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View Full Version : Does everybody prefer low action?



kissing
05-23-2009, 04:07 AM
I was just wondering whether high action is always bad and evil, and low action is the absolutely, positively best way to have your Ukulele adjusted to :worship:

For my tenor, low action does make it clearly easier to play, because the strings are under some tension. Tenor with high action would frustrate me.
But I was playing some Mahalo sopranos with high action, and didn't find it uncomfortable at all since the strings are looser.

In fact, I kinda liked the kind of feedback of the strings catching slightly on my fingers as I play due to the high action. I haven't lowered the action on these ukes yet, so I don't know for sure whether I'll prefer a lower action on these, but the strings seem comfortable where they are and I'm a little reluctant to go off sanding the saddle away.

Is this one of those things where I'm an inexperienced grasshopper who has a lot to learn about why low action is always good? Or do some people actually prefer or feel comfortable with high action in some cases?

Can action height alter how the strings vibrate, and therefore the actual sound?

Witters
05-23-2009, 04:26 AM
To me high action is a pain - Ken Middleton describes it as "unplayable" in one of his videos when describing a Ohana Uke.

I also find it unplayable when comparing high action to a low action Uke. Its personal choice I know and each to their own but for me its dreadful, I can't get along with it, and quite honestly if I could not buy a Uke with low action I wouldn't but one.

hoosierhiver
05-23-2009, 04:48 AM
Higher action seems especially bothersome to folks who are used to playing guitar or have a gentle picking style.
My playing is often a hard strumming and I find that if I lower it too much it will buzz when I really bang on it.

ukeatan
05-23-2009, 04:52 AM
Higher action seems especially bothersome to folks who are used to playing guitar or have a gentle picking style.
My playing is often a hard strumming and I find that if I lower it too much it will buzz when I really bang on it.

Huh, I'd actually say the opposite. I like very low action on guitar, but comparatively higher action on uke -- I think because of the amount of pressure I'm used to applying to steel strings, higher action on uke makes up for me wanting to press down hard on the strings.

SailQwest
05-23-2009, 05:05 AM
I definitely prefer low action. If the action is too high my hand gets achy really quickly. That's one reason that I like playing really "demanding" songs on my eleuke...the action is like butter!

hoosierhiver
05-23-2009, 05:12 AM
Huh, I'd actually say the opposite. I like very low action on guitar, but comparatively higher action on uke -- I think because of the amount of pressure I'm used to applying to steel strings, higher action on uke makes up for me wanting to press down hard on the strings.

I would have thought so as well, ukes strings are not as tough on the fingers. Maybe it's because uke players who don't play guitar don't have a comparison and think less about the action.

ichadwick
05-23-2009, 05:23 AM
High action presents several problems on many stringed instruments.

First is the effect on intonation. In part because the string is much further from the fretboard, it makes it difficult to accurately see the position where you should place your finger. Try to find the harmonic at the 12th fret on a high-action versus low-action uke and you'll see what happens.

Second, it presents problems with strumming and picking when both fretted and open strings are in use. The vertical distance between them can mean some notes either don't get played or get played unequally.

Since the action tends to get higher up the fretbaord, it makes it more difficult to play the higher frets nad sometimes means buzzing notes at the upper end.

More pressure is required to properly fret a note that's further from the fretboard than one closer to it.

Dominator
05-23-2009, 05:49 AM
All good info provided so far. I really can't add much but I think it just depends on your playing style. I think most will agree that lower action makes it easier to fret the chords, especially barre chords. However, if you are an aggressive strummer then lower action can and will cause buzzing.

I keep my action low and if I attack the C string very aggressively it will buzz. But this is the action I prefer and have learned how to finesse around the issue when I play. Higher action can definitely provide a bit more volume most of the time as well.

UkuleleD
05-23-2009, 05:52 AM
Yea ughh I can't stand buzzing and if the action is too low I find the G & C strings tend to quite a bit, so I'd say just high enough so that buzzing is not a problem

Fred Miu
05-23-2009, 05:54 AM
i dont love high action, but i dont hate it. and i dont love low action, but also i dont love it.

ive had both the good and bad experiences with high and low action. when i had a low action soprano, the C string buzzed the CRAP out of the uke and i couldnt take it anymore. and the high action just straight up shredded my fingers because i had to press down harder than normally.

generem
05-23-2009, 05:59 AM
i dont love high action, but i dont hate it. and i dont love low action, but also i dont love it.

ive had both the good and bad experiences with high and low action. when i had a low action soprano, the C string buzzed the CRAP out of the uke and i couldnt take it anymore. and the high action just straight up shredded my fingers because i had to press down harder than normally.

+1.. Its like were connected bro!!! :D

Fred Miu
05-23-2009, 06:25 AM
^^ i know there's quite a few people out there who know what im talking abotu and agree haha.

thats why never again, will i ever buy an ukulele over the internet, i MUST try it out to see if my fingers will break or not.

kissing
05-23-2009, 07:35 AM
Wow, thanks for the valuable information provided!

I guess I shouldn't rush off to lower actions that I feel are just a tad high if I'm already comfortable with it, because I'm a bit of an aggressive strummer too.

Like, I can see the strings vibrate quite a bit, and I think that if the action was lower, it might touch the frets :O

1014
05-23-2009, 07:39 AM
one person's trash is another person's treasure. i prefer neither.

imho, what's high or low action? that's too vague. i do believe some `ukulele action need to be lowered and some need to be raised depending on the player. the action on my `ukulele maybe too high or too low for others. you guys making it too black and white.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-23-2009, 08:40 AM
There are two things to look at when considering action and that is string height over the nut and string height over the saddle. Although they work together, both need to be considered separately initially.
String height at the nut should almost always be lowered to the absolute minimum just so that the strings will not buzz when strummed in the open position. I can think of no reason why high action at the nut would be preferred. This is an easy adjustment and is often overlooked in inexpensive ukes. Most that I've seen "out of the box" are quite a bit higher than they need to be. Proper action at the nut will make it easier to form chords at the lower positions but will have no impact on the tone or the ukulele's integrity.
String height at the saddle however may affect both. As Dominic mentioned a saddle that is high will give you greater volume and may improve overall tonal performance, but will also have a negative impact on intonation, playability and the general health of your ukulele. Most classical guitar players have high action at the saddle for better projection and to suit their style of playing. A high saddle, because of the increased string angle, will exert more downward force through the bridge to the soundboard, hence more volume. If the saddle is too high it can torque the top enough to create an ugly and potentially dangerous deformation in a properly thinned and braced top. Not good for your ukulele unless it is overly built to begin with. If on the other hand the saddle is too low, not enough string pressure is applied to the soundboard and the resulting tone can be thin or weak. (The design of a particular bridge also affects string angle and should be considered along with saddle height.)
So, as with everything, you need to compromise of both the sound (quality of tone and buzzing issues) and playability. Again, using Dominic as an example, a good player will often be able to work around minor issues in favor of comfortable playing, while any of these issues will seem much greater to the inexperienced player. Minor issues will disappear as your level of playing increases.

Ukuleleblues
05-23-2009, 08:45 AM
I Like it so the action is comfprtable at the lower frets 1- 5 and when you get doen to the upper frets I like it a little higher for picking. A short (ends before the sound hole) thick fretboard works well for this without having to sacrifice low action. I like space between the string and the top of the uke. To me hig action at the lower frets = bad intonation.

Witters
05-23-2009, 08:52 AM
I am asking something similar on another thread and I cant seem to get an answer - which Uke’s are made with a low action similar to the zero fret of a Flea, or as good as a Kiwaya.

Both are very low and you can strum or pick on either without any buzzing at all.

experimentjon
05-23-2009, 06:01 PM
I only recognized how low the action on all of my ukes actually are after starting to play acoustic guitar. I bought an Ibanez acoustic (a mid-range model) that was not set up, so the action was really high, like 5/32 at the 12th fret. And being used to the soft, supple non-steel ukulele strings, my fingers would cry bloody mercy after just one song. Eventually I realized that it was impossible to play with that high action. Barre chords were impossible...and it wasn't just because I suck at guitar...it was the strings were resisting my push with all their might. So I lowered the action at the saddle, and by messing with the truss rod (which scared me a lot b/c I was afraid of warping the neck...but then again, I was too cheap to pay some guy at a shop to give a hex key a half turn.)

But with low action, I can actually play it. So with guitars, I NEED low action.

On ukes however, even action that I thought was high is actually pretty acceptable. But still, I prefer lower action. Somewhere along the lines of the action that Kanilea sets up on their shelf models.

SuperSecretBETA
05-23-2009, 06:05 PM
I like good action. :p

jkevinwolfe
05-23-2009, 06:32 PM
Mo,

The only reason I could think of for high action at the nut is if someone were trying to play uke with a slide.

UkuLeLesReggAe
05-23-2009, 07:47 PM
with me, i research a bit, look around. and i know my pricings u know? whether the bidding starts at $400 and thats the amount i am willing to pay. or whether it starts at $30 and trying to work its way up, ill eep goiung until it reaches 400.

Howie1947
05-24-2009, 11:15 AM
At my age I'll take any action I can get !!

generem
05-24-2009, 04:06 PM
At my age I'll take any action I can get !!

Here kitty kitty kitty!!!!

Craig
05-24-2009, 05:44 PM
If it's too low, the sound of the ukulele is diminished.

experimentjon
05-24-2009, 05:57 PM
At my age I'll take any action I can get !!


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Apology in advance for thread jacking. Back to the UKULELE action discussion.

Kaneohe til the end
05-25-2009, 12:14 AM
What is that?

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Apology in advance for thread jacking. Back to the UKULELE action discussion.

too late for that

Lanark
05-26-2009, 04:23 AM
For the most part, I like how my instruments are set now. Set to play.

I don't know if they would be considered high or low but otherwise to me they seem right. It's a subjective thing. My just right is another person's unplayable.

I do figure that they fall within that more or less average range when people talk about action. I can bash the hell out of them without buzzing and there's enough stiffness for volume, clarity & precision when I fingerpick and I can fret easily. That ain't high or low. That's just right.

As it currently stands, I've really only had to futz with one uke by doing a little saddle sanding to get it where I liked it.