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Tuning a 12 string?

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GUEST,Walking Eagle 25 Dec 03 - 09:38 PM
khandu 25 Dec 03 - 10:18 PM
Mark Clark 25 Dec 03 - 10:18 PM
kendall 25 Dec 03 - 11:21 PM
Amos 25 Dec 03 - 11:41 PM
C-flat 26 Dec 03 - 08:45 AM
Walking Eagle 26 Dec 03 - 01:38 PM
Bernard 26 Dec 03 - 01:59 PM
Angus McSweeney 26 Dec 03 - 02:25 PM
Walking Eagle 26 Dec 03 - 02:31 PM
Ed. 26 Dec 03 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,octavious 27 Dec 03 - 02:42 PM
Leadfingers 27 Dec 03 - 03:13 PM
open mike 27 Dec 03 - 04:16 PM
Angus McSweeney 27 Dec 03 - 06:23 PM
Bernard 27 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM
Murray MacLeod 27 Dec 03 - 09:30 PM
GUEST 28 Dec 03 - 12:42 PM
Bernard 31 Dec 03 - 05:45 AM
Rich from Milwaukee 31 Dec 03 - 07:06 PM
Peace 31 Dec 03 - 07:33 PM
Walking Eagle 31 Dec 03 - 10:21 PM
Walking Eagle 31 Dec 03 - 10:29 PM
Kudzuman 31 Dec 03 - 11:11 PM
GUEST 01 Jan 04 - 02:01 AM
GUEST 01 Jan 04 - 11:46 PM
George Papavgeris 02 Jan 04 - 04:17 AM
GUEST 02 Jan 04 - 09:17 AM
s&r 02 Jan 04 - 09:33 AM
GUEST 02 Jan 04 - 10:14 AM
Peace 02 Jan 04 - 07:52 PM
GUEST 02 Jan 04 - 09:26 PM
Peace 03 Jan 04 - 06:22 PM
Murray MacLeod 03 Jan 04 - 06:38 PM
Pete_Standing 09 Jan 04 - 02:49 AM
GUEST 09 Jan 04 - 08:15 AM
Mark Ross 09 Jan 04 - 06:06 PM
Peace 09 Jan 04 - 06:29 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Jan 04 - 06:45 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 09 Jan 04 - 11:46 PM
Peace 09 Jan 04 - 11:48 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 10 Jan 04 - 12:17 AM
GUEST,Tunison 10 Jan 04 - 05:58 AM
Mooh 10 Jan 04 - 07:38 AM
GUEST,CHRIS 02 Jan 08 - 12:50 AM
Bryn Pugh 02 Jan 08 - 04:07 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Jan 08 - 07:28 AM
Bryn Pugh 02 Jan 08 - 09:34 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Jan 08 - 09:58 AM
Murray MacLeod 02 Jan 08 - 10:01 AM
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Subject: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST,Walking Eagle
Date: 25 Dec 03 - 09:38 PM

Anyone have any tricks, tips for tuning a 12 string? Any help would be appreciated.

W.E.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: khandu
Date: 25 Dec 03 - 10:18 PM

WE
First of all, use an electronic tuner.
The way I tuned one (when I had one years ago) I tuned the primary set first,then the secondary. On the secondary, I tuned the top 4 (EADG) an octave higher than the primary. The B&E were tuned in the same octave as the primary.

Maybe some other Catter knows a better way!

ken


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 25 Dec 03 - 10:18 PM

Does this mean you're the proud owner of a new 12 string?

There are quite a few threads in which 12 string tuning and string selection is discussed. A Lyrics & Knowledge Search (above) in just the Forum should bring you lots of information and options.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: kendall
Date: 25 Dec 03 - 11:21 PM

I don't use a tuner on my 12, but, it's a good idea.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Amos
Date: 25 Dec 03 - 11:41 PM

You can tell from the gauge of the string which octave it is meant to be tuned in, I reckon. I use a tuner on mine, damping out the second string of the pair until the first is in tune and then doing the second string damping out the first. Whatever gets you in tune quickest, I reckon! :>)

A


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: C-flat
Date: 26 Dec 03 - 08:45 AM

This site may be helpful. There's a lot of useful guitar-related stuff to look around at too.
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 26 Dec 03 - 01:38 PM

Yes, I have just gotten a 12 string for Christmas. A Martin Mahogony J series lefty. It is a little clumsy right now as I am not used to the shorter neck and heavier bracing. I'm sure I'll take to it as soon as I can get the tuning right and can play something half way decent.

Can't wait to get some paper for my new printer set up so I can print out all of the useful ideas that you catter critters have kindly provided.

W.E.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Bernard
Date: 26 Dec 03 - 01:59 PM

I don't use a tuner, never have done... makes your ear 'lazy'!!

Seriously, unless you're gifted with a good ear (as I am), it's the only way. A 12-string that is slightly out of tune is far more obvious than a 6-string.

A useful trick that I've taught people in the past is to fret the first (thinnest) string at the third fret to tune the thinner third string (G), then tune the thinner fourth string at the second fret to the open first (E). Now tune the secone strings at the third fret to the open thinner fourth string (D). Next, tune the second fret thinner fifth string to the open second (B).

If you now get the octaves right on the third, fourth and fifth pairs by tuning the thick string twelfth fret harmonic to the open thin string, all the is left is to tune the thinner 6th to the thicker 4th, second fret (E), then start from the begining again to check that all's well.

Yes, it's tricky at first, but it's very accurate and doesn't rely upon a tuner - except, perhaps, to tune the first open E.

This method does get the instrument 'in tune with itself', and, with practice, can be used to tune to other instruments.

I do so hate people who spend longer tuning than playing...! It looks (IS) so unprofessional!

Okay, perhaps I'm biased because I don't have a problem with it...!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Angus McSweeney
Date: 26 Dec 03 - 02:25 PM

A few years ago I read that Pete Seeger tunes four full half steps lower than concert E tuning. I gave it a try and I've used it ever since - nice deep, deep sound - plus it captures the rich sound he always had - and it gives a nice action.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 26 Dec 03 - 02:31 PM

Well, it looks like I have a lot to learn! Keep the hints coming as I am grateful for any help.

W.E.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Ed.
Date: 26 Dec 03 - 03:39 PM

I do so hate people who spend longer tuning than playing...! It looks (IS) so unprofessional!

Some of us aren't professional, and don't really care whether we look that way or not....

Angus's suggestion to tune it down a bit is a good idea. A tone, or even a semitone, lower can make an instrument a lot easier to play.

Apart from that, go with a good electronic tuner.

Good luck.

Ed


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST,octavious
Date: 27 Dec 03 - 02:42 PM

Didn't thing you had to tune 'em?

Don't they come pre-tuned??


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Dec 03 - 03:13 PM

Itis indeed fairly standard practice to tune a 12 sring a tone below concert.Before I got into electronic tuners I used to tune to a fork
using harmonics and then tuneup and down from there,on the heavier strings then tune the octaves in. Have fun with your 12 W E .


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: open mike
Date: 27 Dec 03 - 04:16 PM

if you tune down you will have a hard time playing with others who are in A-440. so that depends on if you will be playing solo or jamming.
or if you do an exact interval lower than concert pitch, you can use a capo to be in tune with other instruments.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Angus McSweeney
Date: 27 Dec 03 - 06:23 PM

Another thought - it's pretty common to tune down at least 1 full step just to protect the neck of the instrument - there's a lot of tension with twelve strings - and you don't want a warp in your neck over the years - likewise use a light gauge string set. Happy pickin' - and just use a good 12 string capo (yes, there is such a thing - to step up to were the 6 stringers are!


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Bernard
Date: 27 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM

Sorry, Ed, I wasn't quite so clear as I should have been - I was referring to the so-called professionals who get more gigs than I do (miaow!) and are paid handsomely for it.

The 'old pitch' that Pete Seeger (and others) used originates from the days when guitart construction and string manufacture didn't allow for a 12-string to be tuned to the same pitch as a 6-string. If you like it that way, there's no reason on earth why you shouldn't stick with it - as long as you use strings of an appropriate guage, or it will be very hard to keep in tune!

Not sure about tuning a tone lower than concert - I've never done it, nor do I know anyone else who has (okay, now I'll get shot down in flames!!).

My 30-odd year old Yamaha FG260 has always been tuned to 'standard' pitch, and is none the worse for it - a lovely old guitar!

My preference is for Kaman's Adamas 1616 strings - though I can't find anyone here in the UK that stocks them any more since JHS stopped importing them. I've only one spare set left... don't suppose anyone in the US could arrange for me to buy a box full (12 sets, I think)? Kaman aren't interested in such a small order.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 27 Dec 03 - 09:30 PM

You can't tune a factory made twelve string to play in tune, it is impossible.

The only way it can be achieved is by taking it to a luthier who will make an individually compensated saddle for the instrument.

Then it will play in tune, but to have the job done right will cost plenty.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Dec 03 - 12:42 PM

yeah, what he said....if you have a good ear, get used to playing out of tune, unless you want to shell out the clams for having the guitar's saddle (and nut?) compensated. Is the Buzz Feiten tuning 'system' adapted for twelve-strings as well?

With so many strings you can have lots of fun experimenting with alternate tunings...try tuning each string of the octave pair down to a perfect fifth or a perfect fourth - especially in open tuning such as DADF#AD...Leo Kotke used something like this on some of his tunes to get a really full sound.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Dec 03 - 05:45 AM

The first thing I did when I bought my trusty Yamaha in 1971 was to make some 'refinements'. It has played in tune ever since! That said, the 'jangly' sound of a slightly off 12-string is actually preferred by some (drives me up the wall!)...


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Rich from Milwaukee
Date: 31 Dec 03 - 07:06 PM

Do you know the difference between a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a 12-string guitar?

You can tune a Harley.

Sorry, old joke.

RfM


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Peace
Date: 31 Dec 03 - 07:33 PM

The one thing I'll say is this: Don't smoke before you tune the instrument. A friend of mine did and he told me it is a way far foolish thing to do. He's getting out soon.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 31 Dec 03 - 10:21 PM

Looks as though I'm pretty much on my own. Hope your friend makes it on parole Brucie.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 31 Dec 03 - 10:29 PM

I also like the joke about the 12 string and the Harley. I had a BMW RT100 once. Wish I still did.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Kudzuman
Date: 31 Dec 03 - 11:11 PM

I love mine in DADGAD personally. Lovely droney stuff for the 12 string! It's a Fender too by the way and it is in tune without the compensated bridge. A lot can be done to correct intonation with correct finger placement and pressure on the strings. Takes work and patience but can be done.

Kudzuman


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jan 04 - 02:01 AM

OK, your 12 string is in tune on open strings, but sounds rotten when playing a chord. Most probably your problem is due to improper slot depths on the nut.

When you fret the sting between the second and third frets, the string should just clear the first fret. Usually the high strings of the octave courses are seated much too high at the nut. This means that when you fret the pair the high string is stretched more than the low string. Thus the high string plays sharp.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jan 04 - 11:46 PM

Bob Gibson--a for-real dynamite 12-string guitar player had a tuning where some of the doubled (unison) strings were tuned differently. Man, that was strange, weird and wonderful. Any 12 players out there know what I'm talkin' about?

From brucie (I'm using a friend's computer and I don't know how to set the cookie).


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 02 Jan 04 - 04:17 AM

My 15-year old Yamaha is not the world's best, but good enough. We've come to know each other over the years, and have learned to compensate for each other's shortcomings (the Yamaha has to work harder at that than I do!). If I tune it "un-capoed", I find that the thicker strings go a touch "up" on me as I put the capo on 3rd fret and above. So, as I use capo on 3rd, 4th and 5th fret a lot, I tune it "naked" first, then put the capo on 4th and adjust the tuning. With the new electronic tuners that does not take long - 30 seconds is enough for the lot.
But what really throws the tuning is temperature changes - they affect the Yamaha much more than my 6-strings. So before a gig I make sure the Yamaha is in the room and out of its case 30 mins before, to get acclimatised - then I tune it.
Someone I met last year had a Fender 12-string, and that seemed to be the the dog's knees or something like that - beautiful tone, and kept its tuning immaculately. But then, he bought it for $3,500, and I only paid $500 for mine!


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jan 04 - 09:17 AM

brucie ...see 28 Dec 03 - 12:42PM above


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: s&r
Date: 02 Jan 04 - 09:33 AM

Isn't the idea to introduce a degree of tremelo (as with accordian/harmonica etc) by having slight mistunings between each pair of strings? Makes a twelve string sound quite 'chorussy'


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jan 04 - 10:14 AM

slight yes... that's the operative word. But on some twelve strings, as you fret up the neck, the 'slight' variation becomes more noticeable, and therein lies the rub, as they say...


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Peace
Date: 02 Jan 04 - 07:52 PM

GUEST: Thank you for that. I heard Bob do a few songs in a strange tuning in 1966? in NYC in his living room. He seemed to have been learning the tuning at the time. It was awesome. Have no idea how he tuned, but what you said sounds like it. I read that, too, and think I didn't understand what you meant. Rereading it makes clear what you meant. Thanks again.

Bruce M


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jan 04 - 09:26 PM

yeah, you're welcome brucie. I did some perfunctory searching on the 'net for Kottke's tunings (and in the process I also learned to spell his last name) ...but "perfunctory" in this sense means I didn't spend a whole lot of time on it, so I didn't find anything to back up what I was talking about in the 28 DEC 03 -12:42PM post.

I'm sure Kottke and your friend Gibson used something like that though (learned something too..thanks! wasn't familiar with Bob Gibson but I ran across his name a few times alongside Kottke's when I was doing the perfunctory thing..anyway, will definitely have to check him out).

I just stumbled across this alleged "Kottke" tuning one day many moons ago in an altered state of consciousness when a friend of mine and I were experimenting with open 'D' tunings on this old cheap 12-string I used to have. I started twisting the other tuners down away from the octave interval until they sounded 'cool.' When I was done, I strummed all the open strings and my friend exclaimed "Leo Kottke!" And sure enough, to my ear too it sounded like a tuning Kottke used. We were so happy with ourselves we had another smoke and a beer, and...sort of forgot about it after that. I couldn't swear to it now, but I think I tuned 'em away from the octave interval down to a perfect fifth. But I'm pretty sure I was using the 3rd string G as an F# in open D tuning, so a perfect fifth interval from F# is C#, which absolutely has no business in open D tuning, so maybe I tuned that one down to a D instead, just can't remember. Like I said, I was just twisting the tuners until they sounded good.

If I had a 12-string now I bet I could re-create it though. But I don't know anyone near me who's got one I could borrow, and I'd hate to walk in the music store and straightaway pick up a 12-string and just start twisting tuners all weird. Sales personnel giving me the evil eye, like I was an idiot or something.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Peace
Date: 03 Jan 04 - 06:22 PM

GUEST: Bob was a person I admired, but I don't want to give the impression I knew him well. I was a kid trying to learn about music, and he gave me some encouragement. He was a good songwriter, and if you can locate any of his music, it would be worth listening to.

I too have had the experience of trying to tune a 12-string while under the influence (actually, many influences). Never again. I mean maybe both, but not simultaneously. There, there be dragons. Have a good New Year, GUEST. And thank you, very much.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 03 Jan 04 - 06:38 PM

I will second the appreciation for the GUEST post.

I don't have a twelve string either but the idea of tuning one or more pairs to a fifth instead of an octave does sound interesting.

My immediate reaction is that it would have more application in bottleneck style (of which Kottke is the master) but maybe it has applications in fingered chords in DADF#AD tuning.

Interesting concept, must explore more ....


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Pete_Standing
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 02:49 AM

A mate of mine decided to change the strings on his new(ish) Eko 12 string - the bridge got ripped off. Once it had been repaired, he decided to keep it tuned down a tone.

He also told me this - Once a guy who was about to be executed asked if he had any last wishes, the reply was, Yes, can I go and tune my 12 string guitar?


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 08:15 AM

yeah, I think it's fairly common for 12-string-ers to keep their guitars tuned down a half or a whole tone, maybe more, to avoid the problem your friend had with the bridge, and other problems as well. Twelve strings tuned to concert pitch is an awfully lot of tension.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 06:06 PM

Leadbelly tuned his 12 down to B or Bflat. I think they sound better there, and it makes it a whol different instrument.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Peace
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 06:29 PM

I've always tuned my D-28 (six string) a full tone below concert. It causes fewer string breaks, and it makes getting into some open tunings a bit less risky.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 06:45 PM

"Bees knees", I've heard of Greko, but "Dog's knees"? - with dogs it's normally another part of the anatomy that is considered an indication of high quality...

.......

"a tuner... makes your ear 'lazy'"

Can work the other way - it can educate your ear to recognise when something is out of tune. I'm sure I'm more likely to notice when one or several of my strings have gone out of tune since I started using an electric tuner.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 11:46 PM

Twelve-strings should be played in open or altered tunings with only occasional forays into standard tuning. Continuous exposure to a twelve-string guitar in standard tuning has been proven to cause brain damage in laboratory animals! It is believed that the root cause of said brain damage rests in the fact that most people who play a twelve-string in standard tuning either strum it monotonously or attempt to use the same bag of tricks that they use on a six-string and it just doesn't work.

It is acceptable to play no more than two old Byrds songs in standard tuning, but it is then imperative that you revert to open G or C or D or DADGAD or something even more esoteric.

Oddly enough, this researcher has found that while many six-string guitar techniques fall flat on a twelve-string, many banjo techniques work just fine.

Bruce


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Peace
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 11:48 PM

. . . to say nothing of accordian techniques.

The other Bruce.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 10 Jan 04 - 12:17 AM

Actually, Bruce, only two accordian techniques transfer well to the twelve-string guitar. There's the one where you annoy all your friends, relatives, neighbors and housepets until they scream, and the one where you finally throw the thing in the garbage can in frustration.

The other other Bruce


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST,Tunison
Date: 10 Jan 04 - 05:58 AM

mmmmmmmmmmm   Double Nashvile tuning - now there's a good use for a 12 string


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Mooh
Date: 10 Jan 04 - 07:38 AM

Bruce...that was really funny!

I generally tune the thing open and then check first position octaves and I survive alright that way, but the guitar is properly set up and intonated well to start with. The only strings which seem to require extra attention are the pair of Ds which sometimes don't match the D on the second course, third fret. The problem is slight and easily compensated for, but I do notice it. Some additonal compromises seem to be necessary when tuning most 12s simply due to scale length and string guage relationships, but getting close enough for most ears is possible.

I shopped for years (literally) for a decent 12 string, and though I found some nice ones like a Martin slothead, and some one-off small shop wonders, I was disappointed until I had one made. To counter some of the tuning and tension concerns it is a 12 fret design which also (with lighter ebony machine buttons) improves the balance. The bridge is further back on the belly of the top, and the body is somewhat tighter waisted than most 12s (body volume is as great as most due to it being deeper). The builder is Marc Beneteau of St. Thomas Ontario Canada. The guitar is pure magic.

I can and do tune this one to standard with light guage strings as it was designed to be, but I don't hesitate to tune down and half or whole step with medium strings. It stays in tune as well as my other guitars.

It is very important with 12s to tweak the setup, particularly the saddle and nut slots, but don't overlook fret crowning and polishing as a way of refining the intonation. The string spacing over the saddle needs to be consistent from one string change to the next as moving the place the string rests on the saddle may change the intonation ever so slightly.

For the curious, I think this 12 is pictured in the Mudcat photos.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: GUEST,CHRIS
Date: 02 Jan 08 - 12:50 AM

Thanks for the useful info.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 02 Jan 08 - 04:07 AM

For what it is worth : I had at one time a Hoyer 12, and I tuned her three semitones below concert, so that to play in concert she would be capoed at the third.

Hence the top Es were at C, and so on. The third strings I did not tune in octaves, but in unison. I was told by Meic Stevens ( a maestro of the 12 string guitar) that this was what gives a 12 the 'built in jangle'.

Happy playing, and Happy New Year to all.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Jan 08 - 07:28 AM

I play mine in concert - the usual "spanish" tuning, and I find that the MOST important thing is to make sure the unison pairs are unison and the octave pairs are octaves.

Trying to get individual string compensation on the saddle is going to be a nightmare, but it would be good since otherwise end effect takes teh fatter strings sharp faster thanthe thin ones as you go up the neck.

The other idea is to keep a capo JUST for the 12 string, and groove the rubber so it stretches the fat strings not so much as otherwise they are pushed harder by the capo precisely because they are fatter.


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 02 Jan 08 - 09:34 AM

I like the idea of a capo just for the 12.

When you think that the tension on the neck of a 12 tuned at concert is some three tons to the square inch . . .


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Jan 08 - 09:58 AM

This is drifting this ancient thread a bit - but, reading the posts about tuning strings in pairs as harmonies rather than unison or octaves, I started wondering how that might sound for a mandolin.

Anyone tried doing that? And was it worth doing?


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Subject: RE: Tuning a 12 string?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 02 Jan 08 - 10:01 AM

first time I have ever seen tension measured in tons per square inch.

the pull on a sixstring set up with D'Addario .012 - .053 phosphor bronze at concert pitch is 162 lbs give or take an ounce or two, so the pull on a 12 string will be no more than double that, and a lot less if it is tuned down a step.


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