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  1. #1
    Footballus vita est iamlucky13's Avatar
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    Adjusting Guitar Action?

    I need some Foo help. My guitar is killing my hand because the action is so high it makes my fingers cramp, but there's surprisingly little detailed information online about doing it. It doesn't seem like it should be difficult, but I want to make sure I'm not missing anything. Has anybody done this before?

    First of all, the bridge is really high, and what info I did find suggested it would be wiser to sand a little bit off the bottom of the bridge saddle before notching the top. This would, of course, mean removing all the strings, which is supposed to be a no-no since it completely unloads the neck. Should I really worry about that for one adjustment on a cheap Yamaha? It looks like this one does have a truss rod supporting it. Do I do the entire adjust here by sanding, or is notching ok?

    The nut needs less adjustment and is already notched. I think it's glued on anyways, so I doubt I will be removing it. One source of info I found said the notches need to be the right size and shape or else the string will either bind during tuning or buzz. However, it gave no information about what this magical geometry was. The present notches appear to be round-bottomed and maybe a paper's width wider than the strings. Does that sound right?

    Any other advice?

    Thank you, oh wise Foo.
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  2. #2
    WTF is that smell? crackerjab's Avatar
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    Sanding of the bridge is the ticket. Or just buy a shorter bridge. Unloading the bridge, once, to make it more comfortable to play is a worthy risk. And risk is a very loose term. That being said, if you get a bridge too short, there will be some negative effects.
    Your turtle skirt is exposing your FUPA.

  3. #3
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    you really haven't defined the problem well enough. If the strings are too high starting at the first fret, it's possible that the string height may need some adjustment at the nut. If the neck has an excessive concave upward bow in it, it's possible that either that the truss rod needs to be tightened (if it is adjustable) to flatten the neck, or that the strings you are using are too heavy of a gauge for this particular guitar. Or maybe you just need to develop some more finger strength, acoustic guitars typically have higher action than electrics to begin with, and if you were used to playing on nylon strings before, or are an absolute beginner, steel strings will take some getting used to. If the neck is already pretty flat, the string height is OK at the first fret, and the action increases in height uniformly down the fretboard, then maybe adjusting the action at the bridge is the ticket. I wouldn't worry about detensioning the neck by taking all the strings off, you've got to do that any time you want to work on it.

  4. #4
    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ efrobert's Avatar
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    It doesn't cost much to have a pro set up your guitar. Take it to a guitar shop and have them do it.

  5. #5
    Dumb@s$ Jarhead mrt10x's Avatar
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    good advice from both the above... I have been playing for 30 years.. still take my guitar to a pro for setup... I would say it depends on the value of the guitar... or at least the value to you... I did do some bridge work on a Yari Alvarez I had a few years ago.. took to a pro to fix my work If your neck is true, a bridge adjustment is pretty simple and cheap.. if you have a truss rod and it isnt maxed out that is pretty simple too,, for a pro. IMHO
    Si vis pacem, para bellum

  6. #6
    Ogr8nwmypstmksnosnse pgoat's Avatar
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    what kind of guitar? what kind of bridge? it matters.

    The nut will also matter for action height, as will your neck relief.

    There are lots of guitar guides out there - hit up your local library. Or music store - look for Dan Erlewine's Guitar Player book
    Quote Originally Posted by jsharr View Post
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  7. #7
    Footballus vita est iamlucky13's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    you really haven't defined the problem well enough. If the strings are too high starting at the first fret, it's possible that the string height may need some adjustment at the nut. If the neck has an excessive concave upward bow in it, it's possible that either that the truss rod needs to be tightened (if it is adjustable) to flatten the neck, or that the strings you are using are too heavy of a gauge for this particular guitar. Or maybe you just need to develop some more finger strength, acoustic guitars typically have higher action than electrics to begin with, and if you were used to playing on nylon strings before, or are an absolute beginner, steel strings will take some getting used to. If the neck is already pretty flat, the string height is OK at the first fret, and the action increases in height uniformly down the fretboard, then maybe adjusting the action at the bridge is the ticket. I wouldn't worry about detensioning the neck by taking all the strings off, you've got to do that any time you want to work on it.
    Good points, although I've already considered most of these, so I'm more or less sure adjusting the action is what needs to be done.

    It's your everyday steel-stringed acoustic (Yamaha F-35) for people who think they want a guitar but don't want to spend any money. I'm long past that stage, but decided to make do without the Takamine I've got my eyes on until I find a job again. That's also part of why I wasn't too interested in paying someone to do it...plus I like doing things myself and I won't cry to much if I mess up a cheap guitar.

    The neck is almost perfectly straight according to a straight edge. I'm sure more finger strength would help, but it's hard to build that up when my hands start cramping after 5 minutes of playing. I've played several different friends' guitars and quite a few while shopping, and none of them have been nearly as difficult to finger as mine.

    I found some advice about conservative action heights, so I checked mine with calipers. Both the first fret and twelfth fret heights were almost twice as high as he recommended. I figured I'd start by splitting the difference and see how that felt.

    Thanks for the feedback everyone.
    "The internet is a place where absolutely nothing happens. You need to take advantage of that." ~ Strong Bad

  8. #8
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    In addition to the Erlewine book, there's some good info at frets.com.

  9. #9
    Senior Member exRunner's Avatar
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    OK, here it goes...

    I have been playing for about 40 years, some of that professionally. I am also an ME, but don't hold that against me. I don't do the acoustic thing anymore, but the advice is the same.

    If it is a one time adjustment, and all you want to do is get this axe fixed, then it is going to be cheaper in the long run to get it set up by a proffessional.

    If you think you are going to be playing (and adjusting) for life (like me) or you just want to know how to do it, then here are some basics:

    - remove the strings from the guitar. (this does not damage a neck in any way)
    - Check the relief on the neck (how much the center is below or above straight)
    - With the strings removed it is not uncommon of you to have a negative relieve (center up)
    - Put the strings on the guitar and tune them correctly (this is important)
    - Check relief. It should be about 1 to 3 mm on your guitar, but this is really up to you, and some other settings later
    - With the relief set about where you need it adjust the nut height.
    - This is NOT done by filing the slots. Take the strings back off, and GENTLY tap the nut out of the slot. It will be easier to do if you carefully run a razor along the front and back of the nut first. Do not worry if you break it. A local guitar shop will have a replacement for less than $10 - probably a lot less.
    - Place the nut on a flat surface - if the bottom is flat (most are) gently flat sand the back. Go easy, it does not take much.
    - put the nut back in and re-string. Again this is preference, but I generally put the strings about .5 mm off the first fret.
    - with that close remove the strings and remove the bridge. They all come off differently. Use a marker to mark the bridge location. We will have to fix intonation later anyway, lets not make this any more troublesome than it needs
    - Sand the bottom of the bridge, just like the nut. Again go easy. Restring each time.
    - Play the guitar each restring and check height and buzz on all string at all locations.
    - now here is the tricky part:
    - If you get buzz either the nut or bridge is too low, or the relief is wrong. Since relief is the easiest to adjust, add a lit and see what happens.
    - If you have made the nut or bidge too low, you have 2 options. With the nut it is easy to shim. I use super glue gel. Drop it on and smear it smooth with a tooth pick. Gently sand it when dry. Repeat until the nut is back where it belongs
    - The bridge is more complicated. You just have to look at it and figure out how to shim it.
    - Or you can replace either, but bridges are expensive some times.
    - repeat the above sanding the nut or the bridge to get it the way you like. It may take a lot of back and forth between nut and bridge until you get what you are wanting.
    - When you have it the way you like, put a single drop of super glue on the E string side of the nut slot and tap the nut into place. It only takes a very small amount to hole the nut in place. You may want to get the nut out again some day when the slot wear and the thing starts buzzing again.

    - Once the action is set you have to set the intonation. If you need that explained let me know.

    Mark

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