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Is It Me? Or Is It My Guitar?

 
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In this lesson we'll talk about some of the things that can be adjusted on a guitar to make it feel and play different. Some people do this themselves, but I recommend taking your instrument to a professional unless you really know what you're doing.

One of the most common adjustments that are made to guitars have to do with how far away from the fretboard the strings are. We call this action and if you have high action it means that your strings are far away from the fretboard and it'll take a lot of pressure to push them down behind the fret.

If you have low action it means your strings are very close to the fretboard, and it takes very little pressure to push them down.

Generally the sound is better when the strings are further away from the fret, because they can vibrate more freely, but of course the guitar will be more difficult to play like that, because you have to work harder to press down the strings. So it's a matter of finding the balance!

So how do we adjust the action? On most guitars you have a big metal spring inside the neck called a truss rod that can be adjusted to straighten or bend the neck, which will of course affect the action.

You can also raise and lower the action down here by the bridge, and this is why it's best to take your instrument to a professional, so you can get the balance right between these different elements. Also, it's worth mentioning that if you damage your truss rod your guitar is practically useless, so I wouldn't recommend messing with that unless you really know what you're doing.

If you have a feeling that you're having to work too hard to press down your strings, you can try a lighter set of strings. We use the term string gauge for this, and strings are labeled with numbers usually referring to the thickness of the high E string. For an acoustic guitar a light set of strings would be 11's and a heavier option would be 13s. For electric guitar a light set of strings would typically be 9's and a heavy set would be 11s.

Aside from your guitar being hard to play if the setup isn't right you may also experience the issue where a note simply doesn't ring, because the string hits a higher fret than the one you're pressing down. In that case you need to have the action raised, and as always I recommend taking your guitar to a professional. Alternatively you can try to use a heavier set of strings first and see if that fixes the problem.

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Is It Me? Or Is It My Guitar?