Poll: High Or Low Action?
Poll Options
View poll results: High Or Low Action?
High
1 6%
Medium
8 50%
Low
7 44%
No Preference
1 6%
Voters: 16.
#1
The measurements listed below are found on the backside of a string action gauge ruler and I consider to be medium. Naturally, I would consider measurements greater than these to be high, and measurements lower to be, well, low. Measurements are taken from the top of the fret to the bottom of the low E and high e strings.

E 1.5 - 2.0 mm / .059 - .079
e 1.0 - 1.5 mm / .039 - .059

Here's the string gauge and measurements I am using which I consider low.

Swede: 42 - 9 gauge
12th fret action E .040 e .025 (Purchase included a complimentary setup, I requested low action)

Black Beauty 3: 42 - 9 gauge
12th fret action E .030 e .025

Sheraton II: 42 - 9 gauge
12th fret action E .025 e .020

Gretsch: 46 - 10 gauge
12th fret action E .040 e .040
2006 Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty 3
2006 Epiphone Sheraton II
2009 Hagstrom Swede Gold Top
2011 Gretsch G5120 Electromatic
Last edited by jamesmickanen at Oct 24, 2016,
#2
For me it really depends on the guitar in question, and I never use any measurements for anything except neck relief when setting up guitars. I tend to set the action as follows:

Set the low E string to the minimum height where I can pluck it as hard as I am ever going to while playing it, either with a pick or with my thumb, without it rattling or buzzing against the fretwire. then I set the high E string to the lowest point where I can do a full step bend without the note choking against the frets. then I match the height of the others so that the individual height follows the radius of the fingerboard (this step is unnecessary on guitars that have a fixed radius bridge). If I plan on playing slide on the guitar, I might raise the action a bit more if necessary.

Naturally this depends on the guitar, and what I intend to use it for, there's not really any specific preference. A smaller fingerboard radius (like on a strat or tele) always needs higher action in order for bends to work the way that I want them to, but this is never a problem - I just use lighter strings on those guitars.
Happiness is a warm Vox AC30
#3
Quote by Blompcube
Set the low E string to the minimum height where I can pluck it as hard as I am ever going to while playing it, either with a pick or with my thumb, without it rattling or buzzing against the fretwire. then I set the high E string to the lowest point where I can do a full step bend without the note choking against the frets. then I match the height of the others so that the individual height follows the radius of the fingerboard (this step is unnecessary on guitars that have a fixed radius bridge).
Likewise, although I don't tend to follow the fretboard radius; I generally have my strings along a flatter radius than the fretboard (bear in mind I'm talking 9.5"s and 7.25"s) with the outer strings thus higher and the middle strings lower. For the record, I use 11-49 on electrics.

I don't think the poll's really going to work too well. There's a lot of subjectivity there; my action isn't especially high but I've had the odd prog metal player tell me my strings are miles off the fretboard. I suppose I couldn't claim that it's less than medium, but I think there's a fair range before I'd get to anything I'd call high outright. And then there's always absolute outliers like J Mascis:
#4
^Honestly how does J Mascis even play like that, that's almost lap-steel high.

I keep mine medium-low on most of my guitars, except for the one I bow, because having that on the high side, I find, makes it easier to really dig in with the bow. I don't use an actual measurement, though, it's all just "does this feel about right" and "does this audibly buzz," and if the answers are "yes" and "no" respectively that's good enough for me.
#5
Poll would be a lot less meaningless if the options were actual measurements and not 'high' 'med' and 'low'. What qualifies as being 'low' entirely depends on who you ask.

The specific setup I have for each guitar I own depends on the guitar, the strings I'm using and what I'm using the guitar for. But generally I aim for about 2mm on the low E and about 1.6mm on the high E at the 12th fret, and 0.5mm of neck relief at the 7th fret. There are some guitars I have that might have different measurements to that, but I see the aforementioned as a good starting point.
Quote by Axelfox
Please understand how little we as a community care
#6
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Poll would be a lot less meaningless if the options were actual measurements and not 'high' 'med' and 'low'. What qualifies as being 'low' entirely depends on who you ask.


For years Carvin quoted that their action could be set "as low as 1/16th" at the 24th fret, with no buzzing strings." And they delivered. I know a lot of folks who set their action at 4/64ths (1/16th") at the 12th fret, but by the time it gets to the 24th fret it's significantly higher.
Last edited by dspellman at Oct 22, 2016,
#7
Quote by dspellman
For years Carvin quoted that their action could be set "as low as 1/16th" at the 24th fret, with no buzzing strings." And they delivered. I know a lot of folks who set their action at 4/64ths (1/16th") at the 12th fret, but by the time it gets to the 24th fret it's significantly higher.

*sigh*

I'm sure a few other people echo the following sentiments but they just haven't said it yet.

Can you please stop repeating the same phrases over and over again from one thread to the next? It's like one of those talking plushie toys that only has 3 phrases yet the kids are overly compelled to keep squeezing the paw over and over and over again. We know custom Carvins guitars are great in every facet (despite the existence of Carvin being pretty irrelevant to me because I live in the UK). We know Line 6 Variax has multiple tuning options with a wide variety of different tones. That Agile you spent $200 on, got the frets superglued and PLEK'd at a cost that was more than what the guitar was worth is a guitar that you frequently play gigs with. I. KNOW. Why are you replying to my posts when you know I am fully aware of these things already?

It's getting wearisome to the point that I might start considering it spam. Unless you have something different to say to me, can you please leave me alone. If you cannot help it, then please make the person you're directing it to someone else.
Quote by Axelfox
Please understand how little we as a community care
#8
Depends on the guitar. My Regius and Michael Kelly Baritone have the strings almost on the frets, but I like a bit of space on my SG and Tele. On those it's a happy medium between being able to play well, but being able to use a slide as well. My bass has the strings as low as possible as well.
#9
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
*sigh*

I'm sure a few other people echo the following sentiments but they just haven't said it yet.

Can you please stop repeating the same phrases over and over again from one thread to the next? It's like one of those talking plushie toys that only has 3 phrases yet the kids are overly compelled to keep squeezing the paw over and over and over again. We know custom Carvins guitars are great in every facet (despite the existence of Carvin being pretty irrelevant to me because I live in the UK). We know Line 6 Variax has multiple tuning options with a wide variety of different tones. That Agile you spent $200 on, got the frets superglued and PLEK'd at a cost that was more than what the guitar was worth is a guitar that you frequently play gigs with. I. KNOW. Why are you replying to my posts when you know I am fully aware of these things already?

It's getting wearisome to the point that I might start considering it spam. Unless you have something different to say to me, can you please leave me alone. If you cannot help it, then please make the person you're directing it to someone else.
If you get a Variax dspellman you just have to turn the model select knob and he'll have a different set of recommendations for you
#10
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
*sigh*

I'm sure a few other people echo the following sentiments but they just haven't said it yet.

Can you please stop repeating the same phrases over and over again from one thread to the next? It's like one of those talking plushie toys that only has 3 phrases yet the kids are overly compelled to keep squeezing the paw over and over and over again. We know custom Carvins guitars are great in every facet (despite the existence of Carvin being pretty irrelevant to me because I live in the UK). We know Line 6 Variax has multiple tuning options with a wide variety of different tones. That Agile you spent $200 on, got the frets superglued and PLEK'd at a cost that was more than what the guitar was worth is a guitar that you frequently play gigs with. I. KNOW. Why are you replying to my posts when you know I am fully aware of these things already?

It's getting wearisome to the point that I might start considering it spam. Unless you have something different to say to me, can you please leave me alone. If you cannot help it, then please make the person you're directing it to someone else.


Thanks. I appreciate you bringing it to my attention that things might have been getting repetitive.
#11
Thanks for the feedback. I have edited my initial post and explained what I consider low action. I'm not sure if I can edit the poll though.
2006 Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty 3
2006 Epiphone Sheraton II
2009 Hagstrom Swede Gold Top
2011 Gretsch G5120 Electromatic
Last edited by jamesmickanen at Oct 23, 2016,
#12
I suppose mine is medium by electric standards, about 1.6 mm at the heel fret, treble side. This is low by my playing standards, as I only play slide on electrics.

FWIW, this topic comes up fairly often in various fora, and I'm surprised how many don't go for the lowest possible action on electrics, and how many actually like it high.
#13
I need to feel the strings under my fingers so medium is probably more in line with what I use (haven't a clue what that translates to in measurements as I never measured). I can't stand super low barely tough the string action. obviously to high makes it hard to play. my first guitar had baseball bat neck and action so high slide players cried but I managed to learn some basic chords anyways. talk about death grip.
#14
Quote by Tony Done
I suppose mine is medium by electric standards, about 1.6 mm at the heel fret, treble side. This is low by my playing standards, as I only play slide on electrics.

FWIW, this topic comes up fairly often in various fora, and I'm surprised how many don't go for the lowest possible action on electrics, and how many actually like it high.



For me it's something weird. I don't have the action super low on my Tele and SG and I like how they play. Yet, my Regius has the strings almost on the frets and whenever I play it, it's so obvious that it plays better and the action on my other guitars is unbearable when I swap immediately back.
#15
For me, I have rules of thumb I stick to - I do my own setups, and prefer my action as low as possible, but I make exceptions based on the following factors and act accordingly....

- SCALE LENGTH - Longer the length, lower the action, you'll notice in my collection most of the 25.5" scale guitars I have have a 9" or flatter fretboard radius, while my 24" scale guitars are all 7.16".

- FRETBOARD RADIUS - Flatter radius needs lower action because of the effect is has on leverage when string bending. I can really grip the shit out of notes on my 7.16" radius guitars, so I have more leverage to bend the note, a "Wedge" so-to-speak, rather than a flat bar. Also, the action has to be higher on 7.16" scale guitars because the radius is sso curved if I do a 1 step or higher bend with lower action, the notes fret out and choke.

- STRING GAUGE - I've been experimenting with .008's lately and finding that where .009's choke the .008's don't on 7.16" so I can turn the bridge lower in that case. My Jag-Stang is one fast little beast now. I find on flatter radiuses strings will choke if set lower. I have a Strat with a 12" Radius on .009's right now, home-built, it has action so low it's lower than a Tom Anderson costing $3000, a true "fretless wonder" if I ever saw one.

- NECK SHAPE/WIDTH - The wider the neck, the lower the action needs to be, the skinnier it is, the higher it can be. The more work my hands need to do, the more changes I want to make to make the process of playing guitar as comfortable as possible. That's why I play a Jaguar with about 5/16 Action at the 22nd fret, and then I have a 25.5" scale Strat with a fatter neck that has 3/16 action at the 22nd fret.

I basically let the guitar tell me what IT wants for action assuming it's healthy. You'd be surprised what kind of magic is possible when a guitar techie appeases the setup gods.
My Current Mains
- 1996 Fender Jag-Stang with EMG Pickups
- 1998 Fender Jaguar with Cool Rails
- 1982 Hondo Paul Dean II (Stock)
- 2010 "Fender" Jazzmaster (Home built)
- 2013 Squier VM Bass VI (stock)