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Why do so many think super low action is the only action?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by TRichardsbass, Jul 22, 2013.

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  1. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Inactive Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.
    Here are two videos that always get my goat:

    The first guy, well, I like him personally because he rescues a lot of cool, old vintage, cheap "crap" as he calls it and brings some of it back to life. Scott Grove, however, I find banal and insipid.

    Scott thinks that bolt on is the only way to go, as for him you can always shim a neck to get low action (read that as stupidly low action) and the first guy, well, I know the bass in the video and honestly it had about 25 thousandths of relief and the action was about 7/64 to 5/64 which is sort of Fender factory spec. For those of us "old school" guys, this would be maybe a touch high on relief, but the action is near right on.

    So, since when did it become "too high" action with specs similar to this? I mean, all those guys who just can't wait to get an early P or J bass don't realize that it was designed for this type of action and relief for perform at its best?

    Small rant, but honestly, sometimes I think a lot of players think that a bass is "bad" if you can't get action so low a sugar ant can't get under the string.

    Anyway, enjoy the videos, and tell me what you think.
  2. goldenglory18


    Nov 30, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Amateur. Take my advice for its resale value.
    FWIW, I can't stand a super low action. For me, a studio setup needs to be low and quiet for consistency, but my live instruments....the action is high enough to fit a Big Mac under the strings.
  3. j.kernodle


    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    I can physically play a bass with 7/64ths on the e string, but I'd much prefer my setup which is almost dead flat with 5/64ths between the e string and the top of the 12th fret and 2/32's on the G string.

    I can get most decent basses down to 3/32's on the E.
    it takes a little better fretwork to get down to 5/64ths with my attack.
    I've played a rare few basses (a US lakland, and a Mike Lull) that I could get down to 2/32's that had just ridiculous necks. they didn't buzz but they were still too "clacky".

    anything higher than 3/32's and I feel like I'm fighting the strings.

    let me add the yamaha bb2024 I just got to the list of capable of a stupid low setup, it came to me with strings set to 2/64ths on the e string!!! it was buzzy but I could still get sound out of it amazingly! I set it up to my normal specs and it's a humdinger.
  4. Webtroll

    Webtroll Rolling for initiative

    Apr 23, 2006
    Austin, TX
    I prefer low action than medium, but I don't know if I'd care fow super low action. I guess low action can vary based on opinions?
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Speaking for myself, I greatly prefer super low action and spaghetti strings. I'm 52 and I simply don't want to work that hard. I'll agree that watching those vids is like watching paint dry, though.
  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    I'm not a fan of that Davey guy in the first video. Half the time he seems to have no idea as to what he is talking about, and he is a total ass.

    Scott Grove is a really cool dude, and has a lot of knowledge about guitars. I have had a few conversations with him, he is a solid dude. He is also an ass, but he is hilarious. I also tend to agree with a lot of his theories. Scott is a guitar player, he isn't the greatest bass player in the world.

    I don't think a bass is bad if you cant get the action super low. I haven't come across an instrument that couldn't achieve really low action after a good fret job and set up. Unless there is something mechanically wrong with the bass itself.
  7. Handyman


    Sep 4, 2007
    Austin, TX
    The Scott Grove character is a rather sad mentally ill character who posts long rambling crazy videos on You Tube.

    I'd stop worrying if your opinion on setting up basses differ with that poor guy.
  8. Right_Butterscotch64


    Oct 18, 2012
    Scott may seem crazy but man....he is just an encyclopedia of guitar knowledge.

    He proves ON VIDEO many of his theories and statements, hard to say that for most people. He is also a hell of a guitarist/bass player.
  9. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Inactive Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.
    I find Scott humorous. But clearly bolt on is not superior to neck thru, and vice versa. Just different tastes and different techniques. Still haven't found a bass that outperformed my now long gone Aria Pro II SB-1000, maybe the best neckthrough ever (my apologies to my friends at Rickenbacker, who also make a superior neckthru).

    Either way, to me low action doesn't really make you work less hard, but then again, low action to me is high action to the rest of you.

    And, well, of the two bass gods, if my style and action was good enough for Jamerson.....
  10. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    Low action requires less effort to play, so you can play faster.
  11. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Generally, for most stings at the 12th fret, I like 3/32 (G) through 7/64 (E). For TI flats a wee bit higher. For stiff flats, example 50 - 105, I can go lower like 2/32 to 5/64.

    IMO, heavy attackers need high action and light attackers can go low action.

    The goal for action is to avoid fret slap when noting and plucking.

    Too each his own, eh?
  12. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    For me, starting out in the 1970's, I had to play so many crappy basses with high action that low action became a "leading indicator" of a higher quality instrument.

    Disclaimer: Of course, these days I can do my own setups and get the action low on most ANY bass that's fully adjustable/functional, even a $99 cheapie.

    Still, a poorly-made bass with a crapwood neck, ski-jump fretboard, uneven frets and a semi-functioning truss rod may NOT be able to be set up with satisfactorily low action, nor will it hold setup if you do get it in range, so "low action = better quality" is still partially true.
  13. Jookbox

    Jookbox Registered Drummer

    Mar 16, 2006
    I set my action on my Jazz bass about 1/64th lower than fender specs (with flatwounds) and I think it's perfect. I trained myself to have a lighter touch because I think it sounds better. If I feel like attacking something, I'lll attack my drums :)
  14. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    Don't pick on Dave, he knows what he is doing and he calls it like he sees it.
  15. To me it doesn't matter if you like high or low action, but it does matter than you are able to set a bass up the way you like. On lower end models, bolt-on is great because you can shim if the neck and the pocket aren't giving you the angle you need. Quick fix, easy cheesy. But higher ended bass should be good to go and not need a shim. I shim my Mexi Jazz Bass to get the action where I like it. I do not shim my Zon. I do not shim my Tobias. I didn't need to shim any of my other "nice" basses, whether bolt-on, set neck, or neck thru. But my lower end back ups? it's been about 50 : 50.
  16. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    Low for me. To each their own. Ultimately, who cares
  17. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Inactive Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.
    I'm not picking on Dave, like I said, I like the fact he rescues a lot of cool pieces. My rant is more the "low action" cult...
  18. While I have raised my action to 'moderately low' over the years, as my playing has matured and my chops have gotten better, I always make sure a bass is capable of low absolute action before purchasing (or I request 'low' action from a builder when getting a custom instrument made). Why? Well, you can always raise the action on an instrument that is expertly made and set-up, so there is no downside that I can see.

    Nice to have the option of putting the action exactly where you want it. With a bass with 'problems' that buzzes, etc. when the action is set low, you are limited to a certain string height. With a well made, set-up, and maintained instrument, you can fine tune the feel any way you want.
  19. DaveDeVille

    DaveDeVille ... you talkin' to me ?? Supporting Member

  20. Eublet


    Jul 28, 2006
    I'm not sure why it matters, but I will say that I prefer medium action, with an occasional drop into low action for certain things. Honestly it's the high-action setting that I find the least useful, and the people who adhere to it are the most dogmatic in attacking the other side around here as if it somehow means they are lazy or something. That is what I don't understand at all.

    In the end, I've never really understood why it matters what action someone else prefers as long as it sounds good in a mix. Fact of the matter is that extremely low action can sound fantastic in a mix and be just as smooth sounding as anything else in the hands of a good player, so why get bothered by it? It definitely takes more work to get a bass to play well with low action, and for some people that effort is enjoyable in and of itself.

    And you can't really argue the economy that comes from lower action. It can also mean one needs to be much more disciplined in order to play a lower action bass, so it can't be argued that it's a matter of being lazy either. Again, it only seems like it's the high-action group that wants to look down their noses at people who prefer things low.
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