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There seems to be two schools of thought on the 12-string:

1. Those who string them heavy and tune them low
2. Those who use really light strings and tune to concert pitch

I am of the first catagory. I detail my string set up on my blog so I won't rehash it here.

What's your pleasure?

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In my perfect world I'd have a few more LKSM's in addition to my Leo Koattke (an LKSM made of koa) which is strung light and tuned to concert. This is a recent development for me since I'm concentrating more on my vocal work and there's a lot of material that screams for 12 string accompaniment. I used to study with Tracy Moore and tuned in the basement for many years.
Hold the phone!

You got Taylor to build you a koa LKSM??
Like most builders, you can special order in any wood they have available at Taylor. A friend of mine special ordered an all koa (top, back & sides) LKSM-6 a few years back.

Could you explain a bit more about this string setup? I'm thinking of experimenting with heavier gauge strings to perhaps counteract some of the difficulties I'm experiencing (see post: Persistent Problems). Which specific strings of each set do you use?

Bob M

John Wilson said:

I buy a medium set (.013-.056) for the primary set and use the first four strings from a light set (.012-.054) for the octaves. Tuned down three half steps, it is about the same tension as a regular extra-light (.010-.047) 12-string set tuned to pitch.
If you look at a standard extra light set for the 6-string guitar, the set goes:
.010, .014, .023w, .030, .039, .047

That set is also the basis for the extra light 12-string set, which goes:
.010, .014, .023w, .030, .039, .047
.010, .014, .008, .012, .018p, .027w

I am using the D'Addario/Martin/Elixir sets for the above example.
The "w" next to some strings stands for wound.
The "p" next to some strings stands for plain (unwound).

What I do is buy a medium 6-string set, which goes:
.013, .017, .026w, .035, .045, .056

and (these days) an extra light 6-string set, which goes:
.010, .014, .023w, .030, .039, .047

and I buy an extra .013 and an extra .017

So my set goes:
.013, .017, .026w, .035, .045, .056
.013, .017 .010, .014, .023w, .030

The .039 and the .047 from the extra light set get tossed. It is actually less expensive to buy the extra light set an throw those two strings away than it is to buy the .010, .014, .023w, .030 strings individually.

This custom set - tuned 3 half steps down - puts about the same tension on the guitar as a regular extra light 12-string set tuned to concert pitch. The other advantage is that any music store carries the string set that I use.

You can replace the extra light set used for the octave strings with a regular light set, which goes:
.012, .016, .024w, .032, .042, .054

If you did that, then your set would go:
.013, .017, .026w, .035, .045, .056
.013, .017 .012, .016, .024w, .032

Try it out and see how you like it. It has been my method of buying strings for several years now.
Well done. I think it sounds good. My first thought when you started playing was that it was too tinny of a sound, but after you got into it more, I found that I liked the tone in that song.

John Wilson said:
Thanks for checking in, Teja.

I have that video saved as a favorite on my YouTube page. I agree, sometimes when I listen to Ralph Towner or Michel Gentils (to name a couple), I wonder if I should re-think my approach. Then when I actually try it, it doesn't sound right. I guess it is what you are used to.

I really shouldn't do this, because Al Petteway might see it, but here is my latest. Sligo Creek on a 12-string, DADGAD tuned down to B:

The sound on that video comes from the tiny little condenser microphone on my flip camcorder. This is a fun little camcorder, but there is no provision for plugging in a better quality mic and the built in condenser mic is obviously not the best choice.

I am still learning my way around this whole audio/video editing thing. Thank you for listening.
Hi fellow 12-stringers,

I've been a member of the AG online crowd for a few months now and really appreciate the ton of advice that experienced players share with us strangers.

The Washburn acoustic electric 12-string I own is only one of my guitars, so it has to share my free time with a 6-string Washburn acoustic electric, Yamaha nylon classical, a Brazilian made classical, a Michael Kelly 4-string acoustic electric bass and a Dean 6-string banjo. The advise and enthusiasam you guys have for the instrument really makes me want to give my 12-string more time. Can't have too many guitars!

Our Orlando circles are rich with really good 12-string players and I love to go listen to them.

Will B.
When I bought my Seagull 12 string the store that I bought it from told me to tune it D,G,C,F,A,D I guess that is down a step. When I contacted Seagull about the tuning they told me to tune it at the Standard tuning which is how i have it tuned now. if a do get a J12-40E I wonder how that will be tuned
Most modern built guitars can handle concert pitch. Tuning low was something that folks did years ago to take some of the tension off of the guitar. But tuning lower yielded a certain sound which players (like me) liked, and became used to.

Your Seagull, or new Martin will sound great whichever way you choose to tune it.
I generally keep my J12-40 strung with D'Addario extra-lights (EJ41), which I then tune down a half step. With the reduced string tension, this make things a bit easier on my left hand and wrist, which for me is a major consideration. I get plenty of jangle with the extra light strings, whether in standard or open tunings.

With my Guild F212XL, I use La Bella Silk and Steel, generally light gauge, and tuned down one whole step. I really love the sound you get, though occasionally I use La Bella mediums, tuned down two whole steps. The latter provides a really rich, deep sound, which I use more for instrumental pieces than for singing. I learned a lot about the virtues of tuning down, incidentally, from Paul Brett's DVD 12 String Guitar and Beyond.


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