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Is My "Acton" Too High?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Liberty MO, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. Liberty MO

    Liberty MO

    Aug 7, 2007
    I am a newbie, just bought my first bass about 4 months ago. I have noticed that my fingers and forearms are sore after long periods of playing. I feel like pressing the strings down on the fretboard takes more effort than it should. After looking through the archives, my "action" may be too high. Thanks for the help, this forum has been great for a new player.

    1. How do I know what is too high?
    2. Would an adjustment possibly help me?
    3. Is this something that I can do without screwing up my bass?
    4. Does anyone have a photo comparison of high to low action?
  2. santucci218


    Jan 26, 2007
    take it to a music store and ask if you can watch them set it up. i do it for my customers.
  3. Liberty MO

    Liberty MO

    Aug 7, 2007
    Just curious as to what the going rate at a music store for this service is?
  4. Um, you are aware that action is essentially just how high the strings are eh?
  5. Chipsonfire


    Jul 20, 2007
    Socorro, NM
    Whether its too high is a matter of feel. If it feels too high, then it is too high. I adjusted my action for the first time a week or two ago and it made my bass much nicer to play. I'm still a beginner, too, but I just read through the Mr Gearhead tutorial once or twice, then referred back to it as I did the adjustment. It took a while to get everything right (equal height on the saddles, intonation set correctly, relief set properly) but it was worth it and a great learning experience. :)
  6. Liberty MO

    Liberty MO

    Aug 7, 2007
    I understand. I was wanting to see if my action in comparison to what is considered "high" is cartoonishly high and out of wack. On the other hand, if what I think might be "high" on my bass is actually "low". I thought that there may be photos depicting this or at least measurements out there that I could compare too.

    I am just having a hard time understanding if my bass is out of wack. I am concerned about the amount of effort it is taking to press the strings.

    I may just be a puss.
  7. Liberty MO

    Liberty MO

    Aug 7, 2007
    I am on it. Thanks for the advice.
  8. didier


    Aug 4, 2005
    REALLY basically- if you measure this distance between the bottom of the E string and the 12th fret it should be around or a little under 3mm. That's a little more than the thickness of 2 cds, or maybe 3 credit cards. If you can slip two cds between the fret and string without touching the string the string it's probably high enough, 3 cds would be a little high, and if you can slide 4 between them it's probably what most people would say is too high.

  9. Liberty MO

    Liberty MO

    Aug 7, 2007
    Great info. I am not way off here, I can easily slide 4 CDs under the E string on the 12th fret w/o forcing the E string up.

    Looks like I need to find a good music store.

    Thanks for the help everyone.
  10. well there are many way to determine this
    so go to the setup and repair forum's stickied threads that will lead you through your problem
  11. Dee_01


    May 19, 2007
    If you can slide 4 CD's under there the action is most definitely high! Of course, whether it's "too high" is a matter of how you like your bass set up, but in general, most people would consider your action high.

    My own bass has an action around 3mm at the 12th fret (E string). If it could go lower without rattling and buzzing, I'd do it. I like the action super low, because this usually makes the bass (or guitar) much easier to play. As low as possible without excessive fret buzz. That's how I like it.

    Don't run directly to the nearest music store. With the guides available you can do almost everything yourself. Don't be scared! If somehow you managed to mess things up (very unlikely) then go ahead and have a store tech correct it, but I am confident when I say you should do as much as the work yourself as you can. It's also the best way to learn. Once you've learnt how to set it up you can do it any time and whenever you feel any minor adjustments are needed.
  12. Liberty MO

    Liberty MO

    Aug 7, 2007
    I have a light touch in my playing, and really think I would prefer the lower action. The Stickies have some great guides to use, and I think I will try it. I can't learn if I don't try.

    I purchased a Squier Vintage Modified 70s Jazz, I see you own one from your signature. Reading the advice in the forum, it has been a great bass to start learning on.

    Again, thanks for the help.
  13. too high is relative, I have a friend who is trained on the o'le doghouse, his Precision is set up with insanely high action because he is used to the strings being a mile away from the fretboard
  14. Dee_01


    May 19, 2007
    Yeah, you'll be able to get away with a lower action if you have a light touch. My problem is I vary my attack a lot, I never play one way, so for me it's usually a matter of dealing with a little fret buzz when I have to. It's a trade off for low action, and most instruments have a little buzz anyway, it's acceptable.

    The Squier VM Jazz is a really great bass! I can't think of a better bass in it's price bracket. Mine does have one or two problems, but anyone who expects absolute perfection at this price point is not being realistic. The basic instrument is very good and it can be much improved with a few upgrades and a good setup. My problem is a nasty buzz on one fret (high up the neck, so not a big problem) and it only occurs on one note. I will take it to a tech for a fret dress at some point. The worst thing is it has a mis-aligned bridge. I'll be replacing that with a new one tomorrow. Originally I wanted to put a Badass II on there but I can't use the existing holes. Instead, I had to order a bridge that doesn't use the existing holes, but allows me to cover the old ones and make new ones. I'm not happy about it, but that's life. Unfortunately I can't buy from a shop and inspect a bass before I buy it, so I buy online. I bought the Squier from France (woodbrass.com = best price), and trying to communicate with the staff is pretty much impossible! I would have sent it back and asked for a replacement otherwise. Whatever, I can deal with it. It's just a cheap bass but I have to make the best of it.
  15. MyUsernameHere

    MyUsernameHere ?????????????

    Nov 3, 2007
    Lexington KY
    Depends on the store.

    I just bought a bass in to get some electrical work done and asked what they charged for a set-up and it was $75. That price is acceptable (I guess) if they are going to level frets, etc. but to just tweak a truss rod and set the intonation--which is what they were going to do--I think its kinda ridiculous.

    Also, if you do take it to someone, make sure they know what the heck they're doing...or at least know more than you do. If you read the stickys, you'll probably have a better working knowledge of how to change your set-up than 60% of the idiots who work as tech guys do. I've seen/heard some really stupid things over the years from people you would never expect it from.
  16. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    My local repair/setup man told me he had a guitar in for repair. The customer had taken it in for a setup at the local (reputable) music store and some idiot had a job adjusting the truss rod, so he used a hex bit in an electric drill to move it, completely stripping it.

  17. ErnieD


    Nov 25, 2004
    I came across a site for www.cruztools.com that mostly sells toolkits for motorcycles, ATV's etc. But it seems they have put together setup toolkits now for bass and for g**tar. I ordered one, cost about $70 bucks shipped. It has a multihead screwdriver, led flashlite, steel ruler, thickness gauges, 6 allen wrenches, a capo and wirecutters. Now I know it may sound expensive for just this but its all in a cool ziplock toolbag w/stretchbands to slide each tool into, a couple pockets to store items and what looks like a booklet for Fenders guide to setups. I will start carrying it to gigs in my acc. gig case. The guys at the company were very cool on the phone, no online orders yet. Dan emailed me to say it had shipped, gave me a tracking # and asked me to let him know how I liked the kit after a spell. He stated that he visits and posts on TB, so you know he's cool

    I have 6 basses and took 3 in last year to have setups done (about $35 each time) cause even after reading the stickys here I did not have the proper tools to do the work myself. With summer coming the humidity here near Houston can mess with the necks on some of my basses.

    Like I say a bit pricey but after 2 setups at home it will have paid for itself. Gonna do my G&L L2500 first, I put the thickest Chromes on it and cant get a good action or intonation. I'll also use the stickys here again. I hope this works out so I can do setups myself from now on or I just bought a $70 mini-flashlite,lol :eek:. Sorry if I derailed, felt it was abit OT still.
  18. My guy just set up one of my jazz basses for $75. It included shielding, fret dressing, truss rod, pickup height, saddles, intonation, cleaning and while he was shielding he noticed there were ground wires missing from the harness so he added those. I'm really happy with everything, except I think his idea of perfect action is a little higher than mine.

    Usually I adjust action and intonation myself, but I thought I would see what a pro can do. I think I'll stick to doing action and intonation but the fret dressing and shielding/grounding was top notch.

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