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  1. #1

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    Before adjusting the truss rod do you completely slacken off the strings or leave the strings up to pitch?

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  3. #2

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    If you have to tighten it definitely losen them. Otherwise the truss rod has to pull against string tension.

  4. #3

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    I make sure the strings are loose almost no tension. Some repairmen think this is crazy and even nuts but why have opposing forces when not needed. Also I was trained by Bill Barker on it so that is what I stick with.

  5. #4

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    I don't bother, because first, I'm not often making that much of an adjustment, maybe an eighth of a turn, and I want to see what that adjustment did before possibly making another. Strings don't like being completely loosened and brought back to pitch repeatedly, and one will probably break if you do it several times. And it can take repeated tries to get a neck exactly right, at least for me. If a ballpark adjustment is all you care about, then doing it in one go and retuning the strings is fine, I guess. If for some reason I had to make a really large adjustment, then I would probably loosen the strings, but that doesn't happen often on my guitars. The last time I made a big adjustment was when I received my Wu with the rod completely loose for shipment. Nowadays it's just slight tweaks for seasonal adjustments, usually a sixteenth of a turn or so. I don't see any advantage in loosening the strings for that. YMMV.

  6. #5

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    i have not adjusted the tension on my stable of guitars in years and some never. My 1949 New Yorker has a truss rod probably one of the first as many made after that date do not have truss rods: I have never touched the truss rod in the 35 years I have owned it...........not once has the neck moved. Bill Hollenbeck said when he made a neck the ideal was that it was set up and the only thing he did was to tighten the nut on the truss rod to simply get to snug up no actually force being applied on the truss rod by the screw. He said when the truss rod was installed on his guitars it had about 20 PSI on the inside of the neck. How he determined this I have no clue but he was a trained tool and die maker. Then of course over time if the neck moved then apply some tension.

  7. #6

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    The action has a big effect on whether or not a truss rod needs adjustment, probably the largest if not the entire effect. If you have relatively high action, then slight neck movements won't be noticeable at all. But I prefer the lowest action I can get, and I want a straight neck with no relief, or so little it can barely be measured, and the action as low as I can get it without excessive fret buzz. A couple of thousandths of change in the action becomes noticeable, so I tweak both the rod and the bridge as needed, up or down. I know most people have higher action, and thus don't need to adjust the truss rod often, if at all. I doubt Freddie Green ever bothered. But I do.

  8. #7

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    If I am tightening I loosen the strings. It physically makes sense to do so. Depending on the circumstances I may even apply force to the neck so that the truss rod nut can turn. Knee just above the heel and hand on the headstock forcing in the back bow direction. That may allow for a slight turn of the truss rod nut if it is already tight and you need the fretboard straighter.
    Edit for typo.
    Last edited by lammie200; 01-01-2020 at 04:32 PM.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by lammie200
    Depending on the circumstances I make even apply force to the neck so that the truss rod nut can turn. Knee just above the heel and hand on the headstock forcing in the back bow direction. That may allow for a slight turn of the truss rod nut if it is already tight and you need the fretboard straighter.
    I think this method is fine. It’s quicker than loosening strings and has has the same effect. The objective is to take some pressure off the threads, reducing friction. I think that minimizes risk of stripping threads or torquing the rod, which can weaken it. 1/8 of a turn at a time seems a good rule of thumb.

    The force you are putting in this neck to release pressure on the threads makes the strings go sharp. That may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it makes sense. The truss rod is pulling against the strings, so when you bend the neck by hand to pull them sharp, you are taking pressure off the truss rod.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by swingtoneman
    Before adjusting the truss rod do you completely slacken off the strings or leave the strings up to pitch?
    Depends on the guitar. If the adjustment can be done without moving the neck (as needs be on an old style Telecaster), I leave the strings tuned to pitch.

    T. J. Thompson once adjusted the neck relief on a pricey old Gibson J-200 while I played it!

  11. #10

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    am in agreement with sgosnells post ^...unless the trussrod is defective or you are using the wrong trussrod wrench/hex driver...they are built to withstand hundreds of pounds of tension...you want the neck to move into the position it is when under tension..and always helps to see the results...


    also you should turn that trussrod gingerly...a little bit at a time...let it sit awhile & recheck if it needs more...also lammies thought of physically coaxing the neck while turning the rod is valid..rickenbacker in fact recommended it on some of their guitars

    lastly temps and humidity change the neck bow on a daily basis..as i've writ before, if you pick up the guitar you tuned and played last nite and its evenly flat/sharp across all strings (particularly the wounds) the next day..well it's not that the strings have moved overnight..its that the neck has moved ever so slightly...

    even with freddie green action..adjusting trussrod should be fairly routine for best possible feel & tone

    it's not scary!!! get over it!...why all new guitars come with a trussrod wrench/hex key in the case!


    cheers

  12. #11
    Many thanks for your very useful info. I have always been in doubt regarding my question.

  13. #12

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    Like all subjects discussed on the internet, there are many differing opinions, and you have to decide for yourself which is right.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    ...they are built to withstand hundreds of pounds of tension...
    True, metals are very resistant to tension. But I think they can be much more vulnerable to twisting loads, especially if the threads are a corroded or unlubricated. Reducing the tension on the rod while turning the nut reduces risk of snapping the rod or stripping the threads. It may not be an issue with relatively new guitars, but vintage instruments are more likely to have fatigued truss rods.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP
    True, metals are very resistant to tension. But I think they can be much more vulnerable to twisting loads, especially if the threads are a corroded or unlubricated. Reducing the tension on the rod while turning the nut reduces risk of snapping the rod or stripping the threads. It may not be an issue with relatively new guitars, but vintage instruments are more likely to have fatigued truss rods.
    yeah..i was talking about a well maintained guitar..with a trusrod nut that has been lubricated and is in known good working order

    corroded threads or locked nut is a different issue, that needs to be addressed before doing anything else...but once the rod is in proper working order, than adjusting under tension should not be a problem...

    by doing it under proper tension you can also see what your adjustment is doing...otherwise its guesswork...and you may need to detune and retune many times!!

    if you ever tweaked a guitar with the trussrod nut in the neck pocket end, and had to remove the neck to adjust the trussrod, then you know what that kind of effort is like!!! haha

    cheers

  16. #15

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    If the truss rod and the nut are rusted and corroded, loosening the strings may not be enough to prevent breaking the rod. In fact, it may be easier to break it if there is no tension on it. I don't let my rods get there. I once broke a truss rod on a guitar that had been stored in a musty damp storm cellar for years, and there were no strings on the guitar. The rod had just rusted so badly that moderate torque snapped it. But that's not the usual situation.

  17. #16

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    ps- and it's never ever touching the trussrod that leads to the frozen nuts and corroded threads...i've seen older guitars where the trussrod cover has never been removed!!...never understood that...just going from 11 to 12 strings would benefit from some adjustment

    that's why i say...they include the trussrod tool for a reason!! learn how to use it!!

    cheers

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    ps- and it's never ever touching the trussrod that leads to the frozen nuts and corroded threads...i've seen older guitars where the trussrod cover has never been removed!!...never understood that...just going from 11 to 12 strings would benefit from some adjustment

    that's why i say...they include the trussrod tool for a reason!! learn how to use it!!

    cheers

    I will agree to completely disagree with you about the trussrod. If going from 11 to 12 cause some adjustment problem I wonder how stable the neck is.

  19. #18

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    I think the issue is more a matter of the action height and relief you use on the guitar. Higher action and more relief means there is less need to adjust the truss rod. No relief and very low action means that it is more likely that a tweak will be necessary, because only a tiny movement of the neck can cause buzzing. On a primarily acoustic guitar set up for vigorous strumming, there should be minimal need for adjustment. But on a guitar set up for primarily amplified playing with a light touch and the lowest possible action, more adjustment will probably be needed. My case is the latter, and not everyone prefers that setup.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    I will agree to completely disagree with you about the trussrod. If going from 11 to 12 cause some adjustment problem I wonder how stable the neck is.
    it has nothing to do with a "problem"...but different gauge strings exert different tension on necks...it's fact!

    and the trussrod enables you to keep your neck exactly the way you like it, under any tension...

    this idea to only touch the trussrod when somethings wrong (a problem) is why there are so many badly set up guitars around!

    its an easy adjustment...and should not be feared

    cheers

    ps- and in fact many guitar necks are not stable!!! and i'm not talking about a structural problem...but the "problem" of using wood for a neck!! any wood, and especially the new wood used on many guitars these days, reacts to temperature and humidity differences every night and day...taking your guitar from a cold car to under the lights in a warm club..etc etc...

    as i've writ before many times..if when you pick up your guitar and its flat or sharp (evenly across strings) from the last time you played it..it's a sign that the neck has shifted ever so slightly...the strings are not moving on their own!...most people will just retune and move on...but when this happens multiple times over the course of time...the end result is a neck bow that is not near the same as when you started