Action height and volume.

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Action height and volume.

Postby ricbleu » Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:50 am

Why does raising the action on an acoustic guitar cause an increase in the volume, and if you raised the action on a flattop by about 1mm, how much extra volume would you hear? Also, does the same principle apply to resonators or is it the string gauge alone that increases the volume? Or is it a combination of both? :D Peace
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Re: Action height and volume.

Postby guitarslim101 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:18 pm

It has to do with a couple of things. If you raise the action at the saddle on an acoustic guitar, it increases the downward pressure on the top of the guitar which results in a better transfer of vibration from the strings to the soundboard. Raise it too much, though, and you put too much pressure on the soundboard and it begins muffling the vibration again. The other reason is having slightly higher action gives the strings an extra bit of space to vibrate through their full range of motion, which can make them sound a bit louder.

As far as how much the volume would increase, that is very much related to the individual guitar. Each guitar has a sweet spot for the saddle height, so raising the saddle on your acoustic may not make much of a difference. Giving the strings that extra little bit of space from raising the action may give you a touch more sustain and clarity, though, which can certainly have the same benefits of being slightly louder. When I set up my acoustics and acoustics for customers at the store, I aim for between a 45 and 60 degree break-angle for the strings between the saddle and the string pins as a starting point.

For the resonators, in my experience, there is a definite relation with the saddle height and the amount of volume (and the tone) produced by the cone. Again, it has to do with downward pressure and properly loading the cone, and just like a flattop acoustic, each cone has its own sweet spot for the saddle height.

Of course this is all just in my experience. I've played on some acoustics with a very shallow break over the saddle and they've had incredible amounts of volume. When all is said and done, some acoustics are loud, some aren't. It's easy enough to play with the string height and see if it makes a difference for you, though, so I hope this all helps.
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Re: Action height and volume.

Postby ricbleu » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:13 pm

Thanks, GSlim, that's a pretty complete answer. And more knowledge is always a good thing (I think). We can just pick 'em up and play 'em but knowing what makes things work best is a real asset and for those of us who do our own setups, it's vital that we understand why we are making an adjustment. :D Peace.
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Re: Action height and volume.

Postby Jakeblues » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:26 pm

As GS101 alluded to, it's more the break angle than the action, per se. In most cases, the only way to increase the break angle is to raise the action at the bridge.
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Re: Action height and volume.

Postby guitarslim101 » Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:42 pm

ricbleu wrote:Thanks, GSlim, that's a pretty complete answer. And more knowledge is always a good thing (I think). We can just pick 'em up and play 'em but knowing what makes things work best is a real asset and for those of us who do our own setups, it's vital that we understand why we are making an adjustment. :D Peace.


You're very welcome. Fortunately saddle height adjustment on an acoustic is something easy enough to play around with that you can experiment with a few different heights/materials/etc and see what difference they make for your guitar. Might have to mangle a few saddles in the process, but that's part of the fun (frustration) of learning how to do all this stuff.
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