“There comes a point in the evolution of every guitar player when knowing how to play the guitar is not enough. Sooner or later every serious player wonders, “How can I make this instrument work better?” ~ Gene Imbody (5/1/2001)
Indeed! That’s what I tried to do with my stock Epiphone Les Paul Standard guitar. The aim is to have a straight neck, with just a little relief (i.e. gap) and no buzzing of the strings.
What I learned (and tried), in summary:
- Tune the guitar first.
- Use the 6th string to check the gap between the string and the neck; capo the 6th string at the 1st fret and press down on the 14th fret.
- To reduce the gap, you need to tighten the truss rod (turn clockwise).
- To widen the gap (if there’s a ‘back-bow’ or buzzing), loosen the truss rod (turn anti-clockwise).
- Adjust in small increments.
- Although the pros all say the truss rod adjustment (i.e. neck relief) is not to adjust the string action, I found that once the neck relief is changed, the action has to be re-adjusted. E.g. turning the truss rod tigher (clockwise) does lower the string action.
More on how it works (extracted from How to adjust your guitar’s truss rod, by Gene Imbody):
- Tightening the truss rod straightens the neck and consequently lowers the strings, which can create string buzz. However, string height is controlled at the nut and saddle, not in the neck.
- The greater the gap, the more you will tighten the nut (clockwise). If you had no gap you will be loosening the nut (anti-clockwise). Keep in mind that most good necks require no more than half of a turn in either direction.
Useful web references: