Does Guitar Action Change Over Time?

When playing your guitar, the feel of the strings beneath your fingertips is critical to your playing experience. This feel, primarily determined by your guitar’s action, is something you might find changed over time. 

Over time, the string height on your guitar, known as the action, can change due to humidity, temperature, and the wood settling. These changes can affect playability and sound. Regularly checking the action allows for timely adjustments to maintain optimal performance and comfort.

You might be wondering if it’s your playing technique or if the instrument is changing.

Understanding Guitar Action

Defining Guitar Action

Guitar action refers specifically to the distance between the strings of your guitar and the fretboard. You notice the vertical gap when you look at your strings side-on. 

This gap affects how comfortable your guitar is to play and the instrument’s overall playability and tone. You’ve probably noticed that some guitars feel easier to press down on than others—that’s action at play.

Factors Affecting Action Over Time

Several factors can cause your guitar’s action to change. Natural wood movement due to humidity and temperature fluctuations can shift neck relief, altering action. Over time, string tension can create subtle changes in the bow of the guitar neck, labeled as neck relief

Additionally, the wearing down of frets and the sinking of the guitar’s top where the bridge is located can contribute to action variation. Equip yourself with tools like a string action gauge for precise adjustments to maintain your desired comfort and sound.

Also, changing your strings with new ones with a different string gauge can affect the action. As the string tension rises with higher string gauges, the neck gets more bowed, which raises the action. For lighter gauge strings, the opposite occurs as the neck gets straight and the action goes lower.

Maintaining Optimal Action

Regular action checks and adjustments are necessary to maintain your guitar’s playability and comfort. Think of it like keeping your car tuned for a smooth ride.

Regular Adjustments and Setups

Your guitar’s action is prone to change due to string tension and wear. It’s best to check the action periodically and make necessary tweaks. Adjusting the truss rod, saddle, and sometimes the nut can help maintain the desired action. 

Tools like a ruler or a specialized string action gauge can be handy for accurate measurements. Remember, this is not a set-and-forget situation; your guitar needs a regular setup to keep it in top condition.

Impact of Environmental Changes

Humidity and temperature shifts can warp wood, affecting your guitar’s action over time. Store your guitar in a stable environment to prevent these fluctuations from causing irreparable damage. A hygrometer can be your best friend, helping you monitor the humidity levels wherever you keep your instrument.

Long-Term Care for Consistent Action

Preventative maintenance goes a long way. Be sure to take action before the action becomes problematic. Simple steps like keeping the fretboard clean, changing strings regularly, and having a professional luthier inspecting your guitar can extend its life and keep the action consistent. When it’s time, don’t hesitate to get a neck reset to address any significant action shifts due to the guitar’s age.


Your guitar’s action, the gap between the strings and the fretboard, will change over time. It’s just the nature of the instrument and the materials from which it’s made. Factors like humidity, temperature, and the natural settling of the wood will have their effects. However, it’s not all bad news. You can take simple steps to manage these changes and keep your guitar playing well.

Regular maintenance is vital. Check the action periodically, and invest in a professional setup if you notice changes impacting playability. For day-to-day care, be mindful of storing your guitar in a stable environment; consider using a humidifier or dehumidifier if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions.

Remember that string tension also plays a role. If you frequently change string gauges, expect to make some adjustments to compensate for the difference in tension.

Lastly, playing habits can influence the wear on the frets and the neck, which, in turn, can change the action. Gentle play might preserve your settings longer, but if you play hard, prepare to tweak things now and again.

By being proactive, you can ensure that your guitar remains a joy to play for years. Remember these pointers, and don’t let a shifting action derail your music-making.

If you found this article useful, you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board.


I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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