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  #1  
Old 05-31-2023, 06:35 PM
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Default HD-28: The "Action" Edition

After getting some very solid and "actionable" suggestions from Sinistral this morning, in this post:
https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/...8&postcount=53

I ran some unscientific yet still statistically completely valid experiments here in my home acoustic guitar laboratory.

The action, meaning space between bottom of string and top of fret at the 12th fret, is identical on the 000-18 and the new HD-28. String gauge is the variable.

On the HD-28, F shape bar chords from the 1st through the 9th fret are easy to play and don't have any dead strings. From the 10th fret on up, it gets more difficult to fret a full bar chord (with medium strings, at the current string height, at my current skill level). It's possible to do it, but not pretty. Partial bar chords, power chords and individual notes are fine to play all the way up to the 14th or 15th fret.

Enter the other dreadnought - I pulled out the Sigma, measured the scale length, put it in standard tuning. The two dreads have the same scale length. Then I did the index card reading. At the 12th fret on the low E, the action is approximately 1/3rd lower. That is maybe about 1mm. The nut on the Sigma is old, and has some damage but the slots are okay. Full bar chords above the 10th fret definitely play easier. It also has medium strings. What I discovered, thank you to Mr. Index Card, is the neck of the Sigma is not totally straight. It's pulled back slightly. It still stays in tune and sounds fine, no buzzing etc. But it's definitely NOT straight. The neck on the HD28 is totally straight.

So now, I have two questions, and also I currently see three options, having compared all the guitars at hand. All of these options are good. The first question is really for myself. The second question is for everyone else.

1) How often do I play or will I be playing full bar chords above the 10th fret on an acoustic that does not have a cutaway? At this point, never. Unknown if this will change in the future.

2) Is it possible to lower the action from the 10th fret up without changing anything between frets 1 and 9? Can you just lower one end of things or do you have to bring down the entire string? Can the adjustment be done in such a way that it's reversible in case lowering it causes something to buzz, or just doesn't feel good?

Three possible options I see for the moment:

1) Do nothing; play as is and enjoy. Are full bar chords past the 10th fret likely to become necessary in my lifetime? If so, I can revisit this question or better idea... buy another guitar! Have Index Card, Will Travel.

2) Swap the medium strings for lights and see what that changes and if I like it. Lighter strings will ease the action all the way up and down the neck but I might lose some of that lovely rosewood rumble that sold me on the guitar. If it needs a minor adjustment to the truss rod to optimize lighter strings, I think my husband can help, or I can take it a shop and ask, or god forbid, possibly even do it myself. :-0

3) Take it to a professional tech and discuss what he or she might do to adjust the action on the higher frets, given all this information I've uncovered. I lean heavily toward only making changes that could be easily reversed.

Take Aways:

1) Keeping the Sigma. Best $250 I ever spent in. my. life. It's tuned to standard right now and back in rotation. It's a good player; might have to move him to the infield. He's eyeing that Third Base opening.

2) Always carry a ruled index card in your purse. You never know when you might be called upon to measure and compare guitar action.

3) Nothing is perfect; least of all guitars. Every guitar has its quirks and idiosyncrasies that you either play with, play around or try to adjust. Same could also be said of their players.
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  #2  
Old 05-31-2023, 06:39 PM
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PS I am learning a TON!!!

PSS And now, what is so excellent, is I have three concrete points of reference I can use to help me decide what to do, if I do anything. Yes!
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  #3  
Old 05-31-2023, 07:09 PM
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I'd buy a " cheater " (capo ) , as Doc Watson would say

and play only three cowboy chords to stay in key....

barre chords past the 9th fret....
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Old 05-31-2023, 07:11 PM
EZYPIKINS EZYPIKINS is offline
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Cutting the nut slots lowers the lower part of the fretboard.

Lowering the saddle lowers the upper part of the neck.

Truss rod changes the relief, in the center portion of the neck.

If you have three guitars that are all different, I suspect none have ever had a setup.

Find yourself a tech that others trust. (guys at Guitar Center are not techs).

The nut measurement is pretty universal. Either the first few frets play in tune, or they are sharp. If they are sharp, slot needs to come down.

If it's difficult to play an F chord. Chances are pretty good, the slots are too high.

Action from the bridge saddle, is subjective. The harder you play, the higher you will want it. For example, finger pickers, such as myself like lower action at the 12th fret.

Bluegrassers, have a much more violent attack, and need a higher action.

Mine are lower than most at the 12th. .052"-.042"

I play 11-52 strings. #6 top string has a gap at the 12th fret, that's the same thickness as the string. It's also just shy of the thickness of a U.S. dime. That's about as low as you can get, without buzzing, while playing my style music.
action.jpg

Truss rod relief I set between .005- .007

All my acoustics are set up this same way. All play like a dream.

I keep a truss rod wrench in each case. As seasons change, it will need slight adjustments.

Also, in KC area I keep Humidipak's in guitars, and keep guitars in case.

Last edited by EZYPIKINS; 05-31-2023 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 05-31-2023, 07:36 PM
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Great write-up! My feeling is, if the guitar is comfortable to play the way YOU play it, leave it alone. I’m playing for over 40 years and I never play full barre chords that high up the neck on my acoustic. Rarely do I do that on an electric. I play single note leads up there and even then I am rarely above the 14th fret. A tech may be able to tweak the truss rod a touch, but would likely shave the saddle to lower the action that high up, and that isn’t easily reversed. That said, if you take it to a good tech, there is very little likelihood that you’ll be unhappy with the results. You just may not reap all of the benefits.
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Old 05-31-2023, 08:16 PM
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Janine, could it be that thereís a bit too much relief? It would show up more as you go up the neck.

You know the test:
1) capo 1st fret.
2) press down at 13th fret; this puts the 12th fret between the two press points (I use a second capo to leave hands free).

Then, the relief is the measurement between the 6th fret and the string. You can use automotive feeler gauges.

Thatís all Iíve got! Iím away from my reference, and Iíve never memorized the target 6th fret clearance. Is it 0.08Ē? Whatever. Internet will clear that up fast.

Too much relief: tighten the truss rod (clockwise)
Too little relief: loosen the rod (counterclockwise)

I still think you should just play that thing.
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Old 05-31-2023, 08:25 PM
Sadie-f Sadie-f is offline
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I don't have energy to do the sums this late, however in terms of force, a bar at first fret is always going to require more force than any higher position. I suspect if above 9th is harder, that's ergonomic. (This is assuming action settings at nut and saddle are fundamentally sane)
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Old 05-31-2023, 09:47 PM
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Before going down to lights, maybe try 12.5s? Martin and a few others sell them. That may do the trick. Perhaps check neck relief if you have not do so already? Action on a Martin is either complicated or simple matter. It's complicated if you want HUGE sound and low action. It's simple if you want HUGE sound and factory setup. I have "ruined" a few good Martin dreadnoughts trying to get the action very low. You can make it a "little" lower without much fuss. Improve the nut slots action and bring the action at the 12th fret down to about 0.95" on the bass side. It will still sound close to the same. Much lower and I've noticed the bass will drop off quickly. Lighter strings and slightly lower action will probably satisfy if you are playing/singing solo. If you play with a bluegrass band, as I do on occasion, you might prefer the stock setup.

Good luck with the new HD-28!
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Old 05-31-2023, 10:25 PM
Peter Z Peter Z is offline
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Janine,
itís 6 in the morning here and you inspired me to pick up my D-18 with medium strings to try full bar chords from the 10th fret upwards - most probably for the first time in 45 years. Fret 10 was ok but I failed at fret 11. On fret 15 a double stop is all I can offer.
Of course you made me worry if Iím ok - for a few seconds. 😃
I just donít know a song I ever played where I need a full bar chord up there in the stratosphere.

A good professional setup is always nice but guitars are living creatures and the action will change again if you take them out to play. So, I donít care about a few micrometers up or down.

You should keep the Sigma. Itís always good to have a nice cheap guitar available for camp fire sessions or friends/kids who want to make their first steps with guitars or whatever.
You would only get the money for a few not so healthy cheeseburgers when you sell it. Itís much better to have a Sigma instead.
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Old 05-31-2023, 10:40 PM
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If your action is good until the upper register, there are a couple of quick things to check:

1. Saddle Height: if your saddle is up to high it affects the upper register more than the lower. Do you know how to shave it down with sand paper?

2. Truss rod adjustment - do you have too much relief in your neck? Meaning when you look up the neck from the bridge, using the body and the strings as flat edges - do you see a dip in the neck from the middle part of the neck to the 12-14 fret area? If its more than just a little slight bit of relief you will need a small truss rod adjustment. Work in slight corrections going clockwise to tighten - flatten the relief a bit. Donít turn more than about 15-20 degrees of turn on the wrench and recheck. Give it a minute or two to adjust. Be careful and donít do too much.

If youíre not sure what to do, get a tech to do a quick setup for you. Shouldnít be a big deal.

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Old 05-31-2023, 11:52 PM
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For what it's worth, I have some nice guitars with great setups and I can't fret a full barre chord past about fret 10 or 11; there just isn't enough space for my fingers to get a really clean, reliable sound. Been playing 25 years, it just is what it is. In general I try to avoid barre chords up the neck and use a capo to keep things in key.
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Old 06-01-2023, 12:20 AM
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As I think Janine said a few posts back, there's gotta be a better way to play a D chord than in F position on the tenth fret.

I have been know to hike up to B (7th fret), but that's because the moment in the song called for it.
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Old 06-01-2023, 01:22 AM
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Well, I would personally never need to play full barre chords past the 10th fret myself, so I would keep the medium strings and action as it is on the Martin. But everybody's different, and I don't know what your style is. A good luthier/tech can definitely dial in the action for you if you explain what you want done. Martin sets the action a bit high from the factory, and it is uncomfortable for some folks. I like my dreadnoughts with somewhat high action and medium phosphor bronze strings, as I do a good bit of flatpicking (or try to).

Anyway, congrats on the HD-28. It's always been a dream guitar for me, so I am happy for you.
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Old 06-01-2023, 02:08 AM
mondoslug mondoslug is offline
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Getting lots of great advice.
I'll add some of my own...not saying it's great but it's thoughts.

In no particular order:

You don't need to be playing full barre chords past the 10th fret. Seriously.

Put a set of lights on & see how it is. Just put 'em on and try it.
I've gone my entire life switching back and forth when I decide Mediums are too much of a struggle at times.

Done this tons! This is a very real thing, put a set of Mediums on but put a .013 & .017 up top(E&B).

Somebody mentioned a set of 12.5s. Yeah, try 'em

Find a tech you trust.
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Old 06-01-2023, 06:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by docwatsonfan View Post

barre chords past the 9th fret
There's actually a name for this... Taylor Territory!
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