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Thread: How to determine the proper action height for my Irish Bouzouki?

  1. #1

    Question How to determine the proper action height for my Irish Bouzouki?

    Hey everyone! I measured the action with a tape measure. I imagine that this is not very accurate. But it is about 2mm at the 5th fret, and about 4mm at the 12nd. Do you think I should have it adjusted?

    If you think so, I would love to hear your recommendation for someone who can do that in Benelux. Much appreciated!

    Context: Mine is one of those factory-made Thomann Irish Bouzouki. I never had it properly set up. I've been practicing it for 2 and a half years now and I still struggle a lot with it. Of course I am sure that there are many other reasons, but I thought I should check if action is one of them. I often find it difficult or impossible to keep the strings down with certain finger positions. For example, when playing some tunes, I often have to go from the 5th of the low D to the 2nd of the A. If I try to press down the first one with my pinky and the second one with my index, it feels nearly impossible to press both down properly, and is very taxing on my fingers. I do have short fingers so IB may not be the best choice for me. Maybe I should just switch to a mandolin instead?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How to determine the proper action height for my Irish Bouzou

    The most important thing to do beyond practicing itself is to practice on an instrument that’s properly set up. There’s more to setup than string height and when it’s done you’ll be astonished at the difference. You’ll then have to break some habits you’ve acquired through 2-1/2 years of compensating for the instrument’s maladjustment.

    I’m afraid I’m of no use for luthier recommendations in your region, as I live in the western U.S.A. I hope someone else can make a recommendation for you.
    Finished my rookie year and still determined to learn!
    Ratliff F-style Country Boy
    Eastman MDO-305 Octave Mandolin
    Kentucky KM-272

    I donít know what I want to be when I grow up.

  3. #3

    Default Re: How to determine the proper action height for my Irish Bouzou

    Here are my suggestions.

    Maybe you started this on your own because of the virus. Probably
    you have learned a lot. However, you are missing some information.
    Now is the time to get some live instruction. There are thousands of
    music majors out there teaching. They teach children and they teach
    adults. Around here lessons are available in half hour blocks. I would
    look for a violin/mandolin teacher.

    The teacher will be able to tell you about the action on your instrument
    and whether you are placing your fingers effectively. I suggest it will
    be worth it to you. Also you can feel good that you are supporting those
    musicians.

    Maybe you should switch to mandolin. A lot of the music is written for
    violin/mandolin. You would fit right into music jams and classes. The
    skills seem to transfer to the longer scale instruments like yours. You
    can do both.

    My impression is your instrument action is high. Maybe the scale length
    is about the same as a guitar. Measuring the high note spacing at the
    12th fret should be about the thickness of a US quarter (about 1.6 mm).
    Measuring the low note space at the 12th fret about the thickness of 2 US
    dimes (about 2.4 mm). Maybe you have similar coins. Using something
    that fills the space makes it easier to measure than using a tape measure.

    Rob Meldrum wrote a treatise on how to set up a mandolin. If you ask
    nicely he will send you a copy for free. I suggest you read that. -->
    Rob Meldrum’s setup book

    Still, I suggest you go buy a couple live lessons.
    Thanks,
    sounds_good

  4. #4

    Default Re: How to determine the proper action height for my Irish Bouzou

    Thanks for your insight Kenny! That sounds quite promising. I will ask around at my local sessions to see if someone knows someone.

    I recently bought a guitar in-store, which I assume is set up. It really amazed me how (relatively) easy it is to press down a string. Hopefully setting the bouzouki up will give a better experience too.

  5. #5

    Default Re: How to determine the proper action height for my Irish Bouzou

    You are right! I got it to replace my broken mandolin a few months into the covid. Since then I have followed a series of online videos by Alan Reid. But I do agree that I should get some lessons from offline teachers.

    A few months back I talked to this bagpiper player Fiachra Meek, who apparently gives bouzouki lessons. I sent a message later but got no reply. I will try again after the summer holiday is over.

    Thanks for the input!

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