Guitars are complex instruments, and the way they are designed is a delicate balance between tension and structure. The trouble is that guitars change and shift over time due to the way they are built and the tension that is imposed on them. These changes in the balance between tension and structure can result in the need for a neck reset, which can be a complex procedure.
A guitar neck reset is required when no other method succeeds in lowering the string action of a guitar. A neck reset can be damaging to the instrument if not done well. Guitar neck resets cost between $200 and $600, depending on various factors. Not all guitars require a neck reset.
A guitar neck reset is not a process to take lightly, and it should only be done when absolutely necessary. Let’s explore the process of the guitar neck reset and learn when it should be done, how it works, and how much it should cost to do if your guitar needs it.
What Is A Guitar Neck Reset?
A guitar neck reset is a procedure that can be challenging to understand. Not every guitar will need to have the procedure done to it, but many will, and understanding what the process is, how it works, and whether or not your guitar needs one is critical to prolonging the life of your instrument.
A guitar neck reset is a process of removing the neck from a guitar, changing its shape slightly at the joint, and rejoining it to the body of the instrument. The change in the heel shape of the neck joint changes the angle of the guitar neck in relation to the body of the guitar.
The change in angle changes the way the strings interact with the neck, and the reset is usually done because the neck needs to be angled to lower the action of the strings.
Every guitar will shift and change over time because it is made from wood, which is a material that can change shape and warp over time.
Guitars must be kept playable by keeping the strings at a close enough height to the neck that makes it easy to press the strings down. If this balance is not maintained, the guitar becomes unplayable.
When the action of the strings on a guitar gets too high, the usual solution is to adjust the internal truss rod in the neck, change the height of the bridge or the nut, or give the guitar a setup, but if the guitar reaches an age where the neck has to begin to change shape, this solution will no longer work to keep the guitar playable.
At this point, a neck reset is necessary and is the only way to preserve the instrument and keep it functional for longer.
The good news is that guitars do not need a neck reset often, and it is usually only required once every few decades. Some guitars will never require a neck reset at all, and the necessity of the process is entirely dependent on how the guitar is cared for, maintained, used, and stored.
Why Are Guitar Neck Resets Necessary?
Not every guitarist knows of the need for a guitar neck reset, and if there are other methods to solve the issue of a high string action, why are neck resets necessary at all?
The reality is that guitars do not remain the same over their lifespan. Every guitar that is made of wood will shift, change, move, twist, and bend as it ages. This process occurs because the guitar is constantly subject to changes in humidity and air temperature, and this changes the form of the wood over time.
Sometimes the various pieces of wood that make up the guitar shift in the opposite direction, or they deform contrary to one another. When this happens, there is no real way to fix the issues that it causes but to physically change the form of the wood that makes up the instrument.
Changing the physical shape of the instrument requires it to be disassembled, altered, and reassembled with the correct angles, and for this reason, sometimes, the only option for making a guitar playable is to perform a proper neck reset.
How Do You Know If Your Guitar Requires A Neck Reset?
We have learned that a neck reset is sometimes the only way to repair a guitar that feels unplayable, but how do you know if the instrument needs a neck reset? If there are other ways to fix certain aspects of a guitar, how then do you know if this drastic procedure is called for?
A guitar needs a neck reset if it cannot be adjusted or fixed using any other method. A reset corrects a high action that cannot be changed with any other process.
For example, if the action on a guitar is very high, and if the instrument has already been set up correctly, the truss rod has been adjusted correctly, and the nut and saddle have been lowered appropriately, the only option left is a neck reset.
You know if a guitar needs a neck reset if the action of the strings remains very high even after all other steps are taken to lower it. If the wood that makes up the neck and the body of the instrument is out of alignment and not sitting at the correct angle, there are no other steps that can be taken to repair it.
If a guitar requires a neck reset, it will not feel comfortable or easy to play until the procedure is completed. The instrument will feel very difficult to play until the string action is lowered, and in this instance, there is no other way to do it.
Do All Guitars Require Neck Resets?
Guitar neck resets are sometimes the only way to make a guitar play well. There are occasions when regular guitar maintenance does not work, and a neck reset is the only option, but does this happen to all guitars?
The reality is that not all guitars will need a neck reset in their lifetime, and some will need multiple neck resets before they are retired. The need for a neck reset is dependent on how the guitar is built, what climate and weather conditions it is exposed to, how it is maintained, and how the wood in the instrument happens to change over time.
This means that some guitars do require neck resets, and others do not.
The way the guitar is also constructed drastically affects the need for this procedure; instruments that have a set neck are usually the only guitars that require neck resets. This includes most steel-string acoustic guitars, classical guitars, and some electric guitars.
Guitars that have a bolted-on neck do not require neck resets as the bolts can be adjusted to change the angle of the neck, and if the neck must be removed from these instruments, reinstalling it is very simple and requires little skill.
Guitars with a through-neck design do not require neck resets as the neck is one piece of wood that continues down through the entire length of the body; this means that whatever changes happen to the neck over time happen to the body as well, which removes the need for this type of maintenance and repair.
Guitars with a set neck, including steel string and classical acoustic guitars, are the instruments that may require neck resets in their lifetime. Steel-string acoustic guitars are the instruments that are undeniably the most likely to require this work.
The high tension of the steel strings combined with the construction and nature of the steel string acoustic guitar means that the neck of these guitars is more likely to shift than the necks of any other guitars.
However, this still does not mean that all steel-string acoustic guitars will need a neck reset.
If the guitar is well-maintained and cared for, and if it is kept in a stable environment, the chances of requiring a neck reset are very low.
However, if a guitar is not kept well, maintained well, stored well, and is exposed to drastic climate and weather changes, it is likely to require multiple neck resets over time.
How To Prevent The Need For a Neck Reset
We have established that not all guitars will require a neck reset at all, but others may require multiple procedures like this over time. Are there any ways to prevent the need for a guitar neck reset? How do you care for a guitar in such a way that a neck reset never becomes necessary?
Preventing a neck reset is possible if the guitar is maintained well.
Among the most impactful factors that cause a guitar to need a neck reset is the tension that the instrument is held in by the strings. The best way to prevent or reduce the need for a neck reset is to loosen the strings on the guitar if it is not in use.
This will prevent the strings from pulling the neck out of alignment over time and reduce the need for a neck reset.
Other methods are to ensure that the guitar is never left in a room that is too hot and that the guitar is never left in the sun or in a hot car, even if it is in a hard case.
The guitar should be maintained well with regular setups to alleviate stress on the wood of the instrument, and the guitar should be stored in a humidity-controlled environment. This can even be as simple as putting a humidifier or a dehumidifier in the case that the guitar is kept in.
Being sure that the instrument is well maintained and that the humidity and temperature around the guitar are controlled and kept as mild as possible is the best way to extend the lifespan of the instrument and reduce the need for a neck reset.
A guitar that is well-maintained in these ways is likely to never need a neck reset at all.
Are Guitar Neck Resets Safe?
Guitar neck resets are not a very common procedure, and not all guitars require a neck reset. Some guitarists wonder if this type of repair and maintenance is safe for their instruments. If a guitar needs a neck reset, will it very be the same again? Is neck resets safe for guitars?
The truth is that a neck reset should be considered a last-resort procedure. This type of work involves removing the neck of the instrument, which requires that the neck be steamed to release adhesives holding it in place, and the process can cause damage to the neck or the body of the guitar.
Once the neck is removed, a wedge of wood must be removed from it at the precise angle that is required to align the neck with the body to set the action correctly.
If the neck reset is not executed perfectly, it may ruin the guitar, and it can make the guitar feel worse than before the reset.
This all means that neck resets can be detrimental to the guitar, and they should only be done by experienced guitar technicians who know how to perform the procedure well.
Neck resets should not be done by amateur guitar techs or guitarists who do not have more maintenance experience than simple string changes. Resets like this can be dangerous for your guitar, so always have it done by a pro.
How Much Do Guitar Neck Resets Cost?
Now that we have learned everything there is to know about guitar neck resets, the last unanswered question is how much a neck reset should cost if it is required.
The truth is that the cost of a neck reset varies depending on the type of guitar, the experience of the tech performing the world, where in the world you live, and how much the tech charges for this type of work.
If the guitar is difficult to work on, or if the tech charges per hour rather than per job, the price of a neck reset can cost up to around $600 or so.
If the tech does not charge by the hour and f the guitar is easy to work on, they may only charge around $200 to do a neck reset.
A good price range to consider is, therefore, between $200 and $600 for this type of work, but it can cost more or less than this, depending on the technician and what the prices are like in your region.
At the end of it, guitar neck resets are tricky procedures that should only be done if necessary. A neck reset can make a guitar feel brand new and perfectly playable again, even if the neck completely warps.
Neck resets are necessary for some guitars, but not all, so be sure to maintain your guitar well and take good care of it to prevent the need for this job that can potentially damage the instrument.