#1
So, I have two guitars, both of them Epiphone Les Pauls. One of them is a Custom Prophecy Ex, and the other is a Custom Plus.

When I only had one guitar, (which was the Custom Plus) I had these light strings on it (11's), and low action. I did basically everything I could do to make it easy to play. Once I acquired the Prophecy. I did the same to that. And then I thought of something. I could turn the Custom Plus into the opposite of the Prophecy. So I replaced the strings with 13's, raised the action until it was about a centimetre from the fretboard at the 12th fret. And adjusted other minor things.

After a while I got used to playing with 13's and high action and could do pretty much everything that I could do in the Prophecy. So I've sacrificed playability for tone on both my guitars. And I feel like a better guitarist and musician for doing it.

These days I notice that a lot of guitarists go out of their way to have a playable guitar. They buy Ibanez's with necks half as thin as that of my Custom Plus, they put their preferred string gauge is 10's or 11's, and they have action that's lower than hell.

So, my friends. What do you think of tone vs. playability. Do you like playability more? Tone? or a balance of both? And what are your ways of making a guitar more playable/have better tone?
My gear:

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Epiphone Les Paul Custom Prophecy EX
Homemade B.C Rich Mockingbird Copy
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Boss BF-2 Flanger
Ibanez Digital Delay
Cry Baby Wah Wah Pedal
#2
Playability always comes first because most of the tone is in your hands, and when I'm playing a good guitar it just sounds good because I feel good.

I have a V which has a fat neck and worn frets and is generally harder to play than a strat to me. So I took the Seymour Duncan humbucker out of it and put it in a strat then blocked the bridge.

Anyway playability comes first, you can usually get both, but if it came down to something like string gauge (and action?) then I would go with playability.

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#3
Ummm ... you raised your action so high that the strings are 1cm away from the fretboard at the 12th fret?
Normally that would cause problems with the intonation of your guitar.

Playability and tone don't really conflict each other, so why not have both?
Last edited by Tomura at Oct 15, 2011,
#4
If a guitar doesn't have good playability, I don't want it. They aren't dependent on each other- that is, good tone =/= bad playability and vice versa.

It's pretty hard to find a guitar that just will not sound good no matter who is playing it or what he/she is playing it through, so playability is the top priority for me.

Right now I have 3 guitars that I play more than the others I have, and they're all my Ibanezes. I've got hybrid slinkys (I think .009-.046) on my 2120X and those are light. My RG570 currently has Beefy Slinkys (.011-.54) and I play in drop C.

My RG7421 currently has a custom set from Naked Strings... I don't remember all of the gauges but it's .0115-.60 and i play in drop Ab. The low Ab is barely tight enough. Any looser and I would need a bit thicker string haha.

The 2120X's action is a bit off because I still haven't adjusted it since it was shipped to me, but it's still fairly low.
My 570 and 7421 both have the action about as low as I could get them haha.
My 2120X has a PAF Pro in the neck and Evolution in the bridge. Sounds great. Not a huge fan of the PAF Pro but it beats a V7.
570 has a Crunchlab/LiquiFire combo. Pretty much my personal holy grail as far as pickups go. Tight, aggressive, but clear bridge pickup with a neck pickup that's high output but has that very silky smooth sound.
The 7421 has.. oh man what is is... Evo 7 in the bridge and a... Blaze 7 in the neck, that's it.

Basically what I'm doing in my ridiculous and lengthy rant is my guitars play great, sound great, and have low action.

And I set them up myself.
Last edited by Pac_man0123 at Oct 15, 2011,
#5
Tone and playablility aren't opposite features. First of all, tone is a pre-requisite for buying guitar: if its tone isn't great, why would you buy it in the first place?
Playability doesn't necessarily mean thin necks, ultra-light strings and low action. It's about how comfortable do you feel when playing it.
Neanwhile, it's not necessary to break your fingers with 13's, in order to achieve tone. I have a Yamaha Pacifica 120S, with 2 Seymour Duncans (SH-sn/ neck, JB/ bridge) and 9's, and its tone is just maravellous: clean, twangy, rich in harmonics. It's easy to reach to the 22nd fret and the guitar is well balanced too.
I also have a Vintage V 100, which is a faithful copy of a Les Paul. I sue 10' strings on it, and it's also very playable, for the same reasons: it's well balanced, the neck has the right shape and radius, due to a larger carve it'seasier to reach to the higher frets etc. And tone, provided by two Wilkinson humbucker, is superb too.
An unplayable axe would be, IMHO, one with bad fingerboard, sticky neck, un-balanced, difficult acces to higher frets, bad hardware and other things like this.
#6
Ok, the 1cm action was an exaggeration, more like 7mm. And it did cause problems, but that's why you can adjust the intonation. I knew a dude once who had his action about an inch above the 12th fret (this time I'm not exaggerating), granted, I don't think he ever did anything past the seventh fret. And he thought that was "normal".

Also, I'm not talking about just having good tone, I'm talking about going the extra mile and having super AMAZING tone. Seriously, if you heard me play my guitar, afterwards, sex would feel like someone rubbing sandpaper on your dick. I don't mean to brag, I'm just saying that the little things like strings and action. That most affect playability also have a massive effect on tone.
My gear:

Epiphone Les Paul Custom Plus
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Prophecy EX
Homemade B.C Rich Mockingbird Copy
Peavey 6505+112
Boss BF-2 Flanger
Ibanez Digital Delay
Cry Baby Wah Wah Pedal
#7
Quote by jthm_guitarist
Playability always comes first because most of the tone is in your hands, and when I'm playing a good guitar it just sounds good because I feel good.

I have a V which has a fat neck and worn frets and is generally harder to play than a strat to me. So I took the Seymour Duncan humbucker out of it and put it in a strat then blocked the bridge.

Anyway playability comes first, you can usually get both, but if it came down to something like string gauge (and action?) then I would go with playability.

Agreed with right up until that point.

I would have said "Playability always comes first because most of the tone comes from your amp, and if you still don't like how that sounds you can always replace the pickups, but you can't 'replace' the playability."

EDIT: I didn't read the OP, initially. Tone and playability aren't mutually exclusive. I find it hard to believe that having action the height of the empire state building and steel cables for strings can improve your tone. I also find it hard to believe you can actually play at all with action that high.
Last edited by Butt Rayge at Oct 15, 2011,
#8
Quote by Butt Rayge
Agreed with right up until that point.

I would have said "Playability always comes first because most of the tone comes from your amp, and if you still don't like how that sounds you can always replace the pickups, but you can't 'replace' the playability."

EDIT: I didn't read the OP, initially. Tone and playability aren't mutually exclusive. I find it hard to believe that having action the height of the empire state building and steel cables for strings can improve your tone. I also find it hard to believe you can actually play at all with action that high.


You still can't deny that some aspects of your tone are owed to your hands (pick attack angle, fret pressure, finger angle etc.) Sure the amp is one major factor but not the only one. TS, I have friends who enjoy playing low action; when I pickup their guitars, I can't enjoy playing. I am used to high action and even though it technically should be harder; I find it easier. So experimentation is the way to go. And as mentioned before, playability and tone aren't mutually exclusive.
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Last edited by breakstuff at Oct 15, 2011,
#9
Quote by Butt Rayge
I would have said "Playability always comes first because most of the tone comes from your amp, and if you still don't like how that sounds you can always replace the pickups, but you can't 'replace' the playability."


But most of the tone doesn't come from the amp. If you have a guitar with bad tone, then no matter what amp you have. You're just amplifying a guitar with bad tone. And I agree that a lot of tone does come from how you play.

Quote by Butt Rayge
EDIT: I didn't read the OP, initially. Tone and playability aren't mutually exclusive. I find it hard to believe that having action the height of the empire state building and steel cables for strings can improve your tone. I also find it hard to believe you can actually play at all with action that high.


I've said this before and I'll say it again, action and string guage have a massive effect on tone. If you don't believe me, try it out for yourself. Most people who play acoustic guitar exclusively. Also use 13's exclusively.

What's the most important part of a guitar? Pickups? No. Amp? Hell, no. It's the strings. A guitar is just a tool for amplifying and manipulating a set of strings.
My gear:

Epiphone Les Paul Custom Plus
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Prophecy EX
Homemade B.C Rich Mockingbird Copy
Peavey 6505+112
Boss BF-2 Flanger
Ibanez Digital Delay
Cry Baby Wah Wah Pedal
#10
I can't believe I'm the only one here who realises that the amp does most of the work. Normally its the amp deniers that are the minority.

I never said string gauge makes no difference, and I never said that none of the tone comes from the way you play, but I did imply that those were very small factors in the grand scheme of things.
#11
Quote by Butt Rayge
I can't believe I'm the only one here who realises that the amp does most of the work. Normally its the amp deniers that are the minority.

I never said string gauge makes no difference, and I never said that none of the tone comes from the way you play, but I did imply that those were very small factors in the grand scheme of things.

I'm also a bit surprized that there was no "The amp does 50% of your tone, PU's 25%, etc" post in this thread


@dustjunk:
On an acoustic the string really do matter for your tone, but on an electric they only have little impact
#12
Quote by Tomura
I'm also a bit surprized that there was no "The amp does 50% of your tone, PU's 25%, etc" post in this thread


@dustjunk:
On an acoustic the string really do matter for your tone, but on an electric they only have little impact

I'm so glad. I hate that statistics bullshit.

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#13
Quote by dustjunk

I've said this before and I'll say it again, action and string guage have a massive effect on tone. If you don't believe me, try it out for yourself. Most people who play acoustic guitar exclusively. Also use 13's exclusively.

What's the most important part of a guitar? Pickups? No. Amp? Hell, no. It's the strings. A guitar is just a tool for amplifying and manipulating a set of strings.
You can think that, but you'd be wrong.

Howabout you try this little experiment.

Take a stratocaster and a les paul. Put the same strings on both and raise the action. I guarantee you that you will hear a bigger difference between the two guitars than you will with the same guitar with different string gauges and action.

Action has basically zero effect on tone, if your guitar doesn't sound as good with the action low as it does with the action high, then it's because your guitar sucks.
#14
i go for a balance of both

though if i had to pick i'd pick playability. If i play better, i sound better. There's no point in having eric johnson tonal subtleties if you can't play the darn thing.
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#15
Playability, while tone is not "all in duh fangurz", playability comes first.

You can change how a guitar sounds, different pickups, different strings, different pot's, different bridges/nut material, etc.

You CANNOT ALWAYS change how it feels to YOU.
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Last edited by Tango616 at Oct 15, 2011,
#16
I don't think a thicker string gives a better tone. I think it gives a different tone.

Only time a thicker string is "better" IMHO, is when you are tuning very low and need the tension to keep the note from being to flabby.
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#17
Theres a lot of factors to a question like this.
If a guitar sonically sounds like shit (accousticaly) and is setup to perfection with the best action etc... its a dog doing anything more is polishing a turd..
However you could have a guitar that sounds completely amazing but needs a lot of setup work done to it but the setup work would definitely be doable and in that case it'd be better to take the second option.
However there is more factors you've got to take on board because playability preferences will be different to different people. Like you could get an amazing sounding and well setup guitar with a neck shape you just dont get a long with at all which will affect your playability.

tl;dr there's a lot to consider here. I find lower actions don't really affect the tone that much if you have a nice sounding guitar it will sound nice with a low action.
#18
i want both from my guitars and won't buy one that doesn't offer both. why would you? the idea that having way high action with fatter strings will get you better tone is nonsense. ask yngwie or tony iommi about that. with some experience you should be able to tell if a gutar is only a good set up away from being all it can be. new pickups can usually help but if the guitar itself is lacking then pass on it. your guitar should be set up to make it as easy as possible for you to play and concentrate on making great music. itshould also have the tone to deliver great music. period.
#19
+1 on what csa and monwobobbo are saying too (though i'd say a higher action probably does equate to a slightly better tone, but again not much point in subtle benefits if you can't play the thing).
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#20
I would have playability any day of the week. As playability comes hand in hand to the guitar's tone

If you set your guitar with high action, if you intonate at the 12th fret (as you do), your higher frets are going to be sharp and your lower frets are going to be flat.

A guitar with lower action will always sound better as the harmonies in chords will be better as the intonation can be more accurate.
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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Oct 15, 2011,
#21
Mhmm, I prefer slightly higher action, not super high, but still, enough so there is NO buzz ANYWHERE, not even a little. Some people bitch about it, but meh, I'd take my slightly higher/medium action that has perfectly clear notes all over the fretboard that I can still EASILY shred on, than a razor blade low action that has buzz everywhere. My friend is like this, can hardly play 5 notes chromatically without getting buzz on like 3. He just likes the low action for playing fast, but doesn't care as long as it doesnt get heard through the amp, using a lot of distortion or not, (which we use), you can still hear maybe not the "BUZZ" but the notes sound unclear, they don't ring out and resonate as they should, each note is cut pretty short, his sustain is a joke, 2 MAYBE 3 seconds absolute tops.
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#22
I'd rather have a guitar that intonated correctly than a brand name on the pickups. If your guitar's out of tune, your BKP's won't mean shit.

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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Oct 15, 2011,
#23
String gauge?

how the fook does Billy Gibbons get that tone from 8's???

If most peoples opinions are true, it should be impossible


#24
According to the gibbons rig video he actually uses a lot of gain but actually has a really ridiculously light touch so yea..
#25
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
I would have playability any day of the week. As playability comes hand in hand to the guitar's tone

If you set your guitar with high action, if you intonate at the 12th fret (as you do), your higher frets are going to be sharp and your lower frets are going to be flat.

A guitar with lower action will always sound better as the harmonies in chords will be better as the intonation can be more accurate.



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Jackson JS30RR rhoads
Jackson DKMGT
Squire telecaster

amps:
Bugera 6262 212 loaded with WGS veteran 30's
#26
Quote by Tango616
Mhmm, I prefer slightly higher action, not super high, but still, enough so there is NO buzz ANYWHERE, not even a little. Some people bitch about it, but meh, I'd take my slightly higher/medium action that has perfectly clear notes all over the fretboard that I can still EASILY shred on, than a razor blade low action that has buzz everywhere. My friend is like this, can hardly play 5 notes chromatically without getting buzz on like 3. He just likes the low action for playing fast, but doesn't care as long as it doesnt get heard through the amp, using a lot of distortion or not, (which we use), you can still hear maybe not the "BUZZ" but the notes sound unclear, they don't ring out and resonate as they should, each note is cut pretty short, his sustain is a joke, 2 MAYBE 3 seconds absolute tops.


i agree for the most part with this. my action isn't razor thin either as i need to feel some string under my fingers. not to say it's really high either. no problem with fast playing. personally i can't stand playing a guitar that you barely have to touch the strings to fret.
#27
Quote by monwobobbo
i agree for the most part with this. my action isn't razor thin either as i need to feel some string under my fingers. not to say it's really high either. no problem with fast playing. personally i can't stand playing a guitar that you barely have to touch the strings to fret.

Yeah, like, if I could have razor thin action, and have ZERO buzz, and all the strings and notes ring out, then by all means in a perfect world, I'd have it like that, but since that's damn near impossible, I'll keep it like it is.
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#28
I go for playability, generally. I love the tone of .12s, but apparently they wear down Floyds rather quickly(and I have a FR Special, not an OFR, so I need to be all the more vigilant although I haven't had any problems with it yet), and I used to be able to bend them but after spending a month pretty much exclusively playing my .9-equipped Schecter(which now has .10s, thank God), I found I had to put effort into playing my .12-equipped ML. And I love the metal tone Ibanezes give(I don't care what anyone says about their stock pups, my buddy's ART100 has the best harmonics I've heard, and it's a $400 guitar) but I *CANNOT* stand Wizard necks, and I do a lot of whammy abuse and I'm not big on LP-shapes(the body's too small for me) so sadly an ART is out of the question for me as none of them have trems.
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#29
Quote by monwobobbo
i want both from my guitars and won't buy one that doesn't offer both. why would you? the idea that having way high action with fatter strings will get you better tone is nonsense. ask yngwie or tony iommi about that. with some experience you should be able to tell if a gutar is only a good set up away from being all it can be. new pickups can usually help but if the guitar itself is lacking then pass on it. your guitar should be set up to make it as easy as possible for you to play and concentrate on making great music. itshould also have the tone to deliver great music. period.


Exactly.

Also, There are a lot of guitarists who don't use the style of guitar that is the most comfortable for them because it doesnt look cool enough.
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#30
I have always preferred low action. It's hard to get a guitar with low action(under 2mm) to not have buzz sometimes, especially while playing aggressively, so I accept the buzz.

There's no doubt in my mind the lower action = playability. I recently got a You Rock midi guitar with faux touch sensitive strings. The thing is ridiculously easy to play, way easier than a guitar(and I've been playing the guitar for over 12 years). When I play it, I have a really hard time playing on my Ibanez with low action because it feels like the string are too high and just getting in my way.

I really hope this isn't going to turn into a big "tone is in the fingers" argument, I'm tired of those.
#31
Tone and playability are not interdependent. Gimme a guitar that 'feels' good over one that sounds good any day and I'll tweek the pickups and action and EQ and everything else and I'll MAKE it sound good. If you hand me a guitar that sounds good but feels like crap in my hands and I'm just not going to be inclined to play it.
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#32
Quote by dustjunk
Ok, the 1cm action was an exaggeration, more like 7mm. And it did cause problems, but that's why you can adjust the intonation. I knew a dude once who had his action about an inch above the 12th fret (this time I'm not exaggerating), granted, I don't think he ever did anything past the seventh fret. And he thought that was "normal".

Also, I'm not talking about just having good tone, I'm talking about going the extra mile and having super AMAZING tone. Seriously, if you heard me play my guitar, afterwards, sex would feel like someone rubbing sandpaper on your dick. I don't mean to brag, I'm just saying that the little things like strings and action. That most affect playability also have a massive effect on tone.

Here's your bullshit award! Because the nut and the bridge could not possibly hold a taut string an inch over the 12th fret. You can't just adjust it forever, it has a stopping point. Also you win first in the annoying ego competition as well!

Might I just say, that this thread is completely pointless.

Higher action doesn't really equal better tone. Its all what you prefer, I have my action set at a point that I consider to be pretty much in the middle of high and low, where I like it. Not because "aww man, if i set my action like this, I'll sound just like Dimebag!!!"

I would compare the impact of your action on your tone to the impact of switching picks. You make the change because of feel, not tone. Because the tone is just barely changed.

So why'd you make this thread again?
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#33
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#34
Quote by dustjunk

Also, I'm not talking about just having good tone, I'm talking about going the extra mile and having super AMAZING tone. Seriously, if you heard me play my guitar, afterwards, sex would feel like someone rubbing sandpaper on your dick. I don't mean to brag, I'm just saying that the little things like strings and action. That most affect playability also have a massive effect on tone.


Based on this statement i'm going to assume that neither your playing, or your tone is as good as you think it is.

Also they don't have a massive effect on tone. An effect yes, but not massive.
#36
well the point of a higher action is to ensure that you are not getting buzz ANYWHERE. technically, if your action is low and your not getting buzz, then your tone is as good as it can be. any bit higher is just sacraficin playability and ultimately how you play (how you sound).

so tell me you raise your action up so high is just telling me your guitar will sound wrose and worse, your playing worse, and you dont know how to set up a guitar.

plus...your moving the strings farther and farther from the pickups which effects tone, harmonics, etc. you dont want to be too close (magnetic pull) and too far can deaden the output and tone (why moving your pups closer can give you more outbit and bite - very common in bridge pups).

they ket is to go a low as you can with no buzz = best playability AND tone. better guitars have teh ability to go crazy low and acheive this. crappy ones...well cant get close.

note:

that guy with 1 inch action - hes a moron. A for that, B for not playing past the 7th fret. i can understand 12 and use a full octave, but not going past the 7th is practically not even playing guitar.

strings are an angle to your guitar body. even if the strings are high up at the 12th fret, that means they are still higher than they need to be at the 1, 2,3, etc fret. IE- your whole action becomes higher. it would be better to lower the bridge a reasonable amount and adjust the truss to level out the whole action, not just the back half. for extreme changes, a nut adjustment would have to occur because the truss rod is generally very subtle
Last edited by ikey_ at Oct 16, 2011,
#37
i think that playability comes first. if you're finding it hard to play your guitar so not playing as well as you could you're probably not gonna sound your best no matter how good your tone might be.
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#38
Id say playability comes first, because a goood sounding guitar wont sound good if you cant play correctly. And you can always change the elctronics and pickup for the tone. Even then, most of the tone is in the amp BTW.
#39
most half way guitars can be set up to play well.
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