If the action is still a little too high...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by ap1, Aug 12, 2006.

  1. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    for my liking, and the neck is perfectly straight (or maybe has just enough relief), the nut height is fine, but the bridge is as low as it can go, can anything be done? Besides changing my liking, that is. Would getting rid of what little relief there is in the neck help at all?
     
  2. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    If that's the case then it must be a bolt-on with a shallow neck angle. Shimming the neck could solve the problem.
     
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  3. exhaust_49

    exhaust_49 Member

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    My guitars (acoustic and electric) have a dead straight neck and action that is medium hight. I like the action there so I work my fingers. My guitars also sound better setup this way. Low action and a dead straight neck is hard to find. Try adding a bit of relief to the neck and see how it feels. Even though your not used to it that way, it would solve your problem.
     
  4. PaulM

    PaulM Member

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    Sounds like you need a shim. In addition to that you might like the somewhat controversial, "fall away" after the 12th fret, which can help if you like a dead-straight neck and low action.

    Personally, this is how I like my guitars, but not everyone likes them this way and many people think "fall away" is totally uneccesary if your guitar is "set up right." I love a little fall away...
     
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  5. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    Not a bolt on ... a set neck (Yamaha Weddington Custom).

    But Exhaust 49, how will adding relief help out? I would have thought getting rid of what relief there is will serve to lower the action, albeit minimally.
     
  6. Fireball XL5

    Fireball XL5 Supporting Member

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    If you have the neck adjusted straight (or almost straight) > the bridge is set as low as it will go > and your string action is still too high... then it sounds to me like the neck angle of your guitar is messed up. Easily fixed with a bolt-on guitar with a shim.... but a glued-in neck will have to be removed and reset by a pro.

    How old is the guitar? Did you buy it used already in this condition or is it something that has occurred over time?
     
  7. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    It's about 18 yrs. old; I bought it about ten years ago from a buddy who had picked it up brand new. Both of us were fairly conscientious about general TLC. I didn't play it that much; it was a backup for the most part. After I started playing it on a more regular basis, I noticed that there was a bit of a backbow in the neck, along with a little bit of fret buzzing. So I straightened the neck, giving it a little relief. It took care of the buzzing, but the action remains a little higher than what I like.
    But it's not obscenely high; I have about 4/64ths of an inch at the 12th fret of the low E. Now that I think about it, for some players that might be spot on. It could well be that after playing it for so long with lower action, I became accustomed to it; in which case, I guess I could simply get accustomed to the way it is now. But I generally have preferred lower action as long as I've played.
     
  8. Fireball XL5

    Fireball XL5 Supporting Member

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    While I agree that a 4/64 string height at the 12th fret (with the neck adjusted straight) is not really a "high action setup"... the fact that your bridge is adjusted as low as it will go indicates that something is not right.

    You should be able to lower those strings all the way down until they are touching... or almost touching the fingerboard and still not bottom out the bridge. It still sounds as though the neck angle is off to me. I'd take it to a pro and have it checked over.
     
  9. exhaust_49

    exhaust_49 Member

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    Letting the string tension slightly curve the neck allows more space for the string to vibrate and therfore less buzzing. You can adjust the action (slightly) by straightening the neck but it's better to adjust the action at the saddle.

    I like having the guitar fight me a little so I keep my necks straight with medium action.
     
  10. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Senior Member

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    Doesn't that thing have a Gibson style bridge ? If so, I suppose the string notches in the bridge saddles could be lowered a little, and then (if needed) the saddle tops ground down a little, so the strings are not buried too deeply in the saddles. Could also be other solutions, like the thumb-wheels under the bridge ground a little thinner.
     
  11. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    Yeah, it's a tune-o-matic. Wow, I suppose I could get into all that. I'd probably want to pick up a new bridge first, though, 'cause with my luck I'd probably end up destroying the existing one. But thanks - I hadn't thought about those options.
     
  12. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    4/64" at the 12th fret is pretty damn low to me. How worn are the frets? Because every Yamaha with a TOM I've seen has had the neck angle pretty much spot on. Since the guitar is 18 years old the frets have propably been dressed several times.

    In any case such a low action on the low E can't be good for tone or playing IMO. How low is it on the high E then?
     
  13. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    The frets aren't that bad; they're a little worn, but the fret wire is fairly flat to begin with. As far as I know, the original owner never had the frets dressed. Nor have I, so it's never been done. I have just a bit under 4/64" at the 12th fret of the high E. Maybe it's just a matter of liking, but for me that's a wee bit higher than I like; and even just sighting it by eye, I'd be hard pressed to call it low action. Gibson specs (for what it's worth) have 5/64" and 3/64" for the low and high E respectively, at the 12th.
     
  14. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Senior Member

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    It would bug the hell out of me too. I like my high E to be just a hair over 1/32" at the 12th. Maybe on a 24- 3/4" scale neck, I *might* have to jack it up just slightly more.
    Maybe replacement bridge saddles would fit on that. On one of the Erlewine videos, Dan re-grooves the notches on the bridge saddles of a 1970 Les Paul, but then he admits, he left the original saddles alone, put them away, and was doing the tweaking on new saddles put on the old bridge.
     
  15. Giraffecaster

    Giraffecaster Member

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    i've seen the bottom side of a (replacement) tune o matic ground down. you'll get to move the thumb wheels down a little bit more if it's the bridge hitting the top and not the thumb wheels maxing out going down.
     
  16. Fireball XL5

    Fireball XL5 Supporting Member

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    But here's the problem...

    Your guitar currently has the neck adjusted straight (no relief) and the bridge is set as low as it will go to get 4/64" at the 12th fret.

    If I recall correctly, Gibson factory specs call for approximately .010"-.012" of neck relief to go with their 12th fret string height of 3/64" and 5/64" respectively.

    If you were to adjust that specified amount of relief into the neck of YOUR guitar... you would find that your 12th fret string height measurement would now measure greater than 4/64". That is because adding relief increases the distance of the strings from the fingerboard.

    But... because your bridge is already bottomed out and set as low as it will go... you won't in turn be able to lower the strings to the Gibson specified 12th fret string height.

    So in real playing terms... your string height (epecially above the 12th fret).... is significantly higher than Gibson specs and you can't lower the bridge any further to acheive a lower action.

    I hope I'm explaining this in a concise enough way?? :confused: :crazy
     
  17. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    Definitely. Very clear. But it's not that I have absolutely no relief; I do - about .012". I started with a pretty straight neck, and then backed off just a little. I hadn't actually measured the relief at that point, but a bit was plainly visible. Maybe I didn't make this that clear when I started the thread; I think I may have given the impression that there was next to no relief at all.
    But still, the problem remains.
     
  18. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    And now let me hijack my own thread, if I may.

    I've been considering different setup accounts by different folks. Some insist on starting with checking the string height at the nut. Others begin with the bridge. Most seem to begin with the truss rod, which to my mind originally seemed to make the most sense - make sure the neck is as you like it, then adjust action via nut height or bridge. Then I read Erlewine's account of how a good luthier isn't necessarily going to start with one and then move on to the next; rather he/she will work on all three aspects in tandem, fine tuning a little here and there until the relief and action feels good to the player.

    Does this square with most folks' experience here? What kind of arguments are there for beginning a setup with a rod adjustment? Or with the nut? Or the bridge? Or with Dan's approach?
     
  19. sosomething

    sosomething Member

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    Maybe I'm confused - you could be using a term I'm not familiar with to describe something I am familiar with - but what is "fall away?"
     
  20. Fireball XL5

    Fireball XL5 Supporting Member

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    I suppose there is more than one way to skin a cat... but generally speaking, all the elements of a setup are interrelated. Each will affect one or both of the others, so that if they are not done in the correct order you'll more than likely just wind up chasing your tail. :Spank

    Best to follow this sequence to avoid any frustration:

    1. Restring with new strings.
    2. Adjust the trussrod for proper neck relief.
    3. Adjust the nut height over the first fret (best left for a pro).
    4. Adjust and set the string height at the bridge.
    5. Set the pickup height.
    6. Set intonation.
     

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