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How should I lower the action of my guitar?

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I bought a capo for my Ovation acoustic over the holidays. I find that if I put the capo on the first fret, the action over the entire fretboard is much lower overall and a lot easier to play - no buzz, no noticeable loss of sustain. With the capo off, the guitar is much more difficult to play.

My question is this: Should I get the string height adjusted at the nut or at the bridge?


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  • 11 years later...

You need to have a set up done on that guitar. That involves checking the neck relief and adjustment as required. After the neck has been deemed straight and properly adjusted the next step is to check the string height or action. In cases where the action is to high the saddle and or the nut needs to be filed or sanded down on the bottom side to lower the action.

The exact specification for string action can be a very personal thing. Some kolks like a high action, others may like it low. How low you can go is dependant on the amount of neck relief and string gauge etc. etc. obviously going to low will cause a buzz in the strings.

All that said most guitar manufacturers publish a specification for each guitar. If not, The person doing the setup will know some basic guide lines to use depending on the type of guitar you have.

Good Luck

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The order of any setup I do:

Neck geometry

- check the clearance of the strings over the 1st fret with a capo on the 5th fret; file/fill slots as required

- check neck for appropriate amount of relief (usually) at the 12th fret with a capo on the 1st fret and fretting strings by hand at the highest fret; adjust the truss rod as required

Bridge geometry

- lower saddle(s) to desired action with a capo on the 1st fret

A lot of this is down to automatic habit and knowing when things are right, so perhaps my explanation of what I do is not as obvious as it seems to me.

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