How to set up light action on a Fender Telecaster

Updated February 21, 2017

Fender’s Telecaster series of guitars has long been one of the company’s flagship models, cherished by top-named players in both Country and Rock for its signature resonant twang and vintage vibe. Still one of Fender’s top-selling instruments, players can, like all of Fender’s other offerings, set the guitar to taste. Setting up light action, with the strings close to the fingerboard for ease of playing with a light touch, can help the player get comfortable and play with confidence.

Spread one of the towels out on a flat surface and lay the Telecaster on the towel. Roll the second towel and place it underneath the headstock to create a level and stable work surface. Tune the instrument with the electric tuner.

Hold the ruler vertically, perpendicular to the fingerboard, at the 17th fret. Measure and note the distance between the bottom of the strings and the top of the fret. If your Telecaster has a 18.4 cm (7.25 inch) radius, use the screwdriver to adjust the bass-side string saddles (E,A,D) and the treble-side (G,B,E) to 2 mm (5/64 inches) and 1.6 mm (4/64 inches), respectively.

Adjust the both sets of string saddles to 1.6 mm (4/64 inches) if your guitar’s neck radius measures either 23.5 or 30 cm (9.25 or 12 inches). For 38 to 43.2 cm (15 to 17 inch) radiuses, adjust the saddles 1.6 and 1.2 mm (4/64 and 3/64 inches). Since the tension has been released on the bridge and the action’s been lowered, retune the guitar.

Things You'll Need

  • Two small towels
  • Ruler
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Tuner
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