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Truss Rods: Good Posture For Guitars

Sep 15, 2008
There are a great many physical components that make up a guitar. Some, such as strings and fingerboards, are obvious. Others, like nuts, are less apparent, but they are still visible. But some guitar components cannot be seen at all because they are hidden inside of the instrument. This is the case with the truss rod, a metal rod that runs along the inside of a guitar's neck. This part of the guitar has existed since at least the early 1900s, although it was not patented until 1921. Despite the fact that a truss rod cannot be seen, it is still an essential part of a guitar, one that can add both quality and longevity to an instrument.

Ideally, the neck of a guitar should have a slight relief, or bow. Such a shape allows for reasonably low action (more on this later) in the high fingerboard positions while still allowing the strings to ring clearly in the low positions. A truss rod is essential to maintaining that optimum relief. As mentioned, the truss rod runs along the inside of the guitar neck. Each rod has a mechanism that allows the rod to be loosened (moved toward the guitar's body) or tightened (moved further up into the guitar's neck). The position of the rod can be made to compensate for changes in the neck's relief. Such changes can be caused by various factors: changes in humidity, the aging of the neck's wood or additional tension in the guitar's strings. It is this last factor that most often creates the need for the truss rod.

Truss rods are not found in acoustic guitars because they are not required. The nylon strings of such instruments do not require very high tension, which means that the instruments' necks are not overly stressed. Steel strings, on the other hand, require much higher tension. Because the tension is so high, it can actually cause the guitar's neck to warp over a period of time, sometimes to a point beyond repair. A truss rod helps to counteract this effect by strengthening and straightening the neck.

Tightening a truss rod will also affect the intonation of a guitar. When the rod is tight, it straightens the neck, which causes the guitar's strings to move closer to the fingerboard. Contrarily, when the rod is loosened, the neck bows forward and the strings move further away. The distance of the strings from the fingerboard affects the manner in which the instrument operates, or the "action," and this is one determinant in an instrument's sound.

When a truss rod is of the "dual-action" variety, it means that the rod can be both tightened and loosened. Not all rods go both ways: all of them can be tightened, but standard truss rods can only be loosened up to a certain point because in most cases, guitars necks need to be straightened rather than allowed to bend. With a dual-action truss rod, both tightening and loosening are possible, which means that the neck can be made to bend either forward or backward.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for guitars, truss rods, sheet music, guitar tabs, and home theater audio.
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