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I recently noticed a bow in my guitar and that it has been much harder to play than it should be. I tightened the truss rod to bring the string height back down and unfortunately, the string height is still to high for my taste. Tonight I once again looked at the neck and it was still slightly bowed, concaved that is. I turned the truss rod again to tighten and unbelievably, it was as if I couldn't turn it anymore. I used 1/4 turns and always gradual and slow. Since there is still a bow and my action is not where I want it, does there mean something is wrong with my guitar? I don't feel it is stripped or anything and my neck is not bent, twisted, cracked or anything like that. Thank you guys for all your help.

P.S. Guitar is a PRS SE 7-String - no tremelo.

  • There is the remote possibility the truss rod is broken, or has come detached from the other end. That would be a job for a luthier. How many extra turns did you have to put into the screw? More than a couple of flats would suggest something inside has come loose, unless you just swapped for a much heavier string gauge recently. – Tetsujin Jan 11 '15 at 9:46
  • Guitar necks are supposed to be bowed somewhat. Here is a video on guitar setup by the great Joe Walsh. youtube.com/watch?v=D7gMwE7phoM – Bruce Jan 14 '18 at 18:23
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Truss rod adjustments do not usually affect the neck with an immediate change. Depending on the base wood, it could take 30 minutes to an hour before the truss rod has had it's full effect on the neck. My recommendation would be to wait 30 minutes to an hour and check again.

If you feel you have made the proper adjustments, but your guitar neck is skill skewed, it is possible your neck is warped. However, your neck shouldn't be perfectly straight. Some 7 string guitars come with reinforcement rods, so an adjustment might take even longer to notice.

Quick tip: capo the first and 12th fret and measure the height of the strings before and after an adjustment. That should tell you what affect the adjustment is having.

  • Thank you, but what if it was warped? I mean, is that fixable? I don't think this is the case here but I have never had a warped neck before. And I did wait quite a while before checking again. Maybe the adjustment now needs to be made at the bridge? – Jordan Jan 11 '15 at 5:30
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    A warped neck can be fixed, but it isn't cheap. Depending on the neck, a luthier can remove the fret board and replane the base wood until it is straight. Then, they can glue a new fret board to the base wood. – piofusco Jan 11 '15 at 5:33
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    Additionally, if the only problem you notice is with the string height, then yes - adjust the bridge! Just keep track of all of your tinkering so you can get things back if you feel you have made things worse. – piofusco Jan 11 '15 at 5:34
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First port of call - Paul Reed Smith. He may well have seen the problem before. It makes life easier to slacken the strings before tightening the truss rod.While they're loose, try to turn another turn, you'll feel if it's binding or the thread has gone, more easily.

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I have a Yamaha FG 110 and the neck warped beyond what the truss rod is capable of correcting. This might have happened because it was stored for many years under full string tension (not a good idea). If the truss rod was broken or stripped it would likely turn too easily. If you can loosen the truss rod but only tighten it so far before it won't turn any more, the truss rod is probably fine. But it is very possible that the neck is warped. I straightened my neck slightly by taking all the strings off and applying pressure over a period of weeks but still could not get the bow out. I just put super light strings on it and keep it tuned half step flat and only use it for occasional practice to save fret wear on my other guitars. It plays fine in first position but Barre chords past the 5th fret are almost impossible to play. If that won't work for you I recommend a new guitar, or a new neck. Attempting to sand and carve and straighten a bowed neck may improve play-ability some, but not enough to justify the expense. Good luck.

  • Yeah, I don't have that kind of problem lol. I have never seen a warped neck but wondered if it were possible. Fortunately, I don't think this is the case. My action is great compared to many- just not good enough for me. – Jordan Jan 18 '15 at 1:07
  • Well it sounds like you may have a slight bow since you have tightened the truss rod as far is it will go and you still have a bow. Lighter strings will put less tension on the neck and may very slightly lower the action. The other thing you can do to achieve lower action is lower the height of the saddle by filing it down. – Rockin Cowboy Jan 18 '15 at 5:02
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I had the same problem, could not tighten the truss rod any further and still a bit of up-bow to the neck. Found a solution on the web that worked for me. If the problem is that there is not enough thread left on the rod for the bolt to move on, it helps to take the bolt off, put a few washers on, and put the bolt on again. This wins you some length of thread, so you can adjust some more. The challenge is to find washers of the right diameter (to fit the rod and to fit the cavity). Also, it helped to do the adjustment with the neck forced straight, or even with a slight down-bow. That way the trussrod does not have to do the pulling work, just to keep the whole contraption in place. Of course this is something to be very careful with - worked for me but no guarantees.

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To add to the other answers, the truss rod really isn't for adjusting the action. The truss rod works against the string tension on the neck. To check the truss rod's adjustment you need to hold down the strings to the 1st and 12th fret (e.g. with two capos) with the guitar fully strung and in tune and measure the gap at the 7th fret. This should be somewhere around 7 thousands of an inch or about 0.18mm for a 6 string electric. Not sure about 7-string. The slight bow in the neck helps prevent buzzing on the lower frets with low action. Once the truss rod is properly adjusted the action can be adjusted at the nut and the bridge saddle.

If you can't adjust the guitar within spec it's also possible the frets themselves are worn out and the surface of the neck is no longer straight, in this case the guitar might need a fret job.

  • Can't see how the two E strings would both have the same clearance. And .007" is just thicker than a human hair, whereas 1.8mm is around 5 visiting cards thick. – Tim Jan 15 '18 at 17:24
  • @Tim the bottom of the string acts as a straightedge here, so the bottom of both E strings rests on their respective fret wires and so you should observe very similar relief on all strings. This is different than when you adjust action where each string's action is set differently. I'm off by one decimal place on my metric, sorry, I'll fix that! – Guy Sirton Jan 16 '18 at 3:51
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I have a Simon and Patrick Songsmith acoustic. The neck would not straighten from too much up bow no matter how much I adjusted the truss rod. I backed off all the strings and put my guitar in the bathroom with the shower on hot for about 15 minutes. To my astonishment the guitar straightened out. Anyone who is having issues and who knows their truss rod isn't broken maybe this experience with help you.

  • Hi Danial - I have edited both your profile pic and this post. Please avoid offensive comments. – Doktor Mayhem Aug 31 '16 at 10:15
  • Additionally - I do not think I'd recommend this technique. Especially for acoustic guitars - you could do an awful lot of damage. Humidity is something that should be well controlled. – Doktor Mayhem Aug 31 '16 at 10:16
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I'm having this same issue, I recently watched a video and I am considering trying the technique. He basically took the neck off and clamped it to a leveling beam with another piece of wood on the backside to prevent damage to the neck. He used 3 clamps. He then put a couple of shims in around the 7th fret to give it the slight bow and baked it in the oven for an hour at 150°.

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