12 String Advice

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of recording recently and think a 12 string might be useful to have to hand, for some of the things I’ve been working on. I’ve recently played a second hand mahogany Martin American built jumbo which was very nice - but had bellying top/neck alignment issues, which ruled it out. I also played a new Taylor 150e a while ago - which from memory sounded decent - but at £750 struck me as expensive for a Mexican/laminated wood guitar.

I’m fine with buying used - and don’t really care about the country of origin. Any recommendations?
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  • domforrdomforr Frets: 164
    If you can find a 1980's Japanese Daion Heritage 12 string I would highly recommend it. Beautiful open sound and great build quality, at a reasonable price. 
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  • I know its kind of against the purpose of your thread but have you thought about going for an electric solid body?
    The Bigsby was the first successful design of what is now called a whammy bar or tremolo arm, although vibrato is the technically correct term for the musical effect it produces. In standard usage, tremolo is a rapid fluctuation of the volume of a note, while vibrato is a fluctuation in pitch. The origin of this nonstandard usage of the term by electric guitarists is attributed to Leo Fender, who also used the term “vibrato” to refer to what is really a tremolo effect.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33359
    Eko Ranger 12.

    Yes, I'm really serious.

    They're not expensive - £250 would buy you the best one in the world, and you can often find them for around half that - and although they don't sound 'great', they do have a nice vintage plywood character. Most importantly, because they have an adjustable bridge saddle and a bolt-on neck (and a zero fret, which also helps), they can be set up to play really well, which for an 'occasional' 12-string player is a huge advantage.

    On a recording, just the fact that it sounds like a 12-string is what really matters - the quality of the guitar is less important than with a 6-string, it's the jangly overtones which make it sound good rather than the depth of the sound or the responsiveness.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 19114
    domforr said:
    If you can find a 1980's Japanese Daion Heritage 12 string I would highly recommend it. Beautiful open sound and great build quality, at a reasonable price. 
    Good call - I had one of their 6 strings back in the day. It was a really nice guitar.

    I know its kind of against the purpose of your thread but have you thought about going for an electric solid body?
    Yes - I was looking at a Danelectro at the Manchester Guitar Show last Sunday - I’ve not ruled the idea out.

    ICBM said:
    Eko Ranger 12.

    Yes, I'm really serious.

    They're not expensive - £250 would buy you the best one in the world, and you can often find them for around half that - and although they don't sound 'great', they do have a nice vintage plywood character. Most importantly, because they have an adjustable bridge saddle and a bolt-on neck (and a zero fret, which also helps), they can be set up to play really well, which for an 'occasional' 12-string player is a huge advantage.

    On a recording, just the fact that it sounds like a 12-string is what really matters - the quality of the guitar is less important than with a 6-string, it's the jangly overtones which make it sound good rather than the depth of the sound or the responsiveness.
    Funnily enough, the shop with the Martin has one in stock - I’ll give it a try next time I’m nearby.

    Thanks for the suggestions.
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  • AliGorieAliGorie Frets: 304

    l was in that pos - in the '90's, needed an 'alternative' sounding  instrument to vary my 'set' - did a good bit of searching and came up with a s/h Alvarez-Yairi 12'er.
    Criteria was - sound and feel / play-ability - Oh I got it for £450 second hand un-marked.
    So depending what u'r criteria are, I'm suggesting looking for a used tone hat would suite @ up to half the price.
    BTW the AV is a cedar toped 1989 model and still holding up structurally - not bad for a 12'er.
    can be heard here -





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  • ClashmanClashman Frets: 159
    Just got a 12 string myself the other day, love the sounds I can get from it but it sure takes it's toll
    on your fingers.I might have to give it rest as it really hurts either that or get lighter strings.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33359
    edited October 26
    Clashman said:
    Just got a 12 string myself the other day, love the sounds I can get from it but it sure takes it's toll
    on your fingers.I might have to give it rest as it really hurts either that or get lighter strings.
    Are you tuning it E-E? A standard 12-string set of 10s tuned E-E gives roughly the same tension as a 6-string set of 14s, so it's no wonder if it hurts!

    If so, don't... 12-strings were always originally intended to be tuned lower, D-D or even below that - Leo Kottke used C#-C# or C-C and Leadbelly as low as B-B, although light strings didn't exist back in his day. You'll find it sounds a lot better as well as being easier to play. If you want to play in the same keys as normal, capo back up to E.

    I keep my Martin in D-D with 10s, which is roughly equivalent to 12s in E-E on a 6-string.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • Have you considered Vintage (the brand). Their Giltrap and Brett signature 12 string guitars are excellent. I had the Brett one for a few years it was great. 

    Id also suggest looking at a Simon & Patrick Cedar 12. I had one of those too. Best sounding acoustic I’ve ever played. Unfortunately I’m not a huge guy & it felt like I was playing a wardrobe! But it did sound epic. 

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  • boogiemanboogieman Frets: 5251
    Have you considered Vintage (the brand). Their Giltrap and Brett signature 12 string guitars are excellent. I had the Brett one for a few years it was great. 

    Id also suggest looking at a Simon & Patrick Cedar 12. I had one of those too. Best sounding acoustic I’ve ever played. Unfortunately I’m not a huge guy & it felt like I was playing a wardrobe! But it did sound epic. 

    A friend of mine has a Vintage 12 string and they’re great bang for the buck. I’ve got a cheap Yamaha APX 12 string electro and the Vintage is not only better built but sounds way better. 

     I’d recommend tuning down a step too. Stick a capo on it and it’ll make for easier playing. Also I always manage to bust the D octave string when I try to tune to E-E. 
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  • AliGorieAliGorie Frets: 304
    Clashman said:
    Just got a 12 string myself the other day, love the sounds I can get from it but it sure takes it's toll
    on your fingers.I might have to give it rest as it really hurts either that or get lighter strings.
    it's like when u start playing guitar - it's a physical workout on u'r fingers till they develop the strength and stamina to effortlessly do whats required  - can take a wee while - but is it worth it ? - only u can decide.
    If I haven't played 12'er for a few months I notice I'm not 'match fit' so have to work on it for a few weeks.
    happy pickin
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 4330
    Firstly, tune a 6 strong to nashville tuning
    It could well work better as a layer over a normal 6 string tuning
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  • EpsilonEpsilon Frets: 61
    edited October 27
    What's your budget? USA Guild 12 strings are the gold standard to me, however their import range is extremely good also.

    Here's my 73 F412. Sounds like a grand piano.

    http://imgur.com/Kd1dSOZ

    http://imgur.com/zEKtH3p
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 19114
    Epsilon said:
    What's your budget? USA Guild 12 strings are the gold standard to me, however their import range is extremely good also.

    Here's my 73 F412. Sounds like a grand piano.

    http://imgur.com/Kd1dSOZ

    http://imgur.com/zEKtH3p
    Beautiful! Funnily enough I played an early 70s Guild this afternoon. It had a headstock repair and almost no saddle height - so a neck reset could well be needed in the future. It sounded lovely - and wasn’t ‘that’ expensive - but could be problematic in the medium term.
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  • EpsilonEpsilon Frets: 61
    Epsilon said:
    What's your budget? USA Guild 12 strings are the gold standard to me, however their import range is extremely good also.

    Here's my 73 F412. Sounds like a grand piano.

    http://imgur.com/Kd1dSOZ

    http://imgur.com/zEKtH3p
    Beautiful! Funnily enough I played an early 70s Guild this afternoon. It had a headstock repair and almost no saddle height - so a neck reset could well be needed in the future. It sounded lovely - and wasn’t ‘that’ expensive - but could be problematic in the medium term.
    Yes mine had a neck reset, which is definitely something you need to look out for on old 12 strings as it's not cheap!
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 4330
    Firstly, tune a 6 strong to nashville tuning
    It could well work better as a layer over a normal 6 string tuning
    in case anyone doesn't know what it is, 
    it's supposed to be a better version of the effect using a 12 string, and without having to buy a new guitar

    http://www.daddario.com/Resources/JDCDAD/Videos/DAddario_Nashville_Tuning.pdf

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  • AlnmouthAlnmouth Frets: 62
    I have never played a 12-string guitar, although I did have the ambition to own one when I was younger - and knew next to nothing about guitars.

    As I understand it, a 12-string is really a studio instrument.  The problem with using it live is that you would probably not want to play it on the whole song.  You would more likely want to switch between 12 and 6 strings, which would require a guitar with two necks.

    Another problem I believe is that the 12-string guitar has serious issues with neck tension, way beyond what you find with normal guitars.

    Anyway, I am sure that fans of the 12-string will now leap to its defence.
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  • Alnmouth said:
    I have never played a 12-string guitar, although I did have the ambition to own one when I was younger - and knew next to nothing about guitars.

    As I understand it, a 12-string is really a studio instrument.  The problem with using it live is that you would probably not want to play it on the whole song.  You would more likely want to switch between 12 and 6 strings, which would require a guitar with two necks.

    Another problem I believe is that the 12-string guitar has serious issues with neck tension, way beyond what you find with normal guitars.

    Anyway, I am sure that fans of the 12-string will now leap to its defence.
    Yup. Defense time. 
    I played mine exclusively for a couple of years. I preferred it to a 6 string for open mic nights as it sounded so full. 
    The increased string tension can cause structural issues- neck bow, bridge lifting & top raising.
    However most modern 12s are designed to avoid this & have stronger necks & bridges plus extra bracing. My Vintage Brett 12 had a lower action & was easier to play than most of the other acoustic guitars I've had. 
    Restringing was a ball ache though. 


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  • Setting as we're talking 12 string guitars it seems odd that no one has posted a video yet...


    Percussive slide on an open tuned 11 string anyone? 

    This guy isn't bad either


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  • TheBigDipperTheBigDipper Frets: 1004
    Interesting idea about tuning down a whole tone. I've never heard that before and I'm going to try it, cos I get sore fingertips after playing the 12 for an hour or more. 

    I'd agree with the suggestion that a decent inexpensive 12 is fine for playing and recording in the mix with other instruments. You'll get a fine result without breaking the bank. If you're playing unaccompanied, then a nicer instrument will be, well...  nicer. 

    Having a 12 to noodle on can give rise to ideas you might not stumble across otherwise.
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 19114
    Having played two 70s Guilds, two older (high-end) Taylors and a 70s Ovation yesterday, they all had structural problems - specifically very low saddles needed to compensate for insufficient neck angles and/or heavily bellied tops.

    Perhaps a lifetime of tuning down a full step would have prevented these issues - and may prevent them from worsening in the future - but it’s certainly put me off buying an older one. I’m beginning to think a used Taylor 150e, which is largely of laminate construction - and has a bolt-on neck which makes resetting easier - might be the way to go. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33359
    The string tension is certainly higher than on a 6-string, even with lighter gauges, but a 12-string that’s built properly and strung and tuned appropriately is no more at risk from long-term issues than a 6.

    My ‘71 Martin D12-35 is still fine - and old Martins don’t even have proper truss rods! I’ve owned it since 1989 and it’s never been tuned above D in that time, which may have helped. When I got it I read that Martin intended them to be tuned like that so I stuck to it, apart from when I was trying to be Leo Kottke, when I used 11s tuned to C#.

    If you want to tune E-E, use the lightest strings you can find, definitely no heavier than 10s, or even 9s if you can find them. I still think they’re better tuned lower though.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • TheBigDipperTheBigDipper Frets: 1004
    Interesting idea about tuning down a whole tone. I've never heard that before and I'm going to try it, cos I get sore fingertips after playing the 12 for an hour or more. 

    I'd agree with the suggestion that a decent inexpensive 12 is fine for playing and recording in the mix with other instruments. You'll get a fine result without breaking the bank. If you're playing unaccompanied, then a nicer instrument will be, well...  nicer. 

    Having a 12 to noodle on can give rise to ideas you might not stumble across otherwise.
    Quoting myself, how sad....  

    But, tuned down a whole tone sounds lovely and string tension feels much lower. Capo'ing at the second fret isn't causing any issues so far and (biggest bonus) I'm now in the right tuning to play the chords in "Dogs" - which sounds fab on a 12!  :)
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  • domforrdomforr Frets: 164
    I tune my Daion to DADGAD and it sounds fabulous. No idea whether this helps it structurally or not, but it certainly feels right.
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  • AliGorieAliGorie Frets: 304
    ‘standard’ PITCH and TUNING evolved mainly so u can play in all the Keys - with others, viz ‘European art music’  commonly called ‘Western Classical’ music.
    If u play by u’er self or in ‘groups’ u can work round the pitch issue with a capo.
    I have always tuned down 2 semitones on a 12er - then go into a tuning from there. I have always used 13-56 gauge - U need to know what the recommended gauge is for u’r guitar and work with the various tensions / gauges to achieve the right balance = e.g. my vid above is in a C tuning with ‘D’ intervals.
    In traditional music the world over they don’t adhere to A = 440Hz or equal temperament tuning or even 12 notes to the octave. In some respects ‘western’ musicians -certainly guitarists, are tend to be guitar-centric.

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  • ClashmanClashman Frets: 159
    He had a youtube video on how it sounded but it seems he's removed it for some reason...
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33359
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • ClashmanClashman Frets: 159
    My guess is no bids he should start at £5...
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  • JayceeJaycee Frets: 28
    ICBM said:
    Clashman said:
    Just got a 12 string myself the other day, love the sounds I can get from it but it sure takes it's toll
    on your fingers.I might have to give it rest as it really hurts either that or get lighter strings.
    Are you tuning it E-E? A standard 12-string set of 10s tuned E-E gives roughly the same tension as a 6-string set of 14s, so it's no wonder if it hurts!

    If so, don't... 12-strings were always originally intended to be tuned lower, D-D or even below that - Leo Kottke used C#-C# or C-C and Leadbelly as low as B-B, although light strings didn't exist back in his day. You'll find it sounds a lot better as well as being easier to play. If you want to play in the same keys as normal, capo back up to E.

    I keep my Martin in D-D with 10s, which is roughly equivalent to 12s in E-E on a 6-string.
    I just tuned mine D-D .....I may just keep it that way, ....it will save on the G string breaking if nothing else..... =)
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