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I am beginner guitar player and today after I replaced the strings and adjusted the Floyd Rose bridge of my guitar (BC Rich Gunslinger retro) I noticed that the action was increasingly high, from fret one to fret 22.

I understand from the picture below that the neck, depending of the applied tension strings vs. truss rod can have three shapes:

  1. forward bow
  2. flat
  3. backwards bow

enter image description here

Though I am only having buzz on frets 1-3 (maximum) and the action only increases moving up the fretboard. So I imagine that the solution would be to lower the extremity of the neck where the headstock is.

I see the truss rod as a device to counter the tension on the strings. So intuitively I would imagine that I need to tighten the truss rod (turn clockwise) in order to lower the headstock extremity of the neck. Though I guess the picture above says the opposite.

So in summary: I am having a slight buzz on frets 1-3 and the action is only increasing as I go up the fretboard. Shall I tighten or loose the truss rod?

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    Did you change the string gauge? Why do you think this is a truss rod issue? Did you sight along the neck to look for a curve? – dissemin8or Apr 25 at 20:45
  • Strings cannot exert pressure. When something is pulled it presents tension. – Tim Apr 25 at 21:01
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    The problem with these images is that they don’t show the neck in relation to a string with tension, which is straight, not curved like the fingerboard, so they don’t give you a true picture of what is going on. I recommend this video about adjusting the truss rod on a Strat (part 1 of 4) explained and demonstrated by an expert, John Carruthers. Go through the whole series if you want to do your own setup. Good luck! youtu.be/PHHepmTX3So – John Belzaguy Apr 25 at 21:17
  • @dissemin8or: I did change the string gauge yes, using now thicker strings. I honestly cannot spot any bowing/ curvature on the neck. Though it a appears to be bowed (up in the headstock, down towards the upper frets) because of the buzzing pattern. If the neck is not straight, what else could it be? – BCArg Apr 26 at 6:59
  • @Tim: you are right that in this case the correct term is yes tension, I edited the question. Though generally speaking strings, like any other object, can exert pressure yes. If you take you strings and press them against a flat surface, how do you call the applied force over the area?! – BCArg Apr 26 at 7:02
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Just as Victor pointed out, that picture has it backwards. My suggestion is to play the guitar for a few more days, then consider slightly loosening the truss rod (turn it counter-clockwise 1/6th of a turn) and see if that fixes the buzz. If the action at the middle of the neck is uncomfortably high, you've gone too far.

I would like to point out that it is normal for the action to gradually increase as you go up the neck. Because the frets are further apart lower down the neck, the string has more 'lenght' to clear the next fret and avoid buzzing. While you could set up a guitar to have the same action at every fret, this is not desirable because the action at the lower frets could be much lower.

After a certain point, adjusting the truss rod is more about feel than avoiding buzz. For example, if I feel the action on my guitar is higher than it was a few days ago, I tighten the truss rod (turn it clockwise) because the wood has likely exapnded due to temperature & humidity changes.

There is always a trade-off between action and buzz. If you want the lowest possible action for ease of play, you should try and get used to picking the strings softly. Picking the strings softly lets you get the action somewhat lower than you normally could.

nother point I'd like to bring up is that changing to different gauge strings usually requires changing the entire setup. In general, going to heavier strings will require you to tigten the trussrod in order to counteract the higher string tension. However, if you are down-tuning, that doesn't apply.

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  • Thanks, that's helpful. In fact I went to a heavier string and tighten the truss rod a bit yesterday, let it set overnight and tightened a bit more today (each about a quarter of a turn). Will probably stop there, I don't want to strip the truss rod altogether – BCArg Apr 28 at 7:01
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Basically, the truss rod battles the string tension. By loosening the truss rod, the string tension takes over and bows the neck. By tightening the truss rod, it takes over and the neck back bows. If it's concave like a bow, tighten it. If it's bending the opposite way, loosen.

I believe that image is backwards. A U shape means the strings are taking control and the rod is loose. An N shape means you went too far.

I would watch this video for more detail:

That shows you how to adjust and test the truss rod.

Happy playing!

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  • The issue is that the buzzing pattern that I am having is neither bowed (buzzing on both extremes) nor backwards bowed (buzzing only in the middle). Although, when he explains the "bowing" (starts at around 1:15), it appears that tightening the truss rod would be the solution (provided that he did not move his elbow, when compared to loosening the truss rod on purpose i.e. adjusting the truss rod would eventually change the height of the headstock end of the neck, which is what I need) – BCArg Apr 26 at 7:11

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