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What height action is your guitar set to?


I have had my Gitane DG-300 for about 4 months now and am delighted with it (thanks again Michael). I am new to the gypsy jazz scene and have been practicing hard.

One area i have been struggling with is the fast chromatic runs. However the other day while around at a friends house i picked up his electric guitar and had ago at a chromatic run and hey presto i could play it consistently, compared to occasionally on my Gitane.

This got me thinking was the action on my Gitane to high for me. Its not only the chromatic runs i struggle with, my left hand also seems to tire reasonably quickly due to the pressure needed to clearly sound chords and individual notes.

I have measured the height of my Gitane's action at the twelve fret (from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string) and its 4mm.

What action do you guys have?

Do you think i would benefit from a lower action?

Thanks in advance



  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    That depends on a lot of things. If you have a really flat (no relief) fretboard and you use light strings and your bridge is set in the right place to get your intonation right... sure - 4mm is doable.

    Personally - I find anything over about 3.2 is excessive - hard to play and quickly diminishing returns.

    Also - most people don't have the same action on both sides of the fretboard. A lot of people have their bass or treble 1/2mm higher than the other. It depends on your taste. I like about 2.8 on the high E and just a shade over 3 on the bass E - but that's just me. I have a pretty flat fretboard - I use 10's but I up the B & high-E strings to 11 & 15. Both my guitars set up this way have fairly high neck angles in the 2.5 degree range. My friend Dennis' guitar is setup exactly the opposite (low Bass E and high treble E) I find it hard to play his guitar but he sounds great on it. You'll figure out what is right for you after about a year or two of playing and expirimenting.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • James UKJames UK New
    Posts: 12
    Thanks for posting Bob. I think i have a feel now for what the range of action heights is now.

    I previously thought 4mm on the low E was about the average but it would appear that it is actually towards the high end of the spectrum.

    I think i will get a couple of dupont bridges from:

    and see which i get on best with.

    I know from reading other threads that there is some confusion as to which model dupont bridge will give a certain height on the low E string. Can anyone who has one or knows tell me what number (#1,#2,#3,#4) will give me a height of around 3.00mm on the low E string?
  • gitpickergitpicker Beijing/San Francisco✭✭✭✭ Gibson, Favino, Eastman
    Posts: 213
    The Gitanes have very little neck angle so you can't really get away with a super tall bridge. I put a Dupont #1 on my DG-300 and I still had to take a lot off the bottom while fitting the bridge. The #1 comes stock at 17.5mm according to Jasque's site. Mine as it sets on the guitar right now is about 14.5mm after fitting and my action is a tad low anyway though, 3mm at the sixth string and 2.5mm at the first string at the 12th fret. Hope this gives you some idea. The tone improved dramatically but the Dupont bridges don't intonate as well as the stock ones. My bridge sits forward towards the soundhole about half an inch more in order to intonate better. It doesn't look as nice but I don't really care since it sounds and plays better. Worth the effort overall to me. That's just how it worked out on my guitar. There are other factors and every guitar is slightly different but I imagine it will be a similar experience with your DG-300. Good luck. It's the cheapest way to dramatically improve the guitar in my humble opinion. Besides that change, I love everything else about the guitar. It really screams now though!
    Live life and play music like it's your last day on earth. One day you'll be right- Russel Malone
  • just the bassplayerjust the bassplayer Huntington, NYNew
    Posts: 40
    Cheers James:

    I got my Gitane JJ 300 from this site as well, and love the guitar. I was really hesitant to change my bridge as the intonation is so good with the stock bridge. My bass E is at 4 mm as measured from the top of the 12 fret to the string, and the high E is at 3 mm. The really peculiar thing is that I really like the tone of the guitar as it comes. I had tried the JJ model at a guitar show and instantly like the voicing and playability of the instrument. I've also have tried luthier made guitars from some well respected makers. My lead guitar player friend has has a very nice Del' Arte D-hole,with its stock bridge - not quite a Selmer/Dupont style.
    I had ordered a custom made one supposedly to fit my guitar, but it was far too low and I had to shim it a great deal to make it usable. In the end I didn't like the tone or the intonation and threw it away. I got a #3 Dupont from my friend as it was too low for his Del'Arte, and with quite a bit of re-shaping with a wood file I crowned it to approximate the measurements of my stock bridge. I took all the height off the top, not the bottom, of the bridge and kept narrowing the edge of it it as well as I lowered the height. It does produce a drier tone. The Dupont seems to be solid dense wood of consistent colour,so it stands up to reshaping very well. It's a good bridge.
    I still like the stock bridge and switch back and forth. Keep your original just in case, or if you like a change from time to time. My guess is that the #2 would be about right. Perhaps some one who has put a #2 Dupont bridge on can confirm that.
    Michael Hayes
  • James UKJames UK New
    Posts: 12
    Thanks guys for your thoughts. Its helped me alot. I think i will get a Dupont #1 and #2 and fiddle around with them. Thanks again.

  • MatteoMatteo Sweden✭✭✭✭ JWC Modele Jazz, Lottonen "Selmer-Maccaferri"
    Posts: 393
    My friend Dennis' guitar is setup exactly the opposite (low Bass E and high treble E)

    Old thread, but interesting! I've owned a couple of Selmer-style guitars, and the bass side of the bridge were a little higher on all of those guitars, if my memory isn't completely wrong. This seems very logical to me. I suppose the bass strings would need just a little extra space to be able to vibrate freely compared to the treble strings.

    But on the guitar I have now, there is no difference in height between the bass side and the treble side of the bridge. Also, I'm having problems with a buzzing low E string (mostly around the seventh fret). And I thought that the design of the bridge might be a good place to start.

    Now I'm not so sure anymore. If it's possible to have the bass E string lower than the treble E, there must be other things involved. I'm going to take my guitar to a luthier, but it could perhaps be good to have some kind of idea of what to do. Selmer style guitars are pretty rare where I live and I'm not sure how familiar luthiers here are with them. Any suggestions?
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    This was a long time ago, so I'm not 100% sure that I remember it accurately, but... at the time, I think both Dennis and I had fairly timid instruments and in particular, in retrospect, IIRC, his guitar didn't have a lot of treble cut, hence the odd setup. But again - it was a long time ago. Dennis has had half a dozen guitars since then, but I remember he had one back in the day that was a bit on the quiet side.

    I had mine setup high because it didn't have much of a bass response and I was doing un-amplified rhythm for a band run by a bass player who insisted on running the mixing board and kept the rhythm guitar low in the mix, which usually caused the lead guitar to look over at me and ask for more rhythm. So I strung high and played really loud acoustically which made the lead guitar player happy, but gave me earaches. Lol. Ah, we 'was jest kids then! But part of the reason I started building was to get a guitar with some balls so I could use a more normal setup and pompe. But... playing a softer guitar early on helped me with right and left hand technique, so as much of a PITA it was to play so hard with such high action and go home from gigs with ear-aches, it was good motivation to build and good technique training, and hey...the gigs were actually a lot of fun. Good music - good friends - how could it get better ;-)

    But to answer your question directly, I don't play with action that high anymore and I've played several of Dennis' newer guitars and also lent him some for shows and none of them had high or inverted setups like that, so I think it might have been an equipment related thing. I do ~2.75/2.1mm for my 670 scale guitar and about 2.9/2.25mm for my 640 scale guitar, and if you have a good guitar it shouldn't require a high setup or an unusual inverted setup with higher treble strings than bass.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • MatteoMatteo Sweden✭✭✭✭ JWC Modele Jazz, Lottonen "Selmer-Maccaferri"
    edited August 2016 Posts: 393
    Wow, thanks a million! I was wondering about reasonable hight for short scale guitars and that it might differ a little bit from long scale. And I got an answer without specifically asking about it.

    String thickness might also play a role, don't you think? Argentine 10's might need an extra millimeter or so because of lower tension and more wobbling about as they vibrate? At least on the bass side? Or am I wrong here?

    I hope I've got a good guitar. Maybe the even bridge height is there to ensure a good balance between bass and treble? But I hope small adjustments won't throw that away.

    Ha ha, high action and hitting hard to be heard acoustically; I've done that too. And with a 5 mm Wegen as part of the arsenal. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Well what can you do when the people around you play trumpets, piano and drums etc?
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    Matteo wrote: »
    Maybe the even bridge height is there to ensure a good balance between bass and treble? But I hope small adjustments won't throw that away

    I'm sure it's fine. I've never heard of that builder, but if he's experienced, then he's probably doing it for a reason. There are any number of ways he could vary the relative tension of the treble & bass strings, and canting the fretboard plane relative to the rims or using brace or rim asymmetry would do it. It's not a common technique, but it has been around for a long time. I've tried it, and it indeed does alter the bass/treble balance depending on which way you cant the neck plane/azimuth, but I prefer other ways of balancing the bass/treble because altering string tension in that way changes the string feel a little. A lot of Western-style builders used fanned frets to vary the scale length of the bass vs treble strings and some of the more extreme variances are very weird guitars to play, because the more extreme the variance between bass & treble scale length, the more it changes the relative tension of the bass & treble strings. Having equal bass/treble bridge height and standard frets on a gypsy guitar seems fine - that's a fairly small amount of change compared to what some builders are doing.

    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • MatteoMatteo Sweden✭✭✭✭ JWC Modele Jazz, Lottonen "Selmer-Maccaferri"
    Posts: 393
    Yes, I've come to the conclusion that the bridge is made that way for a good reason. He seems to be experienced; he builds all kinds of guitars and similar instruments, together with a few coworkers in Helsinki. I'm afraid I got lost with your technical explanations, though. I think I'll talk to a luthier here and see what adjustments he can think of, based on how the guitar is built. He is an experienced person too and should be able to make good judgements. He builds steel string flat top guitars and repairs all kind of stringed instruments. But Selmer-Maccaferri style guitars aren't exactly the most common guitars here. So I'm a little bit worried anyway.
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