String gauge vs. lower action ?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by jnewmark, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    If this has been discussed before, or if I'm in the wrong forum for this discussion, please point me in the right direction. I'm pretty much an Amps Forum dweller, and never stray too far ! Anyways, I'm wondering if string gauge has any effect on how low you can get the action, specifically beyond the 5th fret, or is it more of a neck - bridge adjustment process to get lower action in this area, or a combination of both ? I find myself playing more up the neck these days, both live and in the studio, and noticed that the gap between string and fretboard is, what I would call high, compared to what it is below the 5th fret on my 4 string, Fender Jazz basses. Just for reference, I use Fender Nickel-plated steel roundwounds, .45 - .105 strings.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
  2. There are two basic things to consider when choosing strings for optimal setup and playablility: 1) Gauge selection, and 2) Stiffness/flexibility of the strings.

    1) When dealing with exactly the same strings (brand/type), the general rule is the bigger the size, stiffer they are. If you want a lower action without buzzing issues, one way to do it is to go up in size if you want to stick with the same strings.

    2) Stiffness/flexibility deals with how a specific string is constructed. Strings with a round core are generally more flexible than similar-sized strings with a hex core. For example, DR Lo-Riders 45-105 (hex core) are "stiffer (less flexible)" than DR Sunbeams (round core, 45-105), meaning the LRs can be set up with a lower action than the SB. The actual size of the core wire is also an important consideration. As an example, the GHS Boomers 45-105 (large hex core) are stiffer than the Dunlop Super Bright 45-105 (small hex core), meaning the Boomers can be set up with a lower action than the Super Brights before they start to buzz.

    Of course, flexible strings can be set up with a low action, but it may require an adjustment in playing technique (ie a lighter touch).

    My question to you is what specific strings are you using right now?
    greenscharlie likes this.
  3. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    Thanks. As I stated in my OP, Fender Nickel Rounds, 45-105 gauge. I would like to stick to the fenders, but, that gauge is ideal for me and my playing style, ( finger funk ), and comfort zone. If anything, I would want to go to a lighter gauge than heavier, ideally.
  4. I had a moment of brain freeze when I missed the info on your current strings. :D If you want to stick with the same strings, that's fine.

    Fender 7250 45-105 are hex core and stiff enough for a relatively low action if you want to experiment.
    Make sure to set the relief amount to where it should be first by tweaking the truss rod, then and only then, try lowering the action by adjusting the saddle heights; don't try to adjust the action simply by tweaking the truss rod.
    jnewmark likes this.
  5. James Collins

    James Collins Guest

    Mar 25, 2017
    Getting lower action is a matter of making sure the frets are level, the nut is properly setup, the neck relief is adjusted, and the bridge saddle heights are correct.

    The string action is higher near the heel than the nut, always.
    Nashrakh and jnewmark like this.
  6. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    Yes, larger gauges have higher tension, which reduces the sideways movement of the string (less floppy), which enables lower action.
    Larger gauges of a particular string construction are also inherently stiffer, which also reduces the sideways movement of the string.

    Because you don't want to increase gauge, the only other way to lower action is to use a string type with a stiffer construction, such as flatwound.
    jnewmark and Solude like this.