Considerations for Building Cigar Box Guitars from a Players/Musicians Perspective 2

Many builders are new to music, so here are some thoughts about what makes an instrument function better from a musical perspective.
String Height: The distance the strings run above the fingerboard is called string "Action". Guitars that are played in the lap style using a metal bar to fret the notes have high action. They usually have no metal frets, but just lines across the fingerboard.This style is popular with Hawaiian and Country Dobro Bluegrass players.
For the more conventional style of holding the guitar, the action needs to be low. This makes fretting the notes easier. Furthermore, understand when you push down on a string to fret a note, this actually bends the string causing the note to play slightly out of tune. If the action it too high, the guitar will play way out of tune. On an acoustic guitar, a correct string height at the 12 fret is about 1/8".
Neck angle to the body, string gauge, tuning, nut and bridge height all affect action. Guitars with a truss rod installed in the neck makes it possible to make adjustments so the guitar plays in perfect pitch. When the guitar plays the correct notes on any fret on any string, the guitar has good "Intonation".
Please share any thoughts you have about String Height.

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Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on October 13, 2012 at 8:35am

Thank you Jay for your contribution. Interesting point about the string height across the soundboard. I plan to continue posting various subjects. My hope is that more members will consider opening up and sharing their insights. Enjoy your builds, Keni Lee 

Comment by Seaman Jay on October 13, 2012 at 7:28am

Great series - keep'em coming, Keni!

When speaking about "string height" almost everybody thinks about "action". That's only a part of the whole truth (valid more or less up to the highest fret on the fretboard ;-) ) 

What makes a good instrument (or at least one compatible to the player) is also the string height above the soundboard, influenced by the action, neck angle, fingerboard thickness and the height of the bridge.

Some like it flat, some prefer to rake the strings with the fingers.

All the factors change also the volume and sound of the instrument. Higher bridge makes the instrument a bit louder, but then, to keep the action low, one has to change the neck angle (and/or fretboard thickness).

Playing fretless one may want to use the soundboard for really high-pitch tones - a flat fingerboard (almost flush with the soundboard) make it easier....

Just my .02EUR 

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