How Low Should Guitar Action Be?


guitar_action

The guitar action is the height of the strings from the fretboard.

This affects how hard it is to press down on frets, which in turn can affect playability and sound.

So how low should the guitar action be? On an acoustic guitar, the action is around 5/64″ (2.0mm) on the high E string and 7/64″ (2.8mm) on the low E string. An acoustic guitar’s strings vibrate with greater ease owing to the modest increase in action height.

Should guitar action be as low as possible?

When it comes to the action height, you will need to consider your own style and preferences. For example:

Higher action can be easier for beginners as it is harder to press down and bend strings.

But higher action reduces playability and tone control — especially on an electric guitar with high output pickups.

Therefore this might not be ideal if you are a beginner or using a high gain amp.

Lower action may be more suitable for experienced players who want to bend strings and play with vibrato frequently.

But they might find it harder on their fingers, especially when playing barre chords in higher positions.

And the lower the action, the greater potential there is for fret buzz due to uneven fret wear.

Is 2mm considered low action?

To me, 1.5mm at the 12th fret on all strings is low action.

With a straight neck, I usually keep action around 2mm.

A lot of these figures depend on the guitar.

It’s a fact that the action will need to be set according to your playing style and technique, so you’ll have to experiment with it yourself!

You can achieve low action if you use light gauge strings (.010″ or .25mm) and a low action truss rod.

What is the highest guitar action?

The limitations of your technique will dictate the minimum height — it’s just how you play!

The high E string on an acoustic guitar has a typical action of 5/64″ (2.0mm) and the low E string 7/64″ (2.8mm). The small height increase allows the strings on an acoustic guitar to vibrate further.

If you set your guitar up with extremely low action, it might be difficult to play barre chords or chord shapes in higher positions.

When an electric guitar’s pickups are high output, the tone will suffer if the strings touch other frets when played open (especially on lower notes).

That means that some guitars need thicker gauge (.013″ or .35mm) strings to prevent them buzzing.

You don’t need to set the action as low as possible, but it’s certainly interesting if you’re into heavy metal!

My friend has about 0.64cm on his electric guitar and he can play crazy solos using this technique with ease.

On the other hand, I have about a half of an inch (about one centimeter) on my electric guitar and this allows me to play chord shapes comfortably.

What are some possible disadvantages?

Higher action reduces playability and tone control — especially on an electric guitar with high output pickups.

Therefore it might not be ideal if you are a beginner or using a high gain amp.

The lower the action, the greater potential there is for fret buzz due to uneven fret wear.

And it can be more difficult to play barre chords and chord shapes in higher positions on electric guitars with high output pickups.

How do I know if my guitar action is too high?

There are a number of telltale indicators that your guitar needs to be set up.

If the intonation is incorrect, the action is too high, the guitar buzzes when you fret a note, strings stop vibrating and buzz as you bend them, frets feel sharp, or the neck appears deformed, then your guitar definitely requires attention.

Lowering the action and adjusting truss rod tension shouldn’t be a problem for experienced guitarists, but it’s always best to consult with an expert.

And don’t forget that lowering your electric guitar action will decrease its playability — although if you like high gain solos this might not matter to you much!

What do guitar action and string gauge have to do with each other?

Both these factors affect the playability of your guitar.

As you know, a heavier gauge increases tension on the neck — which raises its pitch.

However, those who prefer lower action often choose lighter strings for this reason; otherwise, they get fret buzz or find it more difficult to play barre chords.

How do you measure the height of your guitar action?

You can use an electronic tuner or a digital gauge like this one.

Measure at the 12th fret either with the string fretted (higher) or not (lower). Lower numbers are better; anything above about ten will make it harder to play.

In most cases, you should be able to get your action down to a half-inch or so (about 12mm) at the twelfth fret without too much difficulty.

As long as there is no bridge buzz, it should be okay.

Why do cheap guitars have high action?

Setting up a low-cost guitar with a high action is one of the ways manufacturers cut corners. Because lowering the action takes practice and time to cut the nut and adjust the neck and bridge, this is something Manufacturers do not want to spend money on or they will lose money.

It’s also easier for the beginner to play a high-action guitar with thick strings.

On top of that, it can be difficult or impossible for them to adjust their own guitars.

The neck might not have been glued properly and needs shimming, which is done by sanding down one side of the neck under tension until the frets are level.

Or the truss rod needs adjusting, which can be done by inserting a tool at the end of the neck to pull or push it back into shape.

 

Read Also: My Gear Recommendations

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