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Bass guitar without a truss rod, but with a thick neck.

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  • Bass guitar without a truss rod, but with a thick neck.

    Just got myself a custom 2-string bass guitar from

    It doesn't have a truss rod, but the neck is pretty darn thick!

    I'd like to set it up in Drop A tuning (Low A; Standard E). I will very likely be putting a 0.135 for the low A string.

    Would the lack of a truss rod be a problem for this? Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    Low tuning will actually be better for it because of the reduced tension. Its still likely to warp up on you however. Might take awhile but there's nothing to stop it. I'd suggest slacking the strings when not in use for extended periods. Keep a check on the progress by holding the first and last frets down and using the string as a straight edge to see how much fret clearance there is in the center of the neck.

    If it had carbon rods imbedded under the fret board it might hold up but wood only will warp. How bad it gets before its unplayable is the question. I call those one and two stringers wash tube basses. You can play bluegrass music on them which doesn't need to be in super tuning, in fact a little out of tune is pretty common because a washtub bass has no frets.
    Last edited by WRGKMC; 11-23-2016, 06:05 AM.


    • #3
      What about playing it safe and using a string gauge that's light enough for that tuning to the point it won't really cause the neck to warp? I read on another forum that if a neck is too thick, a truss rod wouldn't make any difference because there is too much wood for the rod to bend?

      I'm curious, how did Fender get away with making the Esquires in the 50s without truss rods?
      Last edited by KevinTJH; 11-23-2016, 07:16 AM.


      • #4
        ​If, if, stuck in a corner stiff...
        Live for today, brother...

        ​You know... two strings are all a BP really needs...
        ​The rest of the notes are redundant, anyway...

        Dave straightens a neck with clamps...
        Last edited by StringNavigator; 12-07-2016, 02:09 PM.
        JMJ John 8:12 Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World."
        A cube has 6 sides. To see all sides change your point of view.
        Play like a boss.


        • #5
          Originally posted by KevinTJH View Post
          What about playing it safe and using a string gauge that's light enough for that tuning to the point it won't really cause the neck to warp? I read on another forum that if a neck is too thick, a truss rod wouldn't make any difference because there is too much wood for the rod to bend?

          I'm curious, how did Fender get away with making the Esquires in the 50s without truss rods?
          As far as the Esquire is concerned. The earliest 1950 versions without truss rods were simply prototypes. They had fat chunky necks like Classical guitars which can be built without truss rods because the gut/nylon strings don't have as much stress as steel does. The fat neck likely resisted warping for at least a short time.

          You should realize Fender was not a musician, at least not a pro, he was a marketer. He did many impractical things throughout his life as a process of learning to build and sell musical equipment. His focus was on mass production first, not high quality or durability. He used to have pro musicians try out his instruments and they would give him suggestions on improving the instruments. The truss rod was likely one of those suggestions or something he found he must add once he make the neck slimmer. It may be something he simply didn't know about as part of the learning process or something that was an added expense. The first production guitars weren't expected to last very long and didn't. Fender added a Truss rod to production models by 1951.

          Acoustic basses don't have truss rods. The way they maintain straightness is based on the Arch. The fretboard is rounded making it much more resistant to flexing. Its like one of those metal tape measurers you unreel. It flexes easily with the curve up and gravity pulling down. With the curve down you can hold it out many feet and it will remain straight. A curved fretboard can do the same thing. That's why they make acoustic basses that way.

          They don't have frets however so any relief they might get wouldn't be a problem. If they do get bowed/worn, you can sand them down or a skilled Luthier can replace the fret board. Not cheap though. You can spend thousands on a job like that.

          As I said a curved fret board can resist warping but the neck will have to be fairly chunky. What warping might occur could be countered by removing frets, leveling the fret board, then refretting it. Its a highly destructive process that can easily be avoided.

          Guitars without truss rods usually have carbon rods imbedded to prevent warping. From there its a matter of fret maintenance in keeping a level playing surface.

          Click image for larger version

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          Last edited by WRGKMC; 12-15-2016, 07:18 AM.


          • #6
            Very informative, thanks for sharing!

            So in my case, there's obviously nothing I can do to change the construction of the instrument at this stage, seeing as doing so would cost more than double of what the whole thing is worth.

            The only thing I can do is extend it's playability life until the neck warps too much?
            I got an opinion from a guitar tech and he said it wouldn't be a problem at all since there're only 2 strings for such a thick neck. What do you think?


            • #7
              2 strings can still produce 75~100lbs pull depending on the gauge of the strings. That's about the same as a set of electric guitar strings which can bend a guitar neck. It looks like its an all maple neck with the fret board stained dark. If the fretboard was rosewood or ebony I'd think it would be a bit more durable. Most of the maple necks I have tend to require more truss pressure to keep them straight.

              The neck does look to be round enough to have some durability. Even if it get some relief it should remain playable. Where you run into big problems is when they twist. The heavy string can pull more then the light string and actually twist a neck making the strings buzz badly.

              Unfortunately I wouldn't know if any of these things will occur. I'm simply passing on experience of what I have seen based on experience. Most Instruments without truss rods are usually Toy instruments sold by chain stores ultra cheap. You used to see them in places like K mart targeting grade school kids under 10 years old. They were never expected to last very long or be playable. 99% would wind up being thrown away within a year after the first set of strings break. No serious parent expecting their kid to learn to play would buy their kid one. Its simply a method of determining if a kid has the aptitude. If they show promise with the crap box, you then invest in a good one. If they don't its no great loss.

              I'd see more then one come into a music store when I used to do work for them. Some think they might be salvageable till you educate them on the cost. 9 times out of ten they aren't worth a new set of strings no less making it playable. I'd instead use it as an opportunity to educate a customer. I'd tell them all the problems that existed and most of the time you can sell them a good beginners instrument for $100 which is nearly as much as cutting the new nut, lowering the bridge and a new set of strings.

              Your Bass on the other hand may be perfectly fine. I just don't have any way of knowing without close inspection.

              There are a couple of tests you can do easily enough. First is, get one of those long aluminum rulers, at least 15" long. Set it on the fret board. A quick peak should show a little relief, maybe the width of a business card should be able to pass over the 5th to 7th frets.

              If the Gap increases over a short time, under a year and increases to say the width of a penny or a quarter, dump the thing like a hot potato. Its not going to stop warping if it goes that far within a year. If it stays about the width of a business card or two you should be fine and it should remain playable.

              The other thing you can try is use an electronic tuner and tune it to pitch, sitting in the upright playing position. Next turn it face up and pick the string, then face down and do the same. There shouldn't be more then 1/4 tone change in pitch (a whole tone is one fret). If you see more then the weight of the neck being pulled by gravity will expose how much flex a neck has. A neck with a truss rod may only change 1/8 of a note with changes in gravity.

              Pushing forward or pulling back on an neck shouldn't reveal much tonal change either. For example, If I pushed forward on the neck and saw 1/2 or even a whole note pitch change, I'd be worried because you can get that much warpage without a truss in a short period of time. If it only changes a few cents with allot of pressure, that's all you get with a neck that has a truss so you should be fine.

              not much else I could advise you on. Just keep a monthly check. if you see it going south sell it and get something else, if it doesn't you're OK.
              Last edited by WRGKMC; 12-19-2016, 11:03 AM.


              • KevinTJH
                KevinTJH commented
                Editing a comment
                Thank you!

                But you are right that this is indeed just a toy instrument. I just feel somewhat remorseful that I did not enquire about paying extra $$$ to have a trussrod installed, at least this would've been a nice novelty instrument I could keep stress-free for a very long time.

                I suppose I can't expect too much for a $110 instrument that was built from scratch.

            • #8
              A whole tone is two frets. A half tone, or semitone, is one fret.
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