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Definition: Neck Relief

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by deeptubes, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. Tightening the truss

  2. Loosening the truss

  3. Carrot cake

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    Virginia Beach
    Ok. Neck relief. I think a lot of people are using the term incorrectly, but I could be wrong. Happens all the time. Just ask my wife. So, what exactly does it mean? I've checked all of my owners manuals, and "relief" is never mentioned, but plenty of "neck curvature". There doesn't seem to be an industry standard definition.

    What is it relieving?

    If relief is caused by loosening the truss, that means the relief is on the truss rod, as the tension is transferred from the rod to the neck.

    If relief is caused by tightening the truss, that means the relief is on the neck, as the tension is transferred from the neck to the rod.

    My logic dictates that increasing relief means tightening the truss. Increasing the tension on the rod relieves the tension on the neck caused by the strings. After all, it is neck relief and not truss relief, right? I suppose loosening the truss can be considered neck relief to an extent, because it reduces the string tension on the neck. But, that gets thrown out the window as soon as you re-tune 2 minutes later.

    What say you?
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Relief is the position of the neck, the truss rod is there to adjust relief. Relief simply means forward bow. Loosening the rod adds relief, tightening it takes it away.
  3. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    Virginia Beach
    relief - n. alleviation, ease, or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress, oppression, etc.

    The Fender setup guide in the link's link actually uses the term relief. Until now, I'd never seen it used. It states that loosening the truss increases relief. If relief is defined as ease, through the removal of distress, wouldn't loosening the truss rod add distress to the neck, the opposite of the definition of relief? Being that it's adding distress to the neck, wouldn't that also mean that definition relief as it is used in the Fender guide is literally incorrect? It even says that string tension pulls relief into the neck, not the truss rod. This makes no sense to me. How is transferring tension from the truss to the neck relief? Perhaps this is why I don't use the term and prefer "neck bow". Maybe I'm just splitting hairs.
  4. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    "Relief" refers to clearance for excursion of the vibrating string, not to tension relief.

    Adding relief means adding more forward bow in the neck, and adding more room for the strings to vibrate.

    96tbird, sotua, MDBass and 6 others like this.
  5. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    Virginia Beach
    Thank you. Question and gripe withdrawn.

    The apparent contradiction and general acceptance of it was driving my objective side nuts.
  6. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    It's understandable. Many industries and fields adopt and sometimes even redefine terms for their own use.

    The term was probably borrowed from one of the mechanical fields, where it refers to removal of material to provide clearance.

    kcandme likes this.
  7. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Don't let the term "relief" confuse you. It's use is more technical in terms of an instrument than the kind of relief you get from taking an aspirin to relieve a headache. You can consider it the way you would the term "consumption" . In a general sense you would say consumption was eating away at something. In a more technical sense it was an alternate name for tuberculosis.

    So in the case of neck geometry, relief is allowing the neck to vary from strict flatness - you relieve it from the exactitude of trueness. It's not that you release tension - though the effect of releasing tension on the truss rod is that it will induce a little relief in the neck. In certain cases, the neck is manufactured with a but of relief in it entirely independent of string to truss rod tension.

    So relief and tension are interrelated, but two different things. And though you say that there isn't an industry standard definition, I think that most repair technicians have understood and used the term for many decades. Perhaps it doesn't appear in consumer user manuals because the general public is not familiar with the use of the term.
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I think the term relief goes back to the old violin makers days. About 400 years BL (before Leo).
  9. Murdoc_420


    Jan 20, 2016
    Neck Relief = When I put down the bass for the night
  10. Murdoc_420


    Jan 20, 2016
    And/or artwork:

    this is second entry in dictionary:
    prominence, distinctness, or vividness due to contrast.
    the projection of a figure or part from the ground or plane on which it is formed, as in sculpture or similar work.
    a piece or work in such projection.
    an apparent projection of parts in a painting, drawing, etc., giving theappearance of the third dimension.

    If the string is a straight line the bow in the neck would be a relief
    megafiddle likes this.
  11. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    (Given the same string length), more tension on the truss rod is tighter (straighter/back bow), and relieving (relief of the tension) gives forward bow, or room for the strings to oscillate.

    Relief is not what's measured- the effect of the relief is what's measured.
    The terminology/ usage is the confusion.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2016
  12. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    Relief means clearance for the string to vibrate. It's like a bow (and arrow) - the string moves most in the middle and none at the ends. The truss rod lets you control this spacing. Ideally the curve of the neck should match the vibration of the string almost exactly so it is easy to play without buzzing.

    Maybe the term should be string relief instead of neck relief.
    Clutchcargo likes this.
  13. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Tightening the truss rod is tightening the truss rod. Loosening the truss rod is loosening the truss rod. While that is how relief is most often controlled, neither is relief. The poll is useless by definition.

    Relief is specific to the neck and referring to it as "string relief" will only cause further confusion. A string under tension is straight. If it is not it is bent and therefore unusable.

    Relief is the word used to describe the curve, be it positive, negative, or neutral, in a stringed musical instrument neck. A straight neck can be considered as being neutral. Confusion exists because other terms are used.

    Upbow, backbow, and straight are descriptions of relief. The are confusing. For instance, back bow means that the neck is bowed toward the strings. In an extreme case there would be a hump in the middle of the fingerboard. Yet some folks hear the term and think the opposite because they picture the bow or hump in the back of the neck.

    Not all forms of relief are desirable. Sometimes they are not achievable for various reasons. Sometimes there are remedies that can change the playing surface or the geometry of the instrument so that the desired relief can be achieved.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2016
    96tbird likes this.
  14. Jamvan

    Jamvan The Bassist Formerly Known As Meh Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    You should change the survey so people can't change their answers once they read the thread. :angel:
  15. ronlitz


    Apr 20, 2008
    Northern Virginia
    The poll question and available answers don't make sense. Relief is the amount of forward bow in a neck. A neck that is perfectly straight has no relief. Relief is increased by loosening the truss rod (resulting in more bow), and is reduced by tightening the truss rod (results in less bow). Relief is important because a little relief will allow you to have a lower action without the strings buzzing on the frets.
    96tbird and Clutchcargo like this.
  16. organworthyplayer337

    organworthyplayer337 Professional Hack

    Oct 28, 2014
    Charlotte, NC
    Forward bow means the bow goes backwards.

    Back bow means the bow goes forward or up.

    One of the most confusing terms ever.

    But then people get upset when you misuse them :roflmao:
  17. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    This. No one knowledgeable on this topic is even remotely confused by the term.
    SteveCS likes this.
  18. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    Ha, interesting... I always thought of neck relief as a noun, not a verb... as in, you adjust (verb) the neck relief (noun). Assuming you start with a loose truss rod (and a straight neck) before you put the strings on, you need to then tighten the truss rod after you put the strings on. So I associate neck relief with truss rod tightening...
  19. ronlitz


    Apr 20, 2008
    Northern Virginia

    Forward bow means the bow goes forward - toward the front of the guitar - the side of the neck with the strings.

    Backward bow means the bow goes backward - toward the back of the guitar, the side of the neck that does not have strings.

    Here is a nice picture of a neck that has relief (forward bow): http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3591/3501855046_fb275f17dc.jpg

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