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  • Another highy subjective post!

    Some of us prefer the higher, "fight for the tone" action, some of us prefer the low-but-buzz-free, "let's avoid tendonitis" action.

    In your opinion, which guitar(s) are notorious for terminally high action, and which are notorious for low, almost effortless action (for those of us with small hands )?
    <div class="signaturecontainer">&quot;Hmpf! Far out man, I almost broke my neck! Wow man, that's heavy!&quot;</div>

  • #2
    You can set up pretty much any guitar for whatever action you want. My Explorer had action so low you could think of a note and it would play. I had to raise it up a little because I always would apply too much pressure and bend the notes out of tune.
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    • #3
      I think the width of the neck has alot to do with felt action height. Ive had some rather medium low actions on guitars with both wide/thick necks and on skinnys as well. The easier to play guitar was the wide neck. It actually made the higher action seem lower than the skinny neck with the same string height.

      For me i like a low action with no buzz (which is pretty much iompossible for me to get) . And ive found that a good gibby can get that easier than a fender for some reason. But i prefer the strat over the LP so i tolerate its weakness. Its always a tradeoff when it comes to the two styles of guitars.
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      • #4
        I used to think that low action was important for playability, until I got my first jumbo-fretted guitar. I find the big frets allow me to do lots of things, with the action set higher than I woulda liked before, than I ever could do on the old standard frets. And higher action does make it easier to get nice articulation and tone.

        I think it has more to do with fretboard radius than brand or fretboard width. With smaller-radius (ie more curved) boards, you gotta have the action set pretty high or you are gonna have the strings fretting-out all over the place when you bend 'em. And since Fenders are associated with the smaller-radius boards, that must be why so many people say, "well, you gotta have higher action on a tele or strat than on a Paul." But in this custom-shop era, where even the stock fenders have flatter boards, i don't think that rule holds true any more.

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        • #5
          I used to think that low action was important for playability, until I got my first jumbo-fretted guitar. I find the big frets allow me to do lots of things, with the action set higher than I woulda liked before, than I ever could do on the old standard frets. And higher action does make it easier to get nice articulation and tone.

          I think it has more to do with fretboard radius than brand or fretboard width. With smaller-radius (ie more curved) boards, you gotta have the action set pretty high or you are gonna have the strings fretting-out all over the place when you bend 'em. And since Fenders are associated with the smaller-radius boards, that must be why so many people say, "well, you gotta have higher action on a tele or strat than on a Paul." But in this custom-shop era, where even the stock fenders have flatter boards, i don't think that rule holds true any more.

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          • #6
            Doesn't action have to do with scale length too?

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            • #7
              Rob, I think you're right, even though I've never thought of it that way. I prefer lower action, for smoother legato and sliding etc, but a tele with the action a little higher than normal is a piece of heaven. As for which guitars tend to have higher ation, it seems to me that strats and tele's generally have higher action, whereas more "metal" guitars such as Ibanez' and Jacksons tend to have lower ation, but this probably goes back to what Rob sai about neck radius.

              Adam Weber
              <div class="signaturecontainer">Coffee is my Vitamin C!</div>

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              • #8
                Rob, I think you're right, even though I've never thought of it that way. I prefer lower action, for smoother legato and sliding etc, but a tele with the action a little higher than normal is a piece of heaven. As for which guitars tend to have higher ation, it seems to me that strats and tele's generally have higher action, whereas more "metal" guitars such as Ibanez' and Jacksons tend to have lower action, but this probably goes back to what Rob said about neck radius.

                Adam Weber
                <div class="signaturecontainer">Coffee is my Vitamin C!</div>

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Rob Quail
                  I used to think that low action was important for playability, until I got my first jumbo-fretted guitar. I find the big frets allow me to do lots of things, with the action set higher than I woulda liked before, than I ever could do on the old standard frets. And higher action does make it easier to get nice articulation and tone.

                  I think it has more to do with fretboard radius than brand or fretboard width. With smaller-radius (ie more curved) boards, you gotta have the action set pretty high or you are gonna have the strings fretting-out all over the place when you bend 'em. And since Fenders are associated with the smaller-radius boards, that must be why so many people say, "well, you gotta have higher action on a tele or strat than on a Paul." But in this custom-shop era, where even the stock fenders have flatter boards, i don't think that rule holds true any more.


                  Interesting- I never thought of it that way. I like large radus fretboards more than small radius; which is why my beloved Tele is gathering dust, until I have time to build it a new, flatter neck.

                  I just thought it was because the flat board on my Epi 335 felt better; it also has the nicest low action I've ever played.
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                  • #10
                    I dunno what action I've got. Roughly how many mm above the fretboard does it have to be to be considered "high"??
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                    • #11
                      Action Analysis 101-

                      When setting up a guitar, here's the basic routine I follow, before doing anything else...

                      1. Check the neck for correct "relief". This will of course depend somewhat on the player's style. The standard rule of thumb is a 0.010" gap between the 7th fret and your string of choice, when said string is fretted both at the 1st and 15th fret(acoustic, 17th fret, electric). Many guitars have an uneven relief, ie, there is a difference in the 1st and 6th string measurement. Only a seasoned pro can correct this deficiency. THIS is the major cause of playability problems. If you adjust the neck for easy play on the treble strings, the bass strings may buzz....I have found it is the RARE instrument that does not suffer at least a little bit from this malady.

                      2. Check for out-of-level frets and a rising FB tongue. Not uncommon for a fret to be high, loose, or pressed into the FB too far. The only solution is a fret levelling.

                      3. Check nut height. Factories don't take the time to properly adjust the nut...it's really just another "fret" with "sides" to guide the strings, although practically, it should be between 0.001" and 0.002" higher than the first fret. Buzz Feiten wouldn't be doing as well if this was attended to better at the factory...your local GC sure as hell won't attend to this problem unless you ask....as part of the condition of sale.

                      4. After all of these other "judgement calls" are made...THEN it is time to see to the actual action height. While the previous items can really be the same(or the relief, within a thousandth or two)...action height is the last item before setting intonation.

                      The above are just my opinions of course, formed after setting up literally thousands of guitars.
                      <div class="signaturecontainer">Dave<br />
                      <a href="http://www.electrocoustic.com" target="_blank">Wendler Instruments</a></div>

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