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If you can tuck a black gator grip under your strings then your action is too low

Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
in Welcome Posts: 1,201
Just what the title says. If you slip the pick under the E,B,G strings at the 12th fret, and it's held there, your action is way too low and you probably can't get a good tone. Raise it!

The black gator is 2mm thick and something in 2.3mm-2.6mm is an acceptable range for the action on the high E string (source: Bob Holo). Action is measured from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string at its midpoint, those 2mm picks should clear easily and fall right out.


  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    edited March 2016 Posts: 391
    Thanks for clarifying Wim. Unfortunately, I don't have any Gators around the house, because if you use thin picks like that, you will never get a good tone out of a gypsy jazz guitar (apart from the people who do, who sound awesome) :P
  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    edited March 2016 Posts: 391
    Because I'm paranoid, I just checked my action (on my awesome new MD50B!!!) with a 2mm pick. While it does slip straight out, there's no daylight when i hold it up between the high E and the 12th fret, so I'd say pretty much dead on 2mm, or maybe the tiniest smidge higher. The guitar seems pretty happy with this, and I am of the opinion that as these guitars cause us so much suffering, we should hit them pretty hard to get our own back.

    The main reason I veered back away from big actions was intonation - the higher you go, the harder it is to get things to play in tune, and nothing sounds worse than an out of tune instrument. It's a fine line, I reckon. I used to have around a 3.5-3.7 action at the low E, which seems absolutely crazy now. This new Dupont does seem to have a higher tolerance that other guitars I've played for (relatively) lower action without crappy tone/buzzing.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    You can go lower if it suits you and the guitar sounds good to your ears. The thing is, I get people who ask why their intonation is way out and their action is 3.5mm... or guys whose tone is pingy and they're down at 1.5mm because people come from different backgrounds. So I wanted to help new players in the genre find a decent happy medium. In general, you can set a GJ guitar up to be 2.8mm low E & 2.3mm high E with say 10 or 12 thousandths relief and it'll be playable to a lot of people. It's a good starting point so the guitar will play properly and sound clean so that you can hear the guitar's voice and have a reference so you'll know when you've set it too low and are losing note clarity or too high and are losing sustain.

    I run my old Busato at about 3.0/2.3 because it likes it that way. I've been playing a traditional model prototype lately - its on the lower side at about 2.6/2.0. with 10/1000" relief. It plays well, but its definitely low. With that kind of setup, I'll probably have to shim it when the humidity drops this summer.

    But definitely - you're right Wim - if trebles are thin and pingy and the action is low, try shimming it up a little. And of course, as KFM mentioned here earlier -- make sure the bridge fits the top.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • bluetrainbluetrain Finland✭✭✭ Cach, Epiphone Triumph, Gibson ES-300
    Posts: 156
    I think there's lot of parameters that affect whether the guitar can have extremely low action. The choice of strings, pick, relief on the neck, fret leveling and of course how loud the player is playing etc. Maybe players who play 3.5mm Wegens need to have higher action than guys who play 1.5mm Gators. It's just so much easier to play louder with Wegens. My two different guitars (Barault and Vit Cach) has the same action around 2.5/2.1 (with really good fret leveling and some relief on the neck) and for some reason the Cach guitar just wants to have more action on the bass strings. The guitar just resonates differently. I like to have lower action where I feel that I can control the dynamics of the guitar with less force. With low action I get this feeling that I don't have to play it really loud to make it bark or growl. Just a thought! I think under 2mm on the high E is too low as Win wrote!

    This is a bit off the subject but I have noticed few things about intonation during the years with gypsy jazz guitars and every string type (10 or 11 Argentine or Galli silk & steel or d'Addario) should have a bridge that has been made (intonation correction) for that particular string type. If you have a bridge that has perfect intonation with lets say Argentine 11s then changing the gauge to 10s will definately make the intonation worse. For some reason most of the luthiers want to make bridges that doesn't have any intonation correction between G- and B-strings and this might be good with 11 argentines with moderately relief but the intonation is horrible with 10 argentines with the same action!
  • ShemiShemi Cardiff✭✭✭
    Posts: 170
    I put the action of mine a smidge over 2mm and I'm very happy with the tone and playability. I think the guy who owned the guitar before me was a bit of a masochist... 6mm is a tad too high for me!lol

    It is my opinion that a luthier may be able to construct a perfectly made guitar, but not all can achieve a great set up. I think some have a feel of how a guitar could play with their help, that doesn't always come from coldly applying a set of measurements. If that was the case, every Plek'd Gibson would play like a dream! While dialling in those measurements is good starting point, IMO it takes a certain feel to know how to tweak those to get the best out of a guitar, as each guitar can be a little different.
    t-birdBill Da Costa Williams
  • ShemiShemi Cardiff✭✭✭
    Posts: 170
    I just realised I have amalgamated two threads in my mind here. The other thread on tone had a discussion about luthiers and set ups... apologies.
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,201
    Jon, how high did you have your Barault, do you know? That one was about right. Mine's happiest at about 2.5mm, as low as 2mm is still quite playable when gigging with a pickup. Less so acoustic.

    Have to maintain humidity in my Chicago apartment, which is annoying. Else the guitar moves heaps.. sadface.jpg .. Haven't had to deal with that when living in Paris nor Melbourne.
  • DaveycDaveyc
    Posts: 30
    The weather is one of the other perks of living in IL along with ,........ well let's just talk more music:) I think I need a job in amsterdamn or Finland :)
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