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Classical Guitar String Action

String action is not about the guitar is about the musician playing the guitar.

The string height of a classical guitar affects both the sound and play-ability of a classical guitar. The lower the string height (or action) the easier the guitar is to play. If the action is adjusted too low, then volume, sustain, and clarity of sound are reduced.The string height is usually measured at the12th fret, from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string, in millimeters. The ideal string height according to most guitar makers and players is about 3mm for the high E string (plus or minus about .5mm) and about 4mm for the low E string (plus or minus about .5mm). As a rule, the higher the action, the greater the clarity, sustain and dynamic range. If the action is too low, there will be a "thinner" sound and string buzzing, especially when played force.
Students often ask how to adjust the action as low as possible for maximum ease of play. However, extremely low action (Flamenco style) at 2mm and 3mm respectively will be OK if the player has a "light touch" and doesn't play with a heavy hand. Not all of my guitars can be adjusted this low due to limitations of the neck angle and bridge height. Some of my guitars, especially the high-end models, are intended to be played at the normal settings of 3mm and 4mm respectively and cannot be adjusted very much lower. Most can be adjusted to the 2.5mm and 3.5mm string heights. Some, but not all, can be adjusted to the lowest height of 2mm and 3mm respectively. The string height at the nut should be low enough for ease of play and not buzz at all when the open strings are played forcefully. 

There are four general settings:

  • Extremely low (2mm and 3mm respectively)
  • Low (2.5mm and 3.5mm respectively
  • Normal (3mm and 4mm respectively
  • High (3.5mm and 4.5mm respectively)

Most concert artists prefer normal or high action.

4
Switching from classical to flamenco effortlessly
 

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