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Action height affects tone on a tele?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by fakeplastic, Sep 27, 2015.

  1. dbeeman

    dbeeman TDPRI Member

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    Yes, but is the effect of raising the action? Does it affect the tone? In other words, does the action effect affect the tone?
     
  2. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I'm curious what you all might think about this fellow's "Myth #5" at 26:30 in this video; I think he has some good points...



    There is a point where the sound gets too "plink plink" but I do like action to be low, as long it it sounds okay amplified.
     
  3. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Friend of Leo's

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    There is definitely a point when notes start to ring out more clearly if you're raising the action, at least if you start out low. I find that if I raise the action to exactly that point when playing quietly at home, it's too low for the stage. It's really only about eliminating fret buzz, but a very low level of fret buzz that isn't actually audible as a "buzz", but only as a slight inhibition of the string's vibration.
     
  4. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    That's my impression of what the guy in the video is saying, and matches my own experience and perception.

    I could set the action of my PRS lower, and have been tempted to do so, but I leave it where my luthier sets it, it's still plays easily and rings like a piano (it's the only guitar I have that sometimes makes me think I'm hearing piano...which is good because sometimes I'm trying to sound like a piano).

    On the other hand, my Ibanez Talman (the '90s electric, not the later acoustic) I keep super-low -- it buzzes a tiny bit, but people have said that sounds "authentic" and I must agree, and I love the feel of that neck with its low low action. I don't even show that one to my luthier because I can already see the disapproving look on his face (he's an old-time traditionalist), and if I asked him to set it up he'd want to raise the action and I like it just as it is.

    I must say, too, that with the new 12-string kit guitar I've recently put together, I wasn't getting fret buzz, but my initial setup had the action set as low as possible and I was getting some thin "plink plink" tone. So I raised it just a hair, letting the strings "breathe" (as the guy in the video says), and got a clearer chime out of the strings.

    Over the years I've tried to qualitatively define what makes a "good action" or "neck feel," and aside from the height of the strings, I can't really put my finger on it (no pun intended); there's just a "certain" feel that partly includes a sense of "purchase" on the strings, a light yet positive response. I guess I just know it when I feel it.
     
  5. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    The idea that the strings need to "breathe" is interesting, like they're not exactly so low that they're buzzing, but low enough that the proximity hinders somehow.

    The other thing about high action is that the body is slightly less parallel to the strings. I wonder if the way the body resonates when it's parallel to the string harms sustain, versus when it resonate off-axis, at a mode divergent angle relative to one another.

    Something I'm not sure I agree with is the idea that the sustain is better if the distance from the string ball to the bridge is smaller. I'm having a hard time figuring why it would matter, except that it would mean there's most likely a more distant anchor point that's preventing the body from resonating freely. For example a Frequensator versus a stop bar, the Frequensator is bracing the tune-o-matic with the tail end of the guitar near the strap button, rather than allowing the bottom half of the guitar to freely flop around as resonate.
     
  6. TwangToInfinity

    TwangToInfinity Tele-Afflicted

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    one thing with higher action is since its needs to manhandled a bit you can hear the struggle/effort a bit and that can add some excitement to the playing imo
     
  7. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yep.. it's such a pain when giant air molecules get stuck under the strings if they aren't high enough...

    Ron Kirn
     
  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Maybe the air pressure increases slightly or something.
     
  9. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I think "breathe" is sort of a metaphor...I think the guy in the video meant that if you get too close to the frets -- almost but not quite buzzing -- the frets very slightly dampens the string.

    I guess we should just set it where we like it and play. :D
     
  10. Tonemonkey

    Tonemonkey Poster Extraordinaire

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    Welcome, Nobozos!

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  11. tele salivas

    tele salivas Poster Extraordinaire

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    Set it up to whatever is comfortable for you. But there is also a reason why I like plying a Tele, rather than say, a really nice PRS.
     
  12. Twang Tone

    Twang Tone Friend of Leo's

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    I guess he means the opposite of "choke".

    We all know that strings set too low can choke when bending in the upper register.

    Raising the strings slightly will cure choking, allowing the string to "ring".

    So, when he says "breathe", I read that as "ring".
     
  13. zezone

    zezone Tele-Meister

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    I approach action adjustment on a guitar the same way I approach puzzle games on my smart phone. Get the lowest possible string height without any buzz. It probably changes the 'tone' but I'm quite far away from a level of playing to justify such concerns.

    This obsession with tone is like an amateur sprinters obsession with running shoes. Sure, they make a difference. No, you will not beat Usain Bolt simply because you switched shoes.
     
  14. jpjr50

    jpjr50 Tele-Holic

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    I've read some of the replies and majority is based on their own experience. Does anyone know if Fender did a study? Or an independent study? I can't seem to hear a difference but I can certainly feel high action.
     
  15. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    Nah, the vibrating string creates virtual gummy bears in bear - antibear pairs, a well documented quantum-mechanical effect. These clog up the space between the string and pickup.

    See, I'm treating this discussion with the gravity I think it deserves. :D
     
  16. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Maybe one day we will know the real reason, and with that information we'll be able to make or modify guitars that produce that "high action" tone without a having a neck that feels like quick sand.
     
  17. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    In fairness, I don't think that the air pressure idea is implausible. It just seems unlikely to me.
     
  18. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Friend of Leo's

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    I don't think he's even trying to suggest any thing of the sort. That would be preposterous!
     
  19. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    Oh, I don't think it is any dafter than any other explanation. :D I think the whole thing is a figment of someone's imagination, if obvious things like fret rattle are excluded.
     
  20. doc w

    doc w Tele-Afflicted

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    Unlike most other tone questions, this is about as easy as it gets to answer.

    Step 1: get a Tele
    Step 2: change the action and note any change in tone
    Step 3: repeat step 2 a bunch of times.

    Same guitar, same strings, same amp. If it sounds different with different action, then guess what? Changing the action changes the tone.

    To go the extra mile, empirically, don't play the guitar yourself. Get someone else to do it and put in a few placebo changes.
     
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