Why don't Fender guitars have a throat?
G&B basics: adjusting the guitar neck - that's how it works!
Since the strings exert a considerable tensile load on the neck (already 46.51 kg for a .010 to .046 set, e.g. from D’Addario), almost all guitar manufacturers have reinforced the neck with a steel rod. This can be adjusted either with a special adjustment key or a simple Allen key. Setting it up is easy.
If you turn the key clockwise to the right, the steel rod is tightened and the neck moves backwards against the string tension - and the string position becomes flatter. When turning counterclockwise, i.e. to the left, the steel rod is loosened, a possible backward curvature of the neck is relaxed and the string position becomes higher at the same time.
Danger: There are also a few instruments in which the adjustment of the steel rod works according to exactly the opposite logic!
And one more note: many instruments from more recent Far East production have a steel rod that works in both directions. In the starting position at the zero point, you may have to turn a few turns (slightly and without resistance) until the steel rod engages in the other direction. The easiest way to determine whether the neck is straight or not is to follow the course of the strings from the headstock. Because these always form a straight line. This is compared with the course of the frets and it is easy to see how the curvature of the neck runs. Sometimes with this method one has some "visual difficulties" at the beginning, but this soon resolves with a little practice.
The neck "sags", i. H. if the distance between the tops of the frets and the strings in the middle of the neck is significantly greater than at the beginning and end of the neck, the neck must be tightened a little. If the opposite is the case, the steel rod must be loosened.
When setting it yourself, make sure that the setting key is operated with feeling, but in no case with excessive force. Because a broken steel screw would result in a very complex and therefore expensive repair. If the neck cannot be adjusted straight away, it is advisable to consult a luthier.
How "straight" is optimal?
Even among guitar makers there are different opinions about the correct neck curvature. Some prefer a slight curve, others prefer a setting that is as straight as possible.
However, it is usually the most jitter-free when the neck is almost completely straight. That is, if you work on the first and last fret z. If, for example, you press the E string down, there should be a maximum of 0.5 mm from the lower edge of the string to the upper edge of the fret in the middle of the neck, i.e. around the 9th or 10th fret.
Of course, this information assumes an instrument with a neat neck. With some guitars, however, the curve of the neck is not particularly uniform, but rather - to put it exaggeratedly - resembles a mountain and valley railway. In these cases it can be advantageous to adjust the neck curvature a little more so that the strings do not buzz. The same has proven itself when using very thick strings, combined with a strong attack by the guitarist.
On the trail of errors
A good neck is perfect if you press the strings down individually at the first and last fret and when you pluck the string in between (finger acrobatics!) A clear tone can be heard. Then you press the string down on the first and the penultimate fret and check again by plucking it again whether a clear sound can be heard. In this way you check the whole fingerboard. Then you do the cross-check by pressing the string down on the last fret and at the same time on the second, then on the third etc. If all tones can be heard on all strings in all positions, the neck is perfectly adjusted!
If, however, no tones can be elicited from the strings at some points, the neck is warped in this area or one or more frets are too high here. Unfortunately, in these cases there is hardly anything that can be improved with a different steel rod setting. A guitar maker would now dress the frets.
You can find more basics about your guitar in our Guitar ABC!
Basic knowledge, workshops, tips & tricks - The G&B basics provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about the topics Guitar & bass. As they keep reaching new readers and explaining important topics, we regularly take them out of the archive.
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