Most commonly known as the string height, an ‘action’ is the height of the strings above the fret board.
The action plays a very important role with regards to the sound the guitar makes and whether it makes playing the instrument easier of more difficult for the player. Generally, the higher the action is, the more the player will have difficulties playing the instrument. A higher action can help not to buzz on the frets, making a clearer music. But if you set it too high, your fingers might feel more discomfort when playing.
Adjusting the action can be done by a professional, but you can always do the task yourself. The way you want your action is completely up to you anyway. Many classical players choose to have higher actions, while metal guitarists and other rock performers prefer low action because it allows them to play faster.
Whatever kind of player you are, you will have to learn adjusting your guitar’s action soon. Here, you will know how to set your action in an industry standard action setting. After this, you can adjust the action according to your own preferences.
First, you need to know the Three Factors that Changes Your Guitar’s Action
Before adjusting the string height/action, you first need to learn what causes the action to go higher and why do you need to readjust it now and then. Understanding the reason behind something makes it easier to act upon it. Below are the reasons why your guitar’s action keep on changing;
Temperature and Humidity
Most musical instruments can be drastically affected by temperature and humidity. A quick rise or a sudden change in temperature can gradually change the shape of the wood, while unnecessary excess humidity will force your guitar to soak up water in the air and the wood will then expand or swell. If any of these happen, you might just wake up one day finding out that the neck and fret board of your guitar is no longer straight.
The Tension of the Strings Changes
Constant changing of the tension of the string can cause a back bow or relief in the neck of your guitar. If the neck of the guitar alters from its original state, then the other parts of your instrument could be affected – especially the action. If the action changes now and again, then the sound of your guitar will change as well.
Abuse of the instrument
When you play your guitar non-stop, this could take a strain on the strings of your instrument. Most guitars can survive being played three or four nights a week, but heavy playing can wear down the saddle and the nut pieces making problems with the action.
Now, you are ready to;
Adjust the action of your guitar
Adjusting the action of your guitar depends on what is wrong with it the first place. After reading the factors which causes it, you might have already observed that the highness or lowness of your guitar’s action cannot be repaired with simple tweaks. Adjusting the neck is very simple if the nut or neck is not damaged. Basically, there are three simple steps in completely resetting the action of your guitar.
Truss Rod Adjustment
The piece of metal that is set inside the guitar’s neck is called a truss rod. It provides flexibility and support to the neck, and can be loosened or tightened. Most of the time, a high or low action is caused by the straightness of the neck. If you adjust the truss rod and your action is set where you want it to be, there is no need to move on to the following two steps.
Action at the Nut Adjustment
When the truss rod has been adjusted and the neck is already flat, you have to check the action at the nut. You have to use a feeler gauges to measure the action at the nut. The most ideal measurement of the space between the bottom of the string and the top of the first fret is .030 inches. When the string is higher than .060 inches, you will need to file down the nut.
Action at the Bridge Adjustment
Finally, adjust the action at the bridge. It may be easy or difficult to set the action on your bridge; it all depends on what style you have in your guitar.
Now that you finally understood what action is, what causes them, and the proper way to adjust them, you are now one step closer to guitar playing like a rock star.