Posted on Tuesday, December 31, 2013
If you’re planning on setting up your guitar, there are a few tools that come in really handy to get the right measurements. Without them, you’ll never really be 100% on point. I looked online for a Guitar String Action Gauge and they roughly cost around $20. The problem was that I needed to setup this guitar and bass right away but I would have had to order it online and wait for them to ship it to me before I can set it up correctly.
Most guitar techs will purchase their tools from Stewart MacDonald. It’s pretty much the go-to place online for anything guitar related. Check out the price of their action gauge here: http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Straightedges/String_Action_Gauge.html. This is before shipping. If you’re outside of the US you’re going to end up paying even more to have one of these shipped to you if your local guitar shop doesn’t carry one.
Setting up the action on your guitar means that you’re correctly positioning the strings above your frets using a measurement to get the perfect distance throughout the whole neck. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that will show you the correct way to do it. You can print this gauge out that I posted above using Illustrator or Linkscape.org. Print it out on card stock or get it laminated if you want it to last a lot longer. However, paper works too as long as you cut it straight on the lines. If you have shaky hands, ask your mom to do it. Last time she gave me a handy, her strokes felt pretty steady.
Anyway, back to string action on your guitars; If the action is set too high, you’re going to have to press down on the strings a lot more and a lot harder in order to hit your notes which can be frustrating and tire your fingers a lot faster. If your action is too low, your strings will rattle when they hit the frets and your music will sound like shit. No, I mean worse than it already does. And no one wants that, right?!
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. Make sure you also check your intonation and for string buzzing after you set the correct height. It may need to be adjusted again after raising or lowering the action.
So above you’ll see the handy string action gauge ruler for you to print out. Just make sure you use the correct software to print it out or else you’re going to print out out the wrong size and the measurements will be way off.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to post them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help you out!