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Pros and cons of high and low action

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Venturella, Apr 1, 2016.

  1. Venturella


    Feb 10, 2016
    What are some pros and cons of high and low action?
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    It's generally subjective because what qualifies easy playability varies from person to person.

    I like super low action because it requires less fretting hand exertion. It also requires a very light touch especially with my preferred low tension strings. I wouldn't need to be so gentle if I played heavier strings. Low action makes slapping easier as well.

    Lots of people like medium or high action. It's hard for me to play a bass like that but that's me. People who like to dig in and play aggressively probably prefer high action.
    pacojas and gebass6 like this.
  3. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Pulling hard puts a lot of energy into a pickup. That puts more energy into the preamp, whether it's on board or on-amp. That changes how the signal sounds.

    For a freelancer, it also might be about tone choice. Some guys set up their five or six string low and light to make it easy to play fast passages and rely on the electronics-even passive electronics-to dictate the tone, albeit with some knob twisting. They go the opposite way on an instrument they designate for a heavy rock or blues gig. Which has an affect on tone. Sometimes it's the only way to get a particular tone.

    History lesson:

    The guys who learned upright first tend to pull hard, period. Back in the sixties it was not unusual for a teacher or an older player to advise a student to raise the strings. Remember, these guys were learning to play bass in the nineteen thirties, almost a hundred years ago. They played in big bands without amplification in the forties and fifties. They had to pull hard to be heard. The bass guitar as we know it didn't really arrive until the fifties. So when these guys transitioned to the bass guitar naturally what we consider high was incredibly low to them. So, "Raise your strings, kid."
  4. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    I like low action for easy fretting and effortless tapping.
    But when the seasons change the action changes.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2016
    pacojas likes this.
  5. miketallica315

    miketallica315 Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Toledo, OH
    I like to set my action as low as I can get it. I have cerebral palsy and it becomes difficult for me to play with higher action. ...Yet, I also play double bass...
    With lower action on my bass guitars I can move faster, my technique is better, I can play various styles and techniques, and perhaps even more than that, my tone is killer.
    pacojas likes this.
  6. warrplayer


    Apr 16, 2008
    Charlotte, NC
    never liked low action on a bass. Only thing that works on the Warr Guitar, but completely throws me on bass. Can't dig in and play louder.

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