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Truss rod questions:

  1. Do your strings buzz when you fret notes on the bottom six frets?
  2. Do your strings rest so high above the fretboard that you need a vice grip just to fret a note?

If you answered yes to either of the above questions, an truss rod adjustment may be in order. Located below are a few tips on truss rod adjustment:

Ok, what is a truss rod?

Truss rod adjustment on a Parker Midifly

Most guitarists cringe when the term “truss rod” is brought up in a conversation. Many would rather seek professional help when making guitar neck adjustments as opposed to doing it themselves. The truss rod is a threaded metal rod that runs through the neck of the guitar. The rod’s main function is for adjusting the height of the strings, more commonly referred to as the “action.” Many players prefer a low action because notes can be fretted with ease, but some players, such as the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, tend to prefer a higher action. Yes, you do have to take care when adjusting it and it can break, but if you approach the task with a little respect for the rod and some common sense, there’s no reason why you can’t do this job yourself.

How do I adjust the truss rod?

Side view of a standard guitar neck.

Relief simply refers to how much the guitar neck bows upward as it approaches its center, and back downward from the center to the tailpiece. You don’t want a perfectly straight neck or you may experience horrible fretbuzz. Start by sighting down the length of the neck to see how straight it is. You should now decide if you are still happy with the string gauge and string height. Warm temperatures make strings seem more slinky and if you bang hard on them, excessive fret rattle will occur. Just by using the next heavier gauge string set, you can improve stability and tone, but you’ll probably need to readjust the truss rod to maintain a straight neck. You need to locate the correct size allen key or hex wrench for the truss rod adjustment screw. If the neck is bowed upward, you should tighten the truss rod only 1/8 of a turn.

If the neck is bowed downward, you should loosen the truss rod only 1/8 of a turn. Most guitars require a clockwise turn to tighten and a counterclockwise turn to loosen the rod, but not all guitars are the same so you may want to contact your manufacturer to be certain. Lighter gauge strings usually require a small adjustment while larger gauge strings may require another 1/8 of a turn. You should never force the rod. If the rod is difficult to turn, you should let an experienced luthier or guitar technician make the adjustment. There may be another problem involved. To properly set the action, press the low E string down on the 1st fret and the last fret of your guitar. There should be a gap of around 1/64” between the string at the 7th and 8th frets. A feeler gauge is the best tool to use when taking these measurements. If you don’t have access to a feeler gauge, use a .4mm or .5mm guitar pick. Good luck with the adjustment of your guitar!!! Remember. Be very careful when performing this procedure.