• Alex

A Quick Plea in Favor of High Action

I know it’s not the coolest thing to talk about but trading off a little bit of initial comfort in easy play feel for a higher string action can give you better tone in the long run!


Acoustic Guitar Action. Image by Guitarre Pair Bench.


Hello fellow gearheads and guitar lovers one and all!


I wanted to spend a quick minute giving some love to our guitar’s action. It’s not the hippest area to talk about amongst guitarists. In fact, most guitarists either don’t think about it or set it and forget it. But understanding what your guitar action is and knowing how to set it for your playing can really make your guitar sing! In my opinion a higher action on a Fender guitar will really give the instrument more sustain, resonance, and makes bending easier.


What Does Adjusting Your Guitar’s Action Mean?


Adjusting your guitar’s action is a guitar tech term that refers to adjusting the height distance of your guitar strings from the fingerboard. For most players, the longer they play the instrument the more of a personal choice it becomes because you start to become comfortable at certain heights. You’ll often hear ten different responses from ten different players as to what the “best playing action” is. But what most players don’t know is there is different general starting points that differ from instrument to instrument.


I.E. Gibson guitars have a different scale length (or length from your guitar’s nut to the 12th fret then doubled) than Fender guitars. Therefore, these manufacturers don’t recommend setting the action on their instruments the same. However, when most manufacturers send their guitars off to stores for sale, the action is usually set very low to accommodate beginning or hobbyist players because it is easier to push the strings down, bend and generally play. That’s why that $5000 Les Paul you just checked out at your local music mega mart played like you weren’t even trying.


Why Consider Raising the Action?


When you play an instrument with low action sure it’s very easy to push the strings down, but you actually end up losing transferable energy from the vibrating strings. When you lower the height of the strings it becomes more comfortable to play not just because the strings are closer to the fingerboard, but you also reduce the amount of tension the strings have on the instrument. String tension aids in string vibration which is what produces your guitar tone. So, raising your guitar’s action, while stiffening the overall feel of the strings of your fingers and making a bit tougher at first to push the strings down, actually helps translate more vibrational energy from the plucked string through your guitar amp. If you think about it the string has more room to vibrate away from the fingerboard and gives the string more potential energy to work with when it is plucked.


YOUR GUITAR’S ACTION SHOULD BE LESS ABOUT COMFORT AND MORE ABOUT GETTING GREAT TONE!


IN THE END IF IT’S TOO HARD FOR YOUR TO PLAY EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE SOUNDING GREAT, THEN YOU AREN’T PRACTICING ENOUGH!!


In Conclusion:


Don’t settle for the low action is the only way to go bias. Settle for great tone. Remember this guitar action math becomes compounded by how what gauge string you choose to use. So, if you use really heavy strings, like say 13 gauges, you will have exponentially more vibrational energy at a higher action than say 9’s. But 13’s at a high action are much more difficult to play, so I recommend finding the right gauge you can handle to match with your action!


KEEP ON PLAYING-AM

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