Guitar Action: Learn About High & Low Action on a Guitar

If you have been reading articles on the guitar basics, then you would have definitely come across the term “Guitar Action”.

But what exactly is it?

To put simply, it just means how easy a guitar’s strings are to fret.

And it is not a small thing, because a badly strung guitar or one with the inappropriate action can give you really sore fingers if you played it for too long.

Good vs Bad Action

What you need is a guitar that is easily fretted and ideally that is quite responsive to your touch; you just want your fingers to fly on the guitar, though as a beginner it is not going to happen right away.

But then something that fits this criterion is considered to be a guitar with a good action.

And a guitar with a bad action would be hard to fret and would really hurt your fingers when played for a longer session.

Guitar Action: High & Low Action

Low and High Guitar Action Explained

But then the more widely used terms are high action and low action on a guitar.

And these terms basically refer to how far the strings are laid from the fingerboard.

  • If the strings are higher, and requires to be pushed down further to fret them, the guitar is said to have a higher action
  • On the contrary, if the strings are closer to the fingerboard, then it is said to have a lower action
  • Low Action vs High Action

    So what should you buy – a low action guitar or a high action guitar?

    It is seen that most guitarists who are used to the electric guitar action, may not like the acoustic guitar action. And just because they’re used to a certain guitar action height, they might feel that the opposite is bad.

    So for instance, those who play electric or acoustics with low action might say that high action is not appropriate for playing.

    But the fact is that the various types are available so that players have variety and they can choose one that suits their requirements. So it is more of a personal preference.

    Here are more characteristics of low and high action guitars:

  • A higher action gives a brighter & clearer tone compared to one with lower action
  • High action is suitable for rhythm guitar (because of the brighter sound) whereas lower action is easier for someone who plays lead and does lot of technical playing
  • So usually, an electric guitar will have a lower action whereas an acoustic could have a higher action
  • In most budget guitars with lower action, you could encounter a negative side effect such as fret-buzz , which happens because the vibrating strings sometimes actually touch the frets which results in a buzzing sound.

    What Should You Choose?

    As you can see, the action does influence to some extent what you want to play.

    In case you already own a guitar, and now after reading this article, you feel that you should have chosen a different action because you have to press the strings down too far, then you don’t have to worry.

    You can now avoid getting sore fingers; just take it to a music shop and get the guitar action adjustment done.

    If you are a beginner, you want to choose a Guitar Action that provides a balance between ease of play-ability and quality of sound.

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