a while at getting a consistant fast picking technique that didn't involve making my attack any heavier....basically, I had to teach myself to play fast while retaining a light touch (adding more fingers to my plucking technique helped quite a bit).
  3. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Yeah, I usually set mine up so that I get a tiny bit of buzz here and there while unplugged, but it doesn't usually show up when plugged in...

    - georgestrings
  4. Man, I know just what you're talking about. I find myself trying to chase the perfect low action, but I've found that a compromise usually helps my playing more. Why?
    Well, with the extremely low/fast action, I tend to baby the strings. I tend to shy away from faster and more technical passages because I have to play a bit harder, and I can't stand fret buzz and notes that do not sustain properly because of it. If one area of the fretboard is playing great and another is not, I tend to play mostly in the great area. Sure, I can finger the board much faster with less effort, but my fingerpicking suffers. Everytime I overpick a note, it distracts me to the point where I'm really not playing any faster.
    I do alot of practicing on my own, without background music or instruments masking buzz and other noises.
    I only own one bass right now, so it's got to do everything for me. So I set a decently low action with a small amount of relief (very important), and then I begin all of my finger picking and pick-picking tests. I adjust the action to give the best balance between low action and smooth sustaining notes.
    In the end, I find it a comfortable setup. I can still play fast passages, but I can slap and pop too. The notes sound good all the way up the neck..

  5. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    just a note..if the clicking is present when plugged in, it may be that your pickups need to be lowered as well. If the strings are touching the pickups when digging in, that will also cause "clicking". I just dealt with this on a friend's bass.

    I know you're talking about fret noise, but I just wanted to cover the bases...so to speak :)

    good luck!