There are many questions guitarists like to discuss for days on end. For instance, here’s one: does the size of a truss rod matter? As you can see, our bad attempts at humor never seem to surprise anyone. Anyway, let’s get serious. Today we’ll talk about how long of a truss rod you need! For real.

If you’re a beginner, there’s a chance that you’re not familiar with the definition of a central item of this text. Therefore, we’ll include it in our article too. We’ll also talk about why truss rods matter, why you should care about their size, and so on. Stay tuned for some useful information you’ll find below!

Your truss rod should be as long as the space between your instrument’s nut and heel. Otherwise, your truss rod would try to bend something that is, well, unbendable. If that’s not doable, you’ll always want to go closer to the end of your fretboard rather than the heel.

You’ll never know how long of a truss rod you really need by simply reading just the snippet. That being said, read the whole thing!

Table of Contents

What’s a truss rod and what exactly does it do?

As always, here at Music Gear Heads, we like to use this first section to explain some of the terminology associated with our main topic. Therefore, it’s only natural we’d like to define truss rods before anything else. So, what’s a truss rod and what does it do?

You’ll want to know that we’re talking about that thin metal shaft that goes through your guitar’s neck all the way from the nut to the heel, the point at which your guitar neck meets the body (basically, it goes through your guitar neck full-length). It’s located right underneath your instrument’s fretboard. On most guitar models, you’re able to access it via a small hole behind the guitar nut. You’ll notice that it probably has a little wooden or plastic cover that’s held down with screws.

Oh, and speaking of guitar nuts, here’s an article about whether you’ll need locking tuners with a locking nut.

So, what do truss rods DO? In other words, what is their main function? The purpose of a truss rod is to keep your neck stabilized against the tension of the strings since they’ll exert plenty of force on your guitar. It will prevent your guitar neck from bending under the pressure from the strings. This stand for both acoustic and electric guitars.

Is truss rod necessary?

Yup, it absofreakinlutely is a necessary part of your favorite instrument! Also, any instrument (besides the guitar, of course) that uses high-tension strings will require a truss rod. That’s because, without it, your guitar’s wooden neck would start to bend in a gradual manner. This would eventually make your neck warped beyond repair, and once someone uses the phrase “beyond repair”, you know it’s no good.

Does it affect action?

First of all, let’s consider what we exactly mean once we say “action”. Here’s the thing: action, as guitar players call it, is the distance between your strings and the frets. In other words, the bigger the distance between ’em, the higher the so-called action. Also, keep in mind that it’s not a preference all guitarists share, some prefer lower, and some prefer higher action.

Okay, so it’s good to know that truss rods influence the action of your dear instrument, but that’s clearly not the whole picture and everything. Another part of the scheme is your guitar’s bridge. That being said, you’ll need to consider both your trusty truss rod and your guitar’s bridge if you want to modify your action. So, to answer the question in the title of the paragraph: yes, the truss rod will affect the action, but it’s not like it will have the final say.

Can you adjust your own truss rod?

You’ll be very happy to know that it’s possible for you to adjust it yourself. Anyway, if you’ve noticed that your action’s a bit high, or that some of your frets are buzzing (speaking of which, here’s whether a guitar nut can cause buzz), one of the things you’ll want to do is to make some adjustments to your instrument’s truss rod. It’s a pretty simple & quick process and we’ll gladly show you how it’s done! Here’s a little step-by-step guide on how to adjust your truss rod:

  • Step #1: Tune your trusty instrument.
  • Step #2: While holding down the first and last fret, pay attention to the 8th fret. If you notice a gap, you’ll need to tighten the truss rod just a little bit and in gentler & slower moves until the string is almost touching the fretboard. If there’s no gap, adjust the truss gently until a tiny gap appears. Give your truss rod some time to settle if you don’t want to cause any harm to your instrument.
  • Step #3: Once you’re done with these adjustments, tune your guitar once again.
  • Step #4: If you’re not happy with the amount of gap, you can always repeat Step #2.

Now that we’ve considered some of the basic info surrounding truss rods, let’s go ahead and answer the main question we’re all here for: how long of a truss rod do I need?

A lefhanded guitarist playing with a modified, long truss rod

How long of a truss rod do I need?

Since this is quite a hot topic among guitar players, we’ve prepared some cool info. Yup, here we go again with the lame-ish jokes. Anyway, if you were wondering how long a truss rod should be, here’s your answer:

  • It’s fairly simple: you’ll want your truss rod to fit the length between your instrument’s nut and heel. Otherwise, your truss rod will try to bend something that is, well, rather unbendable. If that’s not possible, you’ll want to go nearer to the end of the fretboard than the heel. That’s because you’ll avoid the possibility of causing a bend where the truss rod will end. 

That last one even rhymed. Anyway, speaking of length and all, here’s an article about whether you need to have long fingers to play guitar. So, now that we’ve answered the main question this article has proposed, let’s consider some other truss-rod-related info!

Can you still play guitar with a broken truss rod?

Okay, let’s say you’ve noticed that your instrument’s truss rod is broken. Unfortunately, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t be able to play your guitar if that happened. However, your guitar might still be playable, but that’s not something you’ll want to count on, trust us. At a certain point, it’ll become downright unplayable, and that’s where you’ll have to draw the line and buy yourself a new guitar.

How much does it cost to fix a truss rod?

This one’s a bit tragic: fixing a broken truss rod ain’t a small thing. It will, of course, require the removal of the fingerboard. Since the “one thing leads to another” rule can be applied here, the removal of your guitar’s fingerboard will, in turn, demand total refret job and finish work. Speaking of costs, that will probably “motivate” you to spend about $500 or even more. Unless you’re sporting an expensive instrument, your best bet might be to buy yourself a new one.

Do all guitars have truss rods?

Here’s the thing: not all guitars possess truss rods since not all guitars possess the need to have one. For instance, most classical guitars you’ll find on the market don’t use truss rods since the tension the nylon strings make ain’t so strong as the tension that steel guitar strings create. Other guitar types will probably possess a truss rod. If a guitar has a truss road, you’ll see the truss rod cover at either end of the neck (sometimes you’ll see direct access to the truss rod, without the cover).

What if guitar has no truss rod?

So, one might ask: how do I adjust the action on a guitar that has no truss rod? Let’s take a closer look!

If your (acoustic) guitar doesn’t have a truss rod, you’ll need to sand the guitar nut or the bridge saddle in order to lower your action. In other words, once you’re done with sanding the nut, but you’re not satisfied with the results, you’ll want to process to sand the saddle of the bridge. Since we’ve talked about how to sand a guitar nut in an article we’ve published recently, let’s see how you’ll sand the bridge saddle!

The first thing you’ll want to do is to, of course, remove the strings with some extra care. Once you’re done with that, you’ll need to remove the bridge saddle in the same way as you removed your nut (check the article linked above for instructions). Place the saddle on a piece of cloth and mark how low you want to go. Afterward, simply start the sanding process in a smooth & slow manner.

Unfortunately, if both of these methods (sanding the nut plus saddle) don’t work, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to lower the action on your acoustic instrument.

Final thoughts on the matter

Okay, folks, so that’s about all there’s to say concerning the issue of how long of a truss rod you need for your instrument. We hope you’ve had some fun reading this one, and that you’ve gained some insight into the way truss rods function. For more information and tips related to your favorite (string) instrument, you’ll want to visit this page on our blog.