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Low Action vs. High Action

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by brianh, Jan 19, 2006.

  1. brianh


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification
    Being an upright player in addition to electric, I have always been a fan of higher action. I like to dig in and I think it sounds better anyways. But, I'm reconsidering some things these days...or at least rethinking my reasoning with setup.

    What are some of your opinions on this issue? Please include what type of gigs you are doing, because I think it probably influences your choice.

    In addition, I'm playing an F Bass BN5, so anyone who also plays one might have some interesting opinions about this...
  2. T-Funk


    Jul 2, 2005
    In my opinion, a player should use whatever setup is most comfortable for him or her.

    In regards to high action, I have heard that many well known professionals have their basses setup with action that is higher than the average bassist. Maybe someone more knowledgable can comment or provide more insight.

    As for me, I mostly play Urban Gospel, Funk, R&B, Blues and Contemporary Jazz music. Over the summer, I had the setup of my main bass at the time, a Carvin LB75, changed from what I would consider Medium action to Low action. While I like the playability of the low action, especially for slapping and popping, the next time I have the said bass setup I am going to tell the techician to raise the action a little to a Medium-Low setup.

  3. Fliptrique


    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses, Taurus Amplification
    I use medium-to-low action on my Fender. Why?

    1. being an old bass with an alder body it`s really really resonant - and that means a lot of string vibration going on. A lot more than on my previous basses. When I go below a certain point (below 1mm at 12 fret ) the notes start to choke and just buzz to much. Fret leveling does not remedy this.

    2. I`m not really convinced that "light touch" is a good way to go - my bass simply sound better when played with just a lil` bit of force. If I had a super low action, I wouldn`t had to much dynamics to work with.

    3. If i raise my action a lot, the tone changes - in a way I don`t like. I like it tight, focused with just a hint of grind. With a higher action it gets really boomy quite fast.

    4. Higher action means more fatigue - after 3 hours of playing every thing that was "a little uncomfortable" at the begining becomes really a problem.

    I play mainy blues rock and some metal/rock stuff. Fingerstyle with a note slapped here and there.
  4. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I've experimented with high, medium, and low actions over the years. I tend to dig in a bit, so a medium action works best for me.
  5. ArwinH

    ArwinH run rabbit run

    Dec 1, 2005
    Southern California
    I used to play with super high action and a heavy touch. My bass wearing jamerson sets; flatwound, high tension, and very high action. Now my bass has very light and low tension rounds and it goes to 3/64" from the twelfth fret crown to the bottom of the string. I really love low action now, and I play db as well. The db obviously wears higher action, but I still play with a light touch. I don't want tendinitus, I can get a full sound with a light touch, and bass amps have been around for a while:p
  6. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    I play with a light right hand, so my action is med-low.
  7. Beav

    Beav Graphics Whore

    Jul 17, 2003
    Middle Tennessee
    Designer: Beav's Graphics
    I play with a medium touch, but I love low action. I also love the clank of new stings on frets.
  8. bad_andy


    Sep 21, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    I went with medium to med-high action for a while, thinking that it gave me better tone and strengthened my hands. The latter may have been true, but it also put a serious speed limit on my technique by the end of long gigs. IMHO, people who set their instruments up with stiffer action than they are used to can risk sloppier technique because of the way they may overcompensate when their hands get tired.

    When I returned to heavier strings and low action I never looked back. Everything was so much easier to play and my hand could stay relaxed throughout the night. I have an upright as well, so I don't need my electric basses to serve as grip trainers. I have a decent stage rig, so I find that turning up and playing with a medium-light touch actually allows me to have a better dynamic range, since I can play both softer and louder from there. I use really heavy gauge strings that don't travel as much when plucked, so digging in a little without fret noise isn't an issue for me. Just my $.02.
  9. Stupid question I know, but just how high's high? My low E's at roughly 8mm on the 12th fret. Is this high/medium/low?!?:meh:
  10. 8mm at the 12th, huh? Judging by my ruler and my bass (frtless jazz), I'd say that's, well, that's crazy high. Of course, its all relative, but to me that's almost into the upright realm. Whatever floats your boat, though. BTW, my action at the 12th is about 4.5mm, and people tell me I'm crazy for having it that high.
  11. I knew it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I'm recently new to bass (it's so much cooler than guitar), i wondered why my fingers ache so much.
  12. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    High action for me.
  13. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Banned

    Nov 20, 2005
    If your a cross bassist you're better off with a higher action on your electric. If thats what you feel comfortable with then stay with it.
    The general objective of low action is to get it as low as possible without getting fret buzz. Some guys on the other hand like low and buzzy, the bumble bee tone. I hate buzzes and I try to avoid them as much as possible. :bassist: