Truss-rod: Loosen strings before adjusting?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by OldSchoolFlats, Jun 24, 2021.

  1. OldSchoolFlats


    May 29, 2021
    What do most folks do when adjusting the truss-rod:
    • Just adjust it?
    • Loosen the strings before adjusting it?
    Truss-rods make me nervous. There always seems to be a bit of “play” between the Allen-wrench and the nut on any bass I have ever had (starting with Fender Jazz in ‘73). I use the proper size wrench, and even try a few different brands since tolerances differ. My rod turns OK, but still wondering.

    In my current case, I have one bass, with a double-action rod.

    In the 70s, I stripped the bullet on my Jazz, but I was a dumb kid, and had WAY oversized strings on that thin Jazz neck.
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  2. I make minor adjustments to the truss rod on just about all my basses.

    Normally I wouldn’t loosen the strings. The point of the truss rod is to counter string tension and create relief.

    If the strings aren’t fully tuned you have no way of knowing if your adjustments worked or not.

    I’m usually creating relief - turning counter clockwise. But if I want to flatten the fingerboard by adding tension, I’ll usually still loosen the truss rod a slight bit before tightening it - clockwise. Just seems to cooperate a bit more that way.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2021
  3. If you’re tightening the truss rod, to reduce the amount of relief or make the neck straighter, best practice would be to loosen the strings, at least a bit, and manually “help” the neck into a straighter position then tighten the truss rod nut. Then, obviously, tune back to pitch and check the neck.

    If I’m loosening the nut to introduce more relief then I’d just adjust it. Having said that, I have instruments that I’ve had for a while and know well enough that if it’s a minor tweak I might just simply tighten the nut and check but YMM definitely V on that.
  4. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    It can only help. It will never hurt. Remember original fenders? (And some new ones)
    You have to take the neck off to adjust the truss rod.
    Loosening the strings a little seems like a very minor inconvenience
    One Way likes this.
  5. nilebodgers


    Nov 25, 2017
    When adjusting a new bass for the first time I’d play it safe when tightening and loosen the strings a little.

    On my own basses I know none of them have very much truss rod tension and I’m making tiny adjustments so I’d not bother loosening.
  6. BasEd


    Jun 27, 2017
    Tune the bass so the strings are at the correct tension. Then adjust the truss rod. A credit card should just stay in place at the eight fret when the string is fretted at the first and seventh fret for a little neck relief. Retune between each truss adjustment. The truss is countering the pull of the strings so they need to be at the correct tension when adjusting.
  7. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Leave strings tuned to pitch if possible. Always clamp the bass between your knees and manually flex the neck backwards when tightening / removing relief. Anything less invites disaster.

    GTHintz, legalbass and 96tbird like this.
  8. OldSchoolFlats


    May 29, 2021
    FYI, found an old thread here: Adjusting the loosen strings or not to loosen strings?

    Based on the thread/link above, and my own research, I don't see many people saying to loosen strings first.

    It does sound like first turning the nut a bit to loosen is good, so you can first get a feel for how hard the nut is to turn.
    96tbird likes this.
  9. BasEd


    Jun 27, 2017
    Turn the nut an eight or quarter turn at a time and check the relief each time. I’ve done it to loads of basses and never had an issue. I’ve heard of people breaking truss rods but I think you’d need to tighten the nut a lot before that happened.
  10. David76112


    Feb 19, 2012
    Make sure the wrench is a proper fit. There are metric and SAE sized nuts depending on where the rod was manufactured. It is common to find damaged nuts on used Basses because someone used the wrong sized wrench.
  11. OldSchoolFlats


    May 29, 2021
    Oh yeah! If an unknown size, I'll try both SAE and metric, and use whichever is tighter.

    Mine happens to be 4mm, but even there, I find manufacturing tolerances differ enough that some "4mm" allen-wrenches have more play than others. I even read one post on Talkbass, where somebody ground-down an oversize wrench to get a good fit.
    AEVAREX and David76112 like this.
  12. David76112


    Feb 19, 2012

    Ball end wrenches work well too. I need to order some new ones that I have in a cart at amazon. $12 for two sets.
  13. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Our tiny truss rods are meant to HOLD settings, nut induce a setting.

    If you are tightening the nut, manually flex the neck back to remove the rod tension and tighten the nut so the tiny rod is only holding the stetting. It’s a good idea to loosen the strings but not imperative.

    If you need to loosen the nut, the rod isn’t being forced into compression so it’s not an issue.

  14. I hate to but I’m going to be “that guy” for a minute. Whether or not you loosen the strings to adjust the truss rod check the relief at the 7th fret area with the string pressed at the 1st and typically the 17th fret. Also, a business card is closer to the “normal” relief recommendation then a credit card if you’re not using feeler gauges. Adjust to taste from there.
  15. BasEd


    Jun 27, 2017
    True. A business card is better. I just do it by eye/feel these days by pressing the strings against the 7th/8th fret and judging the gap. As long as the strings don’t rattle once they’re set to the correct height at the bridge then I’m good to go.
    96tbird and Matt Liebenau like this.
  16. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    San Marcos, California
    If I'm loosening it, I often don't bother. Or if I do, it's simply to have greater access for my wrench. When tightening it, yeah, I will give each tuner a couple of turns flat first.
    legalbass likes this.
  17. Qlanq


    Jul 9, 2007
    Usually the strings will be in the way.
    Loosen them and move them off the neck.
  18. +1
  19. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    ^^THIS^^ pretty much. With 24 basses, I get lots of practice keeping them set up correctly; but, TBH, most of them never need much more than a slight re-tune. But, if any of them do need a truss rod adjustment? I do it this way. And, with my 4001 Rick, this is the only way I can adjust the neck. Otherwise, those old hairpin truss rods will pop the fretboard off - if I'm lucky. But, with that bass, it hasn't been necessary since... jeez, I can't remember...:whistle:

    Well, actually you don't have to take the neck all the way off. I have several basses with Fender-style, heel-adjustable truss rods - and most of them aren't Fenders, either. If an adjustment is necessary? I just tie the strings down at the nut with surgical tubing; slacken the strings off (a good bit); then, just loosen the neck screws enough to tilt the neck heel up until I can reach the nut. Turn it as required; then, simply reverse the whole process. Easy-peasy...:cool:
  20. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Living for the groove Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    I always loosen 3-4 turns on each string to relieve tension on the neck when making any adjustments, then tune back to pitch. Takes an extra 30 seconds before and after. I learned to do it this way and just feel a little better adjusting a tension-free neck.
    2strings2frets and legalbass like this.