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Twelve-String Guitars

20 Mar 98 - 11:24 PM (#24231)
From: Keith Rawlings

Does anyone know the concert pitch tuning of a twelve-string guitar? Is it a lower pitch than the six-string guitar? I notice that if I play from the same chord diagrams for songs that use a twelve-string guitar on a six-string guitar, they don’t sound right. In other words, a C chord on a six-string becomes (hypothetically) an A chord on a twelve-string.This has always bothered me. Another thing: what is the preferred key for harmonica to play folk and blues? I used to have a harmonica in the key of C, but couldn’t seem to get the right sound for blues. THANKS!

21 Mar 98 - 12:19 AM (#24234)
From: Will

'dunno about concert pitch tuning, but I tune my 12-string Seagull to the same EADGBE tuning as my six strings. The 12 and 6 make more or less the same noise, except the 12 string sounds better.

I've got an old Ibanez 12-string that I tune down and then capo up, to keep the strings from pulling the neck out of line, but that's a work-around, not a concert.

21 Mar 98 - 01:40 AM (#24237)
From: Dan Keding

Most of the newer twelve string guitars are built to take concert pitch. With oler models many players kept them tuned down a half or full step. Not so nowadays.

21 Mar 98 - 09:15 AM (#24247)
From: Jaxon

The general rule of thumb for harps is to play a mojor key in the same key,eg key of A use a A harmonica. If the song is in a minor key go up two steps to the major key, eg Song in Am, harp should be C. Most blues stuff is usually, but not always in E or A. Most performers carry 5 or 6 different harps with them to cover the most popular keys.

Jack Murray

21 Mar 98 - 11:16 AM (#24252)
From: Earl

Blues harmonica players usually play "cross harp" which means using a harmonica in the fourth note of the key being played. For example, when playing in G, use a C harp; when playing in E us an A harp. The advantage of this is that more notes are played by breathing in allowing them to be "bent" for that distinctive blues harp sound.

21 Mar 98 - 12:07 PM (#24254)
From: chet w

Don't know if you'd be interested, but I've lately tried the Lee Oskar harps in minor keys, both natural minor and harmonic minor. The natural minor is meant to be played in cross-harp as described above, but if you get, say an Bm (natural minor) harp it plays a lovely D dorian scale in straight harp position. The harmonic minor harp plays in the key printed on it, but it is a slightly different scale, said to be useful for eastern (really central) European, gypsy, and Jewish music. I love both kinds.

As for 12-strings, I have nothing to add except that the best sounding ones I've ever heard were Martin, and with their light construction they might be best tuned down a fret or two. Another great one is the old Gibson B-25 12-string, and Guilds are consistently good. I guess I would recommend today that, in general, the higher quality your instrument, the more likely it is to be safely tuned in standard pitch.

Good luck, Chet W.

21 Mar 98 - 07:32 PM (#24300)
From: Sir

I usually tune my 12 String down a full step then use a capo when I need to play in the same key as another guitar player who wants to follow the chords. As much as saving on the neck of the guitar it tends to save on buy replacemnets for that high g string. It's said that Leadbelly and some others would tune the low E string down to a low C to really get a bass effect.

25 Mar 98 - 11:32 PM (#24626)
From: Keith Rawlings

Thanks a lot, fellahs! This was very helpful. It's cleared up a lot of confusion for me!

26 Mar 98 - 11:54 AM (#24642)
From: Jon W.

Some of the 12-string guitar makers from earlier this century used a tailpiece and floating bridge to eliminate the possibility of tearing the bridge off the guitar top due to the high string tension. Also, a shorter scale and 12-frets-to-the-body neck would mean somewhat lower tension - the standard "dreadnaught" scale and 14-fret neck coming into vogue a little later.

26 Mar 98 - 07:49 PM (#24685)

In Wolf and Lowell's "The Life and Legend of Leadbelly" they mention that Leadbelly used to tune his lowest (in pitch) two strings an octave apart. That is the one that was (physically) higher up was an octave above the other so the higher one sounded first on a downward strum. This was to add more "ompf" to the base (and nobody can deny that Leadbelly had that!).

They also mention that he used a Stella, which was (is?) a relatively cheap instrument. When the strings or the instrument started to decay, he would tune down a semitone (and adjust his singing) to ease the tension. Other than that he tuned the six courses as the six strings would be tuned on a six-string guitar.

I have never played a twelve-string, so I don't know how this octave tuning works in practice.


26 Mar 98 - 08:38 PM (#24688)
From: eddie jones

Leo Kottke drops his twelve string to C#. I don't know why. Maybe he had the same problem.

28 Mar 98 - 03:12 PM (#24777)
From: a

Usually i tune my 12 string down so that the first (thickest) string is a low D or D# on the piano. Then buy a GOOD cappo sp that you can play the in the same key or a different key with different chord changes. The secret with the 12 string is the cappo.

*** if you tune the guitar up to an E and leave it over time the neck will warp. So always tune it down. My Eko ranger 12 string is now 22 years old and going strong!!

28 Mar 98 - 03:29 PM (#24781)
From: steve t

The trouble with tuning down is that the guitar goes out of tune more easily. Small variations in humidity will likely put you more seriously out of tune if your lowest string is tuned to C# than if you'd left it at E. I think the tensions on each string are a compromise between the ability to stay in tune easily, without being so tight that the strings break easily.

I wouldn't consider playing a twelve string without an incredibly well-trained ear for tuning, or an electronic tuner that was handy at all times.

I don't think there is such a thing as a good capo for 12 string. There's a clear difference in the sound of a 12 string that was tuned with the capo already on the desired fret, versus one that was tuned, then had the capo added later, or had the capo moved later. Moving/adding a capo always messes up the sound a little, and it's usually quite easy to hear on a solo strummed 12 string.

03 Apr 98 - 12:55 AM (#25022)
From: Dawn

I have an Alvarez 12-string that I've had for almost 20 years. I tune it the same as my six string. Never had a neck problem (on the guitar, anyway).

08 Apr 98 - 05:02 PM (#25455)
From: wolfz

checked with my favorite luthier and he says to tune your strings as follows

E E A A D D G G B Bb E Eb

this is the tuning he recommends if you don't want to tune down to D and use a capo

08 Apr 98 - 10:31 PM (#25494)
From: Dawn

I follow until the B Bb E Eb - why flat the tenor strings on the top two sets? (on purpose, anyway...I suppose mine sometimes ARE tuned like that, but that's another story)

If you could supply the reason I'd be most appreciative. To me it seems as though it would just sound out of tune.

08 Apr 98 - 10:55 PM (#25498)
From: DrWord

I agree with Dawn

09 Apr 98 - 11:08 PM (#25553)

Hey wolfz, I think I've played at some jam sessions with that luthier friend of yours. (or maybe he meant he was a Lutheran?)

10 Apr 98 - 03:58 PM (#25574)
From: steve t

Standard tuning is: First four string pairs, from thickest to thinnest are EE AA DD GG but each pair is tuned an octave apart. Last two pairs are BB EE but each pairs is in the same octave -- same pitch. Yeah, I did try to tune the last pairs an octave apart too...they broke real good :-)

You, of course, can tune 'em all however you like. My favourite alternate tuning is DD AA DD GG AA DD. Stan Rogers uses this tuning in Witch of the Westmorland, among other songs, and it sounds so crisp, that he must have retuned after he stuck his capo on the fifth fret.

10 Apr 98 - 04:24 PM (#25575)
From: Mark Clark

I read, years ago, that Huddie Ledbetter used octive pairs as mentioned above for the bottom (lowest pitched) four courses of strings and unison pairs for the top two. He used the standard "relative" tuning but his E strings were tuned down to C natural. Since this causes too much string rattle with standard strings, he substituted piano strings where needed to achieve the necessary tension. He also moved strings up from their intended position. If you listen to his recordings, you'll hear his open bass string from time to time and you'll also notice that, unlike most twelve strings, his guitar did not sound like a truck load of dog tags falling down stairs.

I think the Stella guitar Leadbelly played was a quality instrument with a fine spruce top. I think it was the Harmony Co. (Chicago Music?) that bought the Stella name and used it on cheap plywood guitars with painted detailing. They used to sell a 12-string model in the 60's and may yet for all I know.

10 Apr 98 - 08:48 PM (#25593)

I have read somewhere that John Lomax tried to get Leadbelly to buy a better quality guitar. That might indicate Lomax's opinion of the Stella rather than the actual quality however. It might also be an indication of the Setlla's reputation rather than its actual quality.


11 Apr 98 - 08:09 PM (#25640)
From: Gene E

Howdy all,

While I play bottleneck on a couple of Dobros and blues harp on a bunch of Hohners, I find I do have a slant on the tuning thing.

I submit that standard tuning is only important when writen musical standards are important for ensembles. Any tunable stringed instrument can be tuned in hundreds of different ways but writen standardization allowed European musicians to create music that could be repeated in concert halls around the globe. The objective (before recorded music technology) was to be able to play the music the way the composer intended.

now that my European based musical training is long past and I'm older and into the bluEs I find as the Delta blues greats that the tuning depends on the range of the voice so the guitar should be tuned to allow the singer to sing without much effort. This applied to twelve string folk and blues singers as well as Delta slide six stringers who may have had trouble singing if their axe was tuned to "E Standard."

Now that I'm older, I really enjoy open G tuned down to open C#. I use thicker strings so that the tension is maintained and they don't begin to sound sloppy!!???

Go ahead tune down, tune up or what ever. Your guitar will probably tell you where it would like to be tuned and what to play, listen to it. :}

My humble opinion and probably mine and mine alone.

Gene E

12 Apr 98 - 11:30 PM (#25695)
From: Dave L

I have a Yamaha 12 string that I have been tuning the regular way for almost 20 years. The neck is still as straight as ever. Also use a capo called "The Hamilton Fret Spanner". It is a screw type that is same width and depth as upper frets. Works and sounds great.

13 Apr 98 - 10:24 AM (#25702)
From: Will

I use a Kyser capo, which is a spring-loaded slip-on device. Works just fine, with the requisite bit of fiddling to make sure the bass strings are buzzing. They have versions for both the 6 and 12 string.

13 Apr 98 - 02:54 PM (#25715)
From: Dawn

I agree that, unless you're playing with other people (and sometimes even if), you can tune up, down, or alternate. I was just wondering why anyone would want to tune the top two sets a flat apart (B Bb, E Eb) as per wolfz's luthier?

(Yes, the lower four sets are an octave apart, top two sets same octave)

I've also used several different capos over the years and cuurently prefer the Kyser 12-string capo.

14 Apr 98 - 09:58 AM (#25740)
From: Paul Birch

Somewhere ages ago (maybe in Pete Seeger's _Twelve-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly_ book), I believe I read that Leadbelly tuned strings 11 & 12 TWO octaves apart (i.e., string 12 was the same pitch as strings 1 & 2).

14 Apr 98 - 05:18 PM (#25791)
From: Roger Himler

Paul is correct. Strings 11 & 12 were two octaves apart. He also tuned strings 5 & 6 in unison using identical strings. The other major difference is Lead Belly tuned his Stella further down then most, frequently it was tuned to C rather than E and sometimes B or even Bb. As Gene E. said, concert pitch is for them that wants to play with other people. Otherwise, you can use any pitch you wish. There are stories that Lead Belly chose pitch based on the condition of his strings. I suspect that is apocryphal. Also, as Gene mentioned. If you tune as low as Lead Belly you will need heavier gauge strings. One person I know uses 0.64 gauge on his 11th string.

I have a 1968 Guild 12-string. I keep it tuned to concert pitch. Guild built the guitar with that in mind. 12-strings built earlier often were tuned to D to ease tension on the neck. I would suggest people contact manufacturers if they are concerned. If you don't know, then safety might call for tuning to D.

I have been very satisfied with every capo designed for 12-strings except the old double elastic ones from the '60's.

16 Apr 98 - 02:59 PM (#25889)
From: Tom Johnson (

I use a lot of the tunings that the other guys talk about, however I also tune my 12-string to "G" tuning. This way You can play some of Greg Brown's tunes on the Guitars, it also lends it self to playing modifed 3finger syle banjo tuns on the darnd thing.

Good luck with all the data

16 Apr 98 - 04:22 PM (#25896)
From: Frank in the swamps

I kept thinkin' about Wolfz' tuning and finally concluded either...

1) He made a simple mistake in notating unisons vs. octaves (an easy screw-up, I do worse).

2) He was pulling our collective leg ( a great practical joke, only a complete beginner would fall for it, and even a complete beginner would soon realize that he/she's been had).

3) Something else altogether.


20 Apr 98 - 08:47 AM (#26007)
From: Ted from Australia

I have been playing 12 string for 20 odd years and have tried all types of tunings but in the end reverted to tuning a tone down to preserve the guitar(so that with capo on the second fret the tuning is "standard" I play a Maton 12 (Australian) of light construction If you use Mr Schubb's excellent overcentre 12 string capo you can slip it over (down) 1 course to allow the low E course to sound D then play in the key of D it gives the richest 12 string sound. Give it a try Regards Ted.

PS all 12 string players should have a good electronic tuner so that you can get tuned before everyone has gone home:grin

20 Apr 98 - 10:59 AM (#26021)
From: hanrahan

I have played a Martin 12 since 1971 and most of the time it was tuned in standard...EE AA DD GG BB EE.. sometimes using DaDGAD and has never had a neck problem.. I find lower tunings desirable when playing pieces that use a lot of string bending. I have the Keyser 12 capo but it is, in my humble opinion inferior to the Schubb..Paul Stookey said he puts a small piece of wood above the capoed fret to get a real clean tone. Gordon Bok has a wonderful cd of 12 string music...he often tunes down to C..


20 Apr 98 - 05:13 PM (#26064)
From: steve t

I was reading in D'Addario's home page that after much work, they once developed a set of strings for base guitar which, at standard tuning, had equal tension on each string. Trouble was, they didn't like the sound, and so they never put the strings on the market.

My point is that even experts on tuning and strings can't predict how new ideas in tuning will work out.

20 Apr 98 - 11:06 PM (#26114)
From: Will

Gotta agree with Ted. Electronic tuners are wonderful.

19 Aug 98 - 10:43 AM (#35345)
From: Big Mick

I have a 1965 Guild 12 string. I use standard tuning on it and the neck is not only fine, the action is fantastic. The folks at Elderly Instruments in E. Lansing, Michigan are constantly trying to get me to sell it.

I have both a Kyser and a Shubb capo in the 12 string models. The Shubb is superior, hands down.

The biggest problem I have is finding strings that have the sound I want. This instrument has a fantastic voice with the right string. I prefer Martin Marquis, to most strings out there for this instrument. I have tried them all. I usually don't like Martin strings, but the Marquis are great on this guitar. I usually stay with extra lights.


30 Sep 99 - 11:05 AM (#119345)

My 1964 stella has stood up to regular tuning since I bought it new. I've used Martin Marquis light gauge and never took all the strings off at once. I tune with an electronic tuner and it usually stays in tune long enough for a 2 hour gig

30 Sep 99 - 12:57 PM (#119395)
From: kendall

I have been playing an Apollonio 12 string for 25 years. It has tremendous volume and a warm mellow tone unequalled by any other I've seen. It is bigger than standard, and sounds better tuned down to D. I also use wound B strings which improves the intonation. However, they will not stand the tension of concert pitch. The problem with a capo, is, if the action is too high, it causes the box to go sharp, which drives other people nuts. The good news is, it keeps people from playing along on a tune that they dont know!!(Unless they have a tin ear)

30 Sep 99 - 02:19 PM (#119421)
From: Travis

If you cannot tune your 12 string to pitch -- your guitar is no good. I have owned several different 12 string guitars and have always tuned them to pitch. The capo is a cheater and distorts sound. It is the lazy way to do things.

30 Sep 99 - 04:39 PM (#119483)
From: Davey

Just reading this thread out of interest, asd I'm a 12-string player as well. I, too have had a few different 12 strings, and presently own a Laskin. He tells me I can tune it to concert pitch with light-guage strings and to tune it down if I wish to use heavier strings.
Travis, let's keep it polite and not put anyone down please.. We were all beginners at one time and we all had to go through the growing pains of dealing with tuning of mass produced guitars.
Your comment about capos is also out of line. All the guitar players in the music community I'm part of here in Toronto (and some pros that I know), won't hesitate to use a capo if it helps them pitch a song to where they are able to give it the best possible treatment.
If your main intent is only to show off your prowess on the guitar, then do your thing, but please don't malign those whose methods and techniques are different. It's diversity that makes the world an interesting and exciting place, and a spirit of community, cooperation and courtesy that makes the Mudcat Cafe a wonderful part of that place.

30 Sep 99 - 04:43 PM (#119485)
From: kendall

the reason I tune my guitar down to D, is not that it is "NO GOOD" I like it down there. And, as far as quality goes, I will put it up against any Martin, Guild, Taylor, or any other factory made box. I've had them all, and NONE equal the Apollonio.

30 Sep 99 - 05:00 PM (#119489)
From: Roger in Baltimore

Tuning the guitar to a different pitch does give it a "different" sound. I've tried tuning from B to E as the base note. Below C# I find it advisable to use a heavier gauge string to keep them from getting "floppy". Of course I use light gauge and that compounds the floppiness.

Roger in Baltimore

30 Sep 99 - 06:50 PM (#119540)
From: KD

Hi what an intresting thread. I have had a 12 string for some 15 years and loved it. it is an old Eko and still going well, but I now also own a Takamine 12 which has moved my playing on in leaps. I also have tryed most capos even tryed to make one but am now sold on the Schubb's 12 it works every time. I also agree with Davey dont knock people who chose to capo or standard tunning its about playing your way that matters.


30 Sep 99 - 07:30 PM (#119551)
From: kendall

Doesn't Chet Atkins use a capo on occasion?

01 Oct 99 - 09:01 AM (#119726)
From: JedMarum

Tuning a 12 string guitar down a whole step (ie., two frets lower) is not uncommon. Most of today's 12 strings are made better, and can handle the strain, but not too long ago, many (cheaper) guitars did not - so players tuned them down and capo'ed up.

'Cross harp' is the blues sound you are after for harmonica and you select a key that is a fourth to the key the song is played in. That means you play an A harp to plays a blues tune in E, a C harp to play a blues in G and an F harp to play a blues in C, etc. Cross harp is played with the primary scales coming from drawing in,as opposed to playing straight harp, blowing out.

01 Oct 99 - 09:21 AM (#119733)
From: JedMarum

Capo is cheating? I have heard this idiotic comment before, and found it just as laughbale then as I do now. It is a tool, like any other available to a good guitar player, it has its strengths and weaknesses.

Many fine fine players use it on purpose because of the tonal changes it causes. I have transposed songs to alternate keys so that I could capo up the neck and get a more delicate, glassy, musicbox quality to my finger picking. In other words; expressly for, the tonal changes.

Playing with other players, you might also wish to transpose and capo to compliment rather than duplicate their playing. And of course, it is the quickest and easiest way to cimply change keys ... but I must admit, I rarely use it for that purpose.

02 Oct 99 - 10:31 AM (#120059)

I made a capo that worked but since the action on my guitar is fixed, I wound up with buzz that was even worse with jumbo ( C tuning ) strings, oh well..

05 Feb 00 - 11:43 PM (#174176)
From: GUEST,

I have recently picked up a 12 string and I am having troubles tuning it. I typically use standard tuning with an octave separation between the pairs on the first four sets and the same tune on the last 2 sets. However, this for some reason isn't the same tuning that some of the songs I have been listening to that are played on a 12 are using. Can anyone provide any insight?


06 Feb 00 - 12:38 AM (#174187)
From: Sorcha

Is a 12 string related to a harp or lute? There is an old saying about harpers and lutenists--they spend half their time tuning and the other half playing am out of tune instrument. Maybe a 12 string is also "not a real musical instrument, just a weirdness blip to keep luthiers and players occupied" *Grin*

06 Feb 00 - 01:21 AM (#174204)
From: catspaw49

We have another thread or two on 12 strings and alternate tunings. Go to the "Search Box" on the main page and type in '12 string' and you'll find a bit more info. Many alternate tunings are also popular on 12's and you might want to type in 'alternate tunings' also. We have a ton of info on these subjects and if you don't find more than you need, check back in and we'll try to give you a hand!


08 Feb 00 - 01:44 PM (#175097)
From: Eric the Viking

On my old Eko I've used dropped D on both top strings, DADGAD and standard tuning. The guitar sounds just as good (or bad if you hear me playing) in any tuning provided the tuning is appropriate to the song. I've capoed up to 7th and 7th fret. It's what you like I guess. But I was interested to find out about dropping to E Eb and B Bb never heard of that and I've read several books, might give it a try-can any one explain why it should be dropped? Cheers. Eric

09 Feb 00 - 02:05 PM (#175671)
From: GUEST,Scotsbard

You mentioned that some chords sound different when played on a 12-string guitar. On a 6str chord inversions are fairly direct, but on a 12str mixing in the extra octave pitches can confuse things somewhat.

Take the first position E7th for example: on 6str; E-B-D-G#'-B'-E" (E-B-D-G#'-D'-E") on 12str; E-E'-B-B'-D-D'-G#'-G#"-B'-B'-E"-E" (E-E'-B-B'-D-D'-G#'-G#"-D'-D'-E"-E")

The D is the 7th of the chord, and hearing the E'-D' 2nd combination buried in the middle instead of the widely spaced E-D-E" 7th or the D'-E" 2nd at the top is probably what sounds different. (Getting the intonation clean enough that all three D' pitches match can also be an issue.) Chords that include 9ths or 11ths can sound even more wonderful or weird. Try using inversions that put only the root, 3rd and 5th on the octaved base strings and keep the larger intervals on the treble strings.

With regard to dropping the whole tuning a step or two to save strain on the neck and bridge ... I've found that it really depends on the particular guitar.

DADGAD on a 12str is kinda fun as well, but keeping everything in good intonation can be a real bear.


17 Feb 00 - 06:15 PM (#180310)
From: Curlie Cornflake

Can a 12 string be 'fixed' if the neck has warped through strain. Mine is about 25yrs old and I kept it tuned to normal 6 string E. I now notice the action is getting high. Can it be repaired? If not I think I'll tune it down to make it easier to play!

10 Mar 01 - 08:17 PM (#414896)
From: GUEST,

I've not been a follower of this discussion group so forgive me if the question I ask has been answered before. The 12-string I used a Takamine F-400S, SN 93080005, about 10 years old I guess. I think it is a fairly standard dreadnaught-sized 12 string, so I am sure that others have encountered my problem before.

I do not like at all any of the available capos (Kyser, Shubb, etc.) that work on a 'pinch from one side' principle. I find inevitably they get weak on the soft side. I want a capo that clamps across and pulls down equally from both sides, preferably using a screw mechanism rather than a spring mechanism. The Fender or Paige models would be ideal, except neither of those are wide enough to get past the 4th fret. I have also tried a 'pickers pal' model, but there is no variable settings with that one.

Does anyone know of a Fender or Paige type capo (pulls from both sides, screw mechanism) that is wide enough for a 12-string, at least up to the 7th fret? Perhaps even a small maker who mills his own models?

Please respond to me, Dan, at

Much appreciated!

10 Mar 01 - 09:35 PM (#414921)
From: catspaw49

One of our members, a fantastic guitarist, Rick Fielding, is a tuning fanatic and prefers Golden Gate on 12 but also uses Shubb and Kyser. I use both Shubb and Kyser myself. It is inevitable that any spring load capo will weaken after time, but if you "fit" the capo to the guitar and slot the rubber on the capo on the E and A "big" strings, you'll have a lot more success. In another place, Rick made this comment and explains what I am saying:

Best way to capo a 12 string is to cut two tiny "V" shaped grooves where the "Big" E and A strings contact the rubber. This works! I'm a tuning fanatic, and never had any trouble after I started doing this. Personally I use a Golden Gate capo for 12 string, but it works well with Shubb, Dunlop "C" clamp or Kaiser.

Also the arm of the capo should match the radius of the neck which is constant all the way up. Doing a little work on a Shubb will make it work infinitely better and last longer too. The inconvenience of most clamp type capos makes this a better option.


21 Mar 01 - 09:10 AM (#422307)
From: GUEST,Mark Verduin

Hi, I have a Yamaha 12-string acoustic that I've had fer, oh, 'bout 10-15 yrs now...I can tune it easily by ear but the thing is that it seems not to tune "correctly"...i.e., for example, the D, G & A chords will sound/play fine but the E is out of whack...& when I adjust to make the E sound better then the A & D chords go off...any suggestions? Maybe the frets are not placed correctly? Maybe I'm using the wrong strings(i.e., heavier or lighter gauge?) ...I am not very "technically" proficient, musically speaking(still can't read music tho have been trying to learn, and I learn songs by ear)and I use the guitar mainly for folk Mass on Sundays...I keep it tuned and use a capo on the second fret...thanks in advance...

Mark M. Verduin(

21 Mar 01 - 09:31 AM (#422323)
From: catspaw49

Hi Mark........There are a number of things that can cause your problem, but often its a matter of using a "B" compessated saddle. Here's what you do.......Go read THIS THREAD and follow the links in it too and I think you'll have a good understanding of the problem and the fixes for it.


21 Mar 01 - 01:20 PM (#422535)
From: texastoolman

i have a taylor 12-string and tune it to pitch no trouble so far and i've had it for about 7 years now i don't do all the recomended things for it like humidifiers and such but it's held together pretty well so far i think the quality of the instument has a great deal to do with it

21 Mar 01 - 03:27 PM (#422600)
From: Bernard

My Yamaha FG260 12-string is now 30 years old, and I've never had any trouble keeping it in 'concert'.

I worked on it when it was new (the day I bought it!) - a bone nut, re-tensioned truss rod, and I planed some wood off the top of the bridge so I could lower the bridge insert. A bit drastic, but it worked really well.

These days I use Kaman 1717 strings, and it really sings.

Phil (Mudcat name FOG - Friend of Gnome) has a similar instrument which he bought secondhand recently, and it's a shed in comparison... but it will be fine with a bit of work!!

21 Mar 01 - 05:08 PM (#422669)
From: Bedubya

During a typical practice-noodling-meditation session with my 12-string I will go through a couple of open tunings in addition to standard. I always try to put it away tuned to a lower-than-standard tuning like open G. It's probably not necessary, but it can't hurt. And I'm probably going to want to do some open-tuned stuff first when I pull it out again.

As for capos, I'm currently using one of those over-priced rolling capos that a guy at the music store talked me into buying (I think he was getting a kickback from the manufacturer). It actually works pretty well. It's good points are: 1) It's wide enough to go to the 9th fret of a 12 with no problem. 2) The tension is provided by two springs, one on the bass side and one on the treble, instead of pinching from treble to bass. 3) It's the only capo I've ever found that you can actually leave on at the nut of a guitar with a "dart" (like a D-28) when not in use. On the downside: 1) The springs are pretty strong and one that was allowed to snap back could hurt a finger or a guitar neck. 2) Since it has a roller instead of just a rubber pad, it is more difficult to do a mod to keep the 10th and 12th strings fom buzzing. If you'v never seen one of these things there's a photo at FRETS.COM (Go to the index page and then scroll down to accessories. The photo's on page 2 of the capo section.)



22 Mar 01 - 08:51 AM (#423078)
From: Iguanaguy

HI All, Well, after reading several replies & going thru some of the suggested threads...I am going to try several things; first, try some lighter-gauge strings(any recomendations as to brand names?) second, see if I can lower the bridge some(the action is VERY stiff, really hard to bar chords... On an offside note, I have an all-black Washburn 6-string that is an absolute dream to play..soft action, great resonance...but it also has a slight tuning problem in that when I tune it without using a capo then put on the capo on the second fret(where I normally use it, to be in tune with my/my group's voices) I have to re-tune again...maybe I could tune it up to where I don't need the capo...?

mark V. 8:)

07 Apr 01 - 12:42 AM (#435061)
From: GUEST,terry wrisley

There is another way to look at this: it is a different instrument. I tune mine to D and play the song. I am fortunate enough to play with some guys who are able to put up with my lunacy and it all works out. Leo Kottke says he uses heavy gauge strings when he tunes to C#. I have been doing this stuff since I first saw Bob Gibson in 1961. He played a Vega which he constantly had to tune. He called it bad names. Anyway Rick Neely says he used D'Addario mediums. I have a Gibson j185 12 currently as well as a Banzer. The latter has a redwood top and will not stand even medium gauge strings. I use Elixir light gauge strings on the Gibson.I use a Fishman rare earth magnetic pickup. That helps me tune. I tend to use harmonics to tune. Electric tuners are great but they tend to erase my ear. In a pinch, fine. I use a shubb capo when necessary. No, it is not perfect but life is full of things I don't like. Thanks, Terry

07 Apr 01 - 08:26 AM (#435137)
From: Lanfranc

My Washburn EA20-12 is built like a brick sh**house, but it has the lowest and easiest action of any 12 I have ever played, combined with a neck of decent width. Using Gibson lights (10 thou first, 8 thou 3rd octave) it keeps its tune in E once bedded in and even permits tuning down to D if required. I use a Terry Gould or a Heriba capo, when necessary, and don't have any intonation or tuning problems.

And, unusually for a Washburn EA (Festival Series) in my experience, it works well as an accoustic.

I've owned and played 12-strings for almost 40 years, and this one is the best so far IMHO. Perhaps I'm just lucky.

But if my friend Rick ever wanted to sell his 1963 Gibson B45-12 ....

07 Apr 01 - 02:53 PM (#435333)

I have a 1969 Yamaha FG 12 string in which my neck bowed in 1970. I had a heck of a time finding someone who could fix the bowed neck. I was told later that the instrument should have been tuned down 1 step and capoed. I think that if I would have changed to lighter guage strings and tuned down the strings when I was not going to play for a while this might not have happened. What kills me was that at that time I could have spent $200 more and got a Martin.

16 May 01 - 11:49 PM (#464394)
From: GUEST,ban-jo@msn .com

16 May 01 - 11:56 PM (#464400)
From: GUEST,Rick Neeley

Bob Gibson played a Vega 12 string (probably due to contract stipulations for endoresment of "Vega" instruments.) These guitars used the same body as the Harmony Sovereign dreadnaught. No doubt braced differently with a fixed bridge. From the late 60's to ythe end of his career Gibson played 12 string guitars built by Bozo Podunavac, of Chicago, California and of late Florida. Gibson strung his guitar with D'ANGELICO medium gauge strings. These employ a wound octave A string for a really solid bass. Gibson tuned to D and capoed at the second fret.

If anyone knows any more about the Vega 12 strings I'd like to know.

17 May 01 - 05:26 PM (#465036)
From: Songster Bob

I've had a few 12-strings over the years, but no "high-end" ones (think I'll go looking for an Appolonio if I get serious about this). Older ones did indeed suffer if tuned to concert pitch, but I want that Leadbelly BOOM instead of the Joni Mitchell twinkle (I almost wrote "tinkle" but decided it could be misconstrued), so even if/when I get a good 'un, I'll tune it down and use medium strings. Michael Cooney, for instance, not only tuned low and used heavier strings, seeking the Ledbetter sound, but has even used a clamp at the bridge to ensure good string-to-saddle contact when using a tailpiece-equipped guitar.

The old Stellas were made by the Oscar Schmidt Co. of autoharp fame, and were of better quality than the Stella by Harmony ones, which were basic music boxes for sure. That allowed, though, you can get good sounds out of even a Harmony Stella 12-stringer if you set it up right.

The poster who wondered about getting his guitar neck straightened should know that anything is possible, but sometimes it ain't worth the trouble. If it's an old high-grade guitar, or a collector's piece, like an Oscar Schmidt Stella, then, yes, I'd do it. Seek out a good repairman and be ready to spend $250. If it's a $250 guitar on the used market, I'd replace it. If it's a Framus, I'd set it down and back away slowly.

As for harmonicas, cross-harp is in the key of the 5th note of the harmonica's key (C harps play G blues, etc.), OR, from the song's perspective, the harp is in the key of the 4th note in the song (G blues requires C harps, etc.). If you forget which starting point you're using, harp or song, you'll get some really weird-scale blues.

Bob C.

26 Apr 02 - 10:03 AM (#699068)

to John W. : It doesn't make any difference where the neck joins the body-- whether it be 12th fret or 14th fret-- the scale length is measured from the nut to the bridge saddle-- Ledbelly's 12 string had a 26(plus) inch scale length

26 Apr 02 - 10:36 AM (#699085)
From: GUEST,guitguy

Martin D12-35's and D12-18/28's are braced heavier than the standard 6-string Martin D's. The Gibson D's have 'double-X' bracing and it's slightly heavier than the 6's of the same vintage. The B12-25's, while not 'double-Xed' have heavier bracing than the standard B25 6-string. Speaking of Bob Gibson there's a story of him tuning his guitar for an entire set without playing a song. Legend has it after hilarious observations, caustic remarks and general social commentary, at the end of the set he finally got his guitar in tune, strummed a C chord and left the stage to a standing ovation. Is this story true? I heard it years ago and always wondered.

26 Apr 02 - 01:17 PM (#699175)
From: 53

I have never owned one, and the reason I guess is that they're to hard for me to play. Of all the ones I have tried I have never found one good enough for me to lay out some bucks for. I have 4 acoustics and I think that they'll do me for awhile.

26 Apr 02 - 03:10 PM (#699235)
From: John MacKenzie

Alan, want a Gibson 12, try the Elderly music site,vintage & used, then click on 12 strings and scroll down. I tried to make clicky of it, but it wouldn't let me I have a 60s Epiphone Serenader FT208, a small bodied 12 string which I've always strung in concert, and I used La Bella strings for years, I now use Martin strings, but only 'cos I can't get the La Bellas.

04 Nov 02 - 12:29 PM (#818146)
From: GUEST,


05 Nov 02 - 06:13 AM (#818882)
From: banjoman

I currently own a Washburn and find it probably the best 12 string I have ever played, including my old Stella and various Japanese rubbish. I use a Kyser 12 string Capo and keep the guitar tuned to standard. The action is remarkably low and very easy on the fingers. I use it also for playing in Church, where depite the lack of PA its volume is sufficient to fill the building. Its also used in the band when the others can persuade me to put the banjo down, and the effects which can be produced with the built in electric bits are amazing.
However, I usually warn beginers off buying a 12string as I feel its a specialized instrument best played by an experienced guitarist and than for specific songs or band pieces. Great thread - good to see some sanity creeping in to mudcat after trying to skin my garden hedgehog to make a banjo head skin.

05 Nov 02 - 12:13 PM (#819092)
From: Steve Benbows protege

Regarding your query on twelve string guitars. My very good friend Johnny Joyce ( king of the 12 string) always used to tune his down. The E string does down to C then follow on from there. John plays both Guild and Stella's. He used to do this to play the Leadbelly repertoire. ( Leadbelly's was tuned the same)
Hope that helps a bit.

07 Aug 03 - 02:16 PM (#998481)
From: Eckerd

hey i need a twelve string but i was wondering if those gibson d-25 and d-45 are any weaker cause the neck meets the body around the fourteenth fret; cuz i wiil be using heavier strings for a Lowere leadbellyesque type tuning; or does lees tension on strings make this reservation negligible.

07 Aug 03 - 11:12 PM (#998746)
From: freightdawg

Have enjoyed reading all the comments on the 12 strings. I am currently having one built by Pimentel's in Alb. NM. I discussed this question with the luthier building my 12 string and he agreed that any well made guitar should hold the standard concert tuning, but that the possibility (note: not probability) of the neck warping and other problems does increase due to the extra tension. A lot of variables could enter here: what is the relative humidity where you live? Do you keep your instrument in a case or out? Do you play outdoors a lot? I think sun and humidity could have more effect on a good instrument than string tension Thus some 20 and 30 year old instruments are in mint condition and some are destined for the great kindlin pile in the sky. He recommended for me to lower the pitch and capo as necessary. For lower pitched voices the lower pitch is a benefit. This is one of the really cool things about a 12 string - the options are considerable and some really creative playing can be done.

One more comment about capos - two of my favorite inspirations on the 12 string - Paul Stookey and John Denver - both used capos. I reckon unless and until I can outplay them (not likely) using a capo is okay.

12 Aug 03 - 03:42 AM (#1000677)
From: GUEST,blamin

No mention on this thread of "bellying". If the action is getting high, it's much more likely to be the bridge lifting (with a section of the body bulging upwards) under string tension. 12 strings are especially vulnerable.

I bought an old Framus with this problem and, once fixed, it's absoluteley brilliant (as opposed to unplayable). Within a month I've been also given an "unplayable" EKO Ranger and a Yamaha. I've fixed the EKO and have just taken the stings off the Yamaha to start work. (These are just from people I've come across and started talking guitars and so I suspect that there are thousands like them about - or maybe it's the Cornish (England) climate)

Two studio musicians played with the Framus and the Eko and were delighted with them.

12 Aug 03 - 08:38 PM (#1001128)

12-string guitars suck! There - I said it.

12 Aug 03 - 10:44 PM (#1001158)
From: Amos

Well, I'm plumb sorry to be the one to tell ya, Guesty-me-lad, but it just ain't so. There.


13 Aug 03 - 11:05 AM (#1001254)
From: GUEST,Kevin, Edinburgh

I saw all the stuff about tuning 12 strings and the use of capos. I've ben playing 12-string about 25 years now - my guitar is an Epiphone Nova 245. It works at concert pitch with light gauge strings and also when detuned a tone with slightly heavier 5th and 6ths. I sing and also accompany a lot of singers and the capo is essential - someone will always want it 'up a bit' at the last minute. With the thicker strings I use 2 (!) Shubb capos to hold the strings down firmly and get a clear tone.
Important: a capo will almost always put the octave (thinner) strings on the 4th 5th and 6th strings out of tune slightly - its stretching them a fraction more than the thicker bass strings. Its probably just a quarter turn on the machinehead but it needs doing! The thicker the strings and the higher the action of the guitar the more you need to do it. Cheap or badly set up guitars also go 'out of tune' as you go higher up the neck because of the extra tension to hold the string down. If you're checking out a guitar in a shop, try playing the e minor chord using the 5th string at the 7th fret and the 4th string at the 9th fret with all the other strings open and see if all sounds in tune!
Hope this is all helpful - Happy Playing

20 Dec 03 - 11:28 PM (#1077164)
From: GUEST,mikee

I want to play stairway to heaven on my double neck but i cant figure out how to tune it, nothing sounds right.

26 Feb 04 - 01:27 AM (#1124115)
From: GUEST,jay

hi all. I am a beginner to a six string still. but i Want a twelve string more than anything. Huddie Ledbetter is definitely one of my biggest inspirations and heroes. My other hero is the late kurt cobain, He was also a big lead belly fan. I just wanted some advice, about anything really, six or twelve strings. what type is a good twelve string guitar that is a decent price? And I thought maybe you just tune a twelve string like a six, except make every other string an octave. Anyway, all honor to the masters. any help would be appreciated.

26 Feb 04 - 02:34 PM (#1124539)
From: freightdawg

Guest Jay,

Welcome to the Mudcat, and you really need to be a member. It doesn't cost anything, but offers some good little treats, like being able to send personal messages, and Mud chat and other goodies.

You asked about advice about a 12 string. If you noticed the list of related threads at the top of this one, you can get a whole encyclopedia of knowledge if you scroll through them. One word of special advice, any guitar store will charge more for a 12 string than a 6 string. The problem is, you can pay a little more and get a real piece of junk, or you can pay a little more than that and get a quality instrument. The twelve strings add a considerable amount of tension on the bridge, and if it is not braced correctly the plate will pull away from the top. Also, the neck has more tension on it so it tends to warp more. Some of this can be compensated by lowering the tuning (hence the many discussions on 12 string tuning) but a really well made instrument should hold standard tuning. Now, about price. If you are serious about a nice (new) guitar that will last a few years, I would say $800 - 1,000 would be a minimum. There are probably some screaming deals out there lower than that, but buyer beware. I personally would start at about $1,200 - 1,500, and from a reputable company or luthier you know and trust. Used prices will be somewhat less, but make sure the bridge is in good condition and that the action (the distance between the strings and the frets) is acceptable to you. As far as tuning, on the lower 4 courses (sets) of strings, each string in the set is tuned an octave apart, in the two highest courses each string in each set is tuned to the same note. So what you would have in standard tuning is eE, aA, dD, gG, BB, EE. That is what gives the 12 its distinctive sound. Then, there are a multitude of alternate tunings, and you can play with the octaves as well.

Hope you get your 12. It is almost a different instrument than your 6 string, and you will learn to love both of them for different reasons, and use them for different purposes. I had a 12 as a teenager and gave it up, to much moaning and groaning later. Now I have another one and I will give it up when they pry it from my cold dead fingers (to quote a well worn out phrase).

Keep pickin' and grinnin'.


26 Feb 04 - 02:46 PM (#1124550)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The famous Spanish classical guitarist, Narciso Yepes, used a 10-string for most of his performances and recordings. A couple of the Hawaiian guitarists use a 12-string to good effect on recordings that I have.
Not a guitarist, but it seems to me that Freightdawg covers some important points.

26 Feb 04 - 03:03 PM (#1124564)
From: Walking Eagle

I love my 12, but may have to give it up due to a physical problem. My 12 is a leftie Martin J15-12. The body of it is narrow and seems to sit nicely under my arm. Martins' J series is similar in depth to their 000 & 00s. I find this depth to be much easier on a woman for playing. I had a bit of trouble getting used to the heavy neck bracing as it puts the guitar a tad out of balance. I use a Kyser 12 string capo with it.

That 10 string sounds interesting Q. Do you have any idea how it was tuned?

26 Feb 04 - 03:17 PM (#1124575)
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson

Consider pursuing a very decent used 12 string.

Gibson made model B25-12 which is a smaller body guitar still with good sound. I have seen these used available $550-750 range.

The larger, full sized version was the B45-12. Figure $800-1000. Built like a tank, very durable.

With either of these investments, you are buying one of the finest American or anywhere brand name around. These instruments, will serve well for decades and because of their Gibson legacy, will hold their value, if not slightly increase (12 string guitars do not increase in value as much as 6 string guitars due to their more limited market desirability).

26 Feb 04 - 03:30 PM (#1124589)
From: GUEST,jay

thanks for the advice freightdawg, and guest: martingibson.

I think it will be a while before i can afford a twelve string though.
I gotta pay for college and rent, no money left after that ha ha. thats the way of the world though. Ill save for one though. Im gonna become a member of mudcat. and i will continue to read and learn. thanks again.

26 Feb 04 - 03:35 PM (#1124595)
From: musiclover

hi again.

this is jay .
I am now musiclover. haha.
im definitely glad that i stumbled upon this site last night.
umm. thanx again. im gonna go play my six string.

26 Feb 04 - 04:02 PM (#1124636)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Yepes, ike some other Spanish guitarists, add four lower strings, which add extra bass notes, and increase the sympathetic vibrations, "amplifying and enhancing the sound quality."
Don't know any more about it than that.

12 Mar 04 - 12:56 PM (#1134877)
From: Bernard

Anybody done any experimentation with high density tungsten strings?

A fiddle player I know has a five string fiddle with HDT for the low C string, because he can get the low pitch (like a viola) using a much thinner (and shorter) string than would be possible with conventional strings.

I don't know if such strings are readily available for guitarists, though I believe some people use them on bouzoukis, which would suggest they may be...

Just a thought...

13 Mar 04 - 05:50 PM (#1135761)


07 Jun 04 - 07:38 AM (#1201841)
From: GUEST,ed

i use a washburn 12 string. and this thing is built ford tough. i tune it 1/2 step down which would be EbEb AbAb etc.....i don't do it to save the neck, i just do it because i like the way guitars sound tuned this way. to me, when tuning a 12 string you have to be able to tune by ear. you can use a tuner to get it close. but each string has to be tunes the the other, otherwise it will never sound in tune. i tune the thicker string first then i tune the octave string to the thicker string. if you use a tuner they will always be a little off, since there is a range in which the tuner will say the string is in tune.

29 Oct 04 - 07:19 AM (#1310404)
From: GUEST,Heather Mansfield (South Africa)

Hi Guys, can anyone tell me any information about Egmond 12-strings? I cant seem to find any information about them.

16 Nov 04 - 11:41 PM (#1329484)
From: GUEST,dubya

17 Nov 04 - 01:32 AM (#1329536)
From: chris nightbird childs

Hey Gibsonslider! I got one like that!

26 Nov 04 - 07:03 AM (#1339560)
From: GUEST,Heather Mansfield (SA)

26 Nov 04 - 08:21 AM (#1339606)
From: Grab

Heather, why didn't you try typing "Egmond guitar" into Google first? More info than you could ever want.


26 Nov 04 - 08:35 AM (#1339614)
From: Roger the Skiffler

Slight thread creep. I've complained in the past that no-one uses the 12-string on the blues circuit these days. Last week's acoustic set by Nine Below Zero used one on several numbers , great to hear one again outside the skiffle/folk arena.


26 Nov 04 - 10:09 AM (#1339701)
From: GUEST,Jim

Hey Jay - if you're on a tight budget I'd suggest one from the Godin workshops in La Patrie Canada (makers of Norman, Simon & Patrick, Seagull) - they are the best (at the price) guitars in the world (though China is catching up fast).

The beauty of these guitars is in the sound and build quality, but they have slim profile necks (they are sub-contractors to Martin for fretboards I'm told) and it is especially important to buy a 12 string that is not difficult to play. If you search for reviews on the net you will see how highly regarded they are (not just reviews from owners, but magazine reviewers too).

Unlike Martin, for example, they do not have a heavy marketing budget and just rely on word of mouth recommendations, so with limited overhead costs the buyers get the benefit.

Check out reviews (eg Simon & Patrick) here:

Good luck

10 Mar 08 - 01:23 AM (#2284102)
Subject: RE: Twelve-String Guitars
From: GUEST,Britt

Let me brag a littler bit about my 12-string. It's different, it's rare, and best of all it sounds great.

I have a National steel-bodied Delphi 12-string guitar. National guitar will custom build a 12-string for you for most models of their metal bodied and wood-bodied guitars for a 10% upcharge.

I play this 12-string resonator finger-style, and it is really wonderful. The sound comes off louder and brighter, due to the resonator, but without too much of the "little bells" or "chimes" sound produced by wooden guitars with their softer tones. It's hard to describe, but pianos have multiple strings struck simultaneously by a single hammer. The multiple strings are indistinct. What you hear is a piano. This guitar sounds less like a 12-string, and more like some completely different guitar, one that's perfect for blues and ragtime.

For example, the low base notes on the 5th and 6th strings almost sound like a tuba.

That's my two cents.

10 Mar 08 - 06:41 PM (#2284790)
Subject: RE: Twelve-String Guitars
From: GUEST,Marty

I like my six-string and banjo Shubb capos, but the 12-string model would pop off of my Guild no matter how I set it up. It has found a happy home with a bandmate's Martin and I am fairly happy with a spring-clamp Dunlop. Has anybody run into this problem with a Shubb? And if you did, is there a better solution than replacing the capo?

11 Mar 08 - 01:38 PM (#2285458)
Subject: RE: Twelve-String Guitars
From: Dan Schatz

It sounds to me like your neck is too thick for the capo. Most Shubb capos come with a little plastic piece on the end of the screw that keeps the screw from wearing a groove in the metal when the capo is closed. If you remove the little plastic piece, WALLA! You have a capo capable of accomodating a wider neck.

Of course, you might have tried that, in which case - I got nothin'.


11 Mar 08 - 03:43 PM (#2285583)
Subject: RE: Twelve-String Guitars

Thats a neat idea Dan
Its a lot better than your French !!
It took ages to work out what "WALLA" meant!!

11 Mar 08 - 09:13 PM (#2285891)
Subject: RE: Twelve-String Guitars
From: GUEST,Marty

Thanks, Dan. It's the one thing I didn't try. But if I can get it away from that guy with the Martin. I will.

07 Apr 08 - 11:55 PM (#2309753)
Subject: RE: Twelve-String Guitars
From: GUEST,Effectively capoing your 12-string -- a solu

A tip, for what it's worth:

Easier and more effective than cutting E- and A-string notches in the rubber of your Shubb capos: get hold of some 1/8" thick mouse-pad material (you can find mouse-pads cheap as dirt -- try eBay for instance).

Measure the rubber part of of the capo that goes across the strings; cut a piece of mouse-pad to fit; and Krazy Glue the cloth side of the mouse-pad to the rubber.

The mouse-pad being spongy, it'll press down both the regular and octave strings more effectively than the rubber sleeve does, with absolutely no buzzing.

It also makes retuning less of a necessity, because the capo doesn't need to be as tight in order for it to compress all the strings.

Mouse-pad material is rugged, and seems to last forever. I've been using my "Mouse-pad Modified Capo" for a couple years now and it shows almost no wear.

Those of you with tender sensibilities who might be concerned about ruining the rubber on your capo, keep in mind that Shubb offers rubber sleeve replacements for a buck!


Glenn Jones
Cambridge, MA

07 Jun 11 - 01:50 PM (#3166609)
Subject: RE: Twelve-String Guitars
From: GUEST,Butch McKinley

Two words: John Fahey. According to Federico Sheppard of Paracho del Norte, John used a cheap European 12 string for his recordings. Great sound, great recording technique. Butch