How to Lower the Action on an Electric Guitar

There can be plenty of reasons why it’s suddenly got hard to play the guitar. Many people can blame it on the price. We want to reassure you: even guitars under $500 shows impressive performance. It can be a consequence of high action. Here we are going to understand what action height is and how to adjust it.

What Is Guitar Auction?

A guitar action is a distance between the strings and the fretboard. It’s commonly measured at the 12th measure fret. Adjusting the action is important as it highly determines the sound. 

A high action happens when the guitar strings are far away from the fretboard. Such a position makes it hard to play. On the other side, a very low action usually results in a fret buzz. It’s vital to find a balance for the comfortable playing and desired sound.

Measuring guitar action lets you learn the exact string height. This is a starting point in adjusting the strings. An action gauge or ruler is necessary. Once you have it, the measurement can begin: tune your guitar, place an action gauge over the 12th fret parallel to the strings, read the measurement from the bottom of the string.

Some Tips to Lower the Action

First of all, you will need special tools to adjust the action height. If you have already set up an electric guitar on your own, you probably have equipment like StewMac Basic Guitar Set Kit or Action Adjustment Kit. Keep in mind that you need to take into account the specifics of the particular musical instrument (with Fender, Tune-O-Matic, or Gibson bridge). Here are three steps to lower the guitar action:

  1. Adjust the Truss Rod

The truss rod – an inhaled piece of metal inside the neck – can be loosened or tightened. This affects neck straightness that has a primary impact on the action height. It’s highly recommended not to overtighten the truss rod. If the problem is solved, there is no need to move to other steps. 

  1. Adjust the Nut

Firstly, it must be measured. Use feeler gauges for that. Please note that the action here is measured at the 1st fret. It the string heights exceeds .060 inches, file down the nut. It’s better not to lower it under .030 inches.

  1. Adjust the Bridge

In order to adjust the bridge height, consider the following tips for three different bridge types:

  • The Fender Stratocaster bridge: Lower the saddle to modify the E-string to the desired position. Then go to the set screws and retune. Once you found the best playability, set up the other strings on the same height.
  • The Tune-O-Matic bridge: To understand whether the low and high E-strings require adjustment, measure both of them. To modify the former, turn the screw on the bridge post. Keep tuning until you get the desired height. 
  • The Gibson bridge: Turn the slot-head screw to adjust the bridge height. Then, pay attention to the treble side action: commonly, it’s set at 1/64th of an inch lower. Fine-tune the stop bar tailpiece.

Keep in mind: there is no unified measurement. The action height is a matter of personal preferences and playing style.

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