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Neck Tension

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Ian Hall, Jun 12, 2003.

  1. Ian Hall

    Ian Hall

    May 31, 2002
    It is true that if you increase the tension on your truss rod to lower your action you would also alter your tone? It seems that since a higher tension has been put on the neck that the resonant freq. of the neck would be raised. It seems when I crank my action down that the tone of my bass takes on a more compressed type of sound.

  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Well, as I see it...

    Tightening the truss rod puts pressure on certain parts of the neck in order to change the neck relief (in many cases effectively lowering the action). The strings are at the same tension you started with. I'm not sure how the resonance of the neck reacts, if at all, to increased truss rod pressure, but I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that the resonant frequency goes up, since no mass (but perhaps some stiffness) has been added to the neck.

    I think that most of the tone differences between high and low action have to do with the amount of fret noise and the tension increase due to fretting a string that is higher or lower off of the board.
  3. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Not to be slightly off the intended topic, but you shouldn't use the truss rod to change the action height on your bass, you should use the bridge saddles for that.

    True, you use both in combination of doing a setup, but if you just want to raise the action I wouldn't adjust the truss rod, I'd just raise the bridge saddles.

    Also true - the amount of relief in the neck can and does affect how low the action can be set before fret buzzing sets in.

    Okay, `nuff said....

    To answer your initial question I'm not sure that I've ever noticed a difference in sound when making truss rod adjustments... never thought about it..

    Not much help, am I? :meh:

  4. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    I'm with Matt--it seems to me that the main reason you're noticing this tonal difference is not because of any change in the tension of the neck, but because the lower action keeps the strings from vibrating so freely. At least, that's what it seems like from my own experiences with high vs. low action.

    It's easy enough to check out for yourself, though. With the truss rod adjusted as you would adjust it for a low action (i.e. fairly little relief), try setting the bridge saddles for low action, then raise them up for higher action. Most folks find that higher action gives more dynamic range, at the expense of some ease of playability. Everything's a tradeoff!


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