Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Guitar setup

When I purchased my guitars ( Martin 000-18, Taylor Mini, Zager 50CE, Zager Parlor) I had extra light strings put on them and had them setup with low action. I was a beginner, and was told this would help me not get discouraged. Well, I’ve been at this now for about a year and in a lot of ways still consider myself a beginner. Now that I have the callouses built up on my fingers and can play for longer periods of time with no discomfort, I was wondering if I should get a heavier string. Would this make my playing sound better? Also, should I have the setup with a little more action now that I have a basic foundation?
Advice please?

Do you play a lot of bar chords? If so, it may get a bit tougher to get them good and clean with a higher action and thicker strings.

I just had the action lowered on my Taylor Academy with the intent of being able to play my bars cleaner, knowing, that I won’t be able to strum as hard. (I plan on playing finger style with it and not using picks). I’m also going to put some lighter strings on when I get a chance.

I would say though, invest in some heavier strings first, and see how it feels to you. If it’s all good, then consider raising the action.

As far as raising the action, you’ll be able to play more aggressively which will give you more volume, and make the wood resonate more. Better tone…gotta love it.

Still, I think baby steps will be a good way to proceed. Strings first, then consider a higher action.

There will probably be a trade off of tone versus playability.

Wishing you the best with it. Please let us know what you found.


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Thanks for the response Jack. Bar chords are still a challenge at this time, but I’m working on them. So that alone might be a determining factor for me to just stay where I am with my current setup and the ultra light strings. I’m just learning to play for myself so volume is not a problem. I’m just wanting to make sure it’s not something I should be doing as I progress.

Thanks again.

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I’d try a set of lights as a first step… the higher tension might raise the action a smidge, but I think you might find them to be more enjoyable. If you don’t like them, swap them back out.

I prefer mediums, not only for the tone, but for the feel as well. That doesn’t make it right for anyone else, but that is my preference. Going straight to mediums would be a bit of a jump.

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Thanks Mike. I have four guitars, so maybe I can do a test run of lights on one of them.

This is a great question and one I have run into pretty regularly. Your guitar should be setup the way you like it. Period.

That may sound to simplistic, but if you play with a low action and you do not get any buzzing, AND the action height allows you to get the dynamics you like from your instrument, then don’t change it.

As it was mentioned above, higher action will allow you to dig in stronger and in turn get a bigger voice from your instrument (as long as the wood and build of the instrument will allow a louder, bigger voice).

As far as heavier strings, Mike is right on the money about moving up incrementally to light strings from your extra lights. You should notice a warmer tone an slightly longer ring to the notes. And you might need to have the truss rod adjusted (very slightly) to accommodate the higher tension. Try out the heavier strings but do not be afraid to move back to the string gauge if they feel uncomfortable.

Remember rule one: the guitar should be set up the way you like it!


Thanks for the response DrGuitar. I think I might try the light strings on my Martin 000-18 just to see if I can tell a difference. To be honest, as someone with not a lot of playing experience and still learning the basics, I’m not sure I would recognize the difference …lol.
But I’m going to experiment with it just to see
Thanks again for the advice.

I agree with Mike 100%. Thousands have given up on guitar, just because it was too hard to press the strings down.

Earl, I think you will feel the difference in strings the instant you start playing.