String height from the body, or why also Steve Vai put a pad on his Green Meanie

It has now been a while since I felt some guitars sort of uncomfortable to play for my right hand. So much that I had to make and install a plastic pad on my seven string Ibanez S7420 (perhaps you can see the pad in some of my stage pictures).

I thought it was just a matter of body shape: since I anchor my right wrist to the body a lot, I believed that the Saber shape was increasing the angle between my picking hand and the strings too much. But today I noticed that, even though my RG 1520A and my LTD GL-256 have both a flat body, I feel much more comfortable with the LTD (which is basically equivalent to a Fender Strat). On the contrary, with the RG I have the same weird S7420 feeling.

Long story short, today I understood that the key factor is the string height from the body: all my Ibbies have a fairly low action, yet the distance string-body ranges from 10mm to 13mm. The LTD instead, having a vintage tremolo and a pickguard, has distance ca 7mm.

Interestingly, I found that already in the 80s Steve Vai used a similar pad on his Green Meanie (a Charvel SoCal) for the exact same reason. This happened because he passed from a Fender Strat to a Floyd Rose guitar. He also anchored his right wrist on the body much more than now.

I hope that these info can be useful to some other people who find that some guitars feel sort of “wrong” to them. Also because the right hand is overlooked very often…remember that “the left hand is the steering wheel, but the right hand is the engine” (unless you play only legatos 😀 ) !

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