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Loosening the truss rod when flying with a fender bass guitar
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listentotwig
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8th August 2012
Old 8th August 2012
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Loosening the truss rod when flying with a fender bass guitar

Hi all
I'm about to take my Fender Precision (mexican made) form London to South Africa, via Cairo.

I've read on a lot of forums (including this one) that a good way to travel with a fender is to remove the neck from the body. This, so far, has been my best option as Egypt Air have explicitly told me that I can't get the guitar in the cabin (it's too big) and if it get's checked in it's getting treated the same as all the other luggage

I don't have a flight case, nor do I have the money for one so that is out of the question.

So my plan is to remove the neck, check the body in in my massive suitcase, packed between clothes and cardboard. I will then take the neck onto the plane (I've cleared it with the airline) and that can be put in the overhead locker. Whether I ACTUALLY leave it up there is another story but we have to stick with protocol here

One question that I can't find an answer to is taking the tension off the truss rod. The neck will be in Cairo for 2 weeks while I go on a holiday there. Then it gets back on the plane with me to South Africa. That means that the neck will have no tension on it for about 3 weeks. The change in humidity from London to Cairo (and 35000ft) is presumably going to be huge.

I understand how the truss rod works, but I can't find out whether it will hurt it to be off the guitar with no tension for 3 weeks. Is this one of those cases where you shouldn't remove it, but if you have to it's not the end of the world? Or is 3 weeks going to really damage the neck? From what I've read all I need to do to loosen it is to turn it a quarter of a turn a day (I'd be doing it over 2 days), in an anti-clockwise direction.

Once I get to South African I plan on taking it to a shop to get reset properly as I have never adjusted a truss rod/neck.

Any advice would help!
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8th August 2012
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Its a Fender... Mexican made or not, with no strings on it there is no tension for the neck to warp against. If its maple its really a hard wood and theres likely a finish, if it has a rosewood board, this is a tropical wood anyways.

I dont suppose I actually answered your question but it seems it will be fine. Mine have traveled from Mexico to the Northwest Territory in winter and didnt go out of tune.
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8th August 2012
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As far as I've read (and as I said, I'm no expert on this) the truss counteracts the tension of the strings. So once the strings are removed the truss acts freely with no counter force. This can result in a 'back bow'. Is this a problem over days/months/years? That's the million dollar question.

But all that aside, hearing about your successful journey makes me more positive!
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8th August 2012
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I have always been terrible and just walked on the plane carrying any GTR I traveled with.
If the flight crew is nice they will allow you to stick it in the back of the coat closet that is right to you left when you enter the cabin on most planes.
It depends on the airline I suppose.

The first thought I had was, it is a cheap bass (not to insult) just buy one when you get there! I've done that with a Mexican Fendero.
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8th August 2012
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*Sigh*...sentimental value. Already sold the other guitar but this one's gotta go with.
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8th August 2012
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It will be fine. I tour all the time and just take my guitar onboard. I don't loosen the truss rod or anything.Some air lines could be jerks about carry ons. Most have been cool to me.
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8th August 2012
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If you take the neck off, I would definitely loosen the truss rod a bit:

So what's "a bit" ? - not sure... but a luthier will be able to tell you - give th eguy sat Chandler Guitars a call.

I have done the same with a strat - took the neck off and loosened the truss rod a half turn.. Put both in my suitcase, stuck it in the hold. No problems whatsoever.
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8th August 2012
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Hi don't touch the truss rod you will make big problems for yourself ..
Take the strings off and any loose hardware and bag it with the bass..
Then Beg, borrow or steal (just kidding) a hard case it will be so worth it ..
get a second hand one !!
If you really cant get a case for it.. take the neck off and wrap the body and the neck in a towel put it in a holdall /rucksack and take it on the plane as hand luggage ..
good luck bro

Oh and BTW i took a brand new TAKAMINE SANTA FE ESF40C guitar to india via Saudi Arabia and toured with it there with no probs although the case got damaged in the hold on the flight over
but.... the guitar was fine ..
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8th August 2012
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Cheers Blast, that was pretty much the answer I was looking for. I might take a trip down to Kew and have a chat to the guys.

Darenzo, the problem (and I'd be interested to find out if other people have this too) is as soon as you mention 'electric' guitar they stop you there because the electronics are considered a threat. It's ridiculous I know, but Egypt Air have this blanket ruling on electrics. On the phone I explained that I was going to take the neck off my guitar and before I could continue I was asked whether it was electric or not, which makes no sense because there aren't any electronics in the neck!!!

With that in mind I'm just going to take it apart, begrudgingly. I could get to the airport and they tell me I didn't need to but considering I'm emigrating, I don't have a plan B for storage and I don't want to check it in without having wrapped it up properly.
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8th August 2012
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I think the modern Fender necks are pretty resilient with the graphite reinforcemment- Don't know if ALL the newer models have that though
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17th August 2012
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If it backbows a tad when you take it off, loosen it half a turn to relax the neck. If you unstring and the neck is straight, don't worry about it. They are designed to be adjusted on a regular basis for changing conditions; i.e. humidity, string gauge change, different relief amount, etc...

You might even loosen it until it turns free, and find that there is still a touch of backbow that comes out when you string up again. No biggie. The wood has a fairly stable memory to it. All the rod does is balance out the string tension, and allow you to determine the level of forward bow or straightness. Double action rods will allow you to bow the neck either way with no strings on. Almost all rods are single action that only pull back and let the strings handle for forward bow.
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17th August 2012
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There's no graphite reinforcement in mexican necks. I think it will be fine just on its own, of course it will take a while to re-setup once your over so make sure to bring some allen keys and a truss rod tool. Otherwise have fun.

Id dread to think how ryanair would react if someone wanted to bring a guitar/bass on board.
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18th August 2012
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I don't know if you have left yet or not, but this is what I would do if there will be no string tension on the neck for three weeks:

-Remove the strings and take the neck off the body.
-Depending on the design of the truss rod and placement of the nut, itself (headstock, heel of neck) make a mark on the truss rod nut AND neck with a pencil, or note the position of the truss rod wrench in relation to the neck while seated in the nut.
-Completely loosen the nut while keeping track of how many turns it takes to completely loosen the nut, then retighten it so it is just barely snugged up to the rod.
-When you get to your final destination, put the bass back together and tighten the nut back to it's original position, utilizing the pencil marks, and the number of turns it took to loosen the nut in the first place (you did write this down, didn't you?)

Once the bass has acclimated to your new home you may have to make some minor adjustments to compensate for the new climate you live in.
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21st August 2012
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Thanks for all the ideas guys. I still haven't left, got 6 months to go, but I'm hoping to document the process and give a step by step of what I did. If the guitar survives then we'll know it worked. If not, then at least we'll have learnt something!
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21st December 2012
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Just a quick update. I removed the neck with the 4 screws, simple. I then loosened the truss by 2 half turns (over 2 days). I then packed the guitar body into one of my suitcases using clothes on the front and back and pieces of hard foam around the corners. When I had finished and closed the case it was extremely tight. The body wasn't able to move inside the case at all. This case went in the back of the plane.
My neck was with me the whole time, not wrapped up. I put it in the overhead locker for takeoff (it went in last after everyone had put their cases in).
On the other side I put my bass back together and everything was perfect. It is definitely a god way to transport the guitar, although I doubt taking the screws in and out is particularly good for it.
Something interesting was that the guy at security told me I was crazy and he said I would've been let on with the guitar in one peice.
I was flying with Egypt air from london to south africa via Cairo. Next time I fly I will put my bass in a case and take it to the airport and take my chances. Airlines are more flexible and accommodating than I thought
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22nd December 2012
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I am glad to hear it worked out well for you. If you were do this on a regular basis you could put threaded brass inserts into the neck and use machine screws instead of the wood screws.
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Originally Posted by listentotwig View Post
Something interesting was that the guy at security told me I was crazy and he said I would've been let on with the guitar in one peice.
I was flying with Egypt air from london to south africa via Cairo. Next time I fly I will put my bass in a case and take it to the airport and take my chances. Airlines are more flexible and accommodating than I thought
And, sometimes you get there and end up having to gate check the instrument.
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24th December 2012
Old 24th December 2012
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As a general rule I'd leave the truss rod adjustment alone. You're asking for trouble by messing with it.
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24th December 2012
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Agree with above.

I know a luthier who build special touring basses with quick locking mechanism using a single allen key that allowed the whole thing to fit in an oversized tennis racquet bag.
I bought a used bass from this builder, it's over 40yo and neck is perfect.

You all forget there are basses in music stores, luthieries and repair shops all over the world in all seasons and all temperature changes sitting there overnight, tensioned up without strings, waiting for a restring? Nothing goes wrong with the bass. Ever.

Any unnecessary truss rod adjustment (which all this is) will only prematurely wear the steel thread and potentially may throw the neck into a new bow and lead to all sorts of issues retensioning. And I can bet most of you have no idea of the correct way to hold the neck to be sure the tensioning creates no undue stress on the weakest parts.

At the very least I deem this behaviour corksniffing and therefore redundant.

Have a nice Christmas
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25th December 2012
Old 25th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
As a general rule I'd leave the truss rod adjustment alone.
I been doing truss rod adjustments on instruments for over 40 years, now. They are there to be adjusted as necessary, in fact, with the exception of the old style truss rods on Rickenbackers, most other instruments usually need seasonal adjustments to compensate for changes in humidity, primarily, depending on where one lives. It isn't rocket surgery to learn how to do basic setup adjustments, and yes, if a neck is left without loosening the TR for an extended period of time with no (or really slack) strings on it a back bow may form. There is no harm in loosening truss rods with no string tension on the neck, doing so can actually help solve some neck issues if needed.
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25th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
As a general rule I'd leave the truss rod adjustment alone. You're asking for trouble by messing with it.
Truss rod adjustment is a simple procedure that every guitar player should know how to do. As long as you're using the right size wrench, and don't force anything, there's no possibility of damaging the instrument. I should stress that the player should understand the function of the rod, and know how to evaluate neck bow, and know how to put it in proper adjustment.
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25th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Truss rod adjustment is a simple procedure that every guitar player should know how to do. As long as you're using the right size wrench, and don't force anything, there's no possibility of damaging the instrument. I should stress that the player should understand the function of the rod, and know how to evaluate neck bow, and know how to put it in proper adjustment.
Most certainly. If you can learn to play basic guitar, you can certainly learn to adjust your truss rod without breaking anything.

Here's a simple method. New strings tuned to pitch first. then...

1. Press down the low E on the 1st and the 14th frets (12th OK if can't get to the 14th with a capo). You can capo them down. (a new, tensioned string is an excellent straightedge). If the string between is laying on the fret tops all the way, you either have a straight neck or you're in backbow.

2. If either condition, loosen the rod 1/4 turn and check it again. Still laying on the frets, another 1/4 turn and check. Keep going until you get a tiny space between the string bottom and the fret top at about the 7th fret. Tap the string there, you'll feel it go down and hit the fret top. Now you've introduced a slight bit of relief.

3. Tighten it back 1/4 turn and see if the relief goes away. If so, loosen 1/8 turn and see if the tiniest amount of relief comes back. This is probably a good place to be, unless you like a straight neck, like me. If so, tighten back that 16th or 8th turn, and the neck should now be dead straight.

4. Adjust string height for comfort, radius and minimal buzzing. Some people use radius guides, but if all six strings are the same height off the 12th fret, your radius is adjusted.

If there was a lot of space (like a 16th inch) between string bottom and fret top when you first checked it, you probably have too much relief. Tighten 1/4 turn and check. As you get close to a straight neck, lessen the adjustment to 1/8 turn between checks. When the string bottom just kisses the fret tops all along the first to the 14th, you're straight. Back off 1/8 turn if you want a small relief. Adjust string height for minimal buzz and go jam.

This, of course works on guitars without twisted necks, tongue rise, serious fret level problems or neck angle problems. If you've got those, to the shop with it.

You can see how this can be troublesome with a vintage style Fender nut at the heel, hidden inside the body cavity. I've used a paint can opener to get in there without removing the neck every time, but it's not fun. Much easier if the nut is accessable with the guit strung up and tuned to tension, like a headstock access.

It takes a few times to get the feel. I've been doing this for decades, and all of my guitars play excellently.
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26th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Scott View Post
I been doing truss rod adjustments on instruments for over 40 years, now. They are there to be adjusted as necessary, in fact, with the exception of the old style truss rods on Rickenbackers, most other instruments usually need seasonal adjustments to compensate for changes in humidity, primarily, depending on where one lives. It isn't rocket surgery to learn how to do basic setup adjustments, and yes, if a neck is left without loosening the TR for an extended period of time with no (or really slack) strings on it a back bow may form. There is no harm in loosening truss rods with no string tension on the neck, doing so can actually help solve some neck issues if needed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Truss rod adjustment is a simple procedure that every guitar player should know how to do. As long as you're using the right size wrench, and don't force anything, there's no possibility of damaging the instrument. I should stress that the player should understand the function of the rod, and know how to evaluate neck bow, and know how to put it in proper adjustment.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kennybro View Post
Most certainly. If you can learn to play basic guitar, you can certainly learn to adjust your truss rod without breaking anything.

Here's a simple method. New strings tuned to pitch first. then...

1. Press down the low E on the 1st and the 12th frets. You can capo them down. (a new, tensioned string is an excellent straightedge). If the string between is laying on the fret tops all the way, you either have a straight neck or you're in backbow.

2. If either condition, loosen the rod 1/4 turn and check it again. Still laying on the frets, another 1/4 turn and check. Keep going until you get a tiny space between the string bottom and the fret top at about the 7th fret. Tap the string there, you'll feel it go down and hit the fret top. Now you've introduced a slight bit of relief.

3. Tighten it back 1/4 turn and see if the relief goes away. If so, loosen 1/8 turn and see if the tiniest amount of relief comes back. This is probably a good place to be, unless you like a straight neck, like me. If so, tighten back that 16th or 8th turn, and the neck should now be dead straight.

4. Adjust string height for comfort and minimal buzzing.

If there was a lot of space (like a 16th inch) between string bottom and fret top when you first checked it, you probably have too much relief. Tighten 1/4 turn and check. As you get close to a straight neck, lessen the adjustment to 1/8 turn between checks. When the string bottom just kisses the fret tops all along the first to the 12th, you're straight. Back off 1/8 turn if you want a small relief. Adjust string height for minimal buzz and go jam.

This, of course works on guitars without twisted necks, serious fret level problems or neck angle problems. If you've got those, to the shop with it.

You can see how this can be troublesome with a vintage style Fender nut at the heel, hidden inside the body cavity. I've used a paint can opener to get in there without removing the neck every time, but it's not fun. Much easier if the nut is accessable with the guit strung up and tuned to tension, like a headstock access.

It takes a few times to get the feel. I've been doing this for decades, and all of my guitars play excellently.
Excessive and unnecessary dicking around with the truss rod is to be avoided in any case. If the neck is not out of true LEAVE THE FREAKIN' ROD ALONE - you stand a MUCH GREATER chance of inducing a problem by messing with it than any possible problem caused by leaving the tension off for a day or two.

Not only are you going to wear out the threads on the rod and cause potential problems by compressing the wood with your unnecessary tightening and loosening, there's also a very good chance that you'll take a neck that has been stable and destabilize it.

Now if the bass has a problem neck (as do many Rics) and actually NEEDS periodic adjusting, that's a different story, although dealing with a Ric neck is a whole other can of worms with their dual truss rod arrangement which makes it really easy to put a twist in the neck if you don't know what you're doing. And anyway, this thread has nothing to do with a Ric bass, Rics don't have bolt on necks.

Some instruments do have necks that are not particularly stable and need seasonal touching up - HOWEVER, if you find yourself having to make frequent truss rod adjustments it's a sign that (A) you don't know how to do the job properly and (B) you're probably not allowing the neck time to stabilize.

Once again, if you're frequently screwing around with your truss rod adjustment it is EXTREMELY LIKELY that over time you will eventually damage your neck. In fact Stew-Mac recently published on of their service tips dealing with this sort of damage.

Truss rods fall into the category of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

FWIW, I used to run the service department at a couple of large Bay Area music stores and spent a few years as a touring guitar tech.
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#23
26th December 2012
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John,
You're making an argument where there isn't one to be made. I think we all agree that if the rod doesn't need to be adjusted, then you shouldn't adjust it. But if it needs it, it's just not that big a deal - adjust it, and leave it alone until it needs to be adjusted next time. On most guitars, it's not very often. The way to avoid wearing out the threads is to oil them if the rod adjustment seems at all stubborn.
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26th December 2012
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In response to the OP, I WOULD back off on the rod adjustment if the instrument isn't going to be under string tension for a while, and will be subjected to large variances in temperature and/or humidity.
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26th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Truss rod adjustment is a simple procedure that every guitar player should know how to do. As long as you're using the right size wrench, and don't force anything, there's no possibility of damaging the instrument. I should stress that the player should understand the function of the rod, and know how to evaluate neck bow, and know how to put it in proper adjustment.
That's exactly my point.
Every player should.
But every player doesn't.
Few know the right way to avoid force when making adjustments.
Hence pro repairs (which I'm not but I did put in some time in a luthierie.)
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26th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
John,
You're making an argument where there isn't one to be made. I think we all agree that if the rod doesn't need to be adjusted, then you shouldn't adjust it. But if it needs it, it's just not that big a deal - adjust it, and leave it alone until it needs to be adjusted next time. On most guitars, it's not very often. The way to avoid wearing out the threads is to oil them if the rod adjustment seems at all stubborn.
Most of the early part of the topic was all the lengths people were going to to loosen the truss rod and retighten. It was all a bit of blind leading the blind.
I got as concerned as John about the stuff and had to write too.
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26th December 2012
Old 26th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Now if the bass has a problem neck (as do many Rics) and actually NEEDS periodic adjusting, that's a different story, although dealing with a Ric neck is a whole other can of worms with their dual truss rod arrangement which makes it really easy to put a twist in the neck if you don't know what you're doing. And anyway, this thread has nothing to do with a Ric bass, Rics don't have bolt on necks.
Rick's dual truss rods are no more difficult to adjust (the older design has a slightly different approach but no more difficult) than typical single rod necks, except to those who refuse to understand that and get on with the job. Alembic, and maybe some other makers, also uses two truss rods.

There are indeed quite a bunch of bolt on neck Rickenbacker models that have been made going back to the early '70s.
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26th December 2012
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I'm certainly not going to nitpick individual posts but the point of the OP was to transport a bass guitar without a touring-quality hardshell. The method was to remove the neck since this was more or less a one-off or exception trip. It sounds like it was a success -- and good on ya brother! I don't think any of this was unnecessary, or about too frequent removal of necks. If there was enough of a travel requirement surely the gigging and touring would warrant a proper road case.
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26th December 2012
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I put a big silly rebuttal here, but no point. Everyone manage their stuff as they see fit.

Last edited by kennybro; 26th December 2012 at 04:03 PM.. Reason: change post.
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26th December 2012
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There is no reason whatsoever to loosen the truss rod for flying.
You don't even need to completely detune and electric guitar.
I usually drop it by 2 tones (roughly).
I've flown hundreds of times this way.

With an acoustic guitar if you are exceptionally paranoid then you can detune all the way.
Loosening the truss rod is still completely unnecessary.
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arthurchino / So many guitars, so little time!
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