Action! Take Action to Adjust String Height

Action! Take Action to Adjust String Height

“Action” or “string height” is the distance from the top of the fret and the bottom of the string. High action or low action is one of the determinants of the overall playability of a guitar. Seeing the importance of string height for our playing experience, how can we keep it in the optimal level by proper adjustments?

Step 1: Height Checking

Check whether the string height of your guitar falls within the specific range stated below:

1st fret

Acoustic & electric guitar:
1/64th of an inch at the first string and 1/32nd of an inch on the sixth string.

12th fret

Acoustic guitar:
5/64th of an inch at the first string and 7/64th of an inch on the sixth string.
Electric guitar:
3/64th of an inch at the first string and 5/64th of an inch on the sixth string.

If your string height is much higher or lower, you’ll need to move on to step 2—make some adjustments.

Step 2: Height Adjustment

There are two parts of the guitar where you can adjust the string action, the saddle and the nut, between which the saddle is the easiest place to start.

The saddle

To determine how much to raise or lower, a good rule of thumb is that it will take twice the correction at the saddle as the amount that needs to be corrected at the 12th fret. For example, if you want the sixth string to be 5/64th of an inch and it’s 7/64th, you’ll need to lower the string by 1/16th inch at the saddle.

Electric guitar:

Most electric guitars have either thumbwheels or set-screws that make it easy to raise or lower the strings.

Acoustic guitar

Adjustment for acoustic guitars is a bit more complicated, as the saddle will have to be removed first and either carefully shaved to lower the strings or shimmed to raise them. Here’s are the steps to reduce down (shave) the saddle.

Tools required

A long nosed pliers, tape measure or ruler, pencil, and (P120) sandpaper.

Action adjustment step by step

  1. Loosen the strings so that you can lift them high enough to remove the saddle.

  2. Remove the saddle with your long nosed pliers. Make sure there isn’t any kinked strings, nor any efforts to wiggling out the saddle. Use “straight firm tugging” approach to get it out.

  3. Pencil mark on the base of the saddle to what extent you need it shaved.

  4. Sand down the saddle with the sandpaper. Make absolutely sure you do so on a flat surface. Place the sandpaper onto it to hold it in place.

  5. Replace the saddle back with the strings lifted up. Again, the saddle should never kink any strings. Remember to check if the saddle faces the correct way as well so it is fit the same.

  6. Tighten the strings and do the measurement all over again. Repeat the overall procedure if necessary.

The nut

Shimming or trimming the nut helps to adjust the string height at the first fret. However, that takes specialized tools and, unless you’re already proficient in this area, we recommend the services of a pro.

A for action. B for beginner-friendly. C for checking. D for DIY (now)!