Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Action, Baby, Action (or making it work so it doesn't hurt 2)

You might hear someone talk about the “action” in reference to a guitar. No, it’s not how fast someone can play demi-semi-quavers, or 64th notes. Simply put, it refers to how close (or how far) the strings are to the fretboard.

And once again…this is a “personal preference” thing, taking into account an individual’s style of playing, string gauge preference, and even things like “am I gonna play slide guitar on this thing or what?” (A guitar set up for slide playing is going to have a higher action – i. e., the strings will be higher up, or farther away, from the fretboard.)

Here’s where buying that guitar from your locally-owned music store makes a difference. A guitar tech can easily “lower the action” on your guitar by gently filing down the slots on the nut of the guitar. (Contrary to popular blues jam belief, the “nut” is NOT the player. It’s that little slip of – well, nut – that has slots that hold the strings in place. It’s at the base of the headstock.)

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. (Unless, of course, you’re a guitar tech guru, in which case, you wouldn’t need this blog entry anyway.) They are teensy weensy files with itsy bitsy teeth. And it's a delicate process!

Huh? You bought your guitar at…ah. OK. Hm. Or it was a gift. (Gift is good, you can claim innocence when you go into the music store and ask for help. They will often have mercy on you, figuring you might become a customer if you learn to play…)

Now…if for some reason you can’t or won’t do that (your ex-wife married the store owner), you can still purchase a capo. Ah, capos. More on that in the next post….