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String height


Goalie Blues

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A slight increase in both string-height and relief can often improve your overall tone. I tend to like a little higher action and a little more relief than many people do, and have actually been going the opposite way lately- trying to get used to a slightly lower action and less relief than I've usually gone with.

 

Don't go crazy, a very small increase in action and relief can make a surprisingly big difference in how the guitar plays and feels; it doesn't take much!

 

And if you're getting into slide, try going up one gauge in strings of the same brand and type- if you've been using 9s, try 10s; if you've been using 10s, try 11s. This will definitely necessitate an adjustment of the intonation, although you might not have to adjust the relief (via the truss-rod) at all, as the added relief that the heavier strings will bring by pulling on the neck could be just the right amount of added breathing-space for playing slide.

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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I use the lowest action I can get without creating string buzz on any fret. That means different string heights on my different guitars, the shorter scale ones can have lower string heights, although the tension on the strings are greater when tuned to concert pitch on the longer string length guitars.

 

Still the Strats and like string length guitars have to be a little higher than the Gibson. I can definitely not play slide on any of my guitars unless I set one up for that particular purpose.

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Because I play both slide and normally on the same guitars, I like the action just slightly on the high side. A tech who set up one of my guitars described my action as "manly but not macho", which makes a certain sense to me. I like a little fight left in the strings, but I don't want to have to beat my fingers up to play. Normally, that's what I go for.

 

But oddly, I found that I prefer the tone lower strings develop on Telecasters. When the strings on a Tele are just low enough that the tail end of a note's sustain is slightly damped, it contributes to that classic "cluck" Teles do. Mind you, the strings should not buzz against the frets unless you really nail them on attack, that means you've got them too low.

 

It is a real adjustment for me to play a guitar with action that low. It is much harder work to bend strings, because you don't get as much "meat" under them to push with, and they slip off your fingertips. And, the whole thing seems to work better with heavier strings, 10s and up. 8s and 9s just kinda die.

 

On humbucker guitars, I don't like action that low at all, and on Strats, it's questionable. But if I'm looking for an authentic country cluck from a Tele, that's what works for me.

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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Single-coil guitars are especially sensitive to sting height issues, due to the lower output of the pickups. I suspect that if you handed the same Telecaster to Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, you'd end up with slightly different setups. The ideal setup can be a bit of a moving target; if you expect a particular setup to do everything, it's gonna be too vanilla for some things. The Tele is far and away the most versatile electric guitar design I know of, but certain traits show up in the guitars of country lead players that you don't see in rock rhythm players, given that they play an instrument of exactly the same design.

 

Rock players tend to prefer heavy gauges, a chrome-plated brass bridge, six steel saddles, strings through the body and action that's a few millimeters higher at the bridge-result is stable tuning, well-intonated chords and a burly, full-throated Tele tone. Lead players tend to like smaller gauges, two-string-per-saddle (three saddle) brass bridges on steel ferrous (ashtray) bridge plates, (which sometimes anchor the strings at the rear of the bridge assembly) action that's parallel to the frets in profile or a little lower at the nut, and usually, a little more breaking angle over the nut-resulting in more spank, more twang and a somewhat woodier tone, at the expense of some fret buzz and loss of sustain. Usually the pickups are set lower, so as to let the amp work a little harder, providing sustain enough to make up for what's lost in fret buzz.

"The Blues ain't got no dental plan."-"Bleeding Gums" Murphy
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I use the same strings on all of my guitars. DeAddario XL 110's Been using them for years and years. Even my Ovation thin body acoustic gets those strings, although I rarely ever play acoustic guitar anymore. I still have one. That guitar has the highest string height of any that I own.
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But oddly, I found that I prefer the tone lower strings develop on Telecasters. When the strings on a Tele are just low enough that the tail end of a note's sustain is slightly damped, it contributes to that classic "cluck" Teles do. Mind you, the strings should not buzz against the frets unless you really nail them on attack, that means you've got them too low.

 

On humbucker guitars, I don't like action that low at all, and on Strats, it's questionable. But if I'm looking for an authentic country cluck from a Tele, that's what works for me.

 

Yes! Exactly. I've found that to be the truth!

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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I'd like to echo & expand some of the points Caevan & MBone mentioned.

 

Adjustments to your setup should be made incrementally rather than abruptly for several reasons, not least is that you might decide to return to what you have now.

The more you vary the setup, the more time you and the guitar need to adapt, especially if you change string gauges in a significant way.

 

Another thing to consider is that the higher the action, the greater the displacement of the string when fretting. The intonation can be adjusted but the whole mix of height & scale length, etc., bears some consideration.

 

I personally have little problem playing slide on my regular guitar but I have a sorta restrained physical approach to playing. I also play in standard tuning.

 

Do you plan to use open tunings ?

If so, another consideration might be the particular tuning(s) you plan using.

Some tunings (such as D or G) involve loosening several strings while others (such as E or A) use tighter strings. That can also have an effect on your setup & the neck, esp. if involving heavier gauges or acoustic instruments.

I've heard that one reason Duane Allman liked open E was the increased string tension that helped resist the pressure of the slide against the strings.

 

You may not know what tunings you prefer til you try them, so you might waht to experiment on that a bit before you even make any other changes.

 

d=halfnote
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close action on the strats is a very nice and comfortable feel, but I would agree that raising the strings is going to be a big help for getting clean sound without fret rattle if you're going to be using the slide a lot...if just using the slide on a very short list of songs, then I'd keep the action low...
Take care, Larryz
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