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Old 09-16-2019, 08:50 AM
Amwolf607 Amwolf607 is offline
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Default Lowering action on Martin

Hi all - I have a Martin Custom DSR I bought used which has a fairly high action. I took it to the luthier who said the action is within Martin specs, so I didn't lower it. However, since then I bought a Taylor Big Baby that needed the neck reset to adjust the action. The Taylor now plays quite a bit easier than the Martin. But I'm concerned I may lose a lot of volume and maybe, from what I read, change the tone. I've only been playing for a short period of time and am still learning, I just don't want to regret changing the action without getting some input. Thoughts?
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Old 09-16-2019, 08:57 AM
mirwa mirwa is offline
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Specifications are really irrelevant, it is about how it feels to you, if the Martin feels high then get it lowered. If the baby feels too low have it raised.

I have set guitars with high actions and insanely low actions, neither fitted in a manufacturers specs and neither would i play, however totally irrelevant, its how the owner would like it to be for their comfort, have them setup for you.

Steve
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:03 AM
mondoslug mondoslug is offline
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Originally Posted by mirwa View Post
Specifications are really irrelevant, it is about how it feels to you,
Steve
I concur. I had some work done recently at a new place and I do like the place but the tech said to me, the action's about where it should be. I was entertained, I'm like uhhh yeah, says who?
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:11 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Originally Posted by Amwolf607 View Post
I'm concerned I may lose a lot of volume and maybe, from what I read, change the tone.
Does it matter what it sounds like if it is too hard to play?

Whether or not changing the saddle height changes the tone depends upon the individual instrument as well as how much change in height is involved.

As others have said, have it adjusted for your comfort and playability. If there is a change in tone that you don't like and can't live with, you can then think about keeping it or finding another. IF that happens, it is worth discussing the details of THAT individual instrument and why it happened on THAT individual instrument.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:21 AM
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blindboyjimi blindboyjimi is offline
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There are tons of beginners here that read but don’t post so this is for the OP and any newbie.

Action depends on how you play and where you play. Action is defined as the distance from the bottom of the string to the top of the 12th fret, i.e., the air gap from the fret to the string. Action is easy to lower but much more difficult to raise. Taylor’s are traditionally lower and easier to play. Martin’s are the traditional Bluegrass guitar and are set up from the factory to be able to hit the strings hard and have no buzzing and their dealer network are supposed to set up the guitar. Martin uses the PLEK machine but leaves final dialing in for the dealer, especially the nut slots and bridge pin fit. Martin’s upper limit is 3.5/32” bass E and 2.5/32” on the treble e with a maximum relief of 0.010”.

Well, if you’re a fingerstyle player or a soft singer songwriter then you’ll want it lower. That’s really high for me even “in spec”. Take it to someone who will listen to you. If you are a beginner then bring in that Taylor and have them measure it and duplicate it on the Martin. The issue most techs have is that most customers come in and say, “I want it as low as you can go”, yet then they strum it hard and it buzzes and the customer goes on Yelp with 30 gmail addresses and leaves a ton of bad reviews.

So find a tech in your area that maybe a guitar teacher recommends and the order is simple. The nut slots on a new Martin will need to be lowered. Then once the nut is correct (my guitars are set up 0.0-0.005” above the first fret). Then adjust the relief (my number is almost flat at 0.005”) and only then look at the 12th fret action. I’m a very light to medium finger picker with acrylic nails so I go to 0.090” and 0.060” which is just lower than 3/32” and 2/32”.

Best of luck. I hope this helps.

Edit: as I was typing the above post was made. Tone is based on the guitar. Once tuned to pitch the tension on the top is the same. There are a lot of posts here and on all forums about needing the “break angle to be high”. While that’s true in theory, you can’t have it both ways, unless a luthier is building a custom guitar for you and knows your specs before hand. If the guitar’s action needs a range of 3.5/32”- 2/32” then the saddle needs to be at the highest level above the bridge not to put any pressure on the front of the bridge and crack it. Therefore, there is a maximum height the saddle can be. If you lower the action then you lower the saddle by twice the amount you need at the 12th fret. So if you lower the action “as low as you can go” you cannot and should not have a huge break angle. Which again is why Martin sells their guitars with high action and high saddles. The only guitars you want to avoid are those that come from the factory with high action but low saddles, that’s a quality control issue. The break angle idea comes from older guitars that have almost no saddle and high action. These are in need of a neck re-set and often, after a neck re-set, the guitar does sound better. That’s why I say it works in theory because techs should not be re-setting every guitar with a low saddle. You only re-set when you can no longer lower the saddle and the action is too high.
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Last edited by blindboyjimi; 09-16-2019 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:08 PM
jimki567 jimki567 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amwolf607 View Post
Hi all - I have a Martin Custom DSR I bought used which has a fairly high action. I took it to the luthier who said the action is within Martin specs, so I didn't lower it. However, since then I bought a Taylor Big Baby that needed the neck reset to adjust the action. The Taylor now plays quite a bit easier than the Martin. But I'm concerned I may lose a lot of volume and maybe, from what I read, change the tone. I've only been playing for a short period of time and am still learning, I just don't want to regret changing the action without getting some input. Thoughts?
Hello,

I replace the factory saddle, with one of a height that I prefer. I keep the factory saddle in case i resell the guitar at some point, change saddle... viola, factory spec again. I have one D-28 that I bar cord with. It`s set up at 5/64`s and 4/64`s...sounds good enough for me. If the neck is straight, and there`s a tiny bit of relief...you`re good to go with a low action...unless of course you a hard hitting flat picker...really hard I mean.

Regards,
Jim
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