Setup: Low action or no fret buzz?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Julian Delphiki, Jan 12, 2021.

  1. Julian Delphiki

    Julian Delphiki

    Jan 24, 2019
    When setting up your bass, what’s your priority first and foremost? I tend to try to eliminate buzz, but it seems to be a never ending battle.
  2. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Surprise, AZ
    Both. I can get my basses down to 4/64" without fret buzz. (Measured at the 17th fret.) That's generally considered low action for a bass.

    But, to answer your question, I would have to say no buzz. But if I can't get it low enough while doing that, something is up that needs fixed.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
  3. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I set it to where I like it, instead of based off of lowest or avoiding all string noise no matter what I do. Yes dynamic playing will sometimes lead to a little clank.

    A nice sensible moderate action FTW. ;)
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
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  4. StevieMac


    Mar 17, 2005
    Vancouver, BC
    My life got a little easier when I realised a little fret buzz was perfectly ok, ymmv of course.
  5. Swipter


    Sep 7, 2009
    I am in the process of changing my play style. I used to play really hard where I needed a higher action to stop buzz or string noise. Now I turn the amp up louder and use a lighter touch with a close action. If I want some buzz or noise, which is good sometimes, it9s always there to do.

    I have a compressor to help with high spots when playing really aggressively.

    That's how I do it, anyways.
  6. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Living for the groove Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Low action lets me play faster and keeps me from digging in too hard.

    I’m in a metal band, so I decided to raise my action so I could dig in and play more aggressively. But I had a harder time with faster licks and it didn’t feel great. I feel like the sound I get playing close to the bridge gives me a nice, aggressive tone and I can keep the action low. So I’ve got a nearly flat neck, just a little relief. I’ve lowered the action, just high enough to eliminate buzz.

    I’m a week into a new bass so we’ll see how stable it is, but my Aerodyne and my Lakland are both set up with low action and they only need work if I switch to different strings. I do have a good whole house humidifier and keep the temp fairly constant, and they’re away from any vents, so that helps a lot I’m sure.
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  7. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Both. I Like low action with no fret buzz unless I dig in. I can usually get down to 4/64.
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  8. legalbass


    Jul 2, 2020
    My bass setup is a nearly flat neck with just a "hair" of relief, the G string is around 1mm at the 20th fret and the E string is around 1.25 mm at the 20th fret. The frets properly leveled and crowned, there is a bit of fret "clank" depending how hard I play (and which can sound musically appealing in a rock setting) but virtually no fret "buzz" as we all typically understand it anywhere on the neck. This has been how each of my bass guitars have been set up in all my years playing once I got a hang of the instrument.

    You can have your cake and eat it to when it comes to low action and fret buzz... you just need to adjust your technique and perhaps your expectations, and of course you need some damn good fret work and a very, very stable and straight neck.
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  9. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Out there!
    Low action so I can decide how much fret buzz get allowed into the mix.

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  10. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    My rule of thumb is if I can hear some fret buzz unplugged, but not yet through the pickups, for the way I play, that's my stopping point.
  11. MisterUbu


    Feb 25, 2020
    Toronto, Canada
    I'm a low action/minimal buzz type of guy, particularly when its inaudible once the bass is plugged in, but I can't stand when notes choke out around the neck heel! :mad: (mostly due to uneven frets in various spots). A good fret dress (I gotta learn)/setup tends to do the trick most of the time but ski jumps are usually the biggest annoyance.
  12. grouse789

    grouse789 Supporting Member

    Jun 13, 2004
    Westchester NY
    Go fret less..... problem solved!
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  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    0000_1.jpg :thumbsup:
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  14. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    Actually it doesn't.... :). In fact, the action vs buzzing/slapping issue gets a little worse when you go FL. The fingerboard being completely hump/dip/ripple free is much more critical and even the slightest dip/hump will make you tear your hair out trying to get an even tone over the whole neck.

    Having said that, my preference for action is approx. the same on my FL's as it is on my one fretted bass (L2000). A good grind if I dig in, but otherwise as low as I can get it without "fretting out" on both FL and fretted.

    I do find this changes as my strings age, and once they're worn in and dead like overcooked spaghetti (my preference), I usually can bring the action down a little bit and flatten out the board to nearly dead flat. New strings have that awful "plink tink" when you hit the notes just right - a lot of players love that, especially in Metal genres, but it drives me absolutely nuts for some reason. It's especially bad on the fretted bass, but there's "slap" on the FL which can mimic that reprehensible clinking thing. So I initially run the action a little high with new strings to help remove a little bit of that....

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  15. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I have a pretty low action and no fret buzz. Having properly leveled and crowned frets is necessary. I gave up being surprised a while ago about how bad the frets are on some basses, and not cheap one.
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  16. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Inactive

    Feb 23, 2011
    I tend to prefer just about 2mm (~0.0787") for the low E side at 12th fret and about 1.5mm (~0.059") high G string side, or ideally ever so slightly bellow, regardless, if I can't get there without any fret buzz I am not a happy camper, but honestly I don't really care if I can get it much lower than that, cause I don't like the way that effects the tone.

    Luckily I can get my main Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Bass to just slightly bellow that (probably around 1.8mm (~0.0709") Low E string side and 1.4mm (~0.055") high G string side) without any fret buzz whatsoever, and with a quite minimal amount of relief too (with a gap around the 8th fret, with the low E string fretted on the 1st and the last fret simultaneously, matching just about the thickness of a piece of regular printer paper), exactly the way I prefer it, and that despite it being a cheap budget bass and that I haven't had the frets leveled, they just happened to be close enough to perfectly leveled from factory for me.

    On my 5 string GSRM25 Mikro Bass I can actually go even lower without any fret buzz, since apparently the frets were literally perfectly leveled from factory, but as said that is no use to me, since I really don't like my action that low, and I have it set up quite closely matching the 4 string.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2021
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  17. Shooz


    Jun 2, 2013
    Wow, see you post all the time, but never heard your playing. Excellent work sir!
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  18. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    I used to play with very low action 1/32 24th fret G string and around 3/64 on the B.

    I used to play over the bridge pickup and with a light touch. The music we play changed however and I needed more range and ability to pluck near the neck.

    These days almost across all my basses relief is 0.010” 7th fret, 2/32”G string @ the last fret and 3/32” B string.

    I found this setup gives me all the tonal and dynamic range I need with no fret buzz. When my action was really low nobody else could stand playing my bass, these days most people that play it remark on how nice the action is.

    If your playing style allows you to get away with super low action that’s great but these days for me I’m happy with just relatively low.
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  19. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Out there!
    Thanks! :cool:
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