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Guitar Setup - Adjust Bridge & String Action

Published: Mon July 21, 2014  News Feed

Guitar Setup - Adjust Bridge & String Action

by Danny Edwards

guitar bridge adjustment action gibson prs tune-o-matic wraparound

There comes a time in every guitarists life when they need to learn how to setup their guitar. Adjusting your guitar action and bridge height is one of the most common guitar setup tips that you will learn with this easy and simple guitar setup guide for Gibson, Fender and Floyd Rose style guitars.

WHAT IS GUITAR ACTION?

guitar neck string action high low When people talk about the 'action' on a guitar, they are talking about the distance between the strings and the frets.

If you have a high action, your strings will be further away from the frets.
If you have a low action, your strings will be close to the frets.

This can be easily adjusted to suit your preference.


LOW ACTION VS HIGH ACTION

guitar action neck setup bridge adjustment how to guideWith a high guitar action you get more sustain out of your notes which will have a positive effect on your tone. This is great for rhythm guitarists and those that play with a slide, but can make your fingers hurt.

WIth a low guitar action you can play notes quicker as it takes less time to fret your notes. This suits quick, fast soloing, although a low action can cause 'fret buzz'.

bryan adams guitar action summer of 69 played it till my fingers bled

WHAT IS FRET BUZZ?

fret buzz guitar how to remove fret buzz what is fretbuzzFret buzz is when you play a guitar string and it produces a loud rattling sound that can even be louder than the note. This occurs when your action is too low and when you play a note the string vibration causes the string to touch the frets and produce this noise. This signals a problem with your guitar setup and usually raising your action slightly will solve this. If your guitar has a bit of fret buzz when unplugged but it cannot be heard when playing through an amp, you do not need to change your action if it is comfortable to play.
Image Source: FretMD

WHAT IS THE BEST GUITAR ACTION?

Deciding on the best guitar action is a personal preference. As a rule of thumb, rhythm guitarists may prefer action towards the higher spectrum whilst lead guitarists may prefer their action on the lower side. Have a play round with it and see which you prefer.

HOW TO SETUP GUITAR ACTION

Now we will take a look at how to easily adjust your guitar action using the guitar bridge. This is done by finely turning the height adjustment of your bridge using either your hand, an allen key or screwdriver (depending on your type of bridge).

Some luthiers say it is essential to loosen tension off the strings when adjusting the height of your bridge. You can do this by down tuning your guitar strings so they take a lot of the pressure off your bridge and the strings become a bit floppy. Leaving full tension on can result in damage to your bridge, so it is worth doing this before adjusting anything to prevent damage to your guitar hardware.


Tune-O-Matic Bridges

Tools: Hand or Screwdriver
For most Gibson & PRS styled guitars:




guitar setup guide adjust tune-o-matic guitar bridge guitar action height stringOn this video you can see he turns the thumbwheel. Most Tune-O-Matic bridges will have this feature to allow you to change the height.


adjust guitar bridge height action higher lower guitar setup guide







If not, you can use the flat headed screwdriver slots on top of it by giving them a slight turn.








Image Source: Guitar-Muse


Not happy with the bridge on your guitar? TonePros make some fantastic replacement bridges that lock to the body to make string changes easy as well as increase your sustain.
tonepros tone pros bridge replacement gibson prs tuneomatic bridge wraparound guitar parts uk

Stratocaster Bridges

Tools: Allen Key
For most Fender styled guitars.




Incase you couldn't see on the video, he adjusts the two little slots on each string saddle with his allen key.
stratocaster guitar setup strat action high low


Floyd Rose Bridges

Floyd Rose bridges can be a bit more tricky depending on which kind you have. If you skip to 5:48 in this video you will get a good idea how to setup a Floyd Rose bridge.



Floyd Rose Tremolo Adjust bridge screw guitar action height
Image Source: GuitarMakersOnline

Please Note: This guide serves only if you want a quick action adjustment and presumes your truss rod and nut are set up correctly. Remember to take loosen your strings to remove the tension off the bridge before adjusting your bridge height.

Now you should be able to adjust the height of your strings to get the desired guitar action that you want.

DO I NEED A NEW BRIDGE?

If you are suffering from tuning instability, have any rattling coming from your bridge or simply want better performance then it might be worth upgrading your bridge.

It is worth considering the value of your guitar before you start upgrading parts. Are you going to keep your guitar for a long time? Will it be cheaper to buy a new guitar rather than upgrade all of the parts?

If you are sure you want to upgrade your bridge, then we recommend the locking range of TonePros for Tune-O-Matic style bridges, or official Fender bridges for a strat or telecaster. Next time you take your strings off, check that the saddles (where the strings sit) aren't worn away or sharp - this could be a sign of a cheap bridge that will eventually need replacing.

Any questions about guitar bridges or string action? Ask us below!
 
 
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