Lowering the Action on Acoustic Guitars

Guitar action is the distance between the strings and the fret wires, playing a crucial role in the ease of playing, tone quality, and overall performance of the guitar. For acoustic guitar players, finding the right action is key to ensuring comfortable playing and achieving the desired tone. This guide will help you understand and adjust your guitar’s action for optimal performance.

The Importance of Guitar Action

Low Action

  • Benefits: Easier and faster playing, reduced finger fatigue, better intonation.
  • Drawbacks: Too low can cause string buzzing and poor sustain.

High Action

  • Benefits: Better sustain, powerful tone.
  • Drawbacks: Requires more finger strength, potentially less comfortable to play.

Finding the right balance between low and high action ensures your guitar is both easy to play and sounds great.

Understanding the Truss Rod

A guitar’s neck houses a truss rod, a metal bar running its length. The truss rod:

  • Counteracts String Tension: Prevents the neck from being pulled forward.
  • Allows Neck Adjustment: Customize the neck bow to suit your playing style.

Adjusting the Truss Rod

  1. Relief Check: Press the strings down at the 1st and 14th frets. Check the gap at the 6th fret.
    • Ideal Gap: Slightly thinner than a business card.
  2. Adjustment: Turn the truss rod nut using an appropriate tool.
    • Clockwise: Tightens the rod, reducing neck relief (lower action).
    • Counterclockwise: Loosens the rod, increasing neck relief (higher action).

Note: Always make small adjustments and re-tune the guitar before re-checking the action.

Adjusting the Truss Rod on Different Guitars

Older Acoustic Guitars

  • Location: Under the fretboard near the sound hole.
  • Access: Loosen the strings to reach the truss rod. Use the correct size Allen wrench or hex driver.

Newer Acoustic Guitars

  • Location: Under the small plastic plate on the headstock near the nut.
  • Access: Remove the screws holding the plate. Use the correct size tool to adjust.

Pros and Cons of Lowering Action


  • Improved Playability: Easier to press the strings.
  • Less String Buzz: Proper adjustment minimizes unwanted noise.
  • Better Intonation: Notes are more likely to sound in tune.


  • Fret Buzz: Too low action can cause strings to buzz against the frets.
  • Lower String Volume: Strings may not vibrate as freely, affecting volume.
  • Potential Tone Impact: Can negatively affect the guitar’s natural tone.


Adjusting your guitar’s action is a delicate balance between playability and tonal quality. By understanding the role of the truss rod and carefully making adjustments, you can achieve a setup that suits your playing style and enhances your guitar’s performance. Regular maintenance and small adjustments can help keep your guitar in top playing condition.

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