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low action guitar selection

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Postby 16mmcamera » May 7th, 2012, 1:05 pm

I need to get a guitar with low action to improve my playing. Do certain electric guitars allready have low action when you buy them? Or is low action achieved through tweeking and customization? Any suggestions on which eletric guitars allready have low action?
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Postby EzraplaysEzra » May 7th, 2012, 1:52 pm

Low action is, for the most part a result of good set up. A lot of things come into play including fret types, the nut, the neck radius and the bridge. Some guitars will be able to achieve a lower set up than others but it isn't really a matter of brand. Take your guitar (or your new guitar) to your local tech and tell'em you want it LAPWB, which you might have figured to mean "low as possible without buzzing". But realistically you should have someone set up the guitar, dress the frets and file nut slots for what ever gauge of strings you use, then learn how to adjust the height and intonation yourself. That would probably be the best way to get action you can use, get a good solid base and find what work for you through trial and error. There really isn't an ideal string height or action and because of several factors you might not actually like LAPWB. Maybe your current set up is really high and you've developed the worlds strongest right hand while playing it, switching to LAPWB you might find yourself punching holes in your pickup covers with your hulk hands. Its important to have a guitar that plays well, but having low action might actually set you back some. You might be slower or even less articulate depending on how accustomed you've become to higher strings.

Edit: Just wanted to correct myself. The correct term is LAPWOB, not LAPWB. carry on.
Last edited by EzraplaysEzra on May 8th, 2012, 8:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby s1120 » May 8th, 2012, 4:58 am

switching to LAPWB you might find yourself punching holes in your pickup covers with your hulk hands.


OK... thats funny. :)

What are you playing now? Can what you have be adjusted? Are you looking for low.... or just lower then you have? Im on the low end of the learning curve, but frankly I like playing my guiters with higher action once in a wile. Having to work for it a little seems to help my playing when I get on my easer to play LP.
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Postby cnev » May 8th, 2012, 6:42 am

I'm with Ezra it's how you set up your guitar and even if you get it low you may not like it. I had a friend come by who had his Strat set up with the lowest string height I had ever seen, I didn't like the feel of it at all maybe I could have gotten used to it but I doubt it.

Lowest string height does not necessarily mean the best way for it to be setup you have to try it and see.
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Postby Crow » May 8th, 2012, 9:29 am

EzraplaysEzra wrote:Its important to have a guitar that plays well, but having low action might actually set you back some. You might be slower or even less articulate depending on how accustomed you've become to higher strings.


+1
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Postby Cat » May 8th, 2012, 10:44 pm

Ha! Just clicked this off and it disappeared into the ether. So...again...light action...Cat's version:

Okay...that's how I like playing. Exteremely low action with .008's. Old Ibanez Artist, 1977. But it doesn't make playing easier...quite the opposite. It took me...like...a decade to adjust to them.

If you hold a note too hard, they sharp (I call it "trampolining"). Too loose and they buzz. Use a heavy pick and you'll probably have the high E (.008) jump off the saddle on the bridge piece.

I keep the board volume WAY up but pick (VERY thin) and fret with as light of a touch as possible...just shy of a buzzing...UNLESS I want a full harmonic. With the volume up...it's always lurking there waiting for a harder picking or a harder drop of a fingertip.

There's nowhere to hide with this sort of setup...so mistakes will stand out "like the dog's proverbials". But once you get switched on...every nuance is sweet as. It's all in the touch...

You'll pull yer hair out getting this right...but it's worth it.

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Postby Niklas » May 8th, 2012, 10:53 pm

Have you tried a guitar with a thinner neck, like an Ibanez? I don't like them, but it could be what you're after.

I prefer thick necks and low action with .10's. But it's like Cat wrote. You have to be careful with your fretting hand, but you get used to it. Remember it's impossible to play good slide with low action, so if you're going to do that, you need a guitar set up with higher action.
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Postby vet_ca » May 25th, 2012, 11:53 am

My $0.02

All guitar necks, regardless of price or manufacturer, suffer from the same problems. 1)the necks are cylindrical and 2)there is a "hump" where the neck joins the body (other problems may also exist). The truss-rod cannot remove this body "hump" but it sure can worsen it. The best way to get tighter action is to have the neck re-machined by a known, good guitar luthier. This involves placing the neck/guitar in a neck jig and sanding the neck flat while sanding it into a "cone" shape (with various neck radius gauges) from it's original "cylindrical" shape. With these changes made the bridge and nut slots can be adjusted to give an action that allows the guitar to be played with your thumb completely off the back of the neck. Finally you need to select the proper frets and have them set and crowned properly. Now, if you play "hard" you'll occasionally hear a string "fart" but it will NOT rattle.

This machining is not cheap but it is extremely effective (tried and true). The key is to find a guitar tech that is familiar with the technique. If you get just anyone to do the job there's no telling what you'll end up with. Ask to both see and play some guitars the tech has set up this way.
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Postby Preacher » June 3rd, 2012, 5:12 pm

Truth be told, the only way you can improve your playing is to practice. If that's the only reason you're looking for a low action, I would say you're barking up the wrong tree, mate.

However, a low action is attained through a setup to your liking. Like has been previously stated, take it to a tech, slap it on the counter and say "gimme a low action!" I'm joking, of course. Through my own trial and error, I've found that I like different actions on different guitars. On my Lucille, for instance, I like a lower action. While on my strat, I feel more comfortable with, what some would call, an unplayable string height.

As far as guitars that come with a low action, that's anyone's guess. I've fiddled around with new Gibby's that have barbed wire-esque actions, and Jay Turser hollow-bodies that have the lowest setup right out of the box. The only way one can be sure of attaining that perfect action is through trial and error - and a few trips to a guitar tech. haha
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Postby Cat » June 3rd, 2012, 11:17 pm

Preacher wrote: Truth be told, the only way you can improve your playing is to practice. If that's the only reason you're looking for a low action, I would say you're barking up the wrong tree, mate.


Yeah, I tend to agree. In all reality, it'll make playing well more difficult. It's like going from your everyday car to an F-1...it'll need lots more finesse.

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Postby EzraplaysEzra » June 4th, 2012, 6:08 am

vet_ca wrote:My $0.02

All guitar necks, regardless of price or manufacturer, suffer from the same problems. 1)the necks are cylindrical and 2)there is a "hump" where the neck joins the body (other problems may also exist). The truss-rod cannot remove this body "hump" but it sure can worsen it. The best way to get tighter action is to have the neck re-machined by a known, good guitar luthier. This involves placing the neck/guitar in a neck jig and sanding the neck flat while sanding it into a "cone" shape (with various neck radius gauges) from it's original "cylindrical" shape. With these changes made the bridge and nut slots can be adjusted to give an action that allows the guitar to be played with your thumb completely off the back of the neck. Finally you need to select the proper frets and have them set and crowned properly. Now, if you play "hard" you'll occasionally hear a string "fart" but it will NOT rattle.

This machining is not cheap but it is extremely effective (tried and true). The key is to find a guitar tech that is familiar with the technique. If you get just anyone to do the job there's no telling what you'll end up with. Ask to both see and play some guitars the tech has set up this way.


With all due respect, I've read this five times and I still can't figure out what you are implying. I have a dozen guitars in my home at the moment and they all have "cylindrical" necks, I've never considered this a problem. I think it might be hyperbole to say ALL guitars suffer from a "hump" where the neck meets the body considering a quick audit of my guitars showed exactly 0.00% had any kind of hump affliction.
The best I can deduce from procedure you are describing is a neck reset and a fretboard re-profile. Two completely different and unrelated actions. A reset might be required if a set neck is no longer seated, an angle in the fretboard could be a symptom (a hump?). But this procedure would likely involve only the heel and the pocket. As far as sanding your neck flat and making it into a cone instead of a cylinder, I'm baffled. Could you possibly be referring to having a compound radius added to the neck? Wherein the final result would show a flatter board profile at the treble end from a progressively rounder profile at the nut. Compound profiles will not in itself allow a lower action.
I fear you may have fallen victim to a luthier who was either unscrupulous or completely loony. Whenever I hear a luthier or repairmen say "The problem with EVERY other guitar..." I know some attempt is being made to separate me and a large sum of money. I hope this isn't the case, the biggest problem with our modern age is the abundance of advice givers who impart some low form of knowledge and offer it as expert advice or services and it's further spread by people only trying to be helpful and heard in forums such as this. If you were victim to such a shamozzle, at least you are happy with the results.
I'm really not trying to infer that you have no idea what you are talking about or that your advice is void of any reasonable merit or credibility, I only found it a little confusing. Perhaps you could explain this further on a different thread.
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