Miscellaneous Rumbles

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

26

I like action I can breathe on and get a minor 9th.

My left hand keeps a death-grip on the neck at all times, lest the guitar get away from me.

With my right hand, I habitually rake it with a brick.

I hate string rattle, fret buzz, and sharp notes in chords.

Guitar techs despise me with badly concealed prejudice, and sometimes back away making the vampire cross with their forefingers when I walk in for a setup.

27

This is actually an apt question to come up, as I've been doing setups on a few of my guitars lately, so I have the measurements fresh in my mind. Seems I can get down to 4 or 5 64ths before buzzing takes over. Of course there are some buzzes unamplified that don't make it through the speaker; I'm not sure how I feel about that. For bends up high, I actually don't like it that low, as the next string starts to get in the way. As for relief, I don't usually measure: just a little bit less than completely flat. Maybe I should measure.

Now a couple of the guitars I've been working on have mismatched bridge/fretboard radius, but let's not get into that, lest somebody write a novel about it.

28

My teenaged daughter got so bored from COVID lockdown that over the summer, she finally took me up on my offer to grab one of my guitars and learn to play. One by one, my guitars gradually migrated into her bedroom. As we got closer to Christmas my wife and I decided that she should have her own guitar, for one because her musical tastes and playing style are different than mine, and two because I wanted my damn guitars back. So I found her a nice little auditorium sized Breedlove and the guy had it strung with .10s. Now bear in mind that I am an arch top guy using .12s and .13s. I am curious to see what she thought about light gauge with higher action compared to what she has been playing for six months. So day after Christmas, I’m back at work and she texts me, “The action on this guitar sucks. How do people play like this? I feel like I’m gonna rip the high E off every time I strum. It’s gross!” It was a proud parenting moment.

29

I’m getting older, some days I feel “old” but in spite of that, I still like a lot of action.

30

I like it so that when other people play my guitars they look at me as if I’m some kind of übermensch.

31

With my old fingers, plus arthritis at the base of both my thumbs, these days I like the action as low as I can get it without buzzing.

Also I still have the annoying tendency to adopt a 'Boston strangler' left hand grip which can pull chords out of tune on any guitars with big frets. I'm doing my best to stop this annoying habit. Recently I tried a pal's LP Black Beauty reissue -- the fretless wonder. Wonderful to play but weighed a ton.

Recently I pulled out every electric guitar in the house just to see which ones were the most 'old bloke friendly' from a playing point of view. No outright winner, but I was surprised that some quite modest guitars hit the right spot -- an early style ProJet (set up a few years back by my stepson), an Epi Riviera P93 (never had to touch the action since I bought it), a Partscaster (nothing clever on my part -- the lovely maple neck I found in a Denmark Street shop parts bin for £40 including Klusons).

Maybe I should sell all the others -- well, perhaps not.

32

I like action I can breathe on and get a minor 9th.

My left hand keeps a death-grip on the neck at all times, lest the guitar get away from me.

With my right hand, I habitually rake it with a brick.

I hate string rattle, fret buzz, and sharp notes in chords.

Guitar techs despise me with badly concealed prejudice, and sometimes back away making the vampire cross with their forefingers when I walk in for a setup.

– Proteus

I’m in a similar boat. One reliable yardstick for me is to play a Dm7 at the first fret to test the depth of the nut slots. If it’s in tune using minimal pressure, I don’t seethe. That’s why I like zero frets. Removes the importance of nut slot depth to a large degree, I’ve noticed.

One way that my neophytic technique victimizes me is difficulty with tall frets. My Mod Shop Strat and Tele both have them and they shipped with 9’s. One or two voicings in a lot of chords were invariably sharp and it’s just a result of my lack of finesse. If I were a bender, I’m sure I’d love them. The Curt Wilson-modded 5120 that I call the “Schoolhouse Special” returned from his shop with what I’d call the definitive action for me. Between his mastery and the Tru-Arc bridge, that guitar practically plays itself. I’d love to be able to setup every one of mine to exactly match it.

On my 12-strings, I need them absolutely as low as possible. The Ricks’ low frets make them a joy when all is as nature intended. My acoustic 12 needs the saddle filed down some and until I can get that done, fuggeddaboudit. Cain’t git thar from h’yar, playability-wise.

Same with my basses. I don’t play basses very hard and half the time, I’m using a pick so I don’t run into the clatter against the fretboard...well...maybe a little on the Rick 4003 because RotoSounds. My P-Bass and 5442 both have flatwounds so you can get the actions way down low and play like butta.

Wunna these days, I’ll have this all worked out to where it’s a non-issue but for now, I need all the help from the guitar that I can get!

33

on electrics, usually about 1.5 to 2 mm on the low E and more like 1 to 1.5 on the high E. (sorry, guys, it's the twenty-first century...i'm not doing 64ths of an inch any more.) any kind of rattle or buzz drives me up the wall, and if my typical setup doesn't work i'll go as high as i can while keeping it playable. generally, Fenders demand higher action than Gibsoids, assumedly due to fretboard radius. there are few things in guitar playing i hate more than having the B string on a 7.5" radius Fender neck fret out with that horrible scrape/clang noise when i bend up a half-tone. currently using .009s on almost everything other than the Jazzmaster and the Duo Sonic which get .010s. 9s on a 22.5" scale is just silly.

34

My left hand keeps a death-grip on the neck at all times, lest the guitar get away from me. With my right hand, I habitually rake it with a brick.

One thing I've learned over however many years of attempting to play is that one method to cut back on 'death grip' is to focus on the picking hand. Getting the pick hand to relax somehow instructs the fret hand follow its lead. For some reason, it doesn't seem to work the other way around.

35

My left hand keeps a death-grip on the neck at all times, lest the guitar get away from me. With my right hand, I habitually rake it with a brick.

One thing I've learned over however many years of attempting to play is that one method to cut back on 'death grip' is to focus on the picking hand. Getting the pick hand to relax somehow instructs the fret hand follow its lead. For some reason, it doesn't seem to work the other way around.

– ade

Trying that, keep dropping the pick ;)

36

My teenaged daughter got so bored from COVID lockdown that over the summer, she finally took me up on my offer to grab one of my guitars and learn to play. One by one, my guitars gradually migrated into her bedroom. As we got closer to Christmas my wife and I decided that she should have her own guitar, for one because her musical tastes and playing style are different than mine, and two because I wanted my damn guitars back. So I found her a nice little auditorium sized Breedlove and the guy had it strung with .10s. Now bear in mind that I am an arch top guy using .12s and .13s. I am curious to see what she thought about light gauge with higher action compared to what she has been playing for six months. So day after Christmas, I’m back at work and she texts me, “The action on this guitar sucks. How do people play like this? I feel like I’m gonna rip the high E off every time I strum. It’s gross!” It was a proud parenting moment.

– Junior Q Man (Ryan M)

Same with my 14 yr old. I didn't even know she was teaching herself late at night after I had gone to bed. Here's she is playing with no instruction from me or anyone else at just 3 months. She has near perfect rhythm...which she did NOT get from me. Certainly not at 3 months...So I let her use the 25 yr old Les Paul as long as she keeps practicing.

Here's her FIRST DAY on bass. A friend built the bass and have it to her.

37

She's playing great. Love that b5 chord at 0.54. How did she ever work that one out?

38

That is really magic to see. Guitar music ain’t dead. You must be very proud, Shane.

39

She's playing great. Love that b5 chord at 0.54. How did she ever work that one out?

– ade

Tab. She figured out tab and rolled with it.

40

That is really magic to see. Guitar music ain’t dead. You must be very proud, Shane.

– Tsar Nicholas

Thank you, I absolutely am. She’s also playing drums now too. I know more licks via age, but she’ll be a better musician very soon.

42

Ironically, my daughter is a TERRIBLE rhythm player which is about the ONLY part of guitar playing that comes naturally to me. Her hands have a greater sense of independence than mine ever did, so lucky for her, she can tab her way through fingerpicking stuff that makes my brain hurt.

43

Ironically, my daughter is a TERRIBLE rhythm player which is about the ONLY part of guitar playing that comes naturally to me. Her hands have a greater sense of independence than mine ever did, so lucky for her, she can tab her way through fingerpicking stuff that makes my brain hurt.

– Junior Q Man (Ryan M)

Haha, my kid skipped learning any cowboy chords and went straight for the power chords and octaves.

44

So I’m guessing you haven’t explained to her yet that more money has been made below the fifth fret than anywhere else on the neck?

45

So I’m guessing you haven’t explained to her yet that more money has been made below the fifth fret than anywhere else on the neck?

– Junior Q Man (Ryan M)

There's money in music?

46

I set the nut slots for .020" clearance at the first fret, set neck relief to .012"-.015" at the seventh fret with a capo at the first fret and 12th (or body) fret pressed, set string height to 5/64" for low E and 4/64" for high E, and for slide set low E to 9/64" and high E to 7/64".

47

Timthom62: Wow, I'm impressed (really -- not trying to be funny). Even with my best specs I can't even see 64ths! I'm afraid I have to work on the basis of "that feels more or less OK". Oh the curse of becoming ancient.

49

If you like low action the minimum should allow a two step bend on any string on any fret. You can’t have low action with any noticeable relief because once you hit fret 14 you’re going uphill and you’ll fret out.

I have issues with anything more than necessary relief which is extremely little. The first one is more geometry and mechanics which causes the strings to be higher in the middle of the neck than anywhere else. The second is the bow and arrow effect where the neck is at its weakest setting and could affect tuning and is potentially unstable.


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