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How to Lower the Action on an Acoustic Guitar

  • Post published:November 26, 2020

If you are a beginner, and it’s hard for you to play, it may be because of too high action. In fact, there may be a too large a distance between your fretboard and guitar strings. That’s why it’s hard to fret the strings.

Therefore, it’s essential to lower the action on your acoustic guitar. There are three parts in the process, including straightening the neck, lowering the nut, and setting up the saddle. Now, let’s take a look at below.

We will help you learn how to lower the action on an acoustic guitar through these steps.

Adjust the Truss Rod

Check the straightness of the neck

To know if it’s time to adjust your truss rod to lower the action, you have to pay attention to the neck of the guitar first. This purposes to know if it’s up bowed or back bowed.

If you want to check the straightness of the neck, keep it at eye level. Also, you can lay it on a bench or a table. Then, look at it at eye level.

Locate your guitar’s truss rod

As you know, the guitar’s truss rod is slim and steel inside the guitar neck. Actually, you can find the adjusting nut at the peghead. Also, you can find it through the sound hole.

In fact, an adjustable truss rod is known as single-action or double-action. The first one will straighten the guitar neck against the string tension. And, another one can also correct a back bowed neck.

Adjust your strings

If your guitar comes with the accessible truss rod through the sound hole, loosen the strings before you adjust your truss rod. Then, it’s simple to get a tool into the sound hole. And, you will need a longer Allen wrench to turn it.

Also, it’s easy to turn it. However, don’t forget to remove your string entirely.

You can determine the kind of tool you need for the job by checking the truss rod. On the other hand, if there’s an accessible truss rod from the headstock, it’s not necessary to concern about the sound hole. You just have to unscrew the screws holding the truss rod.

Turn the truss rod screw

You can slowly turn the truss rod screw with Allen wrench. You may have to oil the truss rod nut. This is really important if you are using an old guitar.

Retune your guitar

After making your first 1/8 turn, it’s time to retune your guitar. This allows you to determine the distance between the frets and strings. Then, you can correct the problem. Make sure the neck comes with the right tension on it so you can tell if you straightened it enough.

Repeat as necessary

Sometimes, the first 1/8 turn may not correct the upbow or back bow in the neck. Then, you will need to give another 1/8 turn. Next, don’t forget to return and check again your guitar. Pay attention to the mark you made.

Keep in mind that turning the screw more than one rotation can lead to major damage to the guitar.

Adjust the Action at the Nut

Gather basic tools

To lower the action on an acoustic guitar, you need to get a set of nut files. In fact, each of the guitar strings is available in different thicknesses. Therefore, it’s best to look for a set of six nut files.

You may be wondering where you can get a set of nut files. Then, you can purchase them at a luthier supply shop or any music store.

You should also consider using a feeler gauge that allows you to measure the action accordingly.

Tune your guitar

All six strings of your guitar need to be in tune before you measure the action of the nut. Also, this is important before you make any adjustments.

Measure the action at the first fret

To do this, you need a feeler gauge. Place it on the top of the 1st fret in order to know how much we need to fill the nut in order to lower the action.

The distance between the string to the first fret must be from 0.3 inches to 7.5 millimeters. Keep in mind this rule when measuring. You need to do this for each of the six strings.

File the nut

You need the appropriate file for this. It should be able to match the 6th string. Also, you need a piece of plastic because it can help to protect the headstock while filling the nut.

The nut file should be placed in the notch carefully. Once finish your process, replace the string and tune it. Don’t forget to measure once again in order to know if you need to refile.

Adjust the Action at the Bridge

Measure your guitar’s action at the bridge

To do this, you need to remember a rule to measure the distance between the 12th fret and the 6th string. It’s not essential to measure the other strings.

Loosen your strings

You can’t take the tension from the strings out without first loosening the strings because it holds the saddle in place. However, it’s able to leave them on the tuners. You can detune your guitar with your string winder.

Remove the lower three strings

To get the saddle out, you will need to take your strings off. However, you needn’t remove all of your guitar strings. Indeed, you will have to take more time for the process.

In fact, you only need to have enough room to slide the saddle out from the lower three strings.

Remove the saddle from the bridge

When removing the lowest three strings, you need to make sure that you have enough room to slide the saddle like being said that. Be careful when doing this. It’s best to have a pair of pliers. It can help to grip it. Therefore, you needn’t worry about damaging your guitar.

Sand down the saddle

After you remove the saddle from the bridge, it’s time to lower your action at the bridge. Even when sanding it, you still need to be careful. Otherwise, you may ruin the tone of your guitar.

Replace the saddle and bridge

Boost your guitar strings. At the same time, slide the sanded saddle back into the slot. Next, you can replace three strings.

Remember to measure the action again. It’s best to play it a little bit. This can help you see whether you like it or not.


In conclusion, we’ve mentioned your three-part process in this article. You just need to take three basic steps to adjust the action on your acoustic guitar.

Believe me or not, you can save a lot of time readjusting your setup if you follow these steps in order. After completing these steps, you can lower the action on the bridge and saddle with ease. Now, go play it!