This is critical adjustment for easy playability. Remember, however, that few top-level guitarists are playing instruments set to standard action. Therefore, most slide players set their action quite high, as will be immediately evident if you ever try out a National or Dobro steel guitar at your local guitar shop. Note though that different manufacturers include slightly different string gauges in their sets of strings. String action is measured at the first and 12th frets by measuring the distance between the top of the fret and the bottom of the string. Here are a few examples from Amazon, that include a couple of string action measurement gauges, a feeler gauge, and a combo kit including both of them. As with all aspects of guitar setup, however, what ultimately matters is what feels right and enables players to get the sound they want. amzn_assoc_placement="adunit0";amzn_assoc_search_bar="false";amzn_assoc_tracking_id="vbt5-20";amzn_assoc_ad_mode="manual";amzn_assoc_ad_type="smart";amzn_assoc_marketplace="amazon";amzn_assoc_region="US";amzn_assoc_title="String Action Measurement Tools";amzn_assoc_linkid="9319296ac84bb8207721de68008b96ef";amzn_assoc_asins="B01HUCS3YA,B00HG29EYI,B000BYGIR4,B06Y6FD6CY"; Your email address will not be published. The “third dimension” influencing playability is string action, the height at which a guitar’s open strings float above the frets. The only recommendation I have is to pick the one with the thickness numbers well etched and contrast. Printable Ruler by Margaret E. Peltier Continue reading to understand how to use this essential instrument in almost any project you undertake. The key components affecting tone and playability come from string gauge, string winding method and the string construction material. Use it to adjust string action, measure string height, make truss rod adjustments, measure pickup height for killer tone and to minimize magnetic string drag, and more. All guitar strings are either "unwound" - a single solid strand of wire or nylon used on the high E, B and sometimes G strings, or "wound" - a core with a winding-wire wrapped tightly around it. Individual luthiers also develop their own idiosyncratic deviations from the guidebooks. Understanding some of the factors that influence the pros’ preferences can help you zero in on the right string action for your playing style. In order to measure the height of your guitar’s strings, you should have either a ruler, a feeler gauge, or a specialized string action gauge. How to determine string action with the String Action Gauge. This measurement is taken to determine how much the bridge saddle needs to be filed to bring the strings down to proper height above the 12th fret. To understand relief, imagine holding a straightedge along the length of the fretboard. The type of guitar strings you choose, and how often you change them will not only dramatically affect your tone, but also impact the playability of your guitar. Developed here at Stewart-MacDonald by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie, the gauge features a progressive string height scale: simply slide it across the frets and read the measurement under the string. Make one with very low action, one with medium and one with high action. A number of videos on the subject demonstrate how this can be done, if your guitar’s saddle is easy to remove. The key relationship to remember is that since the 12th fret marks the halfway point of the string, the amount that the saddle is raised or lowered should be twice as much as the desired change in the action. Action on my steel string Taylor 416CE-LTD (2011) is approximately two times lower than the one from StewMac. Most new electric guitars tend to ship pre-strung with "super light" guitar strings. String gauge refers to the thickness of the guitar string. I bought the original one from StewMac several years ago and fully satisfied with it, but these days there are other options that are cheaper and provide a bit more features such as double-sided gauge with measurements both in inches and millimeters, or a tool allowing to measure fret wearing level. Each of these materials changes how the string vibrates, and thus affects the overall tone. It's faster to use than any ruler, and stays parallel to the fingerboard—much easier than trying to hold a ruler perpendicular to a rounded fret. String gauge refers to the thickness of the guitar string. It begins with no-name blank saddles from eBay and Amazon, then goes to luthier-focused companies such as StewMac and LMII, and ending by specialized companies as listed below. What I normally do is set this gauge at the 17th fret so it sits right on the metal, not the wood, and I make sure the string sits about 4/64ths above the fret. Bass E (6th) String @ First Fret Action on a Classical Guitar. For electric guitars, in our opinion, a good default string height at the 12th fret is typically about 6/64th of an inch (2.38mm) on the bass side and 4/64th of an inch (1.59mm) on the treble side. The main reason is that I play mostly fingerstyle, and it’s more convenient for me to play when the action is quite low. Adjusting the bow of the neck, and hence the relief, can be done by tightening or loosening a guitar’s adjustable truss rod. The string height markings are at increments of .010" (ten thousandths of an inch). Bass E (sixth): 0.12″ at 12th fret; 0.02″ at first fret, Treble E (first): 0.12″ at 12th fret; 0.02″ at first fret. The primary concern of slide players is avoiding contact between the slide and the fretboard or the frets themselves, since such contact generates a lot of undesirable noise and clicking. The method used to wind the strings leads to differences tone and also impacts the playability of your guitar. Laminate (optional) and cut out gauges with an X-acto knife or sharp scissors, being sure to closely follow contours. The problem is that such tweaks are often a matter of 1/64th of inch or so… I definitely love Stewart-MacDonald, they have a tons of neat tools but it’s often too expensive, especially if you are not in USA. To mitigate these two issues, I decided to try a feeler gauge used primarily in the automotive industry for measuring the gaps in the spark plugs. For my Takamine TC132SC classical guitar, I bought once a couple of compensated tusq saddles from the GraphTech company and was fully satisfied with the results. By learning about the different string options available for your guitar, you can find the strings which strike the best balance between great tone and playability. Below, I describe some standard string action guidelines used by many guitar makers and technicians. Depending on your technique, and the style of music you play, that string gauge may or may not be too light for you. The effect of such a setup is disastrous: any string set vibrating harshly rattles against multiple frets. It may need to be adjusted again after raising or lowering the action. Bass E (sixth): 0.09″ at 12th fret; 0.014″ at first fret, Treble E (first): 0.06″ at 12th fret; 0.014″ at first fret. If you have a vintage instrument without a truss rod, neck adjustments should be left to the most skilled of luthiers. This thickness in thousandths of an inch. The gap between the frets and the straightedge created by that slight bowing is the relief. The company is focused on using new materials in guitar parts, and it worked for me quite well.