Part of being a guitar player is learning about all of the instrument’s intricacies. The longer you have been playing, the more aware you will become of the guitar’s quirks and the signs it displays when some maintenance is needed.
Something that every guitarist will encounter at some point or another is neck warping. It’s an integral part of any guitar: but why do guitar necks warp in the first place?
One of the primary reasons for warping in guitar necks is exposure to drastic changes in humidity and temperature. Other causes could be too much tension caused by the strings, poor quality of wood, and neglecting to do regular maintenance on the guitar. Warping can be fixed in most cases.
If you have noticed that your guitar neck is slightly warped, you need not worry, especially if you have caught it in the early stages.
Understanding the causes of neck warping, being able to tell if your guitar neck is warped, and what you can do to prevent it will go a long way in giving you peace of mind and confidence when looking after your guitar.
What Causes Guitar Necks To Warp?
Something that every guitar player is likely to encounter – whether they are aware of it or not – at some point in their musical journey is warping on a guitar neck.
While that can sound daunting, neck warping often goes unnoticed in the lives of many guitar players. This is because a mild neck warp does not display obvious signs in a guitar’s appearance and overall playability.
As a result, the warping of guitar necks is something that often goes unnoticed until the warping has progressed severely, resulting in a significant decline in the playability and quality of the guitar’s sound.
This is, of course, enough to make even the least experienced guitar player highly frustrated and, if we’re honest with ourselves, sad.
By this point, the most likely question that will spring to mind is, “How did this even happen?”
The truth is that multiple factors can cause guitar necks to warp, and understanding them is undoubtedly the first step in being able to prevent it from happening again. Here are the top three causes of warping in guitar necks:
Changes In Humidity And Temperature
It is no secret that guitar necks – and the rest of the guitar – are made from wood. Like many other natural elements, wood is susceptible to drastic changes in humidity and overall temperature.
It isn’t uncommon for guitar players to describe their guitars as being alive. That is not some attempt to convince you that guitars are alien, but rather a way of explaining that the wood of guitars moves and responds to the changes of its surroundings.
Wood is particularly susceptible to warping from temperature and humidity. Drastic temperature changes can cause a disruption in the balance of moisture in the air and the moisture found in the neck of your guitar.
This disruption ultimately causes the shape of the wood to change or warp. One of the worst things to do with your guitar is to leave it in a hot car.
This causes the relative humidity to significantly increase, which will not only cause the wood to warp but may also cause the glue on the guitar to soften, causing pieces like the bridge or nut to fall off.
Read More: Electric Guitar Anatomy 101 (With Photos and Labels)!
Too Much Tension Caused From The Strings
Another factor that could cause the neck of a guitar to warp is having too much tension on the neck caused by strings – more specifically, a weighty string gauge.
A sudden change to the tension on the neck – like changing to a heavy string gauge without doing a professional setup – can easily cause the neck to warp. This can cause the neck to bow towards the bridge quite severely.
By the same token, a sudden change to an extremely light string gauge can cause the neck to bow in the opposite direction, which will be far more detrimental to the guitar’s playability.
Thankfully, professionals can easily fix these bowing or warping issues.
Read More: How to Change Acoustic Guitar Strings (Step by Step)
The Quality Of The Wood
The superiority of the wood used in the construction of the neck of a guitar plays a significant role in how likely the neck is to warp.
The structural integrity of low-quality wood is relatively poor, making it far more susceptible to warping in less severe conditions.
On the other hand, high-quality woods typically have strong structural integrity, requiring more severe conditions before being likely to warp.
How To Check If A Guitar Neck Is Warped
Thankfully, there are ways to check if the neck of your guitar is beginning to warp, which will help you catch the issue early on.
The easiest way to do this is a simple observation trick. Hold your guitar by the body and hold it up to your eyes. Look down the fretboard on both the bass and treble side.
You should easily be able to see if there is any warping, whether in the form of bowing or twisting.
Never do this method by holding the guitar by the headstock. The body’s weight could give you a “false reading,” and you would be missing out on crucial signs needed to take action.
Can You Fix A Warped Guitar Neck?
If you are experiencing neck warping on your guitar, you will be pleased to know that it can be fixed. However, in extreme cases, a neck replacement may be necessary.
When it comes to neck bowing, a small amount of this is totally ordinary and necessary for what is known as “neck relief.”
A slight bow eases off some of the tension on the neck of the guitar. However, too much (or too little) tension from the strings can cause the neck to bow significantly, negatively impacting the guitar’s playability.
The easiest and most typical way to fix this is a simple adjustment of the truss rod. A truss rod is the metal rod that runs through the neck of the guitar, which increases the amount of tension the neck can handle.
The truss rod is very sensitive, so if you don’t know what you are doing, it is highly recommended that you take your guitar to a professional.
In the case of warping in the form of twisting, fixing this type of warping is undoubtedly trickier and should only be done by a professional.
Clamps will be placed on both ends of the neck for this process, and the neck will be slightly heated. This helps the wood become more pliable, which is where the clamps come into play by returning the neck to its original shape.
How To Prevent A Guitar Neck From Warping
Preventing the neck of a guitar from warping should undoubtedly be one of your most significant concerns, and the way that you can do that is by regular maintenance of your guitar.
Making sure that you keep a close watch on your guitar and perhaps even sending it in occasionally for a professional setup is an excellent way to keep your guitar in great shape.
Secondly, do your best to store your guitar in its guitar case in an environment with relatively low/stable humidity when you are not playing it so that it stays in a reasonably consistent environment.
It would be best not to leave a guitar in direct sunlight or in a hot car.
You can read about guitar humidifiers if you need help managing the moisture around your guitar.
If you thought this article on warping guitar necks was helpful, check out these other articles on everything related to guitar maintenance:
- How Often Should You Change Guitar Strings?
- Cleaning Guitar Strings – A How-To Guide
- Top Guitar Polishes To Try Out
- How to Keep Guitar Strings from Rusting
All in all, while neck warping is a common issue, it is something that can be easily avoided with regular maintenance of your guitar.
However, if the neck of your guitar happens to warp, there are thankfully ways to restore it to its former glory. Ultimately, looking after your guitar and paying close attention to it will ensure many hours of happy playing!
As always, Happy Playing,