Everything you need to know about a guitar's action: what it is and how to adjust it on your electric guitar

Guitar maintenance: adjusting guitar action
(Image credit: Future)

Starting out as a guitar player, this writer quickly became aware of the term ‘action’. More experienced guitar-playing friends would blithely declare that one guitar had ‘great action’ while another one had ‘poor action’. 

Or even more broadly, that Gibsons had better action than Fenders. It didn’t make much sense at the time – and decades later it still doesn’t. Back then, ‘great action’ invariably meant low-set strings, which was associated with easy playability. 

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Huw Price

Huw started out in recording studios, working as a sound engineer and producer for David Bowie, Primal Scream, Ian Dury, Fad Gadget, My Bloody Valentine, Cardinal Black and many others. His book, Recording Guitar & Bass, was published in 2002 and a freelance career in journalism soon followed. He has written reviews, interviews, workshop and technical articles for Guitarist, Guitar Magazine, Guitar Player, Acoustic Magazine, Guitar Buyer and Music Tech. He has also contributed to several books, including The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman. Huw builds and maintains guitars and amplifiers for clients, and specializes in vintage restoration. He provides consultancy services for equipment manufacturers and can, occasionally, be lured back into the studio.