View Full Version : How high should the action be?

Apr-14-2006, 5:34pm
I checked my action on my old Gibson snakehead, and as best as I can tell, it's 1-2 millimeters high. I have an adjustable bridge, which I'm wondering if I need to raise. When I try to play forte, I get a buzz. How high should the action be, and does it sound like I should raise it? I would be most grateful for any help.

Stephen Perry
Apr-14-2006, 7:21pm
So many variables. I generally start with the G strings 0.060" above the 12th fret and the E strings 0.050" - but adjust to match mandolin & player.

Apr-14-2006, 10:18pm
What measurement is .060? My metric sense is not what it should be. Is that .06 millimeters, and if so, how do I measure that with a standard metric ruler?

Jim Rowland
Apr-14-2006, 10:28pm
It's 60 thousandths of an inch.

Apr-14-2006, 11:00pm
What do I use to get that kind of measurement?

Apr-14-2006, 11:04pm
Try raising the bridge, a little at a time, just until you have no more buzzing problems. That is the goal, not a specific measurement, but a workable height.

Michael Lewis
Apr-15-2006, 12:37am
1 mm = .040", so .060" = 1.5 mm

Apr-15-2006, 12:50am
auto repair tool...'feeler guages'...is a set of various thicknesses of steel 'blades' in a pocket knife kind of format.
they are marked as to their thickness. in thousandths of an inch on the north-american side of the pond.
if you really want precision... [or the rocker arms are rattling in your motor]

if youre style is sfortzando, ie really whacking on it, then there is less buzz with a higher overall action.

Alex Fields
Apr-15-2006, 5:50am
I always set my action super low: I raise it just enough that I can play all the way up the fretboard without buzzing. I also use lighter gauge flatwound strings (FT74s or T1s). Obviously that's very much personal preference as some people wouldn't be willing to give up volume like that. If you're buzzing, you should probably raise the action until it stops. But after that point, it's just personal preference (playability vs. volume).

Apr-15-2006, 9:32am
Thank you for that conversion table. That's something I can work with. The next time I change strings, I will try raising the action. My action is currently between 1-2 millimeters, so it's where it's supposed to be. Are there other factors that could be causing the buzzing when I try to play a little louder? I'm not trying to wail the instrument, so I don't think it's that I'm plucking too hard. What else should I look for?

Apr-15-2006, 10:33am
If you pick your strings in a direction other than perpendicular to the fretbard you can cause buzzing. If you have uneven frets or an improperly set truss rod, or if the nut is cut too low...or...or... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif As Steve said, there are lots of variables.

Nick Triesch
Apr-15-2006, 5:04pm
When I was a kid my parents could not afford nice instruments for me. #The action was so high you could shoot arrows off of them! #So over the years on my guitar and mando I must have super low action. #I would rather have a little bit of buzz than a higher action. #Over the years I have been able to control the buzz in my instruments by knowing when to play hard or soft on some strings. #It was either that or go crazy! #Works for me. # Nick:D

Apr-15-2006, 9:06pm
So, it sounds like it's time to have the instrument looked at by a reputable person who could check out all these variables. Anyone know someone in Albuquerque, New Mexico?

Apr-16-2006, 8:28am
High enough that it sounds good but not so high that it feels too tough to play. Too low and you lose tone and projection, too high and you lose your lack of tendinitis.

I've never used feeler guages other than my own hands http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif