In this mini course James Collins walks us through the art behind neck relief. We take an in depth in how to adjust the neck relief on Gibsons and Fender style guitars, and find out just how important this can be to the overall playability of your guitar.
Neck relief is essentially a measure of how much your neck bends. When you string up your guitar, the tension of the strings pulls the neck upwards. To counteract this pull, the neck has a truss rod in it that essentially pulls the neck back down. When we talk about neck relief we talk about balancing these two opposing forces to get a neck straightness that suits your playing.
Depending on how you play the guitar, and what style you play, you will want differing amounts of neck relief. You can adjust the amount of relief in the neck by adjusting the truss rod. As we get into the next videos, we will show you exactly how to adjust the truss rod, but here are the basic rules to follow when adjusting the truss rod:
and therefore straightens the neck, whilst therefore curving the neck
To get yourself ready for adjusting the truss rod, be sure that you have strung up your guitar with the exact gauge string you want to use, and then tuned it up. You then need to decide how you will be playing the guitar! Have a listen to James' examples within the video and decide if you think you need to play all 22 frets quickly, or just want to strum some big chords. Your answer to these questions will allow you to adjust the neck relief correctly.
To adjust your neck relief, you will need some equipment. These tools are all easy to get hold of and easy to use, so adjusting your own neck relief is still well within the boundaries of something you can do yourself. Here is the gear...
1. Feeler Gauge
The feeler gauge is what you use to measure the distance between the fret and the string, and therefore determine the neck relief. For example, if a 0.014" feeler gauge fits snuggly between the 7th fret and the string (specifically on the 7th fret) then your neck has 0.014" of relief.
2. Allen Key
You will need a set of allen keys for adjusting the truss rod. Some guitars supply you with the correct fitting allen key, but if you don't have that, a standard set of allen keys should give you the size you need.
As James walks you through in the video, you will need a good capo to hold down the strings at the 1st fret, thus allowing you to accurately measure the relief.
Now it's time to give it a try! There are a few steps to follow to get this correct, so we have written a handy checklist for you below:
The process of adjusting the relief on a Gibson style neck is almost identical to the Fender. The only difference being the tool you use to adjust the truss rod, and that you have to open up a cover that hides the truss rod. The tool you need instead of the Allen key is a nut wrench, and for Gibson guitars you need a 5/16" which normally comes with the guitar. If they don't, they are easy to find online.
5/16" truss rod nut wrench
Now it's time to give it a try! There are a few steps to follow in order to get this correct, so we have written a handy checklist for you below: