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YOUR definition of "low action"

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Panther, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. Panther


    Dec 9, 2004
    Nova Scotia
    I finally brought my SR5 in for a pro setup/tuneup.

    I had my action lowered to what was 90% playable, that meaning I ended up with a couple of dead spots, and making a full string bend on the frets over the 12th fret would deaden some.

    I knew I went to low, but figured a pro could get it as close to where I like it while giving the instrument a bit of maintenance.

    I asked for "as low as you can get it as possible"

    But when I got it home, it was high!!!

    Was my definition of low, too low for the SR5?

    At the 12th fret, on the B string, it's 4/32 from the bottom of the string to the surface of the fretboard. A floppy disk just fits in that gap.

    Should I just fine tune it myself by lowering the saddles?
  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    On my sterling, if you measure from the top of the 12th fret to the bottom of the E string, its about 3/32nds of an inch, about the same on all the other strings as well.
  3. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    Action is an entirely subjective thing - there's no real "international standard" of string height on electric basses, so the actual numbers and measures involved differ from person to person. It's sort of like Nike's size 9 sneakers being a little bigger than size 9 Pumas.

    To me, 4/32 measured from the top of the fret to the bottom of the B string is awfully low - probably too low for my tastes. This is assuming that the B is the highest string on the bass, and the other ones get a little lower on down to the G.

    I keep my G string around 1/16" and go up from there, so the B might get up to around 3/32", maybe a little lower. This is still considered a low action by most player's standards.

    Personally, I find the bass sounds choked and doesn't "speak" as well with extremely low action. This is, of course, totally personal and an individual thing that depends on the player's touch and attack. I play harder that I probably should. Victor Wooten keeps his action right around where your measurements are and he sounds great.
  4. Panther


    Dec 9, 2004
    Nova Scotia
    I think I just got a bit used to it being so low!

    I think I will leave it as is, and will take advantage of the higher setup to strenthen my fingers and maybe increase my left hand-accuracy.

    I haven't really had a chance to sit down with it for bit, so hopefully this weekend I will be able to.
  5. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Mine is about 2mm on the B string, down to 1mm on the G string.
  6. Whenever I take the Jazz for a setup, I always tell the guy to take the action as low as possible as long as there isnt any fretbuzz.
  7. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I very much agree with Joshua's assesment. With my action as low as it is, my neck can have almost no relief or it buzzes with even a little pressure. I actually thought something was wrong with my bass for a while till I tried tightening the truss rod up, even though relief looked ok, and it sure enough did the trick. If I go up to 3-4mm on the B side, the neck can handle a lot more relief than in my current setup. I also play like Joshua, light touch, let the amp do the work.
  8. Panther


    Dec 9, 2004
    Nova Scotia
    Joshua & Juneau:

    Do you think I should I take it back to have it lowered, or if I do something myself, what should I do first?

    I paid 63 dollars for the setup.

    Part of me is a little pi$$ed.
  9. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I'd take it back to the guy and show him, get him to explain to you why it can't be lower if he says it can't. Personally, I think its more usefull in the long run to learn how to properly adjust your own instruments. If you read through most of the setup stickys, you should have enough knowledge to not hurt anything at least. After a few setups of your own, you'll get better and better at getting it to where it plays the best for you. After all, only you can really know what you prefer.

    I normally set the truss rod on the neck to the correct relief, which in my case, is almost none. Then I lower the strings until they buzz. Then I back them off a hair or two at a time until the buzzing stops. Then I set intonation at the bridge. Nothing is really tricky, but the advice in the sticky on truss rod adjustments is key. No more than 1/4 turn every couple days (he may actually say no more than half a turn). But if you keep it under that in adjustment, and let it settle in for a few days before doing anything else, you should be fine and have no worries about damaging anything. If the truss rod is really hard to turn, you might reconsider, but it should move with a decent amount of resistance, but not be difficult.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I always do my own tweaking of setup as I think it is a personal thing.

    So, I've talked to the guys who do pro setups in London and I've heard them say that it's better to have a generic setup which makes the bass as playable as possible, across the board.

    So, I was talking to one guy about this and he said that he thought that lowering the action would make the bass playable either near the nut or above the 12th fret - but not both!

    So, he said that when people came in asking fior low action he would always ignore this and just give them his "generic" setup and he'd never had a complaint!!

    The more you do it yourself though, the more you realise how you like it and what effect it has on playability or compromise etc. :)
  11. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    Nothing to be pissed about if you didn't try it out before leaving the shop.

    And, honestly, if the tech has a heavy handed technique, what you got might have been as low as he could get it before a massive amount of buzz.

    If he's not too far from you, you could always go back in and see if he can lower the action a bit to your liking. Or, you could simply lower the bridge saddles a bit with a 1/16" allen screwdriver.
  12. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Going home alone after the gig.........
  13. JAL


    Dec 15, 2004
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Right now, i have (on my fretless) around 4/64ths on the G and 5 64ths on the E. I have to play lightly to not have buzz on the lower strings, but i just, like joshua, let the amp do the work. Its so personal, action on your bass is like your haircut.
  14. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    I call that low on my bass... I know it is a bit high, and it also looks a bit high, but it is well suited to my technique.

    "light touch, let the amp do the work" - I don't believe that rubbish. Sometimes you have to play light and soft, but there are also times when you have to dig in. So then your normal playing should be somewhere in-between these two extremities - that is, if you want the tone to be in your fingers, and not in the volume and eq knobs...
    Having action set up for medium leaves much more space for expression without buzz. Set it low, you can be lazy on the plucking and fretting part, but it will be heard...

    Just my opinion, of course. And what my ears tell me.
  15. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I wouldn't call it "rubbish", just differing opinions ;)
  16. I must pass these words of wisdom along to Gary Willis ;)
  17. I to got my Spector back last night from being set up and found the action way to high after asking for a LOW action setup. I think it's hard to explain to someone what you want as far as string heighth goes. I got it home and let it settle over night and then went here to do my own work (ThanxTB'ers) www.garywillis.com/pages/bass/bassmanual/setupmanual.html All I did is take my time and LOOSEN THE STRINGS and tighten the neck 1/4 to 1/3 turn and re-tune. Amaizing what you can do if you be patient and don't rush things. I did adjust the saddle slightely on the E and B string to make up for the curvature of the neck but now my spector plays with ease.

    This was my situation and I take no responsibility for your future setup after you read this
  18. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Light touch - been there, done that.
    I much prefer that expressiveness and versatility of playing with not just a light touch.
  19. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    All I meant was, weather you agree or not, someone else's style of play is not rubbish because it differs from yours. Our opinions are no less valid because you do not agree with them :)
  20. Panther


    Dec 9, 2004
    Nova Scotia
    I finally got to sit down with it for a half-hour last night.

    The biggest issue is fretting from the 12 fret and higher-that's where I find it most difficult.

    My small, clownish hands can't press the strings down cleanly enough up there!

    I think I will have to look at lowering it.

    What should my first step be though, after having it professionally done?

    I don't want it all undone, more of a fine tuning..

    Lower saddles?
    Tighten truss rod?
    Bring it back and ask them to lower it? (it'll be gone for another week)

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