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What is considered to be "low" action?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Luis Fabara, Mar 19, 2001.


  1. Luis Fabara

    Luis Fabara

    Aug 13, 2000
    Ecuador (South America)
    Audio Pro - Ecuador
    What do you consider to be low action?
    For 4 and 6 String basses , the measurements at the 12 Fret.
    And.. at that measures was the neck straight or with a slight relief?
     
  2. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Not meaning to sound like a smart*** but any action that's not high is a low or medium action.

    If you mean what is the lowest usable action, that would be strings as close to the fretboard as they can possibly be without intrducing gremlins such as fret buzz and that sort of thing.

    All good setups are not made with the lowest action as the ultimate goal. The instrument needs to be set up with the player in mind. A perfect setup to me may be unplayable to you and vice versa.

    Pkr2
     
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Typically 3/32" is considered to be normal "low" action and "high" would be 1/8" or more.
     
  4. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    John Entwistle was once quoted as saying that he wanted the action so low that the strings "buzzed evenly across all frets"...his setup man, Rick Turner, was not amused;)
     
  5. With a capo on the first fret, I have 1/16" at the 12th fret on my G string, and 5/64th on the E and B strings, with about .014" relief at the 9th fret. This is the same for my G&L L2500 and my Tobias 6. To get this low, the frets need to be well levelled, and I can still dig in and get a good dynamic range. I can go a bit lower than this, but it starts restricting the dynamics a bit.
     
  6. I was also wondering the same thing...

    but what is 3/32 inches in cm.?
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But which string? I find that I need different heights for each string and that a low action is more desirable on the G string (or C if you have one) than it is on the B string.

    I also think that every bass is slightly different and what might "feel" like a lower action on one bass might actually be measured as higher than another, because of the overall setup and differences in the basses. Like wider flatter fingerboards feel completely different to narrower, more curved ones. So you might have a Fender P bass and a Ken Smith 6; where the P Bass action is technically lower than the Smith, but the Smith bass feels like a lower action because of its wider flatter neck!

    Personally, I would go with "feel" every time and not bother about any particular measurements that people told me I should be aiming for. If you get buzz, it's probably too low and apart from that if you're having difficulty fretting notes because the action's too high then lower it - anything in between is fine and is down to personal preference and the particular bass in question, in my experience.

    For example, I think it's ridiculous to say that you should apply the same measurements to a Hofner Beatle bass, as you would say a Ken Smith 6-string - you have to find the action that suits the bass and suits you!
     
  8. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Well put, Bruce. I agree with your post right down the line.

    Pkr2
     
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    This is Fender's recommended setup:

    Neck Radius Relief
    7.25" .014"
    9.5" to 12" .014"
    15" to 17" .010"

    Neck Radius String Height Bass Side Treble Side
    7.25" 7/64" 6/64"
    9.5" to 12" 6/64" 5/64"
    15" to 17" 6/64" 5/64"

    Notice that 6/64 = 3/32.

    Carvin advertises 3/32" action on their basses. A local luthier who does my repairs uses 3/32" as his starting point (he of course adjusts to suit your preference). That's where I got the 3/32" number from.
     
  10. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    All the starting measurements are absolutely meaningless. What difference does it make where you start when where you finish is all that counts.

    After the relief and neck angle adjustments made are made, my starting point is the lowest action that I can achieve without gremlins. You can always go higher with the action if needed.

    In other words, I set everything up to allow the broadest range of action height adjustments without having to readjust the truss rod each time the action is changed.

    Another thing that makes discreet measurements useless is the fact that a string guage, or even brand change negates the measurements. A .080 guage string can be set up lower than a .095 string. The measurements given in the specs doesn't take into account that the measurement must change with the specs of the strings change.

    How many of us are replacing the stock strings with exact replacement strings?

    Pkr2
     
  11. I can feel a case of deja vu here !!
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree on this - recently I have been alternating sets of strings. I prefer D'Addario Slowounds, for pure sound, but they are limited in terms of gauges.

    I tried a Thomastik set which is a lighter gauge and while they don't sound quite so good to me, I am very tempted to stick with them as they "feel" like a lower action to me, although in reality they are no different to the D'Addarios; but the heavier gauge of the latter made them "feel" higher.
     
  13. I feel like I've spent most of my small number of posts discussing this !!

    We are talking reference point here !!!

    For someone who doesn't have a clue what to start with as a set up, measurements are useful.

    I don't think it's any good saying adjust until all gremlins go away. The gremlins you find inconsequential may annoy me. We all have our own ways of setting these beautiful things up and no one person is totally right or wrong. I still believe using measurements as a reference point really helps. I get instantly repeatable results using them and will continue to do so.

    Just my opinion.
     
  14. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    "We are talking reference point here !!!"

    No, "we" aren't talking reference point. A reference point doesn't change as you go through a set up. The only "reference point" involved in a setup is the top of the frets. An actual discrete measurement of action height is not a reference. it is a measurement made from a reference point, I.E., the frets.

    "For someone who doesn't have a clue what to start with as a set up, measurements are useful."

    If one doesn't even know where to start doing a setup, all the measurements in the world are not going to help. Give me one good reason to set the action at 1/8" at the 12 fret if you are going to change it anyway. The final adjustment does not depend on a measurement.


    "I don't think it's any good saying adjust until all gremlins go away. The gremlins you find inconsequential may annoy me. We all have our own ways of setting these beautiful things up and no one person is totally right or wrong. I still believe using measurements as a reference point really helps. I get instantly repeatable results using them and will continue to do so."

    First, let me define what I refer to as a "gremlin".
    A gremlin is an unwanted buzz or rattle. A problem with intonation or a wolf tone or a dead spot on the fingerboard. It's a catchall phrase, not to be taken literally. No gremlin is, as you put it, is inconsequential.

    There are rules of thumb in setup that apply to all basses. To find a starting point to do a setup can be accomplished without a ruler. The first adjustment in a complete setup is always the relief. Set the relief by eye to one half the diameter of the g string. there is no need to be any more precise than this because chances are that the relief will be changed anyway to optimize the setup.

    The perfect setup is a setup that works for you. The mechanics of making that setup are pretty much written in stone.

    The problem with using measurements is that a newbie might be tempted to set his action to a particular measurement because his buddies Smith plays better than his Squire so they set the Squire to the exact action height as the Smith and the intonation goes awry. A measurement of the Smith shows a different amount of relief so now the relief is changed on the Squire. Now the Squire not only intonates badly but it develops buzzes that weren't there before. You can see without further elaboration that it quickly can turn into a catch 22 situation.

    This is not a fabricated scenario. I have seen the results of this comedy of errors a LOT of times.

    Measurements have a value if you have found the ideal setup for a particular instrument and you need to return to the original setup. I still contend that on a complete setup, such as with a new instrument, measurements with a rule are useless. Your opinion may differ. :)


    "I feel like I've spent most of my small number of posts discussing this !!"

    I hope that the time spent with this discussion has been worthwhile. I personally find it very interesting too.
    I have also spent a lot of time on the workbench doing set ups on lots of different brands and models. At one point I was doing repair and set up for five different stores. I really don't consider myself to be an amateur. The advice that I offer doesn't come from second hand info or just keeping my personal ax in adjustment. I got my experience in the trenches and I could tell stories all day about the mistakes I've seen made. Heck, I could tell stories all day about the mistakes I've made.

    You haven't really lived untill you strip your first truss rod nut or heard that sickening snap as a truss rod pops. I've done both. ONE TIME. If I can offer any advice that may keep someone else from making the same mistakes that I did, then all setup discussion has been worthwhile.
     
  15. seamus

    seamus

    Feb 8, 2001
    Jersey
    I always go with feel, I'm afraid I never invested in the proper gear for precise measurements. :( Basically, if I hold down the first fret and the highest fret on the same string, and I can easily slide 2 playing cards under the string at the 7th or so, that usually is a standard bass setup for me. Of course, this varies ever so slightly from bass to bass. Lower action is possible on some basses over others.

    I know that sounds kind of ghetto for doing a setup, but it has worked fine for me. After setting up basses so many times for myself, feel has always been the determining factor on any particular bass. So long as there's no buzz, I like setting the action even lower than stated above, then I let that settle a couple days.

    Once I've done that, I check to see if my standard attack causes the string to slap the fretboard. If it does, I dial in a little relief, and that usually brings me to the sweet spot across the entire neck. Of course, this all involves saddle adjustments for height and intonation.

    Setups are tough enough for me to stomach without busting out measurement gauges. Besides, I have large, meaty paws and fussing with minute instruments is a challenge. Soldering onbard preamps and basic electronics is about all I can stand, and that's out of necessity.
     
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, as you say it may be useful to you, but I think the point is that it may actually be detrimental for someone else to apply a particular measurment as a hard and fast rule. You have to face the fact that for that other person, with a different bass, different gauge strings, different climate and who knows what else - that measurement might well be entirely inappropriate.

    I know by experience that if I applied a particular measurement from my Fender to my Tobias it won't work and the Tobias would "feel" wrong or poorly set up.