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Truss rod adjustment without loosening strings

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by shadewind, Jul 6, 2012.

  1. I read somewhere that you should always loosen strings before adjusting the truss rod but I have never done this when adjusting my own instruments.

    I haven't done many adjustments since they tend to hold their adjustment quite well but I'm wondering, could this have caused any wear on the truss rod or neck? Or is it something I shouldn't worry about and just remember to loosen the strings in the future?
  2. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    You don't want to loosen the strings. You make truss rod adjustments under tension and in the playing position.

    Unless you've got a vintage style where you need to physically remove the neck to make an adjustment.
  3. adivin


    Jul 9, 2009
    New Orleans, LA
    Every video or article I've read says loosen the strings. Why wouldn't you?
  4. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Why would you?

    Dan Erlewine doesn't say to, and I'm inclined to go with what he says. He does say to always loosen the truss rod nut first, then tighten it.
  5. Loosen the strings.

    Given most truss rod adjustments are to tighten, why fight the string tension?

    I realize it's a tremendous chore, but why risk excessive wear on the truss rod, truss rod pocket, or the truss rod nut?

    Loosen the strings.
  6. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Carl Pedigo head luthier at Lakland videos don't show him loosening strings; and I've seen others. Either way works and is fine. But if tightening, drop 5 cents or so below pitch is probably good practice. If loosening the rod, nah.
  7. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    For an old bass when you dont know if it has been adjusted recently, I think it would be wise to loosen the truss rod nut, before tightening it. I read somewhere that you should apply pressure to the neck, so as to remove any load on the truss rod nut as you turn it. That would also be good on an old bass, or a new one, for that matter.
  8. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    According to the Fender manual, the very first step to setting up a bass (which includes truss rod adjustments) is "tune the instrument to standard pitch." If you loosen your strings and have difficulty getting the proper neck relief, it would end up being an awful lot of tweaking tuning and loosening, tweaking tuning and loosening, tweaking tuning and loosening, until you finally got it right. Been setting up my friends' guitars and my basses and guitars for 20+ years. I've never loosened strings to do a set up.
  9. If you have a bass you are familiar with and have done recent adjustments to it, then loosening the strings is not necessary. Relieving pressure by pushing the neck properly is acceptable. But to be safe when working on a truss rod adjustment for the 1st time, always loosen the strings and loosen the truss rod nut before trying to tighten it. Also, I think it's important when doing it for the first time, the nut should be completely removed, cleaned and lubricated before adjustment.
  10. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    This is good advice. A good thing about it too, is loosen nut 1/4 turn, then tighten it back. This will give you the "feel" of the nut tightening on that particular instrument, hence lessening the chance of going too far if you're trying to get the neck flat.

    If I'm tightening, I pull gently back on the headstock to release the rod.

    Rocky's spot on too.
  11. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009

    you'd loosen the strings with a "problem" neck, say where the rod was already pretty tight. otherwise, straighten the neck and get on with your day. (you can "cheat" by pushing the neck into backbow with your other hand to help the truss rod along, an important step for rics.)

    +2 also to making sure the truss rod nut turns easily, loosening it a pinch first to get a feel for its behavior and removing and lubing it if it feels hard to turn.
  12. What lube should I use for the nut? Thanks guys.
  13. These were all "new" instruments that turned relatively easy so I suppose I should be fine then.
  14. The number one serious damage done to bass guitars by their owners is stripped nuts and broken truss rods.
    Enough said.
  15. Good to know Rocky! Also not surprising.
  16. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    What Walter said.
  17. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    What walter said, II.

    If you ever hear one squeak, STOP, cause your fixin' to have a problem. That's when you really need to loosen the strings and put a little back pressure on the neck to get the nut loose, off and lubed.

    I use a very little CLP or Vaseline, with the stress on very little. Never dries out or gums up. CLP is used on firearms. If too much of anything is used it can migrate into the wood.

  18. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    You should NOT loosen the strings, what tension are you setting it against if the strings are loose? I never got how so many people recommend that step. And I am a big Fender fan, but they are not the smartest with basses and maintenance, otherwise they would have started doing great shielding instead of making noiseless pickups.

    You do know that a bass needs to be shipped tuned up so the bass neck stays proper as there is so much tension on the neck. You shouldn't even remove all the strings/tension when you are changing strings.
  19. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Diabolous, the consensus is, with a perfectly functioning neck, no need to loosen for tweaks. With an old unknown 'cellar queen', you need to be careful.

    As for noisless vs. Shielding, noiseless is for control of 60hz hum. Shielding will only reduce RF noise. Two different maladies, two solutions. Things like dimmer packs emit RF. For the first 20 years of Fender's history, light shows at live club shows weren't that much of a consideration. Arena shows of the late 60's and seventies changed the game.
  20. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    I must confess...for truss rod nuts on the peghead I do slack the strings off to get them out of the way. On the D string on a 5 string it's really necessary, IMHO. The wheel at the butt of the neck not so much. Fender type at the butt with no clearance, slack the strings, masking tape them at the top nut and take the neck off.

    True this. All the copper in the world won't help with transformer fields.