What is Guitar Neck Relief? – Everything You Need to Know

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  • What is Guitar Neck Relief? – Everything You Need to Know

What is Guitar Neck Relief? When it comes to caring for your guitar and making sure that it creates the best sound when you play – the shape of the neck is very important. On the guitar neck, you’ll find the fretboard, truss rod, strings, and saddle bridge – all of which are important in ensuring that your guitar remains playable and in shape.

No matter how careful you are and how soft your playing style is – all guitar necks will eventually need adjustments. Differences in humidity, weather, and altitude can affect the size and shape of the guitar wood. This in turn will require adjustments to be made to ensure your instrument remains in shape with great intonation.

In the article below we will talk you through everything you need to know about electric and acoustic guitar neck relief. Below you will discover the answers to queries such as:

  • What is Neck Relief?
  • How much Guitar Neck Relief do you need?
  • What happens to your guitar when the neck relief is too high?
  • How do you adjust acoustic or electric guitar neck relief?
  • The process for adjusting guitar neck relief.

If for any reason you need to reference what the different parts of a guitar are while reading this article we have a guide you can reference here.  Continue reading below to discover everything you need to know about this essential process for keeping your instrument in tip-top condition.

What is Guitar Neck Relief?

The term neck relief refers to the slight concave bow shape which is purposely created in a guitar neck. Adding this electric or acoustic guitar neck relief will increase the gaps between the frets and strings. This means that there will be less buzzing and free vibration of the strings while you play.

If there is too much guitar neck relief, the guitar strings will be too far apart, affecting pitch intonation and your ability to fret comfortably.

What Measurement of Guitar Neck Relief Should You Aim For?

The deepest point of the curve on your electric or acoustic guitar relief should measure between 0.005 and 0,020 inches at the 7th or 8th fret mark. If the measurement is below this, you may need to adjust the truss rod to create more of a curve.

How do you give a Guitar Neck More Relief?

The process of adding to an acoustic or electric guitar relief involves either loosening or tightening as you turn the truss rod nut at the top of your guitar.

What is a Guitar Truss Rod?

A guitar truss rod is a slim metal shaft that runs along the neck of the guitar from the top of the neck to where it joins the body. It is placed under the fretboard and can usually be accessed via a small hole behind the truss rod neck on the guitar.

You can use the truss rod nut to adjust the amount of neck relief on your instrument, this will also adjust the space between the strings and frets.

Should a Guitar Neck be Straight or have a Relief Curve?

Although having a straight neck may make playing easier, some guitar styles and guitars are better when there is a bit of a relief curve. This allows the string to vibrate better and will help to prevent the buzzing sound while you strum.

What Happens When the Guitar Neck Relief is Too High?

Have you noticed that the guitar strings are too far from the neck, the instrument has uneven pitch notation, and is difficult to play? If so, this can be rectified within a few minutes by adjusting the truss rod to either loosen or increase the pull the neck experiences from the strings.

How to Adjust Guitar Neck Relief?

You can easily adjust your electric or acoustic guitar relief in a matter of minutes with just a few simple tools. But your first task is to identify what kind of truss rod is on your guitar. They will serve the same function, but require a different approach to adjust the neck relief.

What Types of Truss Rods are there?

A single action truss rod will move the guitar neck in one direction. When you tighten the truss rod nut, the neck bows to create a back bow shape. When you loosen the nut, it relieves the level of tension in the neck and allows the neck to move forward. If loosened enough it allows the neck to push forward creating a fore bow shape

Dual-action truss rods allow you to adjust the neck in either direction. You can use these types of truss rods to easily create a back bow or fore bow curve to the guitar neck.

There are also non-adjustable truss rods that are made of wood, metal, or graphite. These can’t be used to tighten or loosen the tension on the neck. You will usually find these on classical guitars, flat-top guitars, and archtops.

What Tools Do You Need to Adjust Guitar Neck Relief?

  • A guitar action gauge for measuring.
  • Capo Device.
  • A truss wrench or properly sized standard wrench.

How to Measure the Guitar Neck Relief Before You Start

Before you get started you will need to tune the guitar to pitch. To do, you simply need to follow the steps below:

  • Place the capo at the top of the first fret.
  • Press down on the 6th string on the final fret.
  • Place the guitar gauge behind the 6th string so that it is touching the frets behind.
  • Slowly and gently move the gauge across from the 1st to the last fret and note down differences in the gap between the frets and strings.
  • When you finish, look at the largest measurement you have jotted down. This is the current measurement on the relief fore-bow curve.
  • If there is no fore bow measurement at all, then this means your guitar neck is either straight or has a back bow shape. This may mean that you need to loosen the truss bow to allow enough tension relief from the strings.

What Is the Ideal Acoustic or Electric Guitar Neck Relief?

The best guitar neck relief will depend largely on your style of play. If you lightly strum your guitar then you won’t need a substantial amount of relief. If you are a strong summer, then you will need a larger gap between the fret and strings to prevent the fret buzz while you play.

  • Light and Medium Strumming Style – aim for relief of about 0.010 inches between the top of the frets to the bottom of the 6th string.
  • Strong and Aggressive Strumming Style – a relief of between 0.015 to 0.20 should be suitable.

How to Adjust the Truss Rod to Change Guitar Neck Relief?

Because there are so many different truss rod designs, the tool you will need will depend upon your guitar model. You may have received a truss rod wrench when you bought your guitar, or you might be able to use a flathead screwdriver or an Allen wrench. Take a look at the truss rod nut and make sure you pick the right tool for the job.

How to Add Relief to a Guitar Neck?

To create a fore bow shape you need to add relief to the neck. To do this you need to turn the wrench clockwise.

It is a good idea to make each movement slowly and deliberately. Never try to force the movement as this may result in lasting damage to your instrument.

If you need to create a back bow shape, you simply need to turn the wrench the other way!

Don’t forget to retune your guitar after the adjustment to check the new pitch intonation.

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