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May 30, 2020 - 7:03:12 AM

Ybanjo

USA

669 posts since 11/15/2009

I like my action as low as I can get it without buzzing, but it seems like almost everyone else likes it much higher. I shoot for 0.1 inch at 21st fret. Even lower if possible. I don't seem to have buzzing. Just wondering why so many feel like they need the higher action. I have talked with some players that want the action close to 1/4 inch! I would pull 1st string off the neck with that height.

So, how high do you like it, and why??

Edited by - Ybanjo on 05/30/2020 09:01:06

May 30, 2020 - 7:35:45 AM

39 posts since 2/25/2017

Just measured mine, and it's 1/8 at the 12th, 3/16 at the 21st. I like it lower for fingerpicking cause it's easier to play faster for me. I actually had it lower at one point, but the neck has a bit of a backbow so I had to raise it w/ the truss rod.

May 30, 2020 - 8:11:31 AM

714 posts since 7/8/2006

Like you, I like close action along the neck. But you do not want very close action over the head, especially if you are using finger picks (as I do). Too close an action over the head will give you a scratchy sound as well as possibly damaging the head over time. My goal is to keep a good 5/8 minimum height over the head while maintaining a low action over the neck. Probably not a task for the average do-it-yourself er. A good luthier can best do it. Happy pickin' .

May 30, 2020 - 9:04:14 AM

BobbyE

USA

2709 posts since 11/29/2007

I have never measured mine but personally, I want enough height to be able to get the end of my finger under the string enough to snap the string when doing pull-offs and them respond like you did a pull-off. If a player can achieve this with low action, then go for it. Just my personal preference.

Bobby

May 30, 2020 - 9:09:46 AM

10802 posts since 2/12/2011

2 pennies snug under fret 12. Sounds best to me.

May 30, 2020 - 9:36:07 AM
likes this

Alex Z

USA

3850 posts since 12/7/2006

"as low as I can get it without buzzing"

Every banjo and guitar player wants the same thing.  smiley   But we all play differently.  And so the "as low as" is different too.

For example, Tony Rice's guitar action is so low that no other player can play it, yet Mr. Tony gets a solid, clear sound with beautiful tone.

The survey of top professionals in "Masters of the 5-String Banjo" regarding 12th fret action (not 21st fret) showed 9 of 68 players under 1/8", and the remaining at or above 1/8".

1/8 is .125 inches at the 12th fret.  The poster is at .100" at the 21st fret, which relative to the survey is real low.

May 30, 2020 - 9:42:29 AM

Ybanjo

USA

669 posts since 11/15/2009

I agree that 0.1 inch is very low, but I can get it there without buzzing. I'm not a hard player, and I'm sure that makes a difference. The bow of the neck is critical as well. Just a little either way can cause trouble.

A couple of years ago I got Geoff Stelling to build me a custom "Carolinian" banjo. When giving him the requirements, I said I wanted action at 0.1 on 21st fret. He said that was too low and would buzz. So, I said just make is as low as possible without buzzing. When I went to pick it up, he had action at 0.1 inches! He said he would have never believed that it could be that low without buzzing.

May 30, 2020 - 11:30:06 AM

554 posts since 1/28/2013

Pull offs and hammer ons sound better at 1/8th. Also, sometimes tone is also better with 1/8th or higher, and you can play closer to the fret board.

May 30, 2020 - 2:00:32 PM

Alex Z

USA

3850 posts since 12/7/2006

If its sounds good at .100 at the 21st fret, then you have a great touch, precise.  Not many can do that.  Enjoy!  

May 30, 2020 - 3:58:44 PM

Alex Z

USA

3850 posts since 12/7/2006

When the string height is .100 at the 21st fret, would you mind giving the height at the 12th fret?  Kind of a calibration so I can get a better idea of what you're playing.  Thanks.

May 30, 2020 - 4:13:32 PM

Ybanjo

USA

669 posts since 11/15/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

When the string height is .100 at the 21st fret, would you mind giving the height at the 12th fret?  Kind of a calibration so I can get a better idea of what you're playing.  Thanks.


It's almost exactly 0.1 at 12th fret as well, because of the slight bow of the neck.  from about the 5th to the 21st fret, the height doesn't change much.  That's one reason the neck bow is crucial to getting the action so low (from my experience).

May 30, 2020 - 7:56:27 PM

Alex Z

USA

3850 posts since 12/7/2006

With the string height about the same from the 12th fret to the 21st, that means there is a lot of bow (relief) in the neck, more that most have.

You have a little under 7/64" at the 12th fret, which many find OK.  With a more typical amount of neck relief, if the 12th fret were 7/64, the 21st fret would be around 8.5/64, or about .133.  You've lowered the 21st fret string height, and so have to increase the neck relief to get clear notes at the low frets.

What you're gaining with the set up -- compared to one with less neck relief -- is lower string height above the 12th fret, as a trade-off with higher string height below the 12th fret.  That works for you, although not for everyone.

Thanks for the information.

Since you asked about others, I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum:  straighter neck with low neck relief in the .017-.020 range, 12th fret about 1/8" and 22nd fret wherever it falls, which ends up around 5/32".  If I played your banjo, I'd probably get buzzing in the 6-14 fret range, and find that the notes in the 6-10 fret range would sound of of tune to me and feel stiff -- and that's due to the way my left hand and right hand are working.  High notes would feel easy to play.  But that's me.

If you played my banjo, to you it would feel great -- lower action -- up to about the 10th fret, then would start feeling more and more stiff the higher you went, up to the 22nd fret.

Edited by - Alex Z on 05/30/2020 20:06:12

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