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The Action of a Guitar

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(@solarsis)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5
Topic starter  

Hi. I just started playing the acoustic guitar about 2 months ago. I'm 44 and am simply interested in playing for fun, but as with anything I try, I want to learn as much as possible so that I can stretch my skill and knowledge.

I've been lurking around the forums on this site as well as few others and have been reading a lot about the "action" of one guitar over another. I understand about the different gauges and materials of strings, and the advantages, disadvantages, etc., but I can't seem to find anything that describes what the action of a guitar means exactly.

Can someone explain?

Just curious.

Thanks!

"I've never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down."
~Virgil Thomson


   
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(@lord_ariez)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 311
 

I've been playing for 6 years and I still don't know what action is.... Learn to play it first, then learn the mechanics after...

'You and I in a little toy shop, bought a bag of balloons with the money we got"

feel free to talk with me on msn at [email protected]..... no icq anymore


   
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(@mattguitar_1567859575)
Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 879
 

Hi

The action is just guitar terminology for the height of the strings really, a guitar with a "high" action means the strings are quite a way from the frets (good for slide playing) a guitar with really low action will suit finger picking but a hard strum might give you a bit of buzzing.

hope that clears it up!

Matt


   
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(@solarsis)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5
Topic starter  

Thank you Matt. Yes, it does! Much appreciated. :)

"I've never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down."
~Virgil Thomson


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Hi,

Couple things:

Action is measured as the distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the 12th fret usually.

Action is adjusted by lowering or raising the saddle, shaving the bridge, or lowering the string height at the nut.

The truss rod is NOT used to adjust action.


   
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(@undercat)
Prominent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 959
 

The truss rod is NOT used to adjust action

You always say this Nick, and I can't exactly figure out why. If the neck is really bowed and causing a massive distance between the strings and the 12th fret, isn't adjusting the truss rod to backbow your neck considered fixing the action there?

Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life...


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Nope, that's adjusting the relief.

And it's a big difference. Well, maybe not big, but it is different.

The confusion lies in the fact that changing the relief will affect the height of the strings over the portion of the neck that can flex, or from where the neck joins the body to the nut.

Say you want lower action so you bend the neck back, make an exaggerated picture in your mind, like the St Louis Arch. Well somewhere in the center of the truss rod you will have low action. By the nut end you'll have higher action than the center and again it will be higher at the saddle end.

If you put on lighter strings you will need to adjust the relief. The neck won't be pulled as much by the lower tension strings. But you won't have to adjust the action. The action will be the same.


   
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(@bmxdude)
Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 119
 

What should the action be at the 12th fret on an electric guitar.

"The answer is practice.
Now, what's the question?"
Words by David Mead.


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

It's up to you. 3/64? 4/64?


   
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(@lord_ariez)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 311
 

2 - 3/32 of an inch....
check this site out, lots of good information on adjusting action on your guitar

http://www.fretnotguitarrepair.com/Repairs2.htm

'You and I in a little toy shop, bought a bag of balloons with the money we got"

feel free to talk with me on msn at [email protected]..... no icq anymore


   
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(@odiewon)
Eminent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 31
 

My uncle is a more experienced guitar player than myself, much more experienced.

He told me once that ALL guitars need "some" adjustment from the factory. I'm not sure I agree, as I have picked up some lower end guitars that played FANTASTIC right out of the box (after tuning of course).

So is it the general consensus of experienced musicians that most or all guitars should be adjusted when purchased?

Do guitar shops normally offer that with a new guitar?

"Never holster an unloaded weapon, it's just poor form." - Col. Jeff Cooper


   
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 Nils
(@nils)
Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2849
 

Typically a guitar out of the box will need some adjustments if not a full setup. Most are pretty close and very playable with an occasional problem.

When you buy a guitar from a decent shop they throw in a setup. Funny part is the money you save buying online is generally what it would then cost to have a setup done at a shop.

If you want to check things out to decide if a setup is needed you can go through the steps for basic setup on my pages below even if you don't want to attempt the adjustments yourself.

Nils' Page - Guitar Information and other Stuff
DMusic Samples


   
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 Taso
(@taso)
Famed Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 2811
 

I still don't understand this 2/64 type stuff. Whats with the measurements?

Put it just where you want it. If you want it as low as possible, make it so its buzzing, and then raise it up a bit... If you want it high, put it high. Why does the measurement matter?

http://taso.dmusic.com/music/


   
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 Nils
(@nils)
Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2849
 

The measurement doesn't really matter. They are just a starting point that works well for most guitars.

Nils' Page - Guitar Information and other Stuff
DMusic Samples


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Acoustics are really easy to lower the action, but it's really hard to raise it back up.


   
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