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     I tuned my Leo Kottke Signature 12 string down to open C (C, G, C, G, C, E) for a new tune. This guitar is designed to be tuned two or three half steps down. I believe the neck is not made to withstand the tension of normal tunings.

    So, with open C, the 6th string pair, normally is tuned to "C". Tuning that down only one half step brings it to a "B". But, that string (only the .052, heavy string of the pair, the actual 11th string) is now so slack that it just jangles and seems to make a lot of exra noise, that overpowers the other strings. It seems to be too loose.

    So, it seems like a bit of a dillemma - if I try to raise the tuning a half step to what one would do with any other 12 string guitar (that is supposedly designed to withstand the higher tension), then I feel that I am putting tension on my LKSM that it is not made for. The biggest concerns are the first, second, and third strings which are already at the same tension or higher in open C, as in standard tuning. In open C the high strings are too tight for the LKSM, but the low string (tuned form C to B) is too low!


    Maybe I need a different set of strings? I am using D'Addario PB EJ39 Mediums: .012- .052. The sixth string causing the problem is .052.

Thanks for any help,

--Bill


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Gee, you'd think a Leo "signature' model would be built to stand up to concert tuning...   Have you considered the old dodge of tuning down a half step and using a capo?   That was pretty standard stuff when everyone and his dog had a 12 during the Folk Boom....

I would think that to tune down two whole steps to "C" you'd almost have to re-do the action specifically for that tuning.  Raise the nut... Possibly the saddle.

Due to improvements in guitar design, just about all modern 12-strings can all be tuned to concert pitch eEaAdDgGbbee.  I don't really believe that your Leo Kottke model 12-string has a "weak" neck (it wouldn't make sense for Taylor to design an expensive guitar with a flaw like that); your guitar may be just be designed to resonate more optimally in a lower tuning than at concert pitch.  In a lower tuning, some strings may lack sufficient tension to achieve the proper tone and will rattle against the frets.  (Open-C tuning originated during a long past era when light gauge guitar strings simply didn't exist.)  I don't believe that any company makes a 12-string set specifically for C-tuning, so you will probably have to mix and match string gauges to make that tuning work.  The general principle is this: if your existing string is too low in tension ("floppy"), you will need a thicker gauge string; for strings that have too much tension and tend to break, use a slightly thinner gauge string.

 

Try replacing your problematic .052 string wih a .056 gauge string.  For other strings that are too tight or break easily, use a slightly thinner gauge.

 

Good luck. 

I am not familiar with the Taylor Leo Kottke model, but since it is Taylor, why not either call them or email them with your concerns?

 

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   Bill and John,

 

   Thanks guys for the replies.  John, I'm writing to Taylor after this post.  Bill, I'll try the thicker gauge string on the 11th string and see if that helps.  This guitar, in fact, is made to Leo's specs and it must be tuned down a few half steps - they are pretty specific about that.  It's not a defect, just how it's designed for us Kottke-heads to try to imitate his unique sound.

 

   I'll let you know how this ends up,

 

-Bill

If it's made to his specs that requires a design to be tuned 4 half steps lower then trying to raise it to standard tuning would not be advised.

 

It's kind of like saying you want a 4-cylinder car to be an 8-cylinder car.  There are too many things to be adjusted to make the change.  To me the best alternative would be to get a 12-string designed for the job.

I had similar questions when I got my LKSM, and have printed out some of the original calculations below. There is also a link to a Wood and Steel article where Leo Kottke discusses this. 

What I do is use Light Elixirs tuned to Concert, Medium Elixirs tuned to down 2 or 3 half steps. I haven't used heavy Elixirs in a long time, but the LKSM comes with the heavy set and it is shipped tuned down 3 half steps. It's very heavy playing - but if you use that as a starting point and then "lower" some of the courses for various open tunings it becomes easier to play and sounds pretty good.

Here's the string tension synopsis, with the article link below:

Sorted Heaviest to Lightest ( '#' symbol is 'total pounds of tension on the neck')

 

Elixir Heavy tuned to C#:

total  == 317.02#

 

Elixir Heavy tuned to C:

total  == 282.43#

 

Proctor gauges tuned to C:

total  == 264.84#

-----------------------------------------

Elixir Lights tuned to Concert:

total  == 256.92#

 

Martin 80/20 tuned to D:

total  == 255.89#

 

Elixir Heavy tuned to B:

total  == 248.4#

 

Proctor gauges, open tuning with 1st and 6th course at C:

total  == 235.95#

 

Elixir Mediums gauge tuned to D:

total  == 231.74#

 

Martin 80/20 tuned to C#:

total  == 227.97#

 

Elixir Mediums gauge tuned to C#:

total  == 206.45#

 

Elixir Lights tuned to D:

total == 203.92#

 

Leo Kottke and Taylor discuss guitar string guages

 

Arthur,

 

   This is very helpful.  Thanks so much for sending the info.  I assume that "Proctor guages" are those Chris has posted on his website. 

 

  So, do you recommend using heavy gauge Elixers when you tune to open C?  And how many helf steps down do you go?

With my current Medium guage D'Addario's, as I mentioned in my initial post, I cannot even get the guitar tuned down one half step (B 6th string pair) because the 11th string is too loose (at F#).   And, since in open C, the second string pair is tuned up to C, that's above the standard tuning of B, which I believe Taylor says is not permissable with the LKSM (in fact, it should be down three half steps from B per Taylor!).

 

   Hence, my dillema with open C and the LKSM.   I'm going to try a heavier gauge on that 11th string and see if I can at least tune the guitar down to a B (6th course) which would be an F# on that 11th string.  Still worry though about the high tension on some of the other strings when tuned down less than the three recommended half steps.

 

   Hope this makes sense - hard to discuss and be on the same wavelength with all the nomenclature involved.

--Bill

 

 

Bill,

Proctor guages - yes Chris Proctor.

Heavy elixirs for open C - yes.

I've only used that open C tuning once, but I think that when you use heavy elixirs you would tune every string down 3 half steps and end up with this:

Aa,Ee,Aa,Ee,AA,C#C#

An LK with the lower courses tuned a 4th below concert (as in the above tuning) with heavy strings sounds really nice and is pretty easy on the hands.

 

I don't know the gauges of Medium D'Addario. I don't think string makers have a standard for 12-string guitars when they say Medium, Light, Extra-Light.  There is also a problem with the material - silk and steel for example is much light tension per gauge.

If in doubt, use this link to get to a string tension calculator. Keep in mind that the LKSM comes from the factory with over 300 lbs of tension, far higher than any other 12-string guitar. When Taylor talks about light bracing for the LKSM, they are not talking about the structural parts of the guitar that resist the string tension. I think they are talking about the x braces that cross under the entire top of the guitar and affect how the top vibrates. Leo Kottke famously used a pen knife to whittle away material from these braces earlier in his career. You could damage an LKSM with string tension, but you would have to crank it up to something that most people probably could not even finger by the time you hit that point. Or the strings would break. I'm not recommending high tension by any means, but there seems to be a lot more worry about it than is warranted with an LKSM.

I hope you have a lot of fun with it.

Art

Art,

 

   That is all extremely helfpul!

 

   Thanks a million for responding.  I must admit, I was probably over anxious about the neck imploding due to my having the second string pair at concert standard B!

 

  My D'Addario 12 string set runs '12 to 52' and is labelled as "Medium".  Seems rather light with the 52 for a 'Medium" set. And it's that 11th string 52 that becomes a wet noodle when tuned down to a step or two below "C".   Joe Carpenter gave me some superb advice here.

 

  I replaced that 11th string '52' with a '56' last night and seems I can now tune down to at least 2 or 3 half steps below concert open C (to A#, F, A#, F, A#, D), and that troublesome 11th string is tight enough to function.  That relieves my worries about the second and first string pairs being higher than what Taylor recommends. 

 

  As a beginner, I've learned something by all this.  Never really thought about tensions much and the differences that indvidual strings can make with the 12'er. 

 

  A few questions:

 

1.  I want to try 13-56 Elixer nanowebs maybe next.  Good idea, or what would you prefer personally?   I do change tunings a lot - although this is the first time (6 month old guitar) I've tried to go to open C with my LKSM.  I gather that Heavy guage is always best with the LKSM?  I do not use either thumb or finger picks (tried and hate them).

 

2.  Do you do anything special re. using a wound 5th string, as I believe Kottke does?   Any other changes that make a significant improvement with sound?   I have heard that folks reverse the octave pars on the low three or four pairs (??).  Requires a new nut I think.

 

3.  Does a bone nut and/ or saddle make much difference?

 

4.  Heard that using mismatched trebles (say 11 + 13 at the 'E' string pair) can give a nice "chorus" effect.  Any comments on that?

 

This is a lot of stuff.  I might make a new post for all these.

 

--Bill

 

 

 

 

1.  I want to try 13-56 Elixer nanowebs maybe next.  Good idea, or what would you prefer personally?   I do change tunings a lot - although this is the first time (6 month old guitar) I've tried to go to open C with my LKSM.  I gather that Heavy guage is always best with the LKSM?  I do not use either thumb or finger picks (tried and hate them).
 That's what it comes with, so try 'em on. They're too unwieldy for me, but I'd be interested in hearing how you like them.
2.  Do you do anything special re. using a wound 5th string, as I believe Kottke does?   Any other changes that make a significant improvement with sound?   I have heard that folks reverse the octave pars on the low three or four pairs (??).  Requires a new nut I think.
 The elixir heavies come with both strings wound in the 5th course. I've read that Kottke does some customizing vis a vis the magnetic properties of strings so they sound more balanced going through a Sunrise pickup (or whatever magnetic he might use).
Reversed pairs are on some electrics like the 'Ric'. I think it is because rockers tend to flat pick them. I've thought often of reversing the 3rd course because I tend to use a finger on it more than the thumb. You're right about the nut. I guess that's what has stopped me from trying it.
3.  Does a bone nut and/ or saddle make much difference?
Not that I can hear. But damping the strings with some foam above the nut makes a big difference to my ears. You wouldn't believe the garbage that the head puts out (guitar head, I mean, not my head)

1.  I want to try 13-56 Elixer nanowebs maybe next.  Good idea, or what would you prefer personally?   I do change tunings a lot - although this is the first time (6 month old guitar) I've tried to go to open C with my LKSM.  I gather that Heavy guage is always best with the LKSM?  I do not use either thumb or finger picks (tried and hate them).

 

My favorite strings are Cleartones, with a super-thin, non-slippery coating on all of the strings, including the unwound strings, that doesn't flake off like Elixirs. However, their 12-string sets are light gauge only.  Cleartone does make a "bluegrass" 6-string set that goes up to .056.

 

2.  Do you do anything special re. using a wound 5th string, as I believe Kottke does?   Any other changes that make a significant improvement with sound?   I have heard that folks reverse the octave pars on the low three or four pairs (??).  Requires a new nut I think.

 

I can't advise you regarding this question; I use standard concert pitch on my 12-strings, so I use a plain steel octave string to pair with the wound 5th string.

 

3.  Does a bone nut and/ or saddle make much difference?

 

It makes a subtle difference, and it's not a big investment to try out.

 

4.  Heard that using mismatched trebles (say 11 + 13 at the 'E' string pair) can give a nice "chorus" effect.  Any comments on that?

 

I did that "accidentally."  On my Seagull S12+, I had broken one of the high .010 strings, and all I had in my replacement string stock were .008 strings that were intended for replacing the high octave G.  So, I have a .010 paired with a .008 and it does tend to have a chorus sound, no matter how closely I try to tune them together.

Arteur and Bill,

 

   Thanks guys for the very interesting and helpful information.

 

--Bill

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