How low do you guys set your action at the 12th fret?

I bought all these tools, feeler gauges, rulers, allen wretches, capo etc to try to give my guitar the best setup possible. I’m wondering what action you guys prefer for shredding? I currently set mine at 1.5 mm at the 12th fret.

From what I read from most factory setup guides, most guitars should come with .3 mm truss rod relief at the 8th fret and 1.5 mm action at the 12th fret.

I know action is kind of a compromise between playability and tone, lower action == less desirable tone due to buzzing, higher action == better tone but more tiring and difficult to play.

As a community of aspiring shredders what action do you guys prefer? I’m thinking about even trying to go lower than 1.5 mm but I’m wondering how common that is to maybe go to like 1 mm.

I personally use action high enough that allows bends to not buzz out, and minimal buzzing down low in the frets. I’ve done all my own guitar setups (except for my archtop) and never used any measurements, just gone by feel. Seeing as you have the tools, I would recommend you experiment with the different variables and see what works for you!

what guitar, string gauge, what’s the rest of your tone chain? And what are the styles you play, and aspire to?

Harley Benton Fusion Floyd Rose, 9 - 42 gauge, modelling amp, overdrive, slight reverb.

Mainly aspiring to play like the artists frequently mentioned the courses here, gilbert, yngwie, vai, petrucci, eric johnson etc, the 80’s shredders.

I’m just wondering if 1 mm action is too low.

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honestly, I just set action by feel. I had to grqab a gauge to even see what I’m at, but on my Suhr I’m playing while browsing, first fret low E seems about 1mm, 12th fret probably juuuuuust under 2mm, 24th just under 2.5mm. My Strat is definitely a little higher than this, the guitar seems to breathe better that way. The Suhr here could probably go lower, but it feels comfortable to me so I dobn’t see the point.

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I used go really low but lately I’ve been going with 1.9mm Low e/ 1.5mm high e. Relief is at .25mm at the 8th fret. It feels so much more natural to me. Troy said that he uses 2.0mm Lowe/ 1.6mm high e on his guitars.


Sorry missed your post.

Ideally, you should just experiment with it.

1mm sounds low to me, the reason is the strings won’t breathe as Drew said, the other thing is you will lose bottom end in the tone and it could also be bright. Brighter due to effects of the frets being closer, it develops top-end frequencies, it may not have frett buzz but just brighter, sometimes its a good thing to dial in that top-end for a dark amp or guitar.

For Yngwie, he’s at 3.5mm or higher, but your guitar is not scalloped and you didn’t mention if you are using std. tuning, 3mm might work if you’re dropping a semitone. The thing is each one of those players are very different from each other, also your guitar I suspect is HB in the bridge? Try 1.5 to 2mm to start with. Pickup proximity is important too. On my LP type guitar, I adjusted the action about 5 times a day over a few weeks to find what worked for me.

Generally, the higher you go, the bigger the tone and sometimes it’s easier to bend too. Beyond a point, it gets uncomfortable and may not be able to intonate correctly. You will need to adjust your intonation with every change, but if you are doing a lot of experimentation, you could wait till you settle to do your intonation settings, also you may need to adjust your spring claw and truss rod.

The key is to experiment with what works for your situation. If you’ve never heard your guitar with higher action, do it just to know what it sounds and feels like with the rest of your tone chain.

.070" at the 12th on all my guitars.

1.5mm on the low E, 1.4mm on the high E. Neck relief of 0.05mm. 9-42 strings.

I suffer from long term tendinitis so need the action to be light enough so that I can play without pain.

I noticed recently that when I bend or use wide vibrato on the high e string, I catch the b string and it is audible. As If I intended to fret that note.

Is this something I should fix with higher action or work on left hand technique to fret notes more on the tips of the finger?

I actually don’t know how high the action is set and I’ve never adjusted action myself

Not really applicable, but the highest action I’ve ever seen a non-slide player use was Freddie Green. Dude’s action was insane.

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My action is 1.60mm on all strings at the 12th fret. Not sure on my relief, but I would say it’s around .30mm at the 7th fret with the low E string fretted at the first and 15th fret.

Setting up your guitars your self is a good skill to have, nobody knows what you need better than you. It’s very easy to do, can’t really damage anything unless you go out of your way. A ton of videos for all kinds of guitars and components out there. Can always reach out on forums to ask for something specific.

Always recommend one learns to setup their own instruments as far as possible.

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Yeah I think it’s about time I learned how to do it.
Right now I need to raise the action slightly on my Gibson special because when I bend or use heavy vibrato, mostly on the high E, I’ll catch the b string too much and it sounds as if fretted.

Looks like you have a wrap around bridge, loosen the strings before you turn the big height screws, you should use a wide screw driver or the side of some metal object that will not scar the screws, they are sometimes made of soft material. Try not to disturb the two intonation screws if any on back side of the bridge.

It’s a big of a trial and error adjusting to your tastes, depending on your string gauge, I personally go by lighter stings, higher the action I can get away with. The idea is tone over playability, but in my case I’m at 46-8 1/2 step down, so playability is not an issue.

You will find the tone improve as you raise it, mind you pickup height is part of this equation, once I have the action set right, I start with the neck pickup to get it where I like the tone ( look for a sweetspot, different for every guitar/pickup ). Then adjust the bridge pup.

You may need to adjust the truss rod as well, I’ve found the tone to improve with a not so tight truss rod and also I like added relief. What I do with new guitars is loosen the truss rod till it’s got no tension, then start to add tension.

Truss rod and bridge adjustments can take many days and iterations to get it right, give things time to settle, make small changes at first till you get the hang of it.

The main thing is be patient, lots of folks like to measure things out, I prefer to do it by feel, if I was a luthier I’d be using measurements to save time too, but not on my personal instruments.

There’s a possibility you don’t know what you want so I suggest you experiment, different setups and string gauges.

Sometimes you can over think things, in my case I obsess over these things. It took me a year of playing on my YJM to find what suits me best, so take your time. I could not understand how malmsteen played with such high action till I tried his strings and setup, it was very awkward that first year till it all clicked, and I played 10 hours a day on average during that period.

Your journey is your own, good luck :slight_smile:

edit: about your bridge if it’s stock, should have come with a little tool, like a flat spanner, loosen strings, loosen the screws, only then adjust the underside nuts with the tool, careful not to scratch the body if that matters to you. It’s tedious but there’s no way around it. If you turn the nuts under the bridge with the screws tight you will damage the tool. I use the flat edge of the tool to loosen and tighten the big screws.
If restringing is an issue without disturbing the bridge, make a loop from an old 3rd string you send from the back hole to the front to pull the new string through, or use a small gauge crochet needle etc if you can get one, saves a lot of time.


Thanks for that! I’ll need to reread this a few times before I get started! I’m so bad at this type of stuff haha
Everything is actually feeling good except I want the action a little bit higher, I’ve no idea how much, I’ll have to just feel that out.
I’m liking the pups tone where they are, but if I need to raise them slightly that’s not an issue.

I picked up this guitar second hand so no tools came with it. I’m sure I should be able to find what I need in a music store, hopefully!

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By the way, most of what I learned about setting action on a guitar, way back in the day, came from Rich Harris’s site. I assume his tech section is still up there, and it’s VERY good.


I bought my Ibanez JEM from Rich Harris back in 2005. I can personally attest that he knows his business. His tech section is the best resource for anybody who wants to learn how to set up and maintain a floating double locking tremolo.

I’ve been thinking about the effects of action height a lot lately. I recently bought a Vigier Shawn Lane model. It has a perfectly flat fretboard (no radius) and the lowest action of any guitar I have ever played. They claim a factory set action of 0.7mm on the high E to 1.4mm on the low E at the 12th fret, but it’s lower than that according to my tools. Barely over 0.5mm at the high E to barely over 1mm on the low E at the 12th fret. I have a light touch and I’m not having issues with buzz.

My Canton headless guitar (in my profile pic) has a 20" radius. The action measures just under 1mm on the high E to about ~1.35mm on the low E at the 12th fret. Super low by most peoples standards. No issues with buzz or choked out bends.

My Ibanez JEM has a 16.9" fretboard radius. The action measures about 1.2mm on the high E to just under 1.5mm on the low E at the 12th fret. Again, no issues with buzzing or choked out bends. If the action were lower, the strings would choke when the bar is pulled all the way up.

My Charvel Pro Mod has a 14"-16" compound radius. The action measures about 1.5mm on the high E to 1.75 on the low E at the 12th fret. It might be possible to get it lower but I haven’t really tried.

My Strat has a 9.5" action. The action measures ~1.75mm on the high E to about 2mm on the low E at the 12th fret. Any lower and bends choke. It’s also strung with heavier strings that all of my other guitars.

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Cool breakdown. What gauge strings are you using on these various guitars? Curious since it seems like there is some type of relationship between string gauge and action height. I’ve honestly never given any of this much thought. I always:

  • Played medium to heavy strings (.10 or .11, .12 if doing any dropped tunings)
  • Checked intonation
  • Lived with it

The Canton headless guitar is strung with La Bella double ball strings, 8-38. The tension on a headless guitar is different from the tension on a guitar with a headstock.

The Strat is strung with D’Addario EXL110, 10-46. Everything else is D’Addarios EXL120, 9-42.

The Vigier has a 24.8" scale length. Everything else is 25.5" scale length.

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