Lowering your guitar string height Part II: Adjusting saddle height

Lowering your guitar string height: Adjusting saddle height

This post goes over how to lower your guitar string height by adjusting the saddle, and it's intended for beginners who are interested in DiY guitar repair.

Where to begin? Let's start with the tools you'll need.

Tools you'll need

  1. Hex keys (also called allen wrenches)
  2. Screwdriver

Most guitar manufacturers these days are hip to include allen wrenches with the purchase of a guitar. If they didn't, then chances are that you or a friend may have some lying around. If not, There are some guitar multi-tool sets that are nice additions to your guitar case. If it were me however, I'd just buy a standard hex key set so that I could use the entire set in other endeavors. Small-ish screwdrivers can also be found tons of places online as well at your local hardware store.

Adjusting the saddle height

The saddle* is located in/around the bridge of a guitar. There are tons of different types of saddles for electric guitars,

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

...but fewer variations for acoustic guitars:

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

The lower the height of the saddle, the lower your action, and vice versa. Since there are different types of saddles for different types of guitars, lets get into how to lower the saddle height on acoustic and electric guitars.

Electric Guitar

The electric guitar gives you more control over the height of each string because each saddle on the bridge is adjustable.

To adjust the saddle height on an electric guitar, you'll need a smaller hex key, either 5 millimeters or 1/8". Or if your guitar manufacturer was kind enough to include allen wrenches with your guitar, you'll want the really small hex key.

Insert the hex key into the saddle of the string that you want to raise/lower and turn. To heighten or to lower the string height, you need to adjust the individual saddle on both sides of the individual saddle:

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Some other electric guitars offer you a way to lower the saddle height via a larger hex key, or if your guitar has a floating bridge you can adjust both sides of the bridge here:

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Acoustic Guitar

Often, acoustic guitars give you less control over guitar string height at the bridge, but it's still possible. Some acoustic guitars give you a way to adjust the saddle height with a screwdriver, and for those it's hard to mess up. For the most part however, acoustic guitars won't really offer you this flexibility. To adjust the saddle height of a saddle not affected by a screwdriver, you'll have to physically sandpaper a saddle down (don't try that at home):

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Photo by Dave Wirth, All Rights Reserved

Keep in mind that any changes you make in this was are permanent. You don't want to mess this up. So, do not attempt to sandpaper your acoustic guitar's saddle unless you know what you're doing.


*The saddle is the direct counterpart to the nut of a guitar in that it provides the opposite end where the strings touch the guitar.

Photo Cred: 090404-M-3699S-083 by Shawn Spitler, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic