Whether you are a beginner working toward learning the guitar or are a professional, it is important to have an instrument that is properly strung for your playing style. By adjusting the string height from the fretboard, you can get the perfect tone and improve your playing. Trying to learn to play the acoustic guitar on an instrument that is set up improperly can hinder your progress. By checking your string height and making the adjustments, you may progress rapidly.
Acoustic and Electric-Acoustic
Place the strings of an acoustic guitar 3/32 of an inch above the fretboard. Use a graduated ruler that can indicate 32nds in order to set this dimension accurately, but measure your height from the bottom of the string. This is the standard height set by many manufacturers for acoustic guitars. This will give you ample clearance for the strings to ring out without hitting the frets and stifling the notes.
Set the string height for an electric-acoustic to 2/32 of an inch. The bodies of these guitars are often thinner than regular acoustic guitars and can be set up to play similarly to an electric guitar. Most of the time, the tone is amplified, so loud acoustic tone is not necessary. The electric-acoustic guitar includes a pickup that allows the guitar to be heard. In many cases, the wood choice and string height are strong determining factors in a guitar's tone, but the quality of the pickup is often the most important factor with an electric-acoustic, so strings can be lowered for better playability.
Set the string distance from the fretboard to 3.2 mm for a classical guitar. The strings on these guitars are often picked by the fingers individually, so comfort is of the utmost importance. Allow enough space to comfortably pick each note of the music being performed. Classical guitarists often set their smallest string slightly lower because the thicker strings need more room to vibrate without interruption. Classical guitarists are often more picky about their string height as it directly relates to the speed and accuracy of their playing. Since there is no amplification involved, it is important to have the perfect string height and intonation, which relates to the correct pitch of the notes based on their location on the fretboard.
Set your string height based on your playing style. Hard strummers or pickers may want to increase the string height so that the strings do not hit the frets while sounding. Many guitarists, including those who play acoustics, enjoy the sound of fret buzz from low string height. Fast pickers and classical guitarists often set their string height lower than average to increase speed. The combination of low string height and soft, fast picking can be ideal for more complicated musical passages.
Christian Mullen is a graduate from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in finance. He has written content articles online since 2009, specializing in financial topics. A professional musician, Mullen also has expert knowledge of the music industry and all of its facets.