Lowest Possible Action And Twang : Just Some Humble Ramblings

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by ZackyDog, Sep 30, 2020.

  1. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Friend of Fred

    Feb 6, 2015
    In the USA
    I always envied guys like Brian Setzer and George Harrison because of their great tone, which is attributed to the tools they use like the Fender Blonde '62/'63 Bassmans, VOX AC30/50/100 with Celesion Alnico Blues/Silvers, G6119/20/22s, 4k ohm Filtertrons, 3k ohm HiloTrons, etc. But even though I have the tools, and some decades of practicing, I was still missing some "twang".

    To my ears, Brian and George's wound strings, sometimes sound like rubber bands, which to me, isn't a bad thing. And usually, judicious proximity to the aforementioned pickups factors in but, keeping the action low---which reduces the string tension---is also important. This is all likely obvious to you most of you, but not to me, as I have programmed to keep the action as high as tolerable, as it can affect the overall tone of the guitar.

    As a side note, I saw a video of Brian trying out a vintage guitar. I seem to recall that he initially played it for just a couple of seconds, only to stop in his tracks, and readjust the thumb-wheels on the bridge, to bring down the action(!)

    Anyway, maybe someone can relate to this? Thanks for stopping by.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
    JeffreyLeePierre and G5422T like this.
  2. Cape Cod Sam

    Cape Cod Sam Electromatic

    Sep 30, 2020
    Cape Cod, MA, USA
    I recently made my first post where I mentioned my new Jet Baritone is suffering from string buzz at the first fret. While I find this annoying when not plugged in, I have to admit that it doesn't seem to impact the amplified sound, possibly even adding to the ringing tone. Though I might be making excuses for it, too...
    ZackyDog likes this.
  3. stiv

    stiv Country Gent

    Sep 12, 2014
    Florence, Italy
    Recently I had a try to writing some Americana music again... I discovered that all my guitars (with slide-high action and 0.12 strings on them), with this delta blues setup, are really unplayable if you need just to play cleaner and smoother. I mean, you could do it for a while but then you’ll have to deal with some serious finger pain.
    I guess some lower action is on the way for me too, at list on some guitar (I still have to decide which ones)... still I didn’t play that way since ages, I really don’t know where to start in setting up.
    ZackyDog likes this.
  4. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    Well, it's that easy to adjust string height, but most seem to think "lower is better."

    I've been in that camp for for most of my life, but have been setting higher action, especially on the low E side, for several years now. Hmmm, going higher rather than lower.

    Honestly, there's SO many variables. Finger pressure, fret type, string gauge, strumming style, pick attack, or no pick at all, so finger/thumb attack.

    I've stayed with XL's because I like the tone and feel, but have gotten to like thinner gauges........most days, or for some things that I play.

    So, thinner strings, higher low side action works for me and my thumb type playing of music.

    That said, on certain days/moods, a guitar with low action across the strings, and a little heavier gauge feels just right too.

    It's like chasing the "Fountain of Youth."

    Bottom line, I'm not one to mind changing things up with a well set up guitar.

    Like you stated with Setzer, use those thumb wheels. Quick, easy, reversible, and one may like the results worth just a twist or two.
    TubeLife and ZackyDog like this.
  5. Fasteddie42

    Fasteddie42 Electromatic

    Sep 18, 2018
    tip of the mitt

    I thought that setzer played with med/high action?
    moltenmagna likes this.
  6. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Gretschified

    Oct 18, 2015
    Actually there are quite a lot of guitarist that like higher action more. Even some virtuosos like Malmsteen have an incredibly high action on their guitars (although he plays very light strings).

    I do not like a high action all too much because there is some considerable going-sharp when pressing down the strings (and it hurts my fingertips, too).
    The action on my guitars is usually quite low with light strings. I like to bend a lot.
    Recently I came to like some neck-relief, so I can better dig-in/get a grip on the high notes.
    Before I put some light relief on my necks I used to scallop the fretboard from the 12th fret on to get that effect.
    Chmason85, new6659, capnhiho and 2 others like this.
  7. afire

    afire Country Gent

    That's my M.O. Well, maybe not as high as tolerable, but definitely not ALAPWOB. Very low action makes a guitar sound thin in my hands.

    Here are a couple of pretty good players who apparently didn't mind action on the higher side.
    Tele295 and speedicut like this.
  8. Stefan87

    Stefan87 Synchromatic

    May 20, 2019
    Brisbane, Australia
    I don't like too low of an action, not sure why but I just like to actually feel the string move a little when I fret as funny as that sounds, really low actions feel a bit weird to me.
    dougmon likes this.
  9. coryb

    coryb Electromatic

    Jul 15, 2017
    I prefer the action on my guitars as low as possible without buzzing.

    Brian Setzer reportedly uses a very light touch - I imagine that would be the reason for the low action on his guitars.
    ZackyDog likes this.
  10. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Friend of Fred

    Feb 6, 2015
    In the USA

    I've never seen action that high(!)


    In one interview, I heard Chet say that he likes low action.
  11. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    so cal
    I started swapping out my high E strings for B strings. I HATE the thin response from a stock high E strings so, ya.. problem solved. Twang n Pluck improved for cheeeep
  12. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    I Prefer low action. I have also been recenrly started to focus on playing lightly by default, and only digging in or using more force or pressure when called for by the music. I heard/read that the best tones are light playing with cranked (or just more cranked) amp. I have to agree, vastly improves dynamic range and clarity imo.

    And is easier with low action.
  13. speedicut

    speedicut Friend of Fred

    Jun 5, 2012
    I've been raising action lately because I sometimes cant get a good purchase on a string when bending. Probably a medium action I guess.. .
  14. TSims1

    TSims1 Gretschified

    Jun 18, 2013
    I’m a low action guy. Low low. If it ain’t buzzin, it ain’t low enough. String rattle IS my tone. ;)
    1883, Wjensen, gtttrrr and 11 others like this.
  15. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
  16. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    Ah the TSims snare sound. Or would that be a banjo?
    TSims1 and ZackyDog like this.
  17. MikeSchindler

    MikeSchindler Synchromatic

    Feb 3, 2014
    1.9 to 2 mm on bass side and 1.5-1.6 on treble side at 12th fret.You can do pretty much anything with that height especially since I do a lot of lead work in my band.. anything else doesn’t feel right to me... with my 7.25 radius strat though the height has to be a touch higher to bend well in higher register. Truss on Gretsch is about .008 and the Strat is about .010 under 7th fret.
    ZackyDog likes this.
  18. dlew919

    dlew919 Synchromatic

    Jul 18, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    I like it low. I just do.
    ZackyDog likes this.
  19. new6659

    new6659 Country Gent

    Low is the way to go;)
    emitex and ZackyDog like this.
  20. mandobandit

    mandobandit Gretschie

    Apr 1, 2019
    I've been playing my new Nash T63 exclusively, since receiving it, and have been fiddling with relief, string height, pickup height, pocket shim and so forth.
    I've finally settled in at .004 relief at the 9th fretboard location(slotted straight edge and feeler gauge), 4/64ths at the 12th fret, both high and low Es, I've had it lower with minimal buzz, but E&B string bends become inconsistent & awkward.
    I'm using standard .010 to .046 gauge strings.
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