Lowering action...

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by meltsakana, Dec 5, 2002.

  1. meltsakana


    Sep 3, 2002
    Please don't respond by telling me to search for similar threads. This is a little different.

    I went to guitar center to try out some basses, and with all of them, even after adjustment by the staff, had too high action for me. One bass i really liked (Ibanez SR800) was near perfect for my tastes, but the action was a bit too high. The worker said lowering it further would degrade sound quality (fretbuzz)... All the fenders I tried were kinda the same...

    How low can you go? On a fender? On an ibanez? out of all basses you've played? How much of the sound depends on proper truss rod adjustment? I have tendonitis and am looking for really ease to play basses...any suggestions? Could strings have something to do with this? Help me out!
  2. Stu L.

    Stu L. Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2001
    Corsicana, Texas
    I'm no expert, but most will agree action is a personal preference. Take it as low as you like, and if it buzzes, raise it some.

    As far as the tendonitis, I would reccomend the Planet Waves Gripmaster. Its a little hand exerciser that I find helps the blood flow and gets the hands working easier. It also helped me play faster, as my fingers were stronger. Works good for arthritis too...
  3. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Maybe your tastes are just too particular. ;)

    You can go lower on a fretless. Try one of those.
  4. I wonder exactly what adjustments they did to the basses at Guitar Center. To get really low action, the truss rod has to be adjusted so that the neck has as little relief as possible and the frets must be level; if the frets are not level, you will get some fret buzz (and you may anyway). I have my basses set up with very low action and they do buzz somewhat BUT the buzz is not audible through my amp so it's irrelevant to me. If you are going to play with low action, you need to play with a light touch or there will be buzzes and clattering galore!
  5. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    My Foderas action is So low you can't hear it ...(aaaaathank you) :D
    I should probably raise it a tad its so low....but I don't know I kind of like it this way.
  6. Mazinger

    Mazinger Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2002
    I also prefer a low action and have a SR800.

    I think the action is very low on my bass, but of course it may be different with you.

    I would give you precise measurements, but I'm at work.

    In my experience 800's generally ship from the factory with low action.

    Lighter strings might also help you with playing.
  7. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    lonote 49 is right on with all of his/her points. You can run the action down to where you start to get a very little amount of fret buzz which will not be heard through the amplifier, and yes, all of the frets need to be at the same height. Also, for the best action, the neck should be very straight with very, very little relief in it.

    I run my action VERY low (other folks who play my basses are always amazed at the action and how well they play...), and to do so, I learned over the years how to do all of my own guitar/bass tech work. Here's a quick primer.

    First, adjust the truss rod until the neck is almost perfectly straight. When doing this only move the truss rod 1/4 turn at a time, tune the bass up, and let is set for a few days (you can and should play it during this time) to allow the neck to completely settle. Repeat the 1/4 turn technique until the neck is almost perfectly straight (I prefer to run less relief or curvature in my necks than most people). I check the relief of the neck by fretting the low E (or Low B) string at the first fret and the last fret at the same time, checking the gap in the middle of the neck to the string.

    Once that is done, you can now shave the frets to get them all uniform in height. Also, shaving the frets can and will (depending on how far you want to go...) lower their height thereby reducing the distance from the fingerboard surface to the top of the fret, which will result in lower action. Just be very careful if you're doing this for the first time, you don't want to go too far or mess up your frets. Shaving frets is done by using a solid, hard, sanding block wrapped in emery cloth (some luthier supply houses sell sanding blocks made just for this purpose that are shaped with the radius of the neck). You simply run the sanding block up and down the neck in a uniform pattern, thereby "shaving off" the top of the frets. You should start with a medium emery cloth and progress to a super fine one to polish them up. Oh yea, also put one or two layers of masking tape on the fingerboard between the frets to keep from scratching it.

    Once done, string it up, check the height of the nut by fretting each string at the 3rd fret and check the height between the string and the 1st fret. There should be very little clearance, but enough that when you press on the string above the 1st fret with your other hand you can see the string move a very little bit. If it is too high, you will need a small rat-tail file to file down each string groove. Go easy here, if you go too far you'll have to replace the nut. Patience, patience!

    Now set the bridge height and intonation for each string!

    Of note: I would be highly suprised if the people working behind the counter at a Guitar Center are top notch, quality guitar techs and know how to properly setup an instrument. You'll find your best guitar techs at a local shop that is not part of a chain, and the guitar tech there will probably only be a guitar tech. You'll find their shop will have all types of guitars in various stages of repair and/or refinishing. Ask around, you'll find `em, or better yet, learn how to do your own setups and you'll eventually find that no one else can do it the way you want it except you!

  8. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    I'll try and offer something of substance here since I've gotten such great info on stuff here on this forum.

    I've played on Fender basses at all GCs in Denver and a new one here in Colorado Springs. I think that GC setups on Fender basses are just horrid. They are nearly unplayable as far as I'm concerned. Here are some numbers that others may disagree with, but I use in determining if I want to buy a particular bass.

    Neck relief: Very little. The feeler gauge thing yields no more than about .015" at mid neck when first and last frets are closed. Once you've done a few, this relief measurement can be "felt" pretty darn close without the gauge.

    String height: Lets say 3/32" in the fret 12 to 17 neighborhood on all strings (bottom of string to top of fret).

    The GC guys should be able to set the bass up within this area (especially if they want to sell it!)

    If the bass plays well- without buzzing (even if you dig in a bit) up and down the neck, its likely a player and it would definitely have my attention if the other important aspects (tone, asthetics, etc..) were good too.