Follow along and learn how to set-up your guitar from start to finish beginning with: Adjusting The String Height, followed by: Adjusting The Truss Rod, and finishing up with: Setting The Intonation.
Your strings should be in good condition and the neck free of defects which might limit adjustments of the action such as neck warp or excessively worn and uneven fretwork.
Adjusting String Height
String height is an easy adjustments to make. Measure the height of the string over the highest pair of frets and adjust the saddle up or down as needed. Slacken the strings before making string height adjustments, this will save on wear and tear on adjustment screws and make turning them easier.
Bridges with individual string saddles typically use small hex wrenches. Fixed bridges are adjustable on the treble and bass sides of the bridge by screws or thumb wheels.
Personal preference comes into play as well as the quality of the fret work in determining how low or high to set the string height. The illustration above shows a measurement of 1/16″ (2.5mm) which is fairly low.
String Height and Playing Style
When considering how high to set the strings, consider the playing style in addition to the type of instrument.
- Traditional acoustic instruments, and playing styles that favor strumming, open chords and a desire for clean, loud notes work well with a medium-high string height, 3mm or more, as suites the player.
- Vintage style electrics, and those going for a combination of comfortable chording and soloing with room to “dig-in” and play heavier styles do well with a medium string height, 2-3mm.
- Players preferring a very light action and for those wanting to “shred” may favor a low action, 1.5-2mm.
The player and their instrument play a large part in determining a string height that is comfortable and accommodating for the player’s chosen style.
String Height Adjustment Tips: Make sure your tools are the correct size. Screwdriver tips should match screw heads to avoid slipping. Hex wrench or Allen key tools should be the correct size to avoid stripping small adjustment screws. Consult the manufacturer of your instrument if you are not sure what size tool you need. Sizes vary between imported and domestic instruments.
A guide to reading a ruler.