Why Do People Want Higher Action on Guitar?

The distance between the fretboard and the strings, also called the action on guitar, is a crucial aspect of playing comfort and style. While there is a standard for guitar action, each player has their own preferences depending on their playing style. While some guitarists prefer low action for better playability and dexterity, there are some aiming for higher action for various reasons.

Higher action can be preferred for tonal preferences, technical advantages, as well as playing style. Higher action means more space between the strings and the neck, leading to a more robust sound and vibration. It allows players to play with more dynamics, as with higher action, players can pluck the strings harder without creating fret buzz.

Also, playing styles like slide guitar or a basically more aggressive playing style require high action to prevent buzzing. Techniques like bending and vibrato are also slightly easier with high action, as it is easier to get the fingers under a string for a big bend or vibrato with high action.

That being said, high action, as you may already know, also has some disadvantages, like intonation issues and less playing comfort, as well as more effort when playing. So, let’s dig deeper into the issue to find out why some guitarists like high action and if it would be suitable for you!

What is Action on Guitar?

The action on the guitar refers to the string height, meaning the spacing between the fretboard and the strings. While there is a standard recommendation that hits the sweet spot between playing comfort, tonal quality, and intonation, guitar action comes down to personal preference in the end.

On electric guitars, the recommended guitar action on the high E string is 4/64″ (1.6mm) and 6/64″ (2.4mm) on the low E strings. All the measurements are done on the 12th fret.

On acoustic guitars, the action should be slightly higher to give more space for the strings to vibrate and produce higher volume. So, on an acoustic guitar, a standard action would be 5/64″ (2.0mm) on the high E string and 7/64″ (2.8mm) on the low E string.

While high action is a relative term, having more than the recommended standard may be considered high action. On an acoustic guitar, you can adjust the 2.3mm for high action on the high E string and 2.8 mm on the low E string. On electric guitars, anything above 3-3.5mm on both E strings is considered too high.

Advantages of High Action on Guitar

There are several reasons guitarists prefer high action on guitar. The main advantage of high action is that it obviously gives more room for strings to vibrate to produce higher volumes and a more robust sound without any fret buzzing issue. 

Higher Volume and More Robust Sound

As the action is the spacing between the strings and the fretboard, it also means the space that the strings can vibrate in. With higher action and more space, the strings ring better and do not get dampened down. This means more robust sound, higher volume and sustain, and, according to some people, richer harmonics.

More Aggressive Playing Style

The main reason guitarists go for higher action is that it allows for a more aggressive playing style. With higher action, you can hit the strings harder, press the frets heavier, and make lots of bending and vibratos, and you will never sacrifice sound quality or experience fret buzz.

Specific Genres

Specific genres require high action on a guitar, such as slide guitar. In order to prevent fret buzz, slide guitarists use higher actions so that they can play without the worry of creating string buzz. Also, more aggressive genres like punk are better to be played with higher action to prevent the same issue.

Blues, bluegrass, and fingerpicking-style players also sometimes prefer higher action on guitar as they do not need the quick playing techniques lower action offers. It is more important to have the sustain and tonal clarity for most of them.

Easier Maintenance

Higher action is relatively easier to maintain compared to a low-action guitar. Lowering the action is quite tricky as it might lead to string buzzing with open strings or when bending or in certain frets, making it harder to hit the sweet spot. With higher action, the adjustments are more straightforward.

Disadvantages of High Action on Guitar

The main disadvantages of high action on guitar are decreased playability, difficulty when fretting notes, and intonation issues in extreme cases. 

Decreased Playability

The main reason, especially electric guitar players, prefer lower action is the increased playability. When the strings are closer to the fretboard, it means less effort to fret any note, leading to a faster playing style. Techniques such as sweep picking, legatos, and tapping are much easier with lower-action guitars.

Difficulty When Fretting 

Another issue related to playability is the difficulty of fretting notes with high action on guitars. As the space is larger, you will need more force to fret notes, which can lead to hand fatigue and even carpal tunnel syndrome in extreme cases. If the action is too high, there will be too much strain on your wrists and forearm as well as your hands and fingers, which can lead to exhaustion and injury.

Intonation Issues

While you can avoid the string buzz with higher action, your instrument might suffer from intonation issues if you go too much. Intonation refers to the pitch accuracy of notes on an instrument. So, intonation may be sharp, flat, or both in different notes on your guitar, creating inconsistencies around the fretboard. 

However, this is not a case to worry about for most people, as intonation issues only occur with extremely high action on a guitar.

How to Measure Guitar Action?

To measure your guitar action, you only need a ruler that shows the degrees of an inch as divided into 32 segments. First, put the ruler on the 12th neck next to the high E string and measure the distance from the bottom of the string to the fret. Later, do the same procedure with the low E string. So, here are your guitar action measurements!


In the end, the high-action guitar preference is mainly related to the tonal preferences and playing style. With higher action, strings have more space to vibrate, providing better sustain, higher volume, and a more robust tone without any fret buzz issues. The fret buzz issue is the main problem with lower-action guitars if they are not set up correctly.

Also, higher action allows for different playing styles, like aggressive plucking and slide guitar, which is why some guitarists go for high action. Bends, vibratos, and heavy plucking sound much better with higher action.

Ultimately, high action as well as low action on guitar have their advantages and disadvantages and it is up to you to choose which one suits your style the best.


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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