(1 of 5) How to Assess and Adjust an Electric Guitar Neck

A bowed neck can cause all sorts of problems. Poor intonation and fret buzz are among the top two. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to check the straightness of a guitar neck and make adjustments based on your assessment. A properly adjusted neck lays the foundation for a good setup.

Tools

  • 12 or 15 in. (30cm or 40cm) Metal Straight Edge
  • Alan Wrench, Hex Key or Socket Wrench
  • Light Piece of Paper, Paper Towel or light cloth to use as a backdrop
  • Phillips Head Screwdriver (if your guitar has a truss rod cover)

Visual Assessment

First, hold your guitar up and sight down the treble and bass sides of your instrument’s neck checking for any signs of a bow.

Physical Assessment (and Diagnoses)

1. Place a straight edge flat on the frets in the middle of your guitar’s neck between the E and A strings. Now check for any rocking by alternating slight pressure downward on the opposite ends of the ruler.
Diagnosis: If the ruler rocks up and down at all, your guitar probably has a back bow.

2. Now check for any signs of a gap underneath the frets. (You should use a white piece of paper or a light colored cloth as the back drop when you do this.)
Diagnosis: If you notice a gap between some of the frets and the bottom of the ruler then you probably have a forward bow.

3. Repeat Steps 3 and 4, first between the D and G strings, and then between the B and E strings.

Once you complete your assessment you should have a good picture of the overall health of your guitar’s neck. If you were able to assess your neck’s condition correctly, then you will know whether you have a back bow or a forward bow; or if you’re lucky and your neck is perfectly straight.

Adjustment

During your assessment you should have been able to determined whether your neck has a back bow or a forward bow. Click one of the links below to determine how to correct a back bow or forward bow. (If your neck has no bow in it at all then you should move on to the next step.)

How to Fix a Back Bow –>

How to Fix a Forward Bow –>

Next Step –>


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