How to Find the Right Guitar String Height? A Detailed Guide
Discovering the right guitar height for your guitar and learning how to make a guitar string height adjustment are essential if you are going to get the best sound out of your instrument.
But for beginners, this can seem like an overwhelming process and many don't know where to start.
Below we will talk you through everything you need to know about guitar string height and take you through the basic steps of making a guitar string adjustment. We will also highlight why this is an important part of setting up your guitar and how getting the correct string height can enhance your playing and learning.
Before you begin, we recommend that you first make sure that your guitar neck is straight. Read our guide on guitar neck relief for more information. Additional detail on how to use the truss rod, which adjusts the neck of your guitar can be found by clicking here.
What is Guitar String Height and Why is it Important?
Your guitar string height (otherwise known as guitar action) refers to the measurement of the space between the top of your frets and the bottom side of your guitar strings. Getting the right guitar string height is essential when you are setting up your guitar as it will affect how easily you can play your guitar and the sound that is created.
What is the Right Guitar String Height?
Although we have detailed some guidelines for you to follow below, as you become a more accomplished player you will have your own preferences. The more you play, the more you will release what guitar string height supports your style of playing.
The guitar string height will affect how much pressure you need to apply and how much distance needs to be covered for the guitar string to make contact with the fret. The correct guitar string height for an aggressive player will allow them to play without having to deal with a fret buzz. A light summer will have a different ideal guitar height as they will play with less strength.
How do I Know if My Guitar Strings Are Too High?
If your guitar strings are too high, there are two indicators - intonation and feel. If the guitar intonation is out of tune and some strings play flat or too high, you need to adjust the string height.
Equally, if you find that it is more awkward to play your guitar in comparison to other guitars, the string height may need to be altered. You may find that you need to press down very hard on the string while playing, this is because there is too much distance between the bottom of the strings and the frets.
How do I Know if the Strings are Too Low on My Guitar?
If the height of the strings is too low, then you will find that they can rattle against each other or the frets when you play. This problem can sometimes be more apparent on one part of the guitar neck rather than the other.
As you develop as a guitar player, you may find that you actually prefer a lower action, but while you are learning this is best avoided.
How Do I Measure the Guitar String Height?
So, if you have a problem with your string buzzing, or have an awkward feeling when you play. How can you check your current string and start setting the action at a suitable measurement?
To measure the guitar action, you will need a ruler or a string action gauge. You should measure the distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the fret underneath.
What is a Guitar Action Gauge?
A string action gauge is a ruler designed especially for your instrument and for measuring the action on your guitar. They are shaped to make taking measurements easy and will give you a measurement in inches or millimetres.
Step 1 - You Need to Tune Your Guitar
This first step is essential, it will make sure that the right level of tension is applied to the neck during your measurements.
Step 2 - Check that Your Neck is Straight and if the Truss Rod Needs to Be Adjusted
If you need help with determining the curvature of your guitar neck, why not read up on our article about Truss Rods and how to adjust them? This is an essential step if you are to correctly adjust your Guitar action.
Step 3 - Rest the ruler of the Guitar Action Gauge against the 12th fret of your Guitar
Make sure that you are setting the rule straight against the guitar and putting it in the right position if the measurements on the rule don't begin directly at the edge.
Step 4 - Take the Measurement
Read the measurement of the action, this is the space between the top of the 12th fret and the bottom of the string.
Step 5 - Repeat These Steps for Other Strings you Want to Measure
Take measurements for all the guitar strings that you want to measure and potentially adjust. Whether you need to measure all of the strings on your instrument will depend on what type of guitar bridge there is.
If the bridge on your guitar allows you to adjust each saddle height, you will need to take measurements for each of these strings.
If the bridge on the guitar doesn't allow individual adjustments for each string, you only need to measure the distance between the frets and the high and low E strings. Make sure to take your measurements twice and note them down carefully.
Recommended Guitar String Heights
Now that you know your current guitar string height, how do you know what you should be aiming for? Below we have detailed the recommended manufacturer string heights you should be aiming for.
Height of Strings for Fender Style Instruments.
- Neck Radius of 7.25" - 5/64" on the low side, 4/64" on the high side.
- A Neck Radius of 9.5"/12" - 4/64" on the lower side, and 4/64" on the higher side.
- Nack Radius of 15"/17" - 4/64" on the low side, 3/64" on the high side.
Height of Guitar Strings for Gibson Action Guitars
- Electric Guitars - Low side of 6/64" and high side of 4/64"
- Bass Guitars - 7/64" on the low side and 5/64" on the high side.
- Acoustic Guitars - Low side of 7/64" and 5/64" high side.
PRS Action Specification Guitar String Heights
- Bass Guitars - Low Side of 5/64" and high side of 4/64".
- Tremolo Guitars - 4/64" on the low side and 4/64 on the high side.
- Stoptail Guitars - Low side of 5/64" and 4/64" high side.
Heights of Strings on ESP Action Specification Guitars
- Acoustic Guitars - 8.64" on the low side and 5/64" on the high side.
- Electric Guitars - low side of 5/64" and high side of 4/64".
- A 4 String Bass Guitar - 7/64" on the low side and high side 5/64".
- 5 to 8 String Bass Guitar - low side of 8/64" and high side of 5/64".
Summary - How to Find the Right Guitar String Height? A Detailed Guide
Discovering the right guitar height for your instrument is an essential part of learning how to set up your guitar. You need the correct height of guitar strings to enable comfortable playing and ensure you don't have to deal with fret buzz or strings vibrating against each other.
Follow our steps detailed above and you'll be able to learn how to measure your guitar string height in no time!