How To Check Neck Relief On Bass Guitar: How to Check and Adjust Like a Pro

Playing a smooth and flawless bass guitar often comes down to its neck relief, an essential setup aspect that affects playability. In this blog post, we’ll unravel the mystery behind neck relief and guide you through understanding its importance, checking it accurately, and making the necessary adjustments.

You’ll also learn useful maintenance tips to ensure your bass guitar stays in tip-top shape for all your jam sessions.

Understanding Neck Relief On Bass Guitars

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Neck relief is the amount of curvature or bow in a bass guitar’s neck, which affects playability and sound.

Definition And Importance Of Neck Relief

Neck relief refers to the slight curvature of a bass guitar’s neck that allows for optimal string vibration and playability. It is crucial in preventing fret buzz, ensuring proper intonation, and providing comfortable action while playing the instrument.

A well-adjusted neck can make all the difference between an enjoyable playing experience and constant struggles with tuning or fretting issues. For example, too much neck relief may cause higher action (the distance between strings and fretboard) which results in difficulty when pressing down on the strings while too little relief can lead to lower action causing unwanted fret buzzing – both undesirable outcomes for any musician regardless of their skill level.

Factors Affecting Neck Relief, Such As String Gauge And Temperature Changes

There are a few factors that can affect the neck relief on your bass guitar. One of the most significant is string gauge – heavier strings will put more tension on the neck, which can cause it to bow slightly and increase relief.

On the other hand, lighter strings may not provide enough tension to maintain proper relief.

It’s important to keep these factors in mind when checking and adjusting your bass guitar’s neck relief. Consider using different gauges of strings depending on your playing style and preferences, and be aware of any weather-related changes that could impact its performance.

How To Check Neck Relief On Bass Guitars

To check neck relief on your bass guitar, you’ll need a straight edge and feeler gauge, and our step-by-step guide will take you through the process using different methods.

Necessary Tools, Including Straight Edge And Feeler Gauge

To check the neck relief on a bass guitar, you will need some basic tools. The two essential tools are a straight edge and feeler gauge.

You can purchase these tools from any music store or online retailer. Some bass guitars come with their own set of specialized tools for this purpose, but often a straight edge and feeler gauge are enough for most players.

By using these simple but vital instruments, you can quickly and easily measure your bass guitar’s neck relief, which is critical for proper setup and maintenance over time.

Step-by-Step Guide To Checking Neck Relief Using Different Methods

To check the neck relief on your bass guitar, you’ll need a straight edge and feeler gauge. The first method involves using an edge to check for straightness by placing it lengthwise on the fretboard and looking for any gaps between it and the frets.

Another method involves measuring the gap between the bottom of your sixth string and 12th fret while holding down your first fret with one hand. Use your other hand to slide in different thicknesses of feeler gauges until finding one that perfectly fits under this space without lifting up or rattling against anything.

With these methods, you should be able to accurately measure neck relief on your bass guitar easily.

Using An Edge To Check For Straightness

One effective method for checking the straightness of a bass guitar neck is to use an edge. This can be done by laying a straight edge, such as a metal ruler or long level, on top of the frets and visually inspecting for any gaps between the straight edge and the fretboard.

Another way to check for straightness using an edge is to hold it against one side of the neck and sight down towards the other side.

Using this technique in conjunction with others, such as drawing a line with strings or feeler gauges, will ensure that you have accurately diagnosed any issues with your bass guitar’s neck before moving on to adjusting its truss rod.

Drawing A Straight Line With Bass Strings

Another method for checking neck relief on your bass guitar is by drawing a straight line with the bass strings themselves. To do this, you’ll need to remove the strings from your bass and lay them across the fretboard, running them along each fret to ensure they’re in place.

Next, look at how much space there is between each string and its corresponding fret at the midpoint of the neck – this should be roughly halfway between where your pickguard meets your bridge pickup and where it meets your neck pocket.

You can then use feeler gauges or other measuring tools to determine whether there’s any deviation from perfect straightness.

Adjusting Neck Relief On Bass Guitars

To adjust the neck relief, make truss rod adjustments while measuring the gap under the 12th fret while holding down the first fret, but be sure to use caution and avoid over-tightening or making abrupt changes.

How To Make Truss Rod Adjustments

Adjusting the truss rod is one of the most crucial steps to achieving proper neck relief on your bass guitar. To make these adjustments, you will need to locate and access the truss rod, which is typically located just underneath the fretboard on the headstock side of the neck.

Using an appropriate wrench or tool that fits snugly onto the truss rod nut or adjuster, start by slowly turning it either clockwise or counterclockwise depending on whether you want to increase or decrease relief.

Measurements are key when making a truss rod adjustment accurately. One common way of measuring neck relief is holding down at two points: at first fret with one hand and twelfth fret with another hand while checking for gap in between eighth fret and string using feeler gauge tools.

Keywords: Bass guitar setup, Truss rod adjustment, Fretboard relief, Guitar maintenance, Neck bow

Measuring Gap Under The 12th Fret While Holding Down The First Fret

To check the neck relief on your bass guitar, you need to measure the gap between the fret and string at the 12th fret. One way to do this is by holding down the string at the first fret and using a feeler gauge to measure how much space is between the string and fret at the 12th fret.

The ideal measurement falls somewhere between .010″-.014″.

Another method involves measuring with a straight edge placed across several frets, while comparing that measurement against how much space there is in-between strings and fingerboards.

Keep in mind that different bass guitars may have different measurements depending on their specifications or preferences of their owner.

Tips For Adjusting Neck Relief And Avoiding Common Mistakes

Adjusting the neck relief of a bass guitar can be tricky, so it’s important to approach it with caution. One common mistake is trying to adjust the truss rod too much at once, which can damage the instrument.

It’s also important to consider other factors that may affect the neck relief, such as humidity or temperature changes. These can cause wood to expand or contract, which in turn affects the tension on your strings and alters your neck relief measurements.

When To Consult A Professional

If you’re not comfortable making adjustments to your bass guitar’s neck relief, it’s best to consult a professional. Even if you have achieved some knowledge about truss rod adjustments and other techniques, there may be some instances where a trained technician is better equipped to handle the job at hand.

This can include situations where there are severe structural problems with the instrument or when adjusting the neck requires specialized tools or expertise.

A guitar tech will also help in ensuring that any necessary maintenance is done correctly and thoroughly beyond just adjusting the neck relief on your bass guitar. Moreover, they can provide tips on general care for your instrument based on its frequency of use and other factors that impact performance such as humidity changes.

Regular Maintenance For Optimal Bass Guitar Performance

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To keep your bass guitar performing at its best, it’s important to regularly check and adjust neck relief, string height and action, intonation, and tuning. By incorporating these maintenance tasks into your routine, you’ll be able to avoid issues like fret buzzing and ensure that your bass sounds great every time you play.

Ensuring Proper String Height And Action

Proper string height and action are essential for optimal sound and playability on your bass guitar. Action is the distance between the strings’ surface and the frets, while string height refers to how closely the strings rest against the fretboard.

If your strings are too high, it can be difficult to press them down, resulting in an uncomfortable playing experience.

To ensure proper string height and action, adjust your guitar’s saddle and nut settings carefully. You can measure these using a feeler gauge or by simply plucking each string at every fret while checking for clean sound and comfort of play.

Once you’ve found your desired setting, tighten any loose screws or nuts gently to secure them in place.

Checking Intonation And Tuning

Another crucial step in maintaining your bass guitar’s optimal performance is ensuring correct intonation and tuning. Proper intonation guarantees that the notes played on each fret are accurately in tune across the entire neck.

To check your bass guitar’s intonation, you will need an electronic tuner or pitch pipes to ensure that each string is tuned correctly. Then, use a chromatic tuner app on your smartphone or tablet to check if each note sounds perfectly in tune as you play them at every fret along the neck.

Regularly checking your bass guitar’s tuning ensures consistent accuracy during performances or recordings.

Importance Of Regularly Checking And Adjusting Neck Relief

Regularly checking and adjusting neck relief on your bass guitar is essential for maintaining proper playability and preventing damage to the instrument. Neck relief affects the distance between strings and frets, which influences string action, intonation, and overall sound quality.

Checking neck relief should be done every time you restring your bass guitar or notice changes in temperature or humidity. Simple adjustments using a truss rod can fix most problems with neck relief on a bass guitar, but it’s important to know when to consult a professional for more complex repairs.


In conclusion, checking and adjusting neck relief on your bass guitar is an essential aspect of its maintenance. Knowing how to check the curvature of your bass guitar’s neck using a straight edge and feeler gauge while making truss rod adjustments can go a long way in ensuring optimal performance from your instrument.

If you’re not confident working on your bass guitar’s setup or encounter issues during the process, it’s best to consult with a professional guitar tech for guidance.


1. What is neck relief on a bass guitar?

Neck relief refers to the amount of bow or curvature in the neck of a bass guitar, which affects its playability and intonation.

2. How can I check the neck relief on my bass guitar?

To check your bass guitar’s neck relief, press down on the first fret with one hand while holding down the last fret with your other hand. Then use a feeler gauge to measure the distance between the bottom of the string and top of the 8th fret. This measurement should fall within manufacturer specifications.

3. Why is it important to maintain proper neck relief on a bass guitar?

Maintaining proper neck relief ensures that your instrument plays correctly and has good intonation across all notes and strings.

4. Can I adjust the neck relief on my own or should I take it to a professional?

While some more experienced musicians may be able to adjust their own instruments’ necks, it is generally recommended that you take your bass guitar to a professional luthier for any adjustments needing structural alteration such as adjusting truss rod tension in order not cause further damage or breakage if done incorrectly by an unskilled person.

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