Today we’ll find out more about guitar necks and the recommended measures to take when adjusting them in a setup.
Guitar necks are imperative to your instrument, whether it has four or six strings. They not only provide all the notes to be pressed but is also where your hands feel the guitar like nowhere else. A comfortable, smooth neck can be wonderful to be played on and a good incentive for a practice session or a gig.
As all the notes are distributed along the fretboard, you can’t have actual music flowing through your instrument without a neck. Usually, an electric guitar has a span of four octaves, while a bass guitar can have three on average. This means that you have many notes at your disposal, and you’ve got to make sure they’re all perfectly in tune.
Let’s dive into the steps and cautions required when resetting a guitar neck.
How often do guitar necks need a reset?
Guitar necks can be reset once a year since it takes longer periods of continuous usage to bow. The truss rod usually tends to keep it in place for a considerable amount of time, but it’s good to regularly check it up and ensure that the whole fretboard is as straight as possible.
To better explain this, we need to divide the different guitar types between bolt-on and glued necks plus those which contain a truss rod or not. It’s considerably easier to reset a bolt-on neck (simply because you can unscrew it from the body), and it’s far easier to maintain a neck’s stability with a truss rod, which keeps the straightness of the guitar neck stable for a longer period.
The neck can withstand average use with solid protection like that, even on a longer scale as in a bass guitar. However, some instruments might not have this feature, such as vintage acoustic/electric guitars and most classical guitars. Other methods such as adjusting the bridge and the nut’s height can help fix the issue.
Also, guitars that don’t feature a bolt-on neck need a different treatment. They demand special care because removing the neck and gluing it back can be very demanding for someone unfamiliar with the job, aside from being dangerous to the instrument’s integrity. A luthier is always recommended when dealing with difficult or delicate situations such as these.
How do I know if my guitar needs a neck reset?
You can know if your guitar neck needs to be reset if the instrument’s tuning is unstable, the overall string’s height is not appropriate, or even by directly looking at it from the bridge. A bowed neck can also be uncomfortable to be played on, making the strings too difficult to be pressed on.
It can be helpful to always keep an eye out for any variations regarding tuning stability or even the actual playability. For example, you shouldn’t have much difficulty pressing the notes, and they must sound the same throughout the entire fretboard’s length. If you can’t fix it when adjusting the bridge height, its saddles, or the nut, the reason for such instability will probably be the neck’s excessive curvature.
There are two good methods to ensure your neck is as straight as possible.
The first one requires a ruler or a straight piece of metal. Simply rest it among three frets and see if the middle one is above or below the other two. Do this along the fretboard to see if it’s straight throughout its length.
The other depends on looking at your neck from the bridge, aiming towards the nut. If it’s bent or bowed in any way, you’ll be able to spot the concave or convex neck curvature right away.
What causes a guitar to need a neck reset?
The wood and its particular qualities, allied with the string’s tension constantly keeping a continuous force throughout the guitar, will eventually be responsible for a slight increase in the neck’s curvature. Constant usage and transportation might also contribute to the need for a neck reset.
Even if you don’t play your instrument all the time, eventually, your neck will need a reset. Years of constant usage or even decades of being forgotten in a closet can naturally affect how straight the neck is. The environment around the guitar can dictate how it will age and behave, highlighting the temperature and air humidity as the most influential.
The constant use of a guitar can inflict many physical traits on it, mostly on the neck itself. Electric and bass guitars tend to be a little easier to maintain, especially because of a truss rod, but also because you can easily remove the neck and adjust it nicely. Acoustic can be on the opposite side and display a delicate construction, thus requiring more experience and knowledge to fix any discrepancies.
How long does it take to reset a guitar neck?
A guitar neck reset can take from 15 minutes to two days, depending on the guitar’s construction. It takes less time to reset a bolt-on neck, but a glued one can take longer due to how fast it will dry. If it needs to be glued on, the neck should have enough time to settle within the body.
Bolt-on necks are way easier to deal with because they can be easily put back in place. However, glued necks demand the best adherence possible with the body, so more time is needed to let it dry. The neck is removed from the body in both cases, so a refined adjustment can be made after setting it back to the instrument.
It’s very important to have the neck reset as close as possible as it was when the instrument was new. Most times, a luthier is completely capable of making this adjustment, and your guitar will play as good as when it was new, especially because they most likely will have all the tools necessary to complete this task.
Does a neck reset devalue a guitar?
If done properly, a neck reset should not devaluate a guitar. Either on a bolt-on or glued neck, the reset process should be done by a professional who knows how to do the job without damaging the instrument’s finish or its physical integrity, like a luthier or an experienced player.
Every time a major adjustment is to be made on an instrument, a professional is always recommended to ensure the perfect result. Delicate fixes, like a neck reset, should only increase the guitar’s playability and comfort, leaving the rest up to the player. If this process is done carefully, the instrument’s integrity will be preserved, and no harm will be done to the guitar.
How much does it cost to have a guitar neck reset?
A guitar neck reset can cost from $250 up to $700. It all depends on the condition of the neck, its construction, and how delicate the instrument’s condition is. A simpler job shouldn’t be so pricey, but special conditions and instruments can alter the price, according to the professional.
The risks the instrument can take are always included in the price tag, so it’s obvious to assume that a more elaborated job should cost more. If required, the gluing stage is crucial and can take some days to be finished, so it’s expected that this will be more expensive than a simple bolt-on reset. However, the age of the instrument, its condition, and its building quality can be significant to increase the value of a service like this.
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Eduardo Cardoso is a musician and audio producer based in São Paulo, Brazil. He studied both music production and theory in college and has successfully launched his career as a solo artist in 2021. With over 10 years of experience with the music business, he currently acts as a session musician, music producer, audio editor, and content creator.