Things You Should NOT Worry About When Buying a Guitar

Author: Raul Alvarez  Date Posted:14 February 2013 

I have noticed, over my 20 years of experience, how people approach buying guitars and what they tend to stress about. Here I will address a few common problems, and what is and what is not worth worrying about when buying a new guitar.

String action- the height of the strings from the fretboard 

This is the most common complaint people make when trying out a guitar, beginner or professional. Surprisingly, it’s the last problem you should worry about.

Artist OS60EQ Guitar

First of all, All guitars come with a factory standard set-up. Whilst these are usually pretty good, they will never be perfect. An Important rule about strings that you should remember is that all strings vibrate in an Elliptical manner. The larger the vibration, the louder it sounds. Classical and Spanish guitars, both of which use nylon strings, are set to approximately 5mm at the 12th fret. This action is high because nylon strings vibrate with a larger elliptical diameter than steel strings, and require this height to avoid fret buzz.

Steel string acoustic guitars are generally set from the factory at approximately 2.5mm on the low E and 2mm on the high E, measured at the 12th fret. On Electric guitars, the height is different for a bolt-on neck guitar than a set-neck (glued-in neck) /neck-through-body guitar. Fret buzz is not as big a deal as it is with acoustics because minor buzz is NOT picked up by the guitars pickups. Factory standard action is between 2mm on the low E and 1.8mm on the high E, measured at the 12th fret. Bolt-on necks tend to lose some energy with string vibration and this generally lets the strings vibrate with a larger elliptical diameter than set-neck guitars, which means they tend to have more string rattle when the action is set low, and this also means that generally a set-neck/neck-through-body can have a lower action than the bolt-on necks.

This does not mean that set-neck guitars are always better than bolt-on neck guitars. Each has unique tonal qualities that suit different needs. It all comes down to your ear and what you like. At the end of the day, String action is a personal preference and can be set up to whatever you like so long as it’s playable. When trying guitars please don’t let the action concern you at all, you can adjust this later. Also, because all guitars are wooden, the temperature and humidity will always affect the string action on your guitar. Regardless of whether it’s a $100 guitar or a $10,000 guitar, it is more important to worry about the comfort, feel, and actual tone of the guitar.


String Type / Brand

Ernie Ball Earthwood Medium Light Strings

Believe it or not, strings have a lot of influence on the previous topic about string action. When buying a guitar you shouldn't worry about what strings are on the guitar currently as you can and should change them to your preference later. Once again, the feel, comfort, and tone are what you should be concerned with. Some string brands will be brighter, or warmer, or sustain longer etc than others, and also the age of the strings will affect the playability, but when trying a guitar out, you MUST concentrate on the feel of the guitar in general and NOT what the strings feel like because as soon as you put your favourite stings on the new guitar, it will improve right away! If you have further questions please contact us.

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