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Alembic Club » Owning an Alembic » Troubleshooting » Archive through February 01, 2008 » How low is "too low"? « Previous Next »

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Username: neurotictim

Post Number: 27
Registered: 1-2008
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2008 - 2:46 pm:   Edit Post

Okay, so I searched, and the most recent post I could find was from 02...

I followed Joey's post about setup, and subsequent posts when I had questions, and after letting her settle in, I'm happy to report that the setup is just perfect. The amount of adjusting I can do on this bass is a real treat... Well, the precision with which I can adjust is refreshing. :-)

At any rate, I've finally got the action where I want it, and it's lower than I'm used to. On my Cort, and Fender P-bass, the action is set to roughly 1/8" across the fretboard. It's what I'm used to, and I play with a heavy touch, so it works.

I've got the Epic strung with medium Dean Markley Cryos, set to 5/64" on the B and a touch over 1/16" on the G... That's as low as I can go without rattling the crap out of it. The cryo's are what I'm used to, I may have to try out the Elixirs next time - my neighbor's Warwick is strung up with those, and they're great sounding on that.

Anyway, how low do you all go? Is my action weird, or does that sound about right for these basses? I know it's all in how you play, I'm just trying to get a general idea.
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 2882
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2008 - 3:00 pm:   Edit Post

If you like it and it's not buzzing or fretting out, then the action is fine. If it's too low for your taste, then it's too low. Other than fret buzz/fretting out, action is a matter of taste. I believe John Entwistle had his action so low that he could almost play a note by breathing hard on the string at any particular fret. Jerry Garcia had his so high that a Cessna with a good pilot could fly between the fretboard and the strings! (Obviously these are slight exaggerations, but I hope they get the point across).

Bill, tgo
Senior Member
Username: byoung

Post Number: 913
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2008 - 3:07 pm:   Edit Post

Action is a very personal thing; it is directly related to playing style, etc.

If it works for you, then it is set properly.

The difference between "Butter!" and a virtually unplayable instrument isn't really all that large, and truly learning to set up instruments is worth any amount of time it takes.
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1273
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2008 - 6:02 pm:   Edit Post

You've obviously discovered the adjustability these things have due to ALEMBIC's feature set, especially the adjustable nut and the one-piece bridge.

I found that these features allowed me to experiment, turn my bass into a log once or twice, then restore it with just a few turns of the allen wrench back to fine playability. I took what I found out and was able to apply it to my other axes after I perfected it on the ALEMBIC. I'd have never had the patience to learn this on a Fender, saddle at a time, unbolt the neck, plastic nut, etc.

It's a skill that has served me well: They'll never darken a repairman's door unless they need major surgery. I'm always amazed at the genius built into these things on a very practical, user-friendly level, as I'm CERTAINLY not the most mechanical person out there ! Most guys are stupefied to find my ALEMBIC plays easier than their Les Paul or Strat, much less the usual PBass or Music Man.

* * * * * *

YOUR perfect action is like your idea of a perfect steak or a pretty girl: It's yours alone. There really is no 'right' set of numbers. The great thing now? When you put Elixirs on it, IF the neck reacts differently, now YOU know how to put it right back where you want it. To lift a line from the commercial, 'that's priceless'.

You'll fool around with this enough you'll know by feel IF it's moved, and you'll be sharp enough to 'eyeball'it back: It really will become that intuitive once your hands learn that feel.

And if you follow a similar evolution most of us did, as you learn to appreciate a lower action (and a generally lighter touch as you get used to it), you'll find you now longer fram the beJeezus out of your other axes like I once did.

Once more, remember, I'm not this smart. I got all of this from Dan Erlewine's excellent book,
"The Guitar Player Repair Guide", available through StewMac or the usual suspects online or at the mall. If you're at all interested in getting 'under the hood'of your axes, I can't recommend it highly enough.

* * * * *

These are expensive instruments, but what they've taught me about so many things puts me WAY past break-even. I can think of no other bass that would move my mind like these, and offer the value I've found in them.

J o e y
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1763
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Saturday, January 19, 2008 - 2:21 am:   Edit Post

Also with the lighter touch, it unties those virtual shoelaces on your fingers, and enables you to do runs and intervals that you may have thought impossible before.

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