String Action - Please help!

edited October 2011 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 8
Hi fellow gypsy jazz fans!

I have been playing this style now for about half a year.
I own a Dell Arte Jimmy Rosenberg model that I purchased here on Djangobooks.
So I am an obvious Jimmy Rosenberg fan. I want to get as close to his sound as possible, and I know
that he uses real high action.
If anyone here know approximately how high action he uses, I will be happy to know it.
I am not a "hobby player" , I practise guitar all day long so accomodating to the action is no problem - I will work up to it.
I am more a player than anything else, so I am not that knowledgeable around guitar setup. If anyone can explain how to raise the action on gypsy jazz guitars, or have any links, please help.

Your help will be appreciated!


  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 794
    I don't know what kind of action Jimmy might use. However, to raise the action, shims under the bridge feet are typically used. Old cut up plastic cards, like a credit card, work good. You can also use wood shims. A wooden ice cream (Popsicle) stick works good, they are usually maple and are about twice as thick as credit cards. If you need something real high, you might have to cut your own from hard wood. Rosewood or ebony is nice, but not really necessary. The main thing is the surfaces need to be smooth and parallel, otherwise the fit to the top will be effected.

    There is a running argument about gluing vs. not gluing the shims to the bridge bases. Personally I can't hear the difference and do not glue mine so as to make easy changes. Once you get the height figured out and dialed in, you might want to have someone make a new bridge for you that fits just right, but shims are very commonly used and should not be seen as bad.

  • StevearenoSteveareno ✭✭✭
    Posts: 349
    I recently shimmed the bridge on my Dell Arte and am happy I did. I was reluctant to do so, becasue I thought it had a BigTone installed with a wire coming out of the bridge...turned out's some kind of Transducer shaped like a bowling pin, stuck to the inside top near the bridge (maybe a McIntyre??). :?: The action was nice and low (about 2 mm), but I have grown to prefer slighly higher action on all my guitars. I used popsicle sticks (actually a little wider and thinner than the sticks I remember as a kid). Bought a whole pack for a couple of bucks at the local drugstore (RiteAid)...I think they were in the crafts section. Cut to size, sanded and tinted with a wood touch up pen and fitted them in place on each side of the bridge. Didn't glue them. Sounds and plays better....and is louder. :)
    Swang on,
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,250
    Don't worry too much about ultra high action. It's an unusual thing and you don't need it to sound good or play traditionally if the guitar is built right. I've set up guitars for a bunch of these players and I've only met two who played with action over 3mm - and then - only on the low side of the strings. A good standard setup that is playable and will give you a clean sound (if your frets & fretboard are right) is 3mm low E and 2.5mm high E. Measure this at the 12th fret as the distance between the underside of the string and the top of the fret. Sometimes if you have a guitar that is overbuilt or dipped in plastic etc., you have to crank the low E string up to get it to have some bass response. For a well built guitar, that can work exactly backward & kill the tone. Anyway, I've never set one up for Jimmy Rosenberg, but in his life, Jimmy has owned a lot of guitars - some were great and some were not so great. Perhaps someone played a guitar of his that he had cranked to get some response from and thought he must prefer a high action. Another thing is that these guitars get out of alignment because artists play them more in a week then we play them in a month and they're sort of sensitive to humidity anyway, so they're always a few tenths of a millimeter away from where you set them, so don't stress out about that too much. A good GJ guitar will sound and play just fine +/- 0.2mm away from a standard setup and usually you won't even notice it. If you live in a place where the summers and winters are way different in humidity, then you'll probably have a "summer setup" and a "winter setup" but the goals of these two setups will be to achieve a standard setup in that weather.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • Posts: 8
    Thank you for taking the time to reply!
    I am practising all day, but the gear side of things is not my strong side. I can barely string a guitar right. Setting it up is something I know nothing about. I know that the bridge moves when you take off the strings, so when I have been changing strings I have used tape on the bridge to keep it in place.

    I have an old credit card that no longer is valid that I think of chopping to pieces and using these to elevate the bridge slightly - or I might go for the popsicle sticks idea. Right now I get fret buzz. I use the blue argentines and the buzz is not there when I use red ones. I played bebop jazz on archtops with very heavy strings for three years prior to starting manouche, so the blue argentines are most comfortable to me(I like medium or heavy strings) - with a 3.5mm Wegen I get a strong sound using gypsy picking. I liked the red ones too, but I get less volume. I think raising the action will not only remove string buzz with the blue argentines, but also make me able to articulate better and give me more volume.

    However, my problem is I do not know how to intonate the guitar. If the bridge moves, I do not know how to make the guitar properly intonated again so it is in tune all up the neck.

    If anyone can give me a short step by step explanation on how to raise action and then intonate, I will be very grateful.

    I have flirted with the idea of getting a D-hole so I have something to play and then send the Dell Arte to a guitar tech(There is a guy in my town who builds fantastic GJ guitars - he ought to know to set it up). I "need" a D-hole anyway, but the wallet says no currently so I just have to figure out how to raise the bridge without messing up the intonation.

    Thanks in advance for any help!
  • StevearenoSteveareno ✭✭✭
    Posts: 349
    Shimming probably won't change the intonation. It didn't on my guitar. Just put the bridge back into position and check the intonation with an electronic tuner (clip-on tuners work good). If the notes around the 12th fret (harmonics and fretted) are in tune and open strings are in tune, you should be fine. Plus, or minus a few cents is hardle noticable.
    Swang on,
  • Posts: 8
    I put two layers of credit card under the bridge today and stringed the guitar with red argentines.
    BAM! What a sound! I find it is more responsive now. A bit harder to play, but not too much. I will accomodate to it in no time.
    If it messed with the intonation, it is very subtle because it sounds in tune to me.
    I put the bridge in the same place. Now I no longer have buzz because the action is higher.

    After hearing the result I would say it is a matter of preference, but for those who like the strong dutch sound it is not a bad thing to raise the action. I will have to see how I like the higher action over time.
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