#1
So maybe somebody can help me. I've been playing about three years, and just started trying to play barre chords, I have two guitars which I love, a seagull s6 slim, and an art & lutherie parlour. The seagull has an amazing sound and I started learning on it, but I've realised the action is probably too high for barre chords, and the parlour guitar has a short neck. Any recommendations? I don't want to spend a fortune, but neither do I want a 'good guitar for a beginner' ? But I really think I need a guitar with a lower action.
#2
Take the Seagull to a luthier and pay for a proper setup. $50 and you'll be good to go. Or, you can research on how to adjust the action yourself. There are tons of videos on youtube showing how to do it. Unless you are good with your hands, have the proper tools, and aren't afraid of accidentally breaking your axe I'd recommend the professional setup.
#3
TobusRex thanks for replying. Not sure there is anyone local who could do it. Also I do quite a bit of picking and I think the seagull is good for that. Not sure I want to change it....
#5
Quote by prettyplates
So maybe somebody can help me. I've been playing about three years, and just started trying to play barre chords, I have two guitars which I love, a seagull s6 slim, and an art & lutherie parlour. The seagull has an amazing sound and I started learning on it, but I've realised the action is probably too high for barre chords, and the parlour guitar has a short neck.
This just in, relatively speaking, so does the S-6. It's non cutaway, and the neck joins the body at the 14th fret.. Considering, the neck heel is going to foul your wrist by about the 12th, you're lucky to get anything over a C major barre anyway

Quote by prettyplates
Any recommendations?
Well, yes I do. A Gibson SG, or its Epiphone clone, the "SG-Pro 400". (Yes, I'm aware that's not much help). But still, a cutaway on an acoustic is pretty much of a sham anyway. Don't get me wrong, I love acoustics with a cutaway. But, I generally buy them because they come with the electronics package. The styling is just a bonus.

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Quote by prettyplates
I don't want to spend a fortune, but neither do I want a 'good guitar for a beginner' ? But I really think I need a guitar with a lower action.
Agreed. However, why on earth do you think a new guitar will automatically have a lower action? Many acoustics are shipped with the action higher than "normal" anyway. This is primarily so they don't have "fret buzz". The manufacturers balance the cost of fret leveling in the extreme, (not doing it saves money), and avoids them getting a crap load of guitars back because of it. Sic: "This guitar buzzes, I want my money back".

So, have your S-6 setup properly. If done correctly that will get you on your way to barre chords galore.

Now, assuming the Seagull gets setup perfectly, and you still can't do barres, you can also use a thinner string set. If you still can't do barre chords, you have to come to grips with the fact you're simply too weak. (At least for the present). Remember, nobody told you it would be easy.

(You would be in good company though. AFAIK, Taylor Swift still can't do barre chords).


This is the best setup guide I've found: http://thbecker.net/guitar_playing/guitars_and_setup/setup_page_01.html

REMEMBER: Every setup starts with MEASURING where you are, so you know where you have to go! We can help you more, if we have that info as well.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Oct 20, 2016,
#6
Quote by Tony Done
I agree with CC, a good set up will work wonders if you can organise it.
Thanks for the vote of confidence...

Although, I think Mr. Rex is who you should be agreeing with. (At least this time, he did beat me to it).
#7
Well it appears to measure over 5mm at the twelfth fret. ?
I bought it second hand, and I have a stand- never leave it against the wall, but maybe the previous owner did...
Last edited by prettyplates at Oct 20, 2016,
#8
prettyplates OK, you should be at maximum, 3.0 mm. I'm assuming you're not terribly heavy handed. So, you might even be able to better that measurement by a bit. But first, you have to measure how much "saddle", (the white thingamabob where the strings go into the body. We can't lower it below the level of the bridge. When we figure that out, we can determine how much you'll be able to lower the action overall.

Keep in mind, if we can get the strings down via sanding the saddle, the only option is a "neck reset", or well yeah, a new guitar.

So, go back to the guide I liked, and learn about "neck relief", we're going to set that first anyway. (For several reasons).
#9
I use light strings on my acoustic. Makes a world of difference on bar chords and bending.
#10
Captaincranky so using the neck relief test, the gap at the 6th fret seems small, maybe about 1.5mm. I can just slide my metal ruler between the fret and string. Does that mean the mech isn't bent?
I've googled guitar setup locally and there is actually a guy making guitars nearby. I might give him a call tomorrow....
Last edited by prettyplates at Oct 20, 2016,
#11
Captaincranky

True, apologies to TR for the oversight.

I don't think the importance of setup can be emphasised too strongly in acoustics. Yesterday I did a set up on the guitar of my wife's Spanish student. He sometimes picks up my old L-00 and plays it while he his waiting for the lesson to start. He has commented how wonderful it feels compares to his, so I volunteered to fix his, an Indonesian Fender. The nut and frets were good, so all it really needed was about 10 minutes work on the saddle and neck relief. However, the pin holes and pins were horrible, the holes were too small, and the string were also jamming the pins in the holes; fixing those took more time than the set up.
#12
Quote by prettyplates
Captaincranky so using the neck relief test, the gap at the 6th fret seems small, maybe about 1.5mm. I can just slide my metal ruler between the fret and string. Does that mean the mech isn't bent?
I've googled guitar setup locally and there is actually a guy making guitars nearby. I might give him a call tomorrow....
OK, first I missed your reply until now, and I apologize for that in the extreme.

Assuming you did the relief check properly, 1.5mm is way too much. Usually, the lay person's quick check, is with a standard business card. That's about .010 in inches, which comes to (appx), 3/10 of a millimeter

Taking relief out of the neck WILL lower the action somewhat, but I'm fairly certai, the saddlewilbneed to be grund down als
#13
Light gauge strings and a proper setup by a pro. I play barre chords all night on my Seagull S6+ during gigs. It is a great little guitar for less than $500. Just do it. If there is no one local... ROAD TRIP!! It will transform your playing and you will wonder why you waited so long.

Go now!
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis
#14
Your story is a fine example of why, in virtually every post I do about buying acoustics, I emphasise check neck angles even before you play it - I do.

I aim for an action height of 1.6 mm at the body fret, treble side, and a neck relief of around 0.2 mm. If your neck relief is 1.5 mm by the standard test, it is huge, and maybe more than can be adequately reduced with the trust rod. If it can be reduced to 0.2 mm or 1/100", it will do a lot to reduce action height to something more normal.

Re CC's post #8, 3.0 mm action height would have me heading for the repairer or the junk shop. In order to lower action height (after getting neck relief right!) by X amount, you have to take 2X off the saddle. So if you want to lower the action by, say 1.5 mm, you have to take 3.0 mm off the saddle. If you run out of saddle on a cheap guitar, you can do a rough fix be (dremel) cutting notches in the bridge in front of the saddle to create some string clearance, and ramps between pin hole and saddle at the back to give adequate string break angle over the saddle. I think that this, while not looking very pretty, is better structurally than shaving the whole bridge down, as is sometimes recommended.
Last edited by Tony Done at Oct 22, 2016,
#15
Quote by Tony Done
Your story is a fine example of why, in virtually every post I do about buying acoustics, I emphasise check neck angles even before you play it - I do.
OK, well she's isn't buying a guitar yet, and the neck angle on the S-6 is what we're dealing with, at least for the time being.

Quote by Tony Done
I aim for an action height of 1.6 mm at the body fret, treble side, and a neck relief of around 0.2 mm. If your neck relief is 1.5 mm by the standard test, it is huge, and maybe more than can be adequately reduced with the trust rod. If it can be reduced to 0.2 mm or 1/100", it will do a lot to reduce action height to something more normal.


Quote by Tony Done
Re CC's post #8, 3.0 mm action height would have me heading for the repairer or the junk shop.
What I think you should be heading toward is a refresher course in reading. I did preface the 3.0mm remark with, "at maximum". My implied meaning it that's the "throw it away or reset the neck point.

Quote by Tony Done
In order to lower action height (after getting neck relief right!) by X amount, you have to take 2X off the saddle. So if you want to lower the action by, say 1.5 mm, you have to take 3.0 mm off the saddle. If you run out of saddle on a cheap guitar, you can do a rough fix be (dremel) cutting notches in the bridge in front of the saddle to create some string clearance, and ramps between pin hole and saddle at the back to give adequate string break angle over the saddle. I think that this, while not looking very pretty, is better structurally than shaving the whole bridge down, as is sometimes recommended.
O, I believe our TS is female, which would mostly rule out her having taken a course in "remedial woodworking".

Accordingly, I've already posted a link to the best setup guide I could find on the web. So, in essence< I've "led the TS to the water", in a manner of speaking.

However, as with every question of this nature, the TS' mechanical skills, tools, confidence, or willingness to do this type of work, all conspire to affect the overall outcome.

Now, the TS came up with "5.0mm", as an action height. In point of fact, we don't know how that was derived. Was the measurement taken from the sound board, or from the top of the fret? Was the measurement taken from underneath of the string, or from the top of it.

Now, why are you posting treble side measurements, when it s commonly taken for granted, (and that is my mistake in this case), the overall action height is normally measured on the bass side, the E-6 string, not e-1?

In the guide I always link, Mr. Becker suggests .10" (a tenth of an inch) as an action height most acoustics should be able to achieve. That's less than 3.0mm BTW. And very playable.

Once upon a time I used to suggest that 1/10" inch as a good starting point. I stopped after some jackass, (who no longer has been posting here), told me, "you shouldn't say that, because everybody's needs are different and you're stifling their creativity".
Last edited by Captaincranky at Oct 22, 2016,
#16
Captaincranky

My working maximum for action height before I start thinking about serious fixes is about 2.0 mm treble side.

"Stifle creativity", I like that.

My limits on action height are fairly conservative, I aim for 2.5 mm bass side, 1.8 mm treble, but I mostly use 13-56 strings, and I'm not built like an oranguatan. - And I'm not implying that you are either.
Last edited by Tony Done at Oct 23, 2016,
#17
Quote by Tony Done
Captaincranky

My working maximum for action height before I start thinking about serious fixes is about 2.0 mm treble side.

"Stifle creativity", I like that.

My limits on action height are fairly conservative, I aim for 2.5 mm bass side, 1.8 mm treble, but I mostly use 13-56 strings, and I'm not built like an oranguatan. - And I'm not implying that you are either.
My purpose for entering this thread, was to inform the TS, that buying a new guitar wasn't a guarantee that the action would necessarily be spot on, right out of the box..

You have to take into account, that more than likely a new guitar would come off the web, sight un-played. This rules out, "check the neck angle before you buy it", paradigm. Mercifully, QC, is better these days, and some makers are throwing, (at least here in the US), some bones to American workers by doinng the final QC and setup, here in the states. Epiphone being one of them, Ibanez being not.

In any case, it appears the TS has absorbed the fairy tale about leaning a guitar back on the neck, being almost a death sentence for it. Myself, I like tp point out that a 700 pound motorcycle weights nothing from the rider's perspective, as long as it's standing straight up The apparent weight would increase the further to either side you leaned the bike. So, IMHO a guitar gently leaning back against the neck, weights almost nothing, (from the guitar's perspective), and the string tension is ultimately responsible for most, if not closer to all, of the neck rotation upward.

Now, as it turns out, 1/10 of an inch equals 2.54mm. 3.0mm is still well under an 1/8 of an inch. Still quite playable, but obviously not to everybody's absolutely liking. An inch equals 25.4mm and thus, 3.0mm is still under an 1/8 of an inch.

Given that all my acoustics are strung with lights, and given that I'm cheap and lazy, I could certainly and very easily tolerate a 3.00mm action, bass side, until I bought strings and worked up the ambition to take the guitar apart. (At least on a 6 string, the twelves are another matter altogether), So, if somebody had a choice between a 3.0mm E-6 height, and burying the saddle in the bridge, the tiny bit of extra string height seems to me at least, be preferable.

This thread has managed to hit on my most dreaded topic, barre chords. People never to feel they're at fault for not being able to do them. Granted, the guitar has to be setup properly before you undertake learning them, Plus, there are a couple of "dirty tricks", "cheats", call them what you will, which can be utilized to ease a player's entry into learning them. However, medium string are not one of them.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Oct 23, 2016,
#18
Captaincranky

Well, we agree that a good set up isn't guaranteed on a new guitar, in fact, I would assume that it a new guitar isn't well set-up. IIRC, I learned on even heavier than 13s, but that was back in the bad old days. - but I certainly wouldn't advocate it as a good starting point these days. However, I think we must agree to disagree on what constitutes a reasonable action height.
#19
Quote by Tony Done
Captaincranky...[ ].... However, I think we must agree to disagree on what constitutes a reasonable action height.
No, I think you're just trying to find a reason to disagree, in addition to failing to acknowledge certain terms I've used in conjunction with "ideal action height".

First off, the guide I always link suggests "1/10 inch on the E-6 string, @ the 12 fret".

As I so urgently pointed out, 1/10 inch, equals 2.54mm. As you have mentioned, your preference is, "2.5mm". IMHO, 4/100ths of a millimeter is negligible, and that could even change almost daily, as a result of climactic conditions.

As for your persistence about quoting the treble side string height, keep in mind manufacturers already know the e-1 string should be lower to the neck than the E-6, and hence they grind the bottoms of their saddles at an angle to drop the action lower under the skinny string. So perhaps I should have given both sides as well, but the treble height differential, is also included in the guide I linked.

Now, in the broadest terms, if you simply grind a saddle down parallel with it's original profile, you'll introduce the same height differential as the guitar shipped with, but with a lower action overall.

Now, this is the point at which I feel you're failing to either read or understand what I've written:

Quote by Captaincranky
...[ ]....Given that all my acoustics are strung with lights, and given that I'm cheap and lazy, I could certainly and very easily tolerate a 3.00mm action, bass side, until I bought strings and worked up the ambition to take the guitar apart. (At least on a 6 string, the twelves are another matter altogether), So, if somebody had a choice between a 3.0mm E-6 height, and burying the saddle in the bridge, the tiny bit of extra string height seems to me at least, be preferable....[ ]...


Pay particular to the verb, "tolerate", which I've emboldened.in all instances. To my understanding of English, "tolerate", in more common vernacular, is stated sic, "put up with". It does not mean I would, "enjoy", "sanction", "think it's best action height ever is 3.0mm, or "wholeheartedly embrace 3.0mm".

And keep in mind I do know how, and am quite able to adjust action height. I also have 9 (?) guitars to rotate playing until I got around to dropping the action on the one with 3.00mm <@E-6.

So, the TS found someone, (ostensibly?), to take the guitar to, for inspection and(?) repair, which I believe is for the best. At this juncture, that fact is about the only one I will wholeheartedly agree with, or agree to disagree with, should the latter become expedient.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Oct 23, 2016,
#20
Captaincranky

We got at cross-purposes here, my fault I think. I was indeed assuming that 1/10"was the same as 2.5 mm, and fine for the bass side, I was only arguing about treble side, which I wouldn't want any higher than 1.8 mm. - If mine get any higher than that, I fix them not tolerate them. My ideal values are very close to the common standard of 4/64" (1.6 mm)and 6/64" (2.4 mm), treble and bass.

It is true enough that the saddle is set lower on the treble side, and some makers even slope the bridge as well. I've found that sometimes you can just take it off parallel, but more often than not I can get a better reult by taking it off at a slant. The last one I did, a few days ago (an Indonesian Fender with factory set up), needed a fair bit more off the treble than the bass side. I use the vise jaws as a file stop to get it right,it's pretty quick.
#21
Well you're all great for offering your advice! I'm not entirely sure how to go about quoting various people so I'm not going to try ?
Firstly, I was aware that you don't necessarily get low action with a new guitar, but I just wondered if there was a make commonly with a low action.
However, having thought about your comments I think trying to get the action lowered on my s6 is worth looking into.
I've been in touch with 'the guy' and he's going to let me know what he thinks my options are. I don't think it's something I would risk doing myself.

I love my s6 and despite its high action I really enjoy playing it.
As for barre chords, I'm aware that I can't blame my inability on my guitar, I realise it's something that will take patience and persistence. Just as singing and playing at the same time was something I thought I would never be able to do... I would like to make the process easier if possible though.

Oh and just to clarify, I am a woman and my woodworking skills are limited.
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#22
OK, first off this post will be put up a little at a time, since if you accidentally navigate away from a page, you lose everything you've written thus far. So, check back if you're interested while I finish it.
Quote by prettyplates
Well you're all great for offering your advice! I'm not entirely sure how to go about quoting various people so I'm not going to try ?
Firstly, I was aware that you don't necessarily get low action with a new guitar, but I just wondered if there was a make commonly with a low action.
The action height at delivery situation has improved dramatically over the past couple of decades, as has QC in general. Once upon a time even the prestigious Martins were shipped with actions damned near a 1/4" off the deck. They played like s*** too.

Quote by prettyplates
However, having thought about your comments I think trying to get the action lowered on my s6 is worth looking into.
I've been in touch with 'the guy' and he's going to let me know what he thinks my options are.

I don't think it's something I would risk doing myself.
Well, probably not for the time being. But without delving into absolutes, a basic setup only requires 3 separate adjustments, and a few simple tools. IMHO, a player should know how to do a basic setup. That's why I always publish that link. So that the person will be able to determine what needs to be done, how to measure different clearances and interpret them to their needs, and also to be able to convey that information to the person actually tasked with the job. So, read the guide over, (and over), that should help you develop confidence.

Quote by prettyplates
I love my s6 and despite its high action I really enjoy playing it.
As for barre chords, I'm aware that I can't blame my inability on my guitar, I realise it's something that will take patience and persistence. Just as singing and playing at the same time was something I thought I would never be able to do... I would like to make the process easier if possible though.
My opinion of any barre chord discussion is this; remove all of the mechanical issues with the guitar first. After that, it is on the player to practice dutifully practice and make those barre chords happen.

What I've consistently run into, is youngsters who seem to believe, all one needs to do is ask the correct question on the interwebz, and you'll be slamming out those grand barres the next day effortlessly, without the need for even picking up the guitar in the meantime.

In any event, a 5.0mm action, is "over the top", (pun intended). But, the lower you play on the neck, the less it would interfere. Excess string height does cause dramatic intonation issues. The higher the strings (action), the more you "bend them" as you fret the guitar. That pulls the tuning above the intended pitch by quite a margin, and it only gets worse as you get higher up the neck.


Quote by prettyplates
Oh and just to clarify, I am a woman and my woodworking skills are limited.
??
With that being said, I'm going to make a great leap and assume you're never been a dockworker either.

My point is, that none of us really have the same amount of native strength necessary to pull off barre chords without making some mechanical concessions to the guitar's stringing and setup. And that's a, "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it", wrap for now.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Oct 23, 2016,
#23
Quote by prettyplates


Oh and just to clarify, I am a woman and my woodworking skills are limited.
??


That's sexist, if I had suggested you couldn't do it because of your gender, I would be crucified. It's all about attitude. My mate is a vet who was born and brought up in cattle country outback Australia, he can ride horses, fix animals, run marathons, play blues harp and guitar, whatever, but he can't confidently change his own strings, never mind do a set up..

Set up is slow and messy if you don't have a vise. It will make a world of difference it you have it done though.
Last edited by Tony Done at Oct 23, 2016,
#24
Quote by Tony Done
That's sexist, if I had suggested you couldn't do it because of your gender, I would be crucified. It's all about attitude. My mate is a vet who was born and brought up in cattle country outback Australia, he can ride horses, fix animals, run marathons, play blues harp and guitar, whatever, but he can't confidently change his own strings, never mind do a set up.....[ ]....
Well, when I was a boy, I was given erector sets as toys. Girls were typically given dolls. If we were to synthesize a result of that, while adhering to today's rationales, faulty logic and political correctness, I should have grown up and had a baby, and the girls should have grown up to be mechanics.

In other words, we are given those basic tools and skills we have as adults, via the socialization we get from our parents, not from a sermon from Gloria Steinem

Part and parcel of "sexism" is a physical reality. While there are obviously women in the world who can kick both our asses, and out bench press us as well, men on average are 20 to 20 percent stronger than women.

So, there you have it, nurture working against a woman with respect to mechanical training, and nature working against her having the forearm strength to do barre chords, (especially should she opt for medium strings).

OTOH, she can type how many words a minute!!
Last edited by Captaincranky at Oct 23, 2016,
#25
Quote by Captaincranky
Well, when I was a boy, I was given erector sets as toys. Girls were typically given dolls. If we were to synthesize a result of that, while adhering to today's rationales, faulty logic and political correctness, I should have grown up and had a baby, and the girls should have grown up to be mechanics.

In other words, we are given those basic tools and skills we have as adults, via the socialization we get from our parents, not from a sermon from Gloria Steinem

Part and parcel of "sexism" is a physical reality. While there are obviously women in the world who can kick both our asses, and out bench press us as well, men on average are 20 to 20 percent stronger than women.

So, there you have it, nurture working against a woman with respect to mechanical training, and nature working against her having the forearm strength to do barre chords, (especially should she opt for medium strings).

OTOH, she can type how many words a minute!!


Yes, it is a combination of nurture and physical limitations. However, there are trade-offs. I used to employ both boy and girl students at harvest time, and it was hot, dirty, physically laborious work. What I often found was that the girls maybe couldn't carry as much as the boys, on average, but they often had more stamina and could keep going longer without starting to make mistakes. Also, a lot of them were very determined to keep up with the boys - and did.

And one of the classiest luthiers on the planet is female - Linda Manzer.
#26
Quote by Tony Done
Yes, it is a combination of nurture and physical limitations. However, there are trade-offs. I used to employ both boy and girl students at harvest time, and it was hot, dirty, physically laborious work. What I often found was that the girls maybe couldn't carry as much as the boys, on average, but they often had more stamina and could keep going longer without starting to make mistakes. Also, a lot of them were very determined to keep up with the boys - and did.
What a wonderful retelling of "The Tortoise & the Hare". Aesop would be so proud! OTOH, perhaps that scenario is where he got the story from in the first place. It also contains some aspects of the social life of Panthera Leo. Women are notoriously dogmatic in their approach to getting things done, while men tend to do things in spurts. <(pun intended).

Quote by Tony Done
And one of the classiest luthiers on the planet is female - Linda Manzer.
But nonetheless, atypical.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Oct 24, 2016,
#27
Hi guys!
Sorry for being quiet. I took my guitar in and wanted to wait til I got it back before I commented.
So I had the saddle lowered and lowered at the nut end too, and some of the frets levelled, and I can't believe how much easier it is to play. I only wish now that I had done it three years ago. It seems I've learnt to play with a vice-like grip. And now I'm going to have to learn to relax my hand ?
Anyway thanks for your advice. It's made a huge difference.
P.s while there is no way I would have attempted to do the work on my guitar, I did take my vacuum cleaner apart this week and fix it. And I can parallel park better than any man I know ?
#28
I'm pleased it worked out, you live and learn eh? I've absolutely no doubt that you can parallel park better than me, but that isn't much of a compliment because almost everyone can. It's a thing I didn't have to bother about until late in life.