Miscellaneous Rumbles

Back to the basics… how high do you like you action?

1

Generally curious. I more and more tend to raise it higher than I had it in the past.

K

2

I'm arthritic. The lower, the better. As long as there's no buzz, I'm OK.

3

I used to like it as low as possible, but over time I realized that it was robbing tone. I started to raise it up a bit, to find the sweet spot, getting good tone and still being low enough for comfortable playing. I try to keep the action reasonably uniform on all my guitars, so it's easier to switch between them.

4

I have some guitars with super low action and others with pretty high action. Doesn't really bug me when playing, either way. I do stress out over how high some of them LOOK, and have no way to adjust other than a reset, but they feel fine.

I guess I prefer a tad higher than "normal"....but my 6120 is crazy low, and I love that too.

5

Just a hair before the buzz.

6

These days I just settle for any “action” I can get!

7

Just a hair before the buzz.

– NJBob

What he^ said.

8

As low as possible. I also like the neck to be as straight as possible. I prefer a large fretboard radius over a small. My favorite is Jackson's 12" to 16" compound radius. I wish all my guitars were like that.

9

All guitars buzz if you hit them hard. Don't do that. Loud amps are capable of breaking windows even if you just tickle the strings. Nothing tough or manly about punching a guitar. Moderate string height as recommended is best. Not rocket science

10

I'm fairly heavy handed and tend to play acoustics so they can be loud. I just set up all my guitars so they don't play much different.

I like 0.060" to 0.080" at the twelfth fret. I use 0.012"D strings on my electric guitars and 0.13"D strings on my acoustics.

Lee

11

NJ Bob nailed it. The other half of the action equation is the fret style and on all my guitars it's very low. I prefer the wide, low vintage style. I need the fret height as low as possible so fretting doesn't pull the string sharp. Playing fingerstyle there's a constant combination of open and fretted notes and strings pulled sharp are easily heard dissonant against the open strings. Low fret height prevents this. And before anyone mentions it, using a lighter touch with my left hand is absolutely no option....it isn't wired to do that. I don't have a death grip by any means but it's strong by the necessity of chording using my thumb.

12

I'm a just before it buzz guy now that I've got arthritis, but I sound better than ever as it caused me to use my right hand more subtly than I used to do. Plus with it lower I didn't have to go lighter gauge to get comfortable. I let the amp do the heavy lifting now.

13

What he^ said.

– tubwompus

Yup

14

I prefer minimal neck relief and action low enough so that tone and sustain are not affected. Some of my guitars have crazy low action, the rest are not far off. I've been very surprised at how low I've been able to get on my last two electromatics while maintaining those incredible tones and endless sustain.

15

Low action as long as it doesn’t buzz. But high action is popular too. Look at SRV. Master of blues rock and he liked high action.

16

All my electrics, hollow and solidbody are set up pretty much the same, string height: low E 4/64ths @ the 12th fret, high E 3/64ths (or a hair more) with as straight a neck as possible. Both my archtops, Gretsch 6116 Power Tenny and Guild NS X175B seem to like a bit more neck relief, especially the Gretsch but still pretty darn straight. They all get strung up with pure nickel wound 10-46's (except the Gretsch which just sounds better with nickel plated D'Addario XL110's). The Hallmark 65 Custom gets a hybrid set of pure nickel EB's on the wound strings and reinforced ball end EB plain steels on the G,B, and high E (the Shade Vibrato tends to be hard on non-reinforced plain strings). The Hallmark, which has the smallest frets (think vintage Fender) has the fastest feeling action and just barely a smidge of neck relief.

17

I find guitars always come from the maker with way too low an action. Some guys pick up my guitars and say the action's too high but it's not so high really. I just want to hear all I can from the string. You can set the action low so it doesn't rattle but it can still rob you of sustain and tone. Just a little higher and you get a fatter sound and better sustain.

Having said that I am shocked at how low the action on my Les Paul is! The 335 also... No buzz, no loss of anything. I suspect having just the right amount of relief on the neck is the trick, and I have had to loosen the trussrod of every guitar I have owned to achieve this. It doesn't take much.

18

I was pretty "textbook" with my action until I started playing Gretsches and finding the heavier gauge strings and even flatwound strings sounded better often with them. It's kinda dependent on the guitar and sound you want. My buddy was Dick Dales luthier in the early 90s and I got to see the action and "fence wire" gauge strings that cat played and couldn't believe it. My Fenders, Gibbies and Gretschs seldom require the same and differ from years produced. Personally for me the 12th fret measurement seems to be the "key" but it's not precise even.

19

Interesting.

I'm getting where I like a bit of curve in the neck and high action, but it varies.

K

20

I've definitely warmed up to higher action over the years. As a youngster, I just accepted the axiom that low action is good action. But the more I trusted my ears, the more I came to find that my guitars sounded better with medium action. Nothing crazy, but not as low as possible.

21

NJ Bob nailed it. The other half of the action equation is the fret style and on all my guitars it's very low. I prefer the wide, low vintage style. I need the fret height as low as possible so fretting doesn't pull the string sharp. Playing fingerstyle there's a constant combination of open and fretted notes and strings pulled sharp are easily heard dissonant against the open strings. Low fret height prevents this. And before anyone mentions it, using a lighter touch with my left hand is absolutely no option....it isn't wired to do that. I don't have a death grip by any means but it's strong by the necessity of chording using my thumb.

– Windsordave

Me too!! Playing finger style, I have a clear tendency to push strings sharp if the action is set too high.

Like NJ Bob, Windsordave and others, I opt for "as low as possible".

22

I have a heavy right hand and tend to dig hard so my action is on the high side of what is commonly recommended.

23

Having said that I am shocked at how low the action on my Les Paul is! The 335 also... No buzz, no loss of anything. I suspect having just the right amount of relief on the neck is the trick JimmyR

Right? I have a 2019 Les Paul and the strings can be set ridiculously low. I'm like you though about most other guitars, I also found that having them so low robs tone and sustain. I raised my Les Paul strings up just enough to get the best grip for string bending, and it's still pretty darn low!

And you're right about the neck relief, Gibson guitars need about 008" relief at the 7th fret.

24

I have always liked it a tad higher than most. I like to grab some string when I bend and this enhances the ability to do so. I don't really have a measurement to offer, just the feel. I've on occasion played some guys guitars onstage at an impromptu invite and almost everytime, it's too low for me.

25

Glad I found this thread. I've played medium height action for 29 yrs. But I'm a heavy hitter and chord squeezer....just can't break the habit. I squeeze cowboy chords out of tune and the squeezing slows me down higher up (no wonder I was never a shredder).

My dad (who's a 50 yr professional) came over and was surprised at how high my action was and then I played his and I wasn't pulling out of tune anymore. I lowered the action on one of my guitars and am going to a/b it after it settles in. BUT I'm not sure how I like it yet.


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