How To Adjust The Truss Rod Of An Electric Guitar?


Setting up your guitar can be a daunting task because there are so many things involved in the process. For setting the truss rod of an electric guitar you need to pay proper attention. If you have learned about the Parts for Electric guitar then you know what a truss rod is and here we will discuss a few guitar repair tips that can help you adjust the truss rod and you can play it again without any issues.

What is a truss rod?

A truss rod is the metal bar that is made of graphite or steel and it is reinforced in the guitar neck, other stringed instruments, and bass. When you are tuning up then strings put pressure on the neck and the truss rod will help in counteracting the tension so the player can adjust the neck bows as per his convenience.

Two kinds of truss rods are single action and dual action where the single-action truss rod is threaded to one end whereas the dial action is threaded on both ends. Threading both ends helps to increase and decrease the neck relief before it runs out of adjustment.

Can I fix it on my own and is there anything I need to take care of?

It may seem intimidating to fix the truss rod, but actually, there is nothing to worry about. It is a very handy part of the guitar which helps in controlling the general curvature of the guitar neck. The truss rod helps to fight back, and it is crucial for a complete guitar setup. Because of the humidity and temperature, the neck will also move, so you have to keep an eye on it. You can end up breaking the truss rod so when you hear the normal creaking sound so stop right there and get it fixed else you may break it.

Setting it up:

Adjusting The truss rod needs some preparation. Before you begin you need to make sure that you have all the tools and space to make a precise setup.  Mat or a padded workbench is important but having a towel, pillow, or blanket will work fine. If you are using Epiphone parts then you need to consult that manual to avoid damaging the instrument. You will need a spanner wrench, electronic tuner, 6” Ruler graduated in 1/32” and 1/64” increments and socket wrench or Allen wrenches of appropriate size for the truss rod. You may also need the radius gauge, wire cutters, capo, neck rest for securing the guitar, and a long straight edge.

To sight the guitar neck:

First, check the neck and see what corrections are required. When you are sighting the neck you have to see how the neck is reacting to string tension and the truss rod relief. Here we are just trying to understand whether the neck is straight or not.

First, you need to tune the guitar, then turn the guitar on its one side and close one eye. Now look from the headstock to the left bridge down the neck.

Look at the fretboard on both the bass and treble side of the neck to check whether the neck is curved and straight.

If the truss rod is affected in the middle so check the 3rd and 9th fret. See if it is Upbow then the string will be quite far from the frets and it will affect the playability but if it is Backbow then the string will be near to the fret and cause fret buzz.

Doing the tap test:

If you cannot see the neck then do not worry because you need some practice for this. Another thing you can do is do the tap test. It is easy to feel the neck relief with the help of a string like a straight edge. The space between frets and string reflects the bow of the neck and if there is less space then the neck is suffering from the back bow. Too much space means that the neck has an upbow. 

For the tap test, you should start fretting the first fret and then use the pinky finger to fret where the guitar is joining the body.

Now press the string lightly till it touches the top part of the fret and you can understand the amount of space between the strings and the frets.

Adjusting the truss rod:

Now it’s time to adjust the truss rod as you know there is how much relief and you have to get the neck in shape. Make sure to adjust the neck only when it is needed.

For correcting the back bow, you have to loosen the truss rod or turn the nut of the truss rod in the clockwise direction.

For correcting the upbow you have to reduce the relief and make the guitar easy to play so you have to tighten the truss rod or turn the truss rod nut in clockwise direction.

When you are adjusting the neck remember the following things:

  • Never adjust a lot at once, only turn the truss rod one fourth at a time and retune the guitar before you check the adjustment.
  • Do not force anything because the excessive adjustment may spoil the instrument so if necessary, get the inspection done by an experienced musician.
  • When you loosen the truss rod and feel that there is no adjustment then you need a dual-action truss rod. Check the specs of the instrument. Some necks may not adjust quickly and when you make any adjustment then let the neck settle overnight. It takes time so try not to over adjust it.

Checking for fret buzz:

Action and relief work together and the guitar will play well if both are set properly. So both things should be done in the way you want. Play each note to check if there is any buzzing because if there is buzzing then you have to make adjustments.  Consider a few things:  

  • If the guitar buzzes at the first 5 frets then more relief is required and if guitar buzzes above the 12th fret or across the complete fretboard then action raised is required to set the neck relief properly.
  • If the guitar buzzes in the middle of the neck and over the 12th fret then you have added a lot of relief.

Conclusion: So, this is how you can adjust the truss rod. You should know parts for Epiphone guitar or electric guitar and understand different parts in detail so you can make adjustments on your own. For example, you must know what an Epiphone tailpiece, tuning machine, nut slot, etc. So this will help you handle some of the things on your own.

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