The action on your electric guitar is the distance from the strings to where they rest on the fretboard. The string height determines how fast and easy you can reach a certain note, which means that it has an effect on every aspect of playing your instrument with ease.
How much do you want in tension? How high should be each individual string rung? What about total body relief for better tone or comfort during performance or practice? These are all questions worth asking yourself before deciding exactly what kind of action height you should use.
This article is going to get into all the questions you need to ask yourself when setting up your guitar’s action and give a basic overview of how they can help with playing anything on any electric guitar.
Table Of Contents
- What Is The Action On A Guitar?
- Deciding On Your Ideal Action
- The ideal action for an electric guitar
- How To Measure Action
- “Low action and no buzz.”
- How To Adjust The Action
- Adjusting the action on a Fender bridge
- Adjusting the action on a Gibson bridge
- How to Measure Your Guitar’s String Height
- Helpful Tools to Measure Guitar Action
- Measuring String Height at the 12th Fret
- Optional Method: Measuring String Height at the 1st Fret
- Alternative Method: The 3rd Fret Press Test
- Common String Height Measurements
- Electric Guitar String Height
- String Height at the 1st Fret
- String Height at the 12th Fret
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Why did my action change without me changing anything?
- What tools do I need to change my guitar’s action?
- Why do cheap guitars have high action?
- Does higher action have a better tone?
- Why would you want high action on a guitar?
- Is low or high action better?
What Is The Action On A Guitar?
The action on a guitar is the distance between the strings and the frets. This space affects how difficult it will be to play certain passages or techniques on a guitar.
If you want more clarity, get higher action (more rotation between bridge and nut). Fret buzz is a problem that plagues all guitars but can be easily fixed. It’s most noticeable in the higher frets, but can also be heard when amplified acoustically. The “leveling frets” refer to having an even fret spacing between each fret, eliminating uneven fret spaces and dead notes caused by too much or too little buzz.
Action is relative, meaning it differs depending on each player’s preference
Deciding On Your Ideal Action
The ideal action for an electric guitar
When it comes to electric guitars, there are a few things you need to consider when deciding on your ideal action:
The gauge of your strings is one factor – the higher the gauge, the more tension on the neck, and the less action you’ll need.
6mm and 1.5mm is very noticeable. A low action seems to be the standard for shredders, but some will bring it down to 1mm on the treble strings to get that extra bit of speed.
You should also consider how close you want your strings to the fretboard. Thinner strings tend to buzz more, and thicker strings move less, so you can bring them closer to the fretboard without dead notes.
How To Measure Action
“Low action and no buzz.”
There is a lot of debate over how low the action on a guitar should be. The goal of measuring action is to get it as low as possible, but with no fret buzz. This can be difficult to achieve, and sometimes the lower strings on an electric guitar are more likely to produce fret buzz than higher ones.
To prevent measurements from being skewed by the nut height, use a capo at the first fret. Remember to have your capo in place during every setup, as it will give you lower measurements when installed on your guitar. After setting up, decide whether to raise or lower the action. Jeff Beck prefers low action, and Stevie Ray Vaughn wants a higher action for his technique. You may need to experiment with playing styles.
How To Adjust The Action
Adjusting the action on a Fender bridge
To adjust the action on a Fender bridge, you will need:
- A wrench size appropriate for the set screws on your guitar
- A string gauge to measure action height
Set the action for each string 1/64th of an inch lower than the next. This can be done with a ruler and a simple calculation, or by using specific gauges made for this task. The most common way to measure string height is with a radius gauge. You can cascade the measurements from tallest to lowest, or from widest to narrowest. Fender action specifications are used to specify the guitar’s string action. They usually come in three numbers: 36, 40, and 42 millimeters of string height from the fretboard
Adjusting the action on a Gibson bridge
Gibson Tune-o-Matic bridges are factory set and cannot be adjusted. However, when they are adjusted, the action at the 12th fret should be checked to ensure that it is not low enough to inhibit vibrations. The bridge height can be raised or lowered by adjusting screws on the guitar or tuning post respectively. Consider the action of your guitar and set it accordingly. The stop bar tailpiece is where the strings are attached to the guitar, so adjust that while you tune-up. Pitch accuracy and intonation are fine-tuned here.
How to Measure Your Guitar’s String Height
Helpful Tools to Measure Guitar Action
In order to measure string height, you’ll need a precision-ground metric ruler.
A string action gauge is helpful for other guitar measurements as well.
Feeler gauges are optional and can be used if also measuring the 1st fret of the strings
The Hotop 32-Blade Feeler Gauge Set is the best tool for measuring first fret string height.
You can check 1st fret height without any tools by pressing your thumb on the strings near the nut and gauging how high they are from there to the fretboard.
Measuring String Height at the 12th Fret
String height is taken at the 12th fret with the strings open. This is the distance from the top of the fingerboard to the bottom of a guitar’s strings.
String height can be measured under the two outer E-strings only, not the middle four. Always measure string height from the guitar in its playing position, not on its back.
The String Action Gauge has black lines that are 0.1mm thick, so adding one millimeter to whatever you see there should work for most gauges. To measure string height:
Place a string on a fret of your guitar and measure how high it goes before touching any frets – this is your string height measurement.
Optional Method: Measuring String Height at the 1st Fret
String height can be measured at the 1st fret by using a feeler gauge or ruler. When measuring string height, it is important to keep in mind that the 1st fret is not as important as the nut.
A feeler gauge is a tool used to measure string height. The 1st fret is not as important as the nut when measuring string height using a feeler gauge.
Measuring string height is difficult, which makes it best to use a gauge tool. A string action gauge is useful for determining the guitar’s 1st fret action and other measurements.
When measuring the treble strings from the nut to the first fret, you can use either a ruler or measuring tape. If you are using a ruler, make sure to measure in millimeters (mm). Most rulers have markings on them every mm so it will be easy to get an accurate measurement this way. Another option would be to use 5mm and/or feeler gauges if you want to measure your 1st fret string height more precisely than with a ruler or measuring tape. The Hotop 32-Blade Feeler Gauge Set is recommended for checking the 1st fret string height without any tools.
Alternative Method: The 3rd Fret Press Test
The “3rd fret press test” is a great way to determine whether your guitar’s string height needs adjustment.
The “3rd fret press test” is better than running your finger up the neck to measure string height because it gives you more control over the process.
To measure your guitar’s string height, you need a ruler.
Measure the distance between the bottom of each string and the top of the bridge.
Common String Height Measurements
There are four general categories for string height: low, medium, high, and extra-high. While there are standard measurements for each of these categories, it’s important to remember that they are just guidelines. Every guitar is different, so you may need to adjust your action height depending on the instrument you’re playing.
Most guitar techs understand low, medium, and high string action settings as follows:
Low Action – This setting has strings that are closer to the fretboard and produces a softer sound. It’s ideal for beginners or players who prefer less tension on their strings.
Medium Action – This is the most common setting, with strings that are slightly higher than Low Action but still close to the fretboard. It provides a good balance between sound quality and ease of playability.
High Action – Higher than Medium Action, this setting is ideal for experienced players who want more tension on their strings or who have difficulty pressing down on the strings at lower heights. The increased distance between the strings and fretboard can result in a brighter tone from your guitar.
Extra-High Action – The highest of all four settings, Extra-High Action is recommended only for very experienced players who don’t mind having to push down harder on the strings in order to play them. This setting results in a louder, more distinct tone.
There are three different ways to measure string height: with a ruler, using feeler gauges, or by taking measurements with a digital caliper. Whichever method you use, it’s important to be precise so that you can get an accurate reading.
Electric Guitar String Height
String Height at the 1st Fret
The height of the strings on an electric guitar is typically measured at the first fret. The low action, normal action, and high action are based on standard string spacing from E to A# and from B to G respectively.
The feeler gauge is used to measure the distance from the first fret to the lowermost string. This gives us a good indication of how much clearance there is between the string and fret.
There are three different measurements that can be taken: Low Action, Normal Action, and High Action.
A 1st Fret Action Measurement can be hard and difficult, so we usually do a 3rd Fret Press Test with a feeler gauge. This way we can get an accurate measurement without having to press down too hard on the string.
Guitar string height affects the sound of an electric guitar. String height is not just about physical length but also about how close a string is to the frets, which affects how much noise can escape from the instrument
String Height at the 12th Fret
When it comes to electric guitar string height, there are a few things you need to know. For one, the High E is 6mm (.063″), the Low E is 2.5mm (0.098″), and the High E is 2.4mm (0.094″).
The gap between the 12th fret and the bottom of the high E string should be 3/64ths of an inch. The gap between the top of the low E string and the bottom of the fret should be 5/64ths of an inch. This will ensure that you’re getting optimal sound from your instrument.
In addition, bridge height is adjusted to accommodate the amount of tension on strings – typically it’s set at 2/32 inches for all 6 strings on an electric guitar.. And finally, pickup height can be adjusted for a hotter or cleaner sound depending on preference
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did my action change without me changing anything?
There can be a few reasons why the action on your guitar has changed even though you haven’t made any changes yourself. Climate and humidity can cause guitars to change shape, which will in turn affect the action. The amount of tension on the strings also affects the action, and this tension changes as the thickness of the string changes. So, if you’ve recently switched to a new set of strings or increased/decreased their gauge, then this might explain why your action has changed.
What tools do I need to change my guitar’s action?
There is a range of measurements for guitar action, from low to high. In order to change your guitar’s action, you’ll need a toolkit that includes the following:
A Phillips head screwdriver
A soldering iron (optional)
The most basic guitar toolkit will set you back at less than $50. This is an excellent investment for any player who wants to work on their own instrument. Many repair tools are included in these kits, so you can fix common problems with your guitar without having to take it to a professional.
Why do cheap guitars have high action?
Cheap guitars have high action in order to make more money for the manufacturer. They are set up that way so that the strings buzz and notes quickly go out of tune. This is because the cheap parts used in these guitars do not hold up well over time, and the wood warping creates uneven fret spacing.
Does higher action have a better tone?
There is a lot of debate on whether higher action has a better tone or not. Some people believe that it does because the strings are farther from the fretboard and produce more resonance or sustain. Others feel that this compromises playability, and the guitar cannot be played as easily. Still, others feel that it depends on how well the guitar is set up; if the action is too high, it will affect playability
Why would you want high action on a guitar?
A guitar with a high action is set so that the strings are farther from the fingerboard. This makes it easier to get a richer and fuller sound. The trade-off is that it can be more difficult to make fast runs and bends on a guitar with high action.
Is low or high action better?
There is no definitive answer when it comes to low or high action on guitars. Some guitarists prefer a higher action, as it allows them to play with more force and control. However, an action that is too high can cause pain in the hand and wrist. It may be possible that action is too high if the fingertips or wrist hurt after playing for a short while.
High action red flags include pain, muscle aches, and being unable to hold a chord properly. If you are experiencing any of these issues, it is important to get your guitar set up by a professional. With high-action strings stop vibrating and buzzing as you bend them when they need a set-up.
When you play the guitar, your hand should be comfortable. The strings of the electric guitar should not be too high or too low. You need to get a good height for them so that your hand can move freely and easily.
In conclusion, you should get a good height for your guitar strings. This is what most people want when they play the guitar. It will be easy to play the electric guitar if you have it set up properly.