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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
How often to get a truss rod adjustment?

A couple of years ago kiddo bought a standard Strat from local music store. He actually paid for the guitar himself, but good ole dad was on the hook for lessons, case, strings and whatever. I had been restringing his 3/4 size acoustic, and felt pretty comfortable doing that, but the other stuff, I dunno. I asked the guitar tech what other type of stuff needed to be done. He told me that, depending on the weather, the truss rod would need to be adjusted periodically. So I figured twice a year. What do I know? With restring, the store charged $25 and they did it while you waited. No biggie. Since then, this guitar tech has done some things that had made even me question his skill. So when the kid’s teacher told him that the intonation was off, I took the guitar to a more upscale store in the area. The whole smear, restring, neck adjustment, adjusting the intonation, filing the frets and cleaning the fret board $65. They wanted to keep the guitar 2 weeks. Whoa! There is no way the kid is gonna be without his guitar for two weeks. After my wig flipped a couple of times they said 4 days. Better, but $65 ouch. I looked up adjusting the intonation and that doesn’t seem so bad, but adjusting the truss rod, I’m still not comfortable with that. So the question is, how often do I need to shell out the $65? And if YMMV, how do I tell when it needs an adjustment?
 

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Sticky Valentine
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Where do you live?

I'm in So. Cal. and the humidity out here isn't bad at all. Keep it cased and you should be good for a while. I don't see any reason why you would need the truss rod adjusted twice a year.

My G&L bass shipped to me (dry So. Cal.) from (humid as hell) Hawaii. I did a slight truss adjustment after letting it do what it needed to do for about two weeks, and I haven't had to touch it since (and that was in 05).

Keep it in its case when its not being played and take care of it and it should be fine for a long time. Of course, instruments will act different depending on the weather, and I'm only used to dealing with basses, but I don't think the neck should be warping badly enough to have to get adjusted twice a year under any conditions unless the neck was screwed to begin with.


joe
 

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Devoid of all flim-flam
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Read the instructions and then go for it. Skill-wise, working on a bicycle and working on a Fender electric guitar are pretty equivalent.

Fender is a wonderful company. They actually encourage you to work on your instruments. In keeping with their instruments' looks, the company has a '50's hot-rodder mentality.

As for the 65 buck price tag from the store, it's a bit high but still reasonable for what amounts to a full set-up. But with a Fender, don't bother taking it to a shop. If you really screw it up, then take it to a shop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Like i said, what do I know.
I'm just going by what the guitar tech, who I now have very little faith in, told me.
I'm in WI. Humid summers, crazy dry winters.
The question is how do you know your neck doesn't need to be adjusted?
Will I be able to tell, cause I don't think the kid won't be able to tell me.
 

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Alien Musician
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Personally?

I've got a guitar I've owned 19 years and I've never touched the trussrod.
I've got another guitar I've owned for 11 years and touched it ONCE, briefly.
The others? I haven't needed to touch them.
Intonation is a different story but mostly I leave 'em alone.
I live in Minneapolis so we've got warm humid summers and crazy dry cold winters.

Regarding intonation: I've followed instructions on the internet and done that myself.
Never needed to touch the trussrod.

Generally intonation changes is the product of two things: one, maybe change to
a different brand and gauge of strings and/or the fact that THE GUITAR BY ITS
VERY NATURE WILL NEVER, EVER, EVER BE IN TUNE.

Here's how I tune and the guitar will be is "an tune" as it's likely to be.
I learned this from a friend and I don't use any other tuning methods at all
since this one eliminates an accumulation of error from the other methods.

If the following method once completed still shows things are out of intonation
THEN you likely need an intonation job. You might even try this yourself - my
guess is your kids guitar might just need a very minor adjustment.

Note that even if this is done there will still be a case where the guitar might seem
out of tune in certain chords, it's the nature of the beast.

So, low to high guitar is E, A, D, G, B, E.

First:
Find a tone source that doesn't change, preferably a keyboard.
Play an A on the keyboard and tune the A string so it matches as closely as possible.
So you've got your A string in tune now.
If you play the A string 12 frets up, is it still in tune?
If it is, that string at least is intonated correctly.
If it's not, that's a whole 'nother discussion.

Once that's done do the following:
Note that some of these will be one octave up from the "reference" A note but as
long as the A's all match you should be okay.

So, the A string is in tune, now let's take care of the rest of the strings...
Then make sure the low E string at the 5th fret matches the open A on the A string.
Then make sure the A on the 7th fret of the D string rings in unison with the
A on the A string.
Then make sure the A on the 2nd fret of the G string rings in unison with the A on the A string.
Then make sure the A on the 5th fret of the B string rings in unison with the A on the A string.
Then make sure the A on the 5th fret of the high E string rings in unison the A on the A string.

So, in effect, all of the A's on the guitar are in tune and match each other.
I can do this tuning method in 20 seconds on any guitar now and then I can play
any chord I like and it's likely to be in tune or very close.
 

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I don't know anyone who has ever adjusted the truss rod. And if the intonation is off, it should be fairly obvious. Once intonation is adjusted, you should be good to go, most likely without ever needing to adjust it again.

I've never paid anyone to make adjustments on my guitars. I'd save the $65 and make the kid figure out how to do it. It's not hard at all. It just takes patience.
 

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Scary Teddy Bear
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I find

I generally do a truss rod adjustment on my guitars every 3 years or so. I know how to do it myself, so I do.

A good way to tell is to play notes up near the top of the neck.....if you hear it slapping against the frets instead of a good, crisp note, you probably need an adjustment, otherwise nah, keep playing.

I need to do mine a little more often I think, because all of my guitars have locking trems on them, and I tend to play around with tunings, and even huge dive bombs on the trem. I think it tends to throw the neck off a little.

ALSO, if you store your guitar with the head leaning against a wall or couch, it will need an adjustment sooner, rather than later.

You always want to store it with NO pressure on the neck, the support should be at the very base of the neck.
 

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immerle said:
.......The question is how do you know your neck doesn't need to be adjusted?
Will I be able to tell, cause I don't think the kid won't be able to tell me.
As an ex-guitar player (using the term loosely), I can remember being much more anal about my guitar set-up and maintenance that I am about my bikes now.

I think getting an experienced "player", maybe a teacher, to show you a little about guitar setup would be the easy way to learn.

I always see people looking down the neck to see how flat it is. You don't want perfectly flat and certainly don't want a big bow either. I'm pretty sure there are some guidelines as to how much bow you want.

Truss rod adjustment is sort of like fine tuning your derailleurs. Quarter turns may do it. Never think in terms of multiple turns.

In the final analysis, guitar playing and bike riding have a lot in common.

Play or ride and stop obsessing over your equipment. :D
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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Like most of the others, I do my own work. I rarely mess with the truss rods once I've got them set. A crap guitar will probably need more regular looking after, but a decent one may never need a reset.

However, if you want to keep a steady stream of income into your business of adjusting guitars, at least two truss rod adjustments per year is mandatory.

If you're paying for setups, better to pay a bit more for a full-on setup at a shop that won't try to get you on the "what's good for the shop is good for your guitar" plan.

The rule about humidity and guitars: If you're comfortable, so's your guitar. And that's for acoustics/classical. A solid body guitar can tolerate quite a bit more.
 

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Occasionally, very rarely and usually more when it's new (or new to me) than after I've had it for awhile. Like ASB says, it's never really in tune or perfectly set up. How close you need it and want it to your perfect setup (think professional bike fitting) are up to your son - and whoever's paying the bill. :)

Learning the basics of working on a guitar should be part of the lessons (IMO) or any other way to learn how to do it. Be careful with the truss rod though, a bad choice here can be an expensive fix. This is maybe like wheel truing - some people do it, some take it to the shop. You learn basic bike repairs so it's done quickly and doesn't leave you stranded by the side of the road. If you're in a band, you don't want to be without a guitar because of a simple problem and a busy repair shop. Never too early to learn.

The "worst" bass I have hasn't needed anything for a couple of years, but after having it for 20 years sometimes it goes thru bad phases (like me). One got 1/8 turn last year when it was 9 years old. Most are somewhere between these two. I'm not good enough with my acoustic guitar to really worry about it, but I'm picky when it comes to bass setup.
 

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I only do a truss rod adjustment if the strings are buzzing or if the intonation is off. I have been known to do it with the electrics but I leave the truss rod adjustments on the acoustics to a luthier.

I haven't adjusted one of my truss rods in a couple of years at least.

The tech filed the frets? How long has your kid had this guitar? Were the frets pitted?
 

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Le Misérable
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il sogno said:
I only do a truss rod adjustment if the strings are buzzing or if the intonation is off. I have been known to do it with the electrics but I leave the truss rod adjustments on the acoustics to a luthier.

I haven't adjusted one of my truss rods in a couple of years at least.

The tech filed the frets? How long has your kid had this guitar? Were the frets pitted?
+1. It's hard to imagine a new-ish strat needing fret-filing.

Solid-body guitars put up with a HELL of a lot in terms of humidity fluxuation; this combined with all of the good advice above about guitars never quite being perfect means that a good solid-body can, with a minimum of non-technically-difficult attention, go years without seeing the inside of a shop. Two truss-rod adjustments a year? Madness...unless your son is prone to accidents, or does unholy things to his guitar, Malmsteen-style, on stage:). I don't start thinking truss-rod adjustment until strings start doing things I don't like, which makes playing not fun anymore.

The only thing I disagree with here is the bit about always keeping a guitar in its case. Sure it keeps it out of harm's way and protects it a bit (or alot, depending on the case) from atmospheric changes, but it also can protect it from being played. I play sporadically when I'm at home, and mostly because I look at the thing it and tells me to play it. Understood, of course, that the stand HAS to be one of the little guys that support the guitar from the bottom, and not on the neck. Definitely can't leave any guitar in a neck stand for prolonged periods.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
When I brought it in, the person at the counter quoted me $65 for the full set up.
I was eager to get it done considering the lack of professionalism I was getting from the original guitar tech.

When we picked it up they charged me $45 for the work they actually did.
Frets did not need filing. He said the he lightly steel wooled them. Cleaned the fret board and adjusted the intonation and action.

Since, it seems, I won't have to worry about truss rod adjustments, I think I will be able to deal with the maintenance after this and save the $45.
However, the kid is saving up for a second guitar - twice the work for me. :(
 

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immerle said:
However, the kid is saving up for a second guitar - twice the work for me. :(
Jeeze, I wish I had my own personal guitar tech. Why are you doing it? He needs to learn how to do his own maintenance.
 

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play Mississippi Queen lead and if it doesnt sound like Leslie then turn the rod thingy w/ an allen key until it sounds right.
.
Warren Haynes is gawd.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
mohair_chair said:
Jeeze, I wish I had my own personal guitar tech. Why are you doing it? He needs to learn how to do his own maintenance.

He's 11.
I can't get him turn off the lights when he leaves a room.

Saving for this guitar was such a herculean task for him, I'd hate to see him screw it up.
At some point I'm gonna have to ease him into doing his own maintenance.
Maybe after a little of the shine comes off this guitar.
Plus it always helps if I understand it before I try to teach it to him.
 

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Ibashii said:
+1. It's hard to imagine a new-ish strat needing fret-filing.
Along the lines of what I said above, the setup at the factory could be decent but not as good as it could be (very likely the case). Last time I had frets filed was on a brand new neck. The $65/setup tech may have been giving it a higher-level setup than what was really needed for the player.

Not that anyone should start out on a dog, but again this is a lot like bike fitting (IMO) - most people (not just serious riders, including all people who own bikes) don't need anything more than a couple of quick adjustments by a decent LBS. And when fit/setup gets to a really exact level, a lot of opinion and personal preference is involved.
 

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Shirtcocker
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gutfiddle said:
play Mississippi Queen lead and if it doesnt sound like Leslie then turn the rod thingy w/ an allen key until it sounds right.
.
Warren Haynes is gawd.
 

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Bocephus Jones II said:
you gotta give props to Leslie West though...
I love the tone he gets from that P90 pickup/Les Paul Junior. It's fatter than he is.

I love Warren Haynes too, but I gotta say that version of Miss. Queen didn't do much for me. I prefer it when he does his own stuff.
 
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