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12 String Tuning

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Allan C. 03 Feb 99 - 01:39 PM
catspaw49 03 Feb 99 - 03:05 PM
rick fielding 03 Feb 99 - 04:36 PM
Roger in Baltimore 03 Feb 99 - 05:19 PM
rick fielding 03 Feb 99 - 05:31 PM
Roger in Baltimore 03 Feb 99 - 05:48 PM
catspaw49 03 Feb 99 - 06:17 PM
Cap't Bob 04 Feb 99 - 12:49 AM
rick fielding 04 Feb 99 - 03:20 AM
Steve Parkes 04 Feb 99 - 03:58 AM
rick fielding 04 Feb 99 - 04:54 AM
catspaw49 04 Feb 99 - 07:17 AM
Neil Lowe (inactive) 04 Feb 99 - 02:03 PM
GUEST,Terry 27 Oct 08 - 06:25 AM
Richard Bridge 27 Oct 08 - 11:12 AM
banjoman 28 Oct 08 - 08:49 AM
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Subject: 12 String Tuning
From: Allan C.
Date: 03 Feb 99 - 01:39 PM

Just renewed an interest in playing my twelve-string and got to wondering about the tuning. Someone once told me to never tune it to standard guitar notes. Better, they said, to tune it down at least one full step. Or, even better, one should tune it down to G rather than E - (easier to transpose). My thinking is that this may have been conventional wisdom back before the advent of reinforced necks, etc. but probably doesn't apply nowadays. I would also be interested in learning some different tunings or alternate stringing specific to the twelve-string.


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Feb 99 - 03:05 PM

Partly true, but many twelves are still built to be tuned a step and a half lower. Some manufacturers built 12's as super reinforced sixes and they tend to be major clunks. Part of the charm of the 12 is it's rumbling bass against the jingle jangle of the paired treble and in most instances that effect cannot be achieved with lighter gauge strings. Tune down -- capo up and enjoy it! Gotta' go now, but I'm sure others will chime in too....and I'll probably be back later. Love a 12!!!

catspaw


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: rick fielding
Date: 03 Feb 99 - 04:36 PM

As a veteran twelve string player (I've owned at least 22 of them) I've strung them and tuned them as many ways as the Kama Sutra has...well..

Need to know the brand and the year of construction before giving any useful advice.


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 03 Feb 99 - 05:19 PM

Allan C.,

Welcome to the wonderful world of the 12-string guitar. There have been two discussion on the forum about tuning.

One (click here) about what pitch to tune your 12 string and a second (click here) about string guages and string arrangements.

I agree with Rick that pitch depends on the manufacture of the guitar. If you bought your's new, ask the manufacturer what they recommend. If you bought it used, you may still be able to contact the manufacturer.

The range of pitch for the lowest bass string runs from B to E. I have not heard of anyone tuning to a pitch higher (God forbid!) or lower. If you get below D, you should consider at least a medium gauge string set.

Any tuning used on a six string can be used on a 12. There are some tunings that sound especially sweet on most 12's. The first to consider is dropping the lowest bass strings from E to D (or whatever relative pitch you use). This emphasizes a bass drone especially playing in the key of D. I am also quite fond of "open G" tuning, DGDBGD (from bass to treble). This one can also be used for slide work on the 12 string (had you thought about that Allan!?!). Also "open D" DADF#AD.

Enjoy the music!!

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: rick fielding
Date: 03 Feb 99 - 05:31 PM

Hi Roger. For years I tried to get a REALLY heavy bass string in order to tune my '58 Harmony Sovereign down to BEADF#B. No luck until Sandy Paton suggested that Gordon Bok may have used custom strings. Shortly after that I obtained a "67" and realised that Bok must have been a wrestler at one time. The perfect string was a La Bella silk and steel "68", earmarked for Pete Seeger's use. It's beautiful and I got them to send me a dozen....and then someone stole the guitar! (along with my car) I got the car back but not my precious 12 string. It was the only one I've ever owned that really sounded good tuned that low.


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 03 Feb 99 - 05:48 PM

Rick,

I recently purchased a used Alvarez and had it modified in Lead Belly format. The bass E I believe is only a 57. My intent was to tune it to C, but it sounds more like Lead Belly when tuned to B. I think I've already talked about my theory that tuning to B simplifies coordinating with a harmonica played in "cross harp" in one of the two threads listed above.

Speaking of which, I did not get the first link right. For a discussion of 12 string tuning click here.

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Feb 99 - 06:17 PM

Rick and Roger hit some more key points that are really useful. The brand of your guitar matters before much advice can be given, but almost any reasonable 12 can be modified. If you notice though, all three of us are into the same kind of sound that is so classic to a 12. I haven't had as many as Rick, I count only 11, but any 12 fanatic is a true fanatic. It's got to be that big bass and jangly combination that's so damn hard to describe. Plus, you play a 12 differently and you keep reaching for it first somehow.

Roger...you sound like a limbo tune...How LOW can He GO? The quest for Booming Bass? Love it.**BIG Honkin' Smile**

Rick...Sorry about the Sov....but thanks for making me feel like a total idiot for not thinking of the LaBella before...should have been obvious.

catspaw


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: Cap't Bob
Date: 04 Feb 99 - 12:49 AM

For years I tuned my 12 string a step down and used the capo although it's actually more fun to play without the device. A few years back I got to thinking about it and decided to just play songs in a different key. For example when the other guys are playing in "D" I play the 12 string in the key of "E" (it's actually the "E" fingering but really the key of "D" if you get what I mean). Another advantage of this is that it gives a greater range of notes when playing with other folks - especially other guitar players.


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: rick fielding
Date: 04 Feb 99 - 03:20 AM

Hi Catspaw. Each of my 12 strings has it's own little memory but the worst was "Pedro" the Mexican built beauty that I bought when I was about twenty. The salesman said it was built to be tuned to pitch and I foolishly believed him. Now the problem was that my girlfriend at the time felt (justifiably so) that we should be saving our money, so when I purchased "Pedro" I snuck him into a closet for the night, planning to tell her about it the next day.(after I had thought up some story to justify my purchase) About 5 am a noise like a bazooka woke everyone up with a start in our communal rooming house. People were searching everywhere for the source of the explosion...but in my heart I knew what it was. I let someone else find the broken peices of wood and wire, but I had to own up to it. Needless to say I got yelled at, AND lost Pedro one day after buying him!


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 04 Feb 99 - 03:58 AM

I've tuned my 6-string down three frets to suit my voice, and I'll have to do the same with my Washburn 12-string. I have problems with capos too. It seems to be the thickness of the strings that's the cause: the bottom string of each pair gets stretched more when you put the capo on. New capos don't seem to do this; maybe the padding is softer or soemthing - but who wants to buy a new capo every three or four weeks?

I wonder if anyone has the same problem with their 6th string that I do (6 or 12)? When I fret it it goes slightly sharp, so I either have to have it a bit flat open or a bit sharp fretted. I used to think it was just a feature of cheap guitars, but it's the same with good ones too. Maybe it's my fingering that's at fault? After 30-odd years, I should be doing it right!

Steve


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: rick fielding
Date: 04 Feb 99 - 04:54 AM

Hi Steve. Very common problem and the fact that you notice that it's going sharp is good. A lot of folks don't think much about tuning and it can ruin their sound. First, the 12 string problem. Very few capos are 100% effective in keeping the instrument in tune for the very reasons you outline but here's a couple of tricks I've worked out over the years. If you're willing to put a bit of effort into it it will pay off.

Use either a Shubb 12 string capo or a Dunlop C clamp. (which is my all time favourite because of the rubber they use)I think I've tried virtually every brand on the market and these two are the best. The Shubb is already slightly bent to fit a curved fingerboard but the Dunlop has to be put into a vice and gently banged with a hammer til it curves exactly like your fingerboard. (take the rubber off first!) Next rub a bit of chalk on your strings at the second fret, and put the capo on NO FURTHER THAN 1mm from the fret. Tighten it. Take it off, and the chalk marks on the capo will identify exactly where the thick bass strings are. Take a VERY sharp exacto knife and make a tiny triangular shaped cut to the rubber in the middle of the sixth and fifth pair bass strings. Don't worry if you screw it up the first time, the spare rubbers are cheap. When you put it back on ,the thick strings will sink into their grooves a little and hence not stretch as much when the capo gets to the thinner strings. This really works and I've modified dozens of capos for folks over the years.

The sharp E string is the result of either: You're fretting in the middle of the fret rather than very close to it..or your intonation is out.(check with harmonics at the twelfth fret) This can happen on expensive or cheap guitars. Sometimes the saddle has to be re-positioned or split. If you need more explanation on that, let me know. OOPS, I forgot one other possible (and often the major) cause. Your E string is coming off the nut too high and the groove needs to be deepened. Hope this has been some help.


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Feb 99 - 07:17 AM

Aw geez...I'm busting a gut here Rick. Pedro reminds me of an old James Thurber story. I can just picture it!!! I read your post an hour ago and I'm still laughing! What is the record for shortest time owning an instrument??? Might be a thread, if for no other reason than EVERYBODY needs to hear the Pedro story.

Somethin' I was gonna' say to Steve, but I can't get Pedro out of my mind or quit laughing...maybe later.

catspaw


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: Neil Lowe (inactive)
Date: 04 Feb 99 - 02:03 PM

Regarding alternate tunings: I used to fool around with open D tuning and I found if I tuned the higher string of a string pair down to a (perfect? I forget my music theory) 5th of the lower string then you get a rich, full bodied chord and a beeeutiful sound. I think I had stumbled onto a tuning that Leo Kotke uses sometimes. Anyway, if this is unclear, here is what the strings would be, starting from the 12th string ( lower case letters represent the 'even' string or higher srting of a string pair, upper case the 'odd' or lower string of a string pair)down to the 1st: aDeAaDdF#eAaD.

It's been fifteen years since I picked up a 12-string so my memory may be a little faulty, but seems like I remember something about not being able to tune the first two string pairs to this interval for some reason, but then again maybe you can. Try it and see. I assume you could do this with other open tunings also, but there may be a point where doing this causes 'buzz' or the string has to be tuned unusually high to get the interval, etc. I didn't fool around with other open tunings much. I gave the 12-string away to a Navajo Indian in Denver, CO in exchange for some mechanical work to a '77 Chevy.

Have fun,

Neil


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: GUEST,Terry
Date: 27 Oct 08 - 06:25 AM

I have a daion 12 (rebadged yamaki) and a maton 6 The strings have always been a bit crappy .Then I bought a set of La bellas Fantastic. unfortunately it was the the only set left in oz I reckon. But! I found martin sp2's and bunged them on. A revelation.
They last for months wherease the other rubbish lasted for weeks.
Putting heavy duty strings on and downtuning seems a good idea. I will try that the next string change, plus maybe changing a couple of the trebles with extra light wire wounds to increase the midrange. Being a lefty I spent 30 years playing right handed gits with the strings
turned round. I didnt realise how much better and simpler it was until I got a true lefty guitar.
In fact My maton 6 string I bought on ebay. It had been sitting in it's case for 10 years since new . It hardly weighed anything and all the lefties at a folk festival wanted to have a try.
Anyway thats enough about me , lets talk about you, what do you think about me?


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Oct 08 - 11:12 AM

Careful with the Daion. I have a Daion Mugen THE78/12 (and a 6 too) and when I got it the previous owner had had 13s (!) on it in concert from new!! Front well bowed - needed a bridge doctor and a fair bit of neck tweaking. The THE78 6s were instructed, new, not to have anything tougher than 12/53s (in concert) and I would not use anything heavier than 10/47s on a THE 78/12 in concert. I nearly wrecked my THE 78/6 playing it with 13/58s in concert - great noise - but one day I looked at the table with the light at the right angle and panicked! It too now has a Bridge Doctor in it.


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Subject: RE: 12 String Tuning
From: banjoman
Date: 28 Oct 08 - 08:49 AM

I have been playing a Washburn 12 string for years now and have always tuned it into standard tuning using light gauge strings. It always holds its tune even when using a capo and has the benefit of a really good low action which I never found on other 12's I've owned. Overall its a really great instrument despite its great age. I did a bit of rebuilding work on it to get it to its current state which has proved worthwhile.
Pete


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