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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: How to Adjust a Banjo Truss Rod by Warren Yates

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Warren Yates - Posted - 01/07/2013:  20:20:19

Here is a video that I put together to help understand truss rods and how to adjust them.  I hope it helps.

Thanks, Warren Yates

Dave1climber - Posted - 01/07/2013:  20:39:14

Warren, thanks for the video.


kirbonite - Posted - 01/07/2013:  21:01:54

great advice..  it's a great service teaching people about these things.

I noticed that the first neck had a bowtie inlay with fiddle peghead.. I'm curious as to what model that would be.

thanks .. Kirby

Warren Yates - Posted - 01/07/2013:  21:08:17

It will be a BT-1949

banjo.A - Posted - 01/07/2013:  22:25:06

Thanks for posting that video Warren, 2 thumbs up for that video and I look forward to seeing some more. Best Wishes Adam...

eMike - Posted - 01/07/2013:  22:41:00


Good informative video. I hadn't heard about not leaving the truss rod in a neutral position. Great point.



Vapor - Posted - 01/07/2013:  23:13:27

Great  resource.  Thanks.

gospelman97 - Posted - 01/08/2013:  03:35:40

Thanks Warren! Great information about not keeping the truss rod in a neutral position. The only thing that could have been better is if you would have laid in on that Skillet Head at the end and played us one. Looking forward to the next video on setting the action.

Wills Creek - Posted - 01/08/2013:  04:32:19

Most informative; at least now I have an idea of how the truss is to be adjusted I'm one of those who does'nt attempt anything like adjusting the truss rod. Your video's are a good resource of step by step method of setup on a banjo and In my oppinion the best out there. Thanks for your time Warren.


kmwaters - Posted - 01/08/2013:  05:34:27

Very nice job Warren  -  I love when experts can explain things so ANYONE can understand!  Thanks.

Kenneth Logsdon - Posted - 01/08/2013:  06:17:52

wink Great job and to the point...   But how come you didn't show how to find the cover screw after its dropped on the shop floor????

bryantde - Posted - 01/08/2013:  06:27:29


Originally posted by Warren Yates

Here is a video that I put together to help understand truss rods and how to adjust them.  I hope it helps.

Thanks, Warren Yates

 Great job of explaining the function of truss rod and it's adjustment!

I was glad to hear your mention of some truss rods turning opposite direction as traditional, since we do get this type of rod to use in our necks from time to time.  That use to bother me but I came to live with it and just tell the customer about it as it really doesn't matter which way it turns to adjust it just as long as you determine what it is doing when you adjust.

Don Bryant

CCooke - Posted - 01/08/2013:  06:48:15

Thanks Warren. I love the videos you have been posting! They are extremely helpful.

marcel - Posted - 01/08/2013:  07:12:14

Yes sir, thank you very much! This has certainly cleared up muddy waters for me, especially a 'neutral' truss rod position can, or will deaden the sound of your banjo. Some truss rod tension is required!

The Old Timer - Posted - 01/08/2013:  07:21:37

Much obliged For the first time in nearly 50 years of banjo picking, I might give this a try on my newest Gibson which I notice has developed enough front-bow to make the action too high even for me. I had no idea the adjustment should be so tiny!

Aradobanjo - Posted - 01/08/2013:  09:26:42

Hello Warren,

Thank you for your efforts here to help and presentation. Is the approach different for fret heights and sizes?


kirbonite - Posted - 01/08/2013:  10:23:38

Awesome.. I notice this one is not on the website and there is not a link to the Models like the WL-5.  would enjoy seeing some images..

thanks again..



Originally posted by Warren Yates

It will be a BT-1949


MOUNTAIN GOAT - Posted - 01/08/2013:  12:00:10

Thanks Warren What is a " little gap" A few thousandths? .020 or ?

Warren Yates - Posted - 01/08/2013:  13:49:46

When you buzz it is too close. Go to the buzz and back up.

Warren Yates - Posted - 01/08/2013:  13:50:21

When you buzz it is too close. Go to the buzz and back up.

Alex Z - Posted - 01/08/2013:  14:23:31

Mr. Y has a lot of experience!

For those with much less experience -- who may want to get to the promised land quickly --  the "relief" measured at the 7th fret will end up generally in the .015 - .025" range, depending on how you attack the strings, how loudly you play,  how high the action is, what gauge strings you use, and how much buzz you can tolerate.  That's why Warren's advice is to try it and see.  .015-.025 will get you in the ballpark as a starting point.

Too little relief results in buzzes at the lower frets 1-5, of course.

Too much relief results in clear low frets but buzzes at the middle frets 6-10 unless the action is very high, and can also result in intonation problems at the 6-8 fret range unless the action is very low (and therefore the buzzing returns).  This is because most all the bend in the neck from adjusting the truss rod occurs between the nut and the 7th fret, and even most of this is 5th fret and below.

Hope this helps.

Edited by - Alex Z on 01/08/2013 14:26:29

Ken LeVan - Posted - 01/08/2013:  14:39:30

Another wonderful video.

This was very interesting to me. Now I understand the logic of "relief" It's because of the sine curve movement of the string possibly causing buzzing in the middle. Thanks for explaining it, Warren.

I'm a "flat fingerboard" guy, (flatlander, even though I live high up in the mountains) and I make a lot of longnecks, and almost always use a capo, so I have never embraced deliberate upbow, but you have explained the relief logic with a normal length open neck in a way that nobody else has been able to, and I can see the idea. Thanks for that!

I'll admit that when I send a banjo off to someone, I want it to be trouble-free, so a little relief is not a bad thing.

Also, I am in complete agreement with you that you cannot have a "neutral truss rod" It has to be bearing against the slot into which it has been installed either up or down. Stewmac wants you to put silicone into the slot to eliminate buzz, which I think is a big mistake because it deadens the neck.

I'm noticing though that you are not using "hot rods".

Thanks again for sharing your information.


Dan Drabek - Posted - 01/08/2013:  17:37:58

The thing with neck relief is that it allows you to lower your action as far as possible without buzzing. For some folks, that's not really a factor. I've noticed that the advice du jour is to adjust your action to be 1/8" above the 12th fret. To me, that's rather high action. You ought to be able to play with that kind of action without string relief. I personally (and note that I say 'personally') prefer somewhat lower action. So I like to incorporate a little relief into my banjo or guitar. 

I also have to agree that these videos are excellent. It takes confidence to put an instructional video up on a forum where there are many knowledgeable folks who enjoy scrutinizing information and pointing out small errors. Well done.


RBuddy - Posted - 01/08/2013:  18:05:41

Great tutorial Warren, what a good how-to-tool! Perfect explanation!

Thanks for this and your others as well.


Edited by - RBuddy on 01/08/2013 18:07:04

hicotton - Posted - 01/08/2013:  20:35:29

Thanks Warren!

This is a great resource.

kaybone - Posted - 01/09/2013:  06:29:29

Warren's video certainly helped a slight buzzing issue I was having. But maybe some of y'all that posted above can help me understand a few terms and one issue. What do you exactly mean by the term "relief"(convex or concave bow to the neck)? Also what is a "hot-rod"?

On the issue, suppose your banjo was sounding great, no buzzing, and you simply wanted adjust the action lower, especially on the higher part of the neck. Do you do this by tweaking the neck angle with the coordinating rods, or do you still do that with the truss rod? I read that you can get your banjo's sound all bollixed-up by messing with a coordinating rods, and that could take your rim out of round, or, by ruining  neck / rim connection by screwing with the neck action. I have a Gold Tone with somewhat high action at the upper end of the neck. Don't know if I'll do anything about it, but I like to understand the working process of it all. Comments? Thanks ahead of time!


Edited by - kaybone on 01/09/2013 06:39:44

dickinnorwich - Posted - 01/09/2013:  07:06:33

This is a great video but I seem to have had a somewhat different reaction from many of you. While Warren beautifully demonstrates the wonderfulness of dual action rods, the thought occurred to me that for thousands of years (slight exaggeration), banjo makers had been using single action rods. If you listen closely to Warren, he is telling you two things about single action rods:

1) A single action rod set horizontally will not correct for either bow, or backbow. It merely acts as a stiffener, nothing more.

2) A single action rod set either concave or convex in the neck will only correct for one type of bow condition, not both.

So my question is, how did the early users of single action rods know, beforehand, which of the two bow conditions might occur in their necks? The answer is, They didn't! They could only guess. Use of a single action rod was, at best, a crap shoot because the maker couldn't predict which way the neck might bow. At best, the users of single action rods had a 50%-50% chance of guessing correctly. So what does that say about all those necks made with single action rods?


Old Hickory - Posted - 01/09/2013:  08:10:10


Originally posted by kaybone

What do you exactly mean by the term "relief"(convex or concave bow to the neck)? Also what is a "hot-rod"?

On the issue, suppose your banjo was sounding great, no buzzing, and you simply wanted adjust the action lower, especially on the higher part of the neck. Do you do this by tweaking the neck angle with the coordinating rods, or do you still do that with the truss rod?  

"Relief" is the small amount of concave bow, generally in the area of the 5th to 8th frets, caused by loosening (relieving?) the truss rod enough to let the string tension pull the neck out of perfect flatness.  Using the 4th string as a straight edge (depressed at the 1st and  12th frets) typical relief between the bottom of the string and the top of the 8th fret might be 0.010 to 0.012 inches. Or mMaybe a thousandth or two in either direction.

As Warren describes in the video, the purpose of relief is to give the strings room to vibrate without rattling against the lower frets. By raising the nut relative to the plane of perfect flatness, this relief allows for a more gradual rise in overall string height (action) from the lowest to highest frets.

Generally, you would not use the truss rod to adjust action in the higher frets.  As you guessed, that's done by adjusting the neck angle at the connection to the pot, which is done by adjusting the coordinator rods, shimming the neck or recutting the heel.  Yes, tightening the coordinator rods, even a little, does distort the rim.  And so maybe Gibson was wrong to suggest all those decades ago that adjusting the action with the rods was acceptable.  It's certainly become controversial in recent years. 

"Hot Rod" is a trademark for a particular two-way adjustable truss rod sold by Stewart-MacDonald.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 01/09/2013 08:16:25

Old Hickory - Posted - 01/09/2013:  08:23:36


Originally posted by dickinnorwich

So what does that say about all those necks made with single action rods?

It means those of us who have them should consider ourselves lucky that our banjo necks have remained playable all these years.big

I've got a fairly useless single-action rod in my 40-year-old Janzegers banjo. It's adjusted just tight enough to keep from rattling. Other than that, it's doing nothing but providing passive stiffness. Relief and action are both pretty good.

pickn5 - Posted - 01/09/2013:  08:26:42


Thank you for the truss rod adjustment explanation. As a beginner I have stayed away from trying to adjust mine. I had a light bulb moment watching your video. This video and your other videos are excellent instructional videos.


Warren Yates - Posted - 01/09/2013:  16:43:20

dickinnorwich, if a neck is built straight then you might be right with the 50/50 chance. All of the old necks that I have seen were on the thin side, so when the strings pull the neck out, a natural bow is likely to happen. That makes your 50/50 more like 90/10 in favor of it going in the right direction. Now if they did it like I do and put a bow in the neck before I glue it up, then it is nearly 100% in the right direction.

Edited by - Warren Yates on 01/09/2013 16:45:00

Banjophobic - Posted - 01/09/2013:  17:15:37

A one way rod only corrects one type of bowing.,which is 'concave'. its will not correct a 'convex' bow. As long as the neck decides not to go in the wrong direction, a one way rod is fine. I personally don't use one way rods and havent for many years. Why use that when the two way is cheap and available? This gives you a 100% chance of a rod correction in either bowing direction.

But a twisted neck.....look out, forget the

Klondike Waldo - Posted - 01/09/2013:  17:57:37

Thanks much. Very informative video and thread.yes

kaybone - Posted - 01/09/2013:  18:37:47

This truss rod talk and Warren's video got me to thinking about mandolin necks. I imagine the problem could be either way less or way worse because the necks are so short. Anyone know if most Mandolins, like Gibsons and Webers, and mandolins at that level,  have very short two way rods in them?

Edit: Doh! I just checked over on the Weber site and this what their specs say on most models:

"Truss Rod:

Dual Action/Adjustable"

    I don't know about the Gibson's, probably the same.

Edited by - kaybone on 01/09/2013 18:50:26

SReynolds - Posted - 01/10/2013:  09:38:27


first..........I want one of yours!!

Secondly;The video series is totally awsome in every sense, my man. I had no idea you had these. WOW!!

I have been studying banjo for many years now and just recently have gotten to the point where I feel comfortable playing and wrenching. Insted of wasting my time watching stupid youtube videos on my lunch hour, I'm studying music. Instead of watching garbage tv shows at home, I'm playing banjo.

Not quite sure what the good Lord has in store for me, but it seems studying the banjo has taken center stage for me. Not saying I ignore my wife though.....LOL Thank you for helping me with this.

I'm wodering if you have a video about what the two rods inside the pot are for..................hummmmm

Warren Yates - Posted - 01/10/2013:  19:33:11

This video touches on it, but that one, only had one rod.
Both rods at the neck end are really like nuts to hold the neck on. The bottom rod extends through to add stiffness to keep the neck. That one just needs to be snugged up but not to put pressure on the pot. The rod closest to the head has its own story. That one was a big deal back in the day with Gibson as a way to adjust neck action. By pushing with one and pulling with another you could warp the pot and it was a dream to adjust the action. In later years we learned that it night not have been a good idea so today we set them nuetral so the pot can be free to breath. Correct or not, that is what I have found. Though the top rod is really not needed, it is expected to be there so we often leave them in there.

Bribak - Posted - 01/11/2013:  13:05:41


I have to just say thanks for these wonderful videos.  It is extremely generous of you to take the time to do these.

Montanarick - Posted - 01/11/2013:  14:59:40

Warren.....thank you very much....with all the tinkering I do with banjos the truss rod adjustment has been the one thing that has really scared me...but not anymore....Regards, Rick

lethegoodtimesroll - Posted - 01/12/2013:  05:56:29

Thank you Warren! Excellent stuff!

Weitzel - Posted - 01/12/2013:  23:38:08

Yes, thank you for the video. It seems most other information on truss rod adjustment (for instance, Stewmac literature) says that you should always detension or remove the strings before adjusting, so that you can manually, via clamping, put in or remove the needed relief. They say it could be dangerous to adjust with the strings up to tension. Maybe that is just for guitars, since they have greater tension? It certainly seems much easier to set the relief without messing with the strings, so you can instantly see what you get without all the guess and check work.

lethegoodtimesroll - Posted - 01/13/2013:  05:14:28

Donny Littles experience on your setting the bridge video is also quite welcome.. you cant play a Banjo for many years and not learn something about them thats useful to share.Thanks!

WNCBluegrass - Posted - 01/13/2013:  11:44:53

Really enjoying this video series. Thanks for doing it.

tkocason - Posted - 01/15/2013:  08:17:52

Warren, you're awesome. Common sense explanations of the banjo adjustments.
Now I'm empowered to get my axe to it's utmost potential.
um, now to learn how to play better.....
A Yates just moved up to the top of my bucket list, fer sure.
Thanks man.

AK - Posted - 01/15/2013:  18:29:08

Great videos. For somereason my banjo developed a buzz (didn't have one yesterday). I followed the video, but still seem to have a buzz either way I adjust the curve in the neck. Any suggestions for next steps. Like I said, no buzz the day before, but today I can't seem to fix it. (I recently tightened the head).

Thanks again for the video

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