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Do you prefer high action?

MojoBodies

Inspired
How High?

I would call my preference medium low... I have a guitar I built I can go bellow 1mm at the 12th fret with minimum buzz... but its way to low for me, feels too weird to bend notes... I would say I prefer something around 1.5mm at the 12th.
 

alfaphlex

Member
Not me, but check out Ronni Le Tekrø.
You can fit a pencil in between the strings and the neck (no joke)
Mark Day and I were just talking about this.
2:12 for guitar action closeup.

lmao, you weren't kidding. He's playing on tightropes!

For me, it depends on frets. On taller frets, for me it's generally something within the range of 1.3-1.7mm, high/low.

On vintage style frets or 7.25 radius, I hate fretting out and the finger/fretboard friction when bending, so anywhere between 1.6-2mm, high/low.
 

Dimi84

Member
I used to like relatively high action many years ago when I started playing. The reason was being oversensitive to fret buzz and other kinds of overtones as well. Having a rather round fretboard radius also meant bends fretted out more.

That changed with time. The more I understood about guitars and refined my approach, the more I valued low action. I started playing guitars with flatter radius (from 10 inch PRS to 12 to compound radius guitars). This allowed for less fret out, assuming the quality of fret levelling was comparable.

These days, I can go as low as 1.25 mm. BUT to keep this relatively constant I also tend to adjust my technique between guitars. With my prs, I'll instinctively tap, not do 3 semi tone bends with that action. With my charvel, I can.

Then with my esp edwards, I know there's certain overtones in the middle of the neck when running a nearly straight neck. Most guitars have them; these are just slightly higher pitched, especially considering the JB when plugged in. That also has me adjust my technique. And string tension matters as well in terms of what I can get away with.

Anyway, all that said.. IF i wanted a worry-free playing experience in terms of needing acoustically pristine tones, I'd use greater string tension and/or go higher with the string height. I'd also dial in a touch more relief and add some fall away to the end of the neck.

Considering this doesn't bother me as much as it once did, I tend to prefer lower action. But even then there's a point the negative effects seems unacceptable and the guitar sounds like a duck all over even plugged in. It's just physics. 1.25-1.3 tends to be where I stay, with a nearly straight neck, E flat tuning and balanced tension 9s.

And as said, I adjust my technique a little (a little!) depending on the guitar.
 
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Kevinwhite338

New Member
I don’t like high action, but I don’t like it super low either. I shoot for around 1.8mm on the low E and 1.4mm on the high , then adjust from there depending on the guitar.
 

Dimi84

Member
Heck, even with fretting out, to add to my response, you eventually run to a point where it happens, with most guitars. And then it can become a question of "how much is acceptable". Fret out "zing" starts to occur before the note is cut off completely. At which point is it acceptable? How hard do you pick and how far do you bend? Even the velocity of your bend can matter a lot.

All these are relevant questions. And the pickier I would be, especially about acoustic sounds, the more higher action would help, other factors being equal.
 
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Dr. Dipwad

Experienced
No... Typically about 1mm above the 12th fret.
This ^^^.

A compound radius stainless-frets guitar with low action that's nearly identical in height the whole way up and down the fretboard.

I actually like it when, if I play softly, every note is clean, but when I play the wound strings hard, you can hear it not just in the volume, but because they buzz a tiny bit. Beyond that, I just like consistent feel, and it really bugs me when I'm bending if my fingers start sliding under the next-thicker string.
 

Stratman68

Axe-Master
My prefs have changed with age........Prefer very low action, NOW. I really lower the pups on my strats also! When I was younger it really didn't matter to me as long as there wasn't any unwanted fret noise.
 

2204JCM

Member
I set my guitars up with a fairly low action using 9s.
They are all set the exact same way and have been like that for decades now.
In February I had to travel to see my family and had to quarantine while I was there.
I got my brother to lend me his Charvel that he has set with high action. I played it for over a week.
After decades of playing fairly low action the difference would be obvious.
The only real difference is that my hands had to work harder -but they slowly adjusted over a number of days.
There was no noticeable gain in tone and fret buzz was marginally better if you hit hard.
The benefits of High Action is %99 BS folks.
 

EdgE

Power User
I do all my own guitars , just did a fret job on an Ibanez 550, pulled the frets leveled the board , stainless high and narrow frets , action is a little under 1/16 of an inch, 3/64’s on 12th fret, it all depends on how you play . Also depend on the guitar , I have some guitars that play and feel great at an 1/8 of an inch at the 12th. Although slide can be a-little challenging
 

2204JCM

Member
I do all my own guitars , just did a fret job on an Ibanez 550, pulled the frets leveled the board , stainless high and narrow frets , action is a little under 1/16 of an inch, 3/64’s on 12th fret, it all depends on how you play . Also depend on the guitar , I have some guitars that play and feel great at an 1/8 of an inch at the 12th. Although slide can be a-little challenging
If you are playing in a way that requires high action that’s one thing. But as I said there is no tonal or volume benefit.
It’s just another one of those fallacies that keeps on getting repeated.
 

Dimi84

Member
If you are playing in a way that requires high action that’s one thing. But as I said there is no tonal or volume benefit.
It’s just another one of those fallacies that keeps on getting repeated.
Well, descriptions of "high" and "low" action can be loaded. How low is your action? People even add fall away -- or different relief on treble vs bass sides via plek -- for partly similar reasons to typical string height adjustments (partly different effect, but still).

I certainly don't think it's a fallacy that higher action, all things being equal, at least from some threshold and on, helps the guitar sound "cleaner", including getting cleaner bends.

You can give the same guitar to 2 people. For the first, it buzzes -- even plugged in. For the second, it hardly does. Playing technique matters. Not just slide playing imo, even if a certain threshold tends to be more important for slide playing.

And there may be a certain threshold of technique, settings, set up -- whatever variables are in play -- where the specific difference in string height made not much of a difference for you.

Never mind that this charvel is a guitar which you weren't familiar with at a lower string height, I would assume?

I'm not doubting that for you there are was no big or meaningful difference, as an experience. But switching between guitars can alter enough variables to throw off such testing.

If you have a 7.5 inch radius you'll eventually reach a point where you won't be able to do 3 semi tone bends, as action gets lower, other variables consistent. That alone can be quite an issue and one of the reasons why people started doing flatter and even compound radius fretboards.

But it's also perfectly possible that someone doesn't bend as far, and doesn't pick hard enough, so all is ok.. or another person does pick hard -- and the guitar starts sounding and feeling more and more choked from a certain threshold and on.

Maybe people at times exagerate the difference "all" thresholds and changes make. It's surely more nuanced than that. But string height can certainly be important.
 
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