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String height

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by napski, Oct 21, 2006.


  1. napski

    napski Great. Where the heck am I now?

    Oct 27, 2005
    Hi everyone:

    I have a Marcus Miller Fender Jazz (Japanese make).
    Just curious...what is the right string height from the neck on the last fret on the E string?

    When I measured mine with a ruler, the E string is between 3/16ths and a 1/4 inch. Is that too high?

    Thanks all!

    :bassist: Napski
     
  2. napski

    napski Great. Where the heck am I now?

    Oct 27, 2005
    Thanks!

    Just was wondering the average height was with most people.

    -Sam
     
  3. Who cares what the average is if you are on one side of the spectrum. I have read alot here about how people like low action. That's great, it helps for tapping and slapping and some people just like it that way. But for me, I play mostly with my fingers and I play very aggresively. So low action (on practically ANY bass) gives me alot of fret buzz. I have no idea what the measurement is, but each time I buy a new bass I play each string and adjust the height up to the point where I get very little fret buzz. Now I'll always get some, especially on the E and B strings, but overall low action just does not cut it for me. The other problem with low action is that as the string vibrates it sometimes comes into contact with one or more frets, this then cuts down on sustain and can affect the tone. Also if the strings are too close to the pickups it can add to distortion.

    All I can say is play around with the string height and adjust it to how it works best for you. Who cares what anyone else does? I surely don't.
     
  4. napski

    napski Great. Where the heck am I now?

    Oct 27, 2005
    Hey thanks BassDude! I'm the same way with playing more aggressive. I just did some minor adjustments, but I like it the way it is. I tried lowering the strings, but the "buzz" was comin' in too much, so I set it back.

    Thanks again!

    -Sam
     
  5. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    I agree with BassDude. I play aggressively and need 'em high. I tried the low action settings and tried to play lightly but just couldn't get that digging in tone.

    You may need to drop your pups so you don't clank into them as well.
     
  6. RLT

    RLT

    Jul 10, 2004
    South Central OH
    Yep just put them where you like them. Like everything else the specs are just average. You have to adjust to where it feels right to you.

    I never could have a tech set a bass for me they always set the action too low. I change my attack to emphasize parts and on different songs. Too lazy to adjust the amp. So what works on one song will buzz like a bee on another.
     
  7. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    RLT also emphasizes the point that your fingers really have a lot to do with your tone. As I also said, the tone I like is when you really dig in and a little fret buzz may be associated with it. Also he states that he can change his attack to compensate for amp settings. I also use that to my advantage. Light touch and my bass is a clean purr. More aggressive for a more growly tone.

    Tone can really be more based on your playstyle than any bass/amp/cab.
     
  8. Certainly. On some rockers, like RUSH for example, and newer alt. rock getting some fret buzz grind on the low notes can really add to the tone and give you an added percussive sound. But when that fretbuzz gets overpowering is when you know you need to either play lighter or raise the strings.
     
  9. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Massachusetts
    I prefer low to medium action. Just high enough where it doesn't buzz when I play at my usual strength, but no so high that it's difficult to play. I have my G&L set on the E string at the 12 fret around 2.5mm (3/32 or so).

    A 1/4" or so sounds alittle bit too high for me, but if it's comfortable I wouldn't worry about it. I used to get hung up on having low action from a numbers standpoint but I realized if it feels good and doesn't hinder you and isn't really excessively high it shouldn't matter.
     
  10. Giraffe

    Giraffe Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    San Diego, California
    A good place to start is 3/32", measured from the top of the 17th fret to the bottom of the E string. If you stand a precision scale (one of those $2 hardware store General 6" rulers will do fine) on the 17th fret with a good light behind you, with the string between you and the scale, you will get the idea. The higher strings can start a little closer than 3/32".

    Play the E with your normal right hand action, up and down the neck. If it buzzes, you need to go higher (assuming relief is in the ballpark). Most players will hear no buzz at this point and they can lower the height adjustment screws, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 turn at a time. Work on one string at a time. Play it reasonably loud, because you really need to hear it! At some point you are going to hear the tone start to turn vanilla. If you keep going lower, you will eventually get fret buzz. Personally, I stop when I hear the tone start to choke, and back up the height adjustment screws 1/8 or 1/4 turn.

    Work your way across all of the strings, and when you are done, check the radius of the strings at the saddles. It should roughly mirror the fretboard radius.

    My basses almost always wind up a little below 3/32" on the E for the best compromise between tone and secondarily, playability, for my ears and my playing "style." Your results will almost always vary. Get a wrench or driver that fits the height adjustment screws properly, and proceed slowly. Stewart-MacDonald has a "string height and action gauge" thingy that looks like a steel credit card with different scales all over it. This device really makes measuring easier, but the $2 General will get you to the same place. Doing any of this without correct truss rod and nut slot adjustment is really flying blind, but you have to work with what you have.

    Good luck, and if things don't seem to be working out for you, consult an expert, in person.
     
  11. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Massachusetts
    I should mention the way I actually measured my action at the E string 12th fret is, I don't have a really good ruler or any other way to really measure so what I did was use my allen wrenches to measure. The largest size wrench I could slide on top of the fret underneath the string without the string moving, that's how high the string was. So in my case, a 2.5mm wrench fits at the 12th fret.
     
  12. Giraffe

    Giraffe Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    San Diego, California
    That should be just a half a hair over 3/32". Well within the typical range. You should be getting most or all of the tone your bass has to offer at that height. If you can get used to playing it at that height, you are probably in pretty good shape!

    Now go practice!
     

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