What is the appeal of high action?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Dbt25677, Apr 1, 2014.

  1. Dbt25677


    Jun 9, 2013
    I've encountered - let's say, too many - guitars that have had their action so high that I could have fit an iPhone in the gap.
    What gives? It makes it harder to fret and removes the tone of the instrument (I played a Stingray with unfairly high action and it sounded like a tone-rolled-off pbass.).
    What's the appeal??
  2. Hi.

    As a someone who plays with a reasonably high action in certain situations, the appeal for me is the tone when You dig in.

    Also the ability to greatly vary the tone and volume of the instrument with the plucking/picking hand with the amount of force applied to the strings.

    lowplaces and RoeyHaviv like this.
  3. Zombie40cal


    Mar 25, 2014
    How high is your action set at?
  4. autotech6506


    Mar 3, 2014
    I like my action a little high because I tend to dig in (finger style) and bang the strings off the frets. Not a desirable sound in a praise and worship band with no electric guitar. Also no shredding needed.
  5. ugly_bassplayer


    Jan 21, 2009


    lowplaces and StayLow like this.
  6. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    Sharp if it's too high.
  7. What's the appeal of high action? None, for me.
    Dan Bass and Lownote38 like this.
  8. I used to play with higher action to compensate for a warped neck, too heavy strings, a weak amp and to drown out a thrash drummer that had no idea what a soft ballad was.
  9. philvanv

    philvanv Gerbil Turds, Kitsap County Turd Core

    Jul 2, 2012
    and at the bottom it says thank you, and now you can shag off
    songwriter21 and Lownote38 like this.
  10. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    It's for tone, but more specifically the attack curve of the note. Having the action up higher, the amp lower, and plucking harder gives you direct control over the percussive pulse at the start of the note, and how rapidly it decays as it settles out. It's another variable that you can control with your fingers, note by note. You can make different notes in a phrase sound different in how they start and end. Extra character on each note. It's a technique that upright bass players have been using forever.

    If you set up low/light, you can play faster and easier, but you lose most of the ability to control the attack curve.

    Your preference depends on what and how you want to play.
    lowplaces, themarshall and saltydude like this.
  11. +1
    I like low action as much as anyone, but if it's too low you lose a lot in articulation.
  12. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    Higher action allows people with harder plucking habit to play without fret buzzing.
    The tone character is also different than Lower Action Strings.
  13. The_Lucek


    May 21, 2011
    I first loved low action, but then i started plucking harder and harder and the sound coming out of the bass was exclusively fret buzz. I could have only played at one plucking 'level'. But as the neck started to warp, i was forced to adjust for high action. Never looked back. Though the freting is a bit trickyer, the bass became more musical and with a large dinamical spectrum. And when I pluck over the neck, i sound like geezer :D also like an upright bassist, great for jazz.
    lowplaces and TerenceE like this.
  14. elBandito


    Dec 3, 2008
    Rotten Apple
    For me, it depends on where you pluck. When I used to primarily play a p bass right over the pickup, I liked playing medium action. Playing a j bass closer to the rear pickup, I can dig in harder with low action without buzzing or clanking. I always felt, too low kills the tone somehow.
  15. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I disagree - it's all a matter of practice. I think it's nothing more than a myth - bassists have it easy either way, if you ever tried playing woodwinds with any kinds of dynamics you know what I mean...
  16. Boot Soul

    Boot Soul

    Feb 10, 2009
    Raising my action (just a bit) and playing in front of the pickup instead of just behind the pickup improved my sound and my whole approach to playing my P bass. This included not just raising the strings at the saddle but also setting slightly more relief to the neck. I also found I could use lighter gauge strings with this setup, which somewhat offset the increased string height with lower tension = little change in how hard my fretting hand must work. Fingerstyle is what I'm talking.
  17. Carol Kaye recommended in one of her books action at 12th fret 6mm...:help:
  18. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    I haven't read that.. but it's exactly my (E) bass string action now...:D
  19. I disagree with your disagreement. :p With very low action, plucking with a certain force without buzzing is either impossible or requiring a plek treatment every week. You can get close to the tone/volume you'd get with higher action if you adjust your technique accordingly, but it doesn't sound the same to me.
    Never played woodwinds but I understand what you mean.
  20. Fixed it for you. Seriously though, it doesn't "remove" tone from the instrument. Maybe the pickup height wasn't adjusted properly to match how high the action was.

    The good kind.

    I've got high action on my Jags 'cause that's more familiar to me, more like my uprights. On the upright, it increases volume and makes arco & slapping easier. I've got big hands, I'm not a shredder, my style (*my bandmates are giggling now) is simplistic (*now they're outright laughing). I practice with no amp, generally, and to hear the notes I dig in. Lots of reasons for high action just as there are lots of reasons for low action – depends on your needs/taste. This boils down to Mr Johnson's post.

    In addition to all the good info in his post, Mr Johnson summed it up best in his last sentance, particularly one word:

    StayLow likes this.