When to adjust truss rod after changing gauge?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by Hamfisted Gumbie, Aug 19, 2019.

  1. Hamfisted Gumbie

    Hamfisted Gumbie TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    HI all,

    I'm about to try a set of 11s on my Tele, and expect to have to adjust the truss rod (9s were originally fitted; I've been playing 10s for the last year). I have two questions:

    1) After fitting, stretching and tuning the 11s, will the change in neck curvature be apparent straight away, or d'you have to leave it under tension for a while to see the difference?

    2) My (American Elite) tele has a truss rod adjuster that's accessible without loosening the neck, so I'm guessing it's possible to make adjustments while the strings are under normal tension - is this a bad thing? D'you have to loosen, adjust, re-tune and re-inspect?
     
  2. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    1) Sometimes yes , sometimes no ,not all necks have the same rigidity.Some fat,quartersawn,roasted,round lam,two piece necks don't move at all no matter what gauge of strings you put on them

    2)No you don't.It will be fine adjusting the TR in SMALL increments under string tension.
     
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  3. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Just use your own judgement... it may need it right away, it may need it later. How controlled the environment is the guitar lives in is a factor too.

    Almost all the "rules" are often myths. Some guy claims you need to wait or it moves after a week but he's not telling you he left it out in the open air in changing weather for a week. Maybe some truth for a particular guitar in a particular place at a particular time but not universal by any means.
     
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  4. Hamfisted Gumbie

    Hamfisted Gumbie TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    Thanks both!
     
  5. StoogeSurfer

    StoogeSurfer Tele-Afflicted

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    Truss rod is French for, "Don't touch." No, but seriously, IMHO that gauge change won't make much difference in your neck, and frankly it may even improve your playability. At the very most, I would watch and wait on the curvature, and if necessary, first make adjustments in your saddle heights if you need to ... before you change the truss. But, if you must, tighten it no more than a quarter turn at a time, and then reassess.
     
  6. Qstick

    Qstick TDPRI Member

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    I'd just let your hands be the guide. If you change string gauges and feel it right away, make a small change. If not, go with it :)
     
  7. Slim Chance

    Slim Chance Tele-Holic

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    You may have already checked, but if the nut was cut for 9s, then I would keep an eye and ear out to make sure the slots are working with the 11s. This could be more of an issue than the truss rod.
     
  8. Matthias

    Matthias Tele-Afflicted

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    I only change it if the neck moves. Some guitars take a while to adjust. Others are instant. You might even like the extra/less relief with the new gauge, as it’s all a matter of taste.
     
  9. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Meister

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    Going from 9s to 11s, you will have to tighten the truss rod if you need to do something: for that I would loosen slightly the strings, so you do not put too much stress onto the screw. (Going the other way I find it unnecessary to loosen the strings.)

    IME, more often than not, the neck curve does not take very long to move. After no more than a few minutes you should be able to know wether or not the truss rod needs to be tighten up.

    If you like the way your neck plays with 9s, there is a good chance you’ll need to adjust the truss rod after going up to 11s.
    Just remember to measure your present neck relief so that you can set it back unchanged after the string swap.

    Very good advice up from Slim Chance about checking up the nut slots too!
     
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  10. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    No need to be afraid of the truss rod. But I think the reason so many people have issues with it, aside from the fear that it breaks and ruins the neck, is that it should almost always be done in the context of a full setup.

    Moving up one gauge you could probably get away with winging it, just move the rod, and get the relief you had before. Check nut slots to ensure no binding.

    But if this guitar shipped with 9s, and has never had a full setup...? Now is the time.
     
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  11. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    Yes, you will see a difference right away.

    Might as well give the thing a 1/4 revolution of tightening before you even put the 11s on. It'll make it slightly easier to turn the adjustment nut.

    Truss adjustments should be made with the neck under tension, if at all possible. That way you know what the adjustment is doing.
     
  12. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

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    Every guitar i own..is a never ending set up...most a guitar might go is 2 months..the Sg's are weekly..intonated & if i need relief change.Very rarely go out of tune & always ready to go...
     
  13. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    As moosie said, there is no need to be afraid of the truss rod.

    But - as I often say - there is no need to mess with the truss rod.

    I have had a few Fender guitars, and as a roadie back in the 70's I worked with the real stuff (Strat, serial # 10xx for example).

    I changed the strings on those guitars, and on my '68 Tele and '68 Strat a thousand times. I went to different gauges, and different types and brands. In 40 years of use, I never felt any need to adjust the truss rod.

    Leo Fender put the truss rod adjustment in an inaccessible place. Some of us think he did that so that owners wouldn't mess with it.

    I suggest that you change the strings and play the guitar. And don't be too critical and try to find reasons to change things! Just relax and play. If there is really a NEED to adjust the truss-rod, you will find out in time.

    But there is a fair chance that you will just keep playing and everything will be OK.
     
  14. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Lots of ways guitars react and equally many player suggestions.

    If it was me, and the neck was a normal modern not .90-1" thick vintage style baseball bat, I would add 1/8 turn to the truss rod nut when the set of .009s is removed and before putting on the set of .011s.
    But before doing that I'd measure the relief with a straight edge with the .009 set under tension, check again with the strings off when it will likely have a little back bow and make a mental note of how much back bow, tighten my guessed 1/8 turn and observe how much the back bow increases, then if the neck responds to that 1/8 turn as I guessed, string it up with the .011 set and see where the relief ends up.

    While it's true that a neck can move a little for a few days with a truss rod adjustment, IME that is more likely to happen if the neck was bowed by string tension and left that way for a long time, then you try to straighten it with the truss rod while the strings are at pitch.
    That can be a slow response, particularly if the neck is essentially warped beyond acceptable relief.

    But you should be able to check a neck with no strings on it, tighten the truss rod and see it move, loosen the truss rod and see it move right back.
    The truss rod really is a fairly predictable mechanical adjustment.

    The voodoo comes in when a neck is really warped, or when we tighten the rod with strings under tension.
    It's not wrong to tighten the truss rod with strings under tension, it just sometimes makes the neck react slower.

    I find Gibson truss rods also react differently from Fender, possibly related to the hardness of the wood, but possibly for other reasons as well. Same with many acoustic guitars, the truss rod often seems to respond a bit more sluggish compared to a good Fender hard maple neck where the response is generally like a machine.
    Maybe my preference for Fender necks causes a bias in my perceptions?

    Also certainly an acoustic neck is typically under a great deal more string tension, and most of my mahogany neck guitars are acoustics.
    The extra tension seems to make for more of a battle between strings and truss rod over who will govern the neck!
     
  15. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Friend of Leo's

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    This is not a judgement call based on the string gauge that can be answered by the Internet. Either you need to adjust the truss rod or you don't depending on the force put on the neck, as determined by the results of your measurements. This guy does it pretty much anytime he works on a guitar. Follow his general advice.


    Fender's website should also detail for you the process you go through to determine the neck relief.
    https://www.fender.com/articles/how-to/how-to-measure-neck-relief-on-guitar-or-bass

    Generally speaking, you:
    1. straighten the neck after the old strings are off.
    2. put the new strings on
    3. check the neck straightness and action.
      • neck straight = adjust the truss rod cause you don't have enough relief
      • too much relief = adjust the truss rod
      • correct amount of relief = you're golden Pony Boy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
  16. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    It's funny, we have so many on the intenent repeating over and over that "we are in a guitar renaissance", "cheap guitars are now better than vintage top shelf guitars", and my favorite: "CNC has leveled the playing field and any guitar no matter how cheap it is can be made just as good as an expensive guitar".

    But here you point out you had old Fender guitars that never needed a truss rod adjustment?
    How can such a thing be true???

    That has been my experience as well, I've had '60s Fender necks that didn't even need tension on the truss rod, and never really moved with the seasons or required truss rod adjustments.
    One I still have is a '64 Tele neck that I sometimes loosen the rod to check it, then turn it so it just snugs, leave it there and the neck never changes.
    It isn't a huge neck either, only about .83 at the first fret.

    CNC has not made guitars better IMO.
    Plenty of old guitars have been left in hot car trunks or leaned against heaters etc though, or maybe were just not very good to begin with. But I understand that seasoning and selecting lumber for guitar necks was more stringent and less industrial back before the '70s.
     
  17. 1300 E Valencia

    1300 E Valencia Friend of Leo's

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    My $.02.
    I'd wait a week or so to let things settle. What doesn't get mentioned often is you should play the darn thing in the meantime. Your hand will warm the wood underneath it. Don't let it just sit on a stand or (merciful heavens!) on the wall, under the A/C vent.
     
  18. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    I think that what I'm getting at is this: put on the strings you want to use. Play the guitar. Maybe it will play just fine. Don't try to adjust everything, just relax and see what happens. There are way too many people clattering on about how important a "proper set-up" is, but that all comes with time, and patience. Play the guitar for a while first, and see what you think. Changing strings MIGHT mess with your current set-up, but it will do no damage. If the truss-rod MUST be adjusted, you will soon know. If the intonation is off, you can do that too in a while. But why change everything to suit a new string set, when you don't even know if you will like and keep that set on the guitar?
     
  19. Hamfisted Gumbie

    Hamfisted Gumbie TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    Thank you to everyone who replied. As usual, the wisdom and advice was spot-on - the neck hardly moved after switching up to 11s, but the high G string *did* get jammed in the nut, and that was a level of faff that I didn't want to deal with so I moved back down to 10s again and will settle there. For now.
     
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