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In responding to John Wilson's thread about 1st 12-strings, it occurred to me that you folks might have some insight into a couple of persistent problems with my '68 Martin D12-35.

1. The A pair (3&4) is never quite in tune. I have to retune them when changing keys.

2. The B pair (9&10) seem to go dull faster than the others. This was especially noted when I tried a set of D'Addario EXP coated strings.

3. The high E pair (11&12) do not sound clear at the 12th fret. I have one song in particular that uses a hammer-on there and the notes are always muted. Even when I pay particular attention to (3rd) finger placement.

Additional information: I just had the frets dressed by a certified Martin luthier; my regular strings are D'Addario J-38s; I use standard tuning most of the time and keep the instrument tuned a step low to accomodate my vocal range, tho' the problems persist when tuned to concert pitch. I've tried changing the saddle and bridge pins (probably time for another set of those, tho).

Any insights would be welcome as this is my principle instrument.

Bob M.

Tags: intonation

Views: 58

Replies to This Discussion

Hey Bob,

On #1, if you're talking about staying in tune as you capo up, that could be a function of how tight the capo is, and stuff you probably already know about.

If you mean that fretting the strings doesn't result in an in-tune note, that could be fret placement combined with action. That is, the frets may be properly placed for a particular action height, but if you vary from that, the geometry could throw off the exactness of the note. It is probably just most noticeable on the A's. Check out the Buzz Feiten page to see if this seems like your problem.

OTOH, if you mean that you tune the A and it's fine when you play a D chord, but *sounds* a bit off when you play an E, then you might also be experiencing the basic effect of having a "well- tempered" instrument. See this Wiki article for a detailed explanation. Basically, notes are not in perfect mathematical intervals - at least to *sound* right to our ears. But to make an instrumental capable of playing all notes, they invented "well tempered" as a really close approximation to something where most notes sound OK.

So, you might have a combination of all those with your instrument. If all else fails, tune it down, call it "jangly" and, like Pee Wee Herman, just say, "I meant to do that."

;-D

On #2 - yep, the plain steel strings get no benefit from coating, coating is just on the wound strings. All I can suggest is wiping down your strings thoroughly after each use. The B's are thicker than the E's and can hold more corrosion on them. When you wipe down, use a thin cloth and slip it under the strings to be sure you get the under side. You might also keep spare strings of just the ones going dull first, rather than replacing a whole set.

On #3, I can only guess that your particular instrument has a "dead" spot on that particular note. Try hitting the same note on the B strings - if you get the same deadness, that's just a tough break: it's the physics behind the instrument's bracing, etc. A good luthier may be able to remedy the situation with some tweaking. (You might also try tuning down, capo 2, and thus shift the note to the 14th fret. If you get the same result, it's definitely the physics. If it sounds clear, it could be the reduced tension, etc. may have sufficiently modified the physics to avert the problem. - In any case, I am just guessing. Again, an experienced luthier should still be able to help you.)
John,

Thanks for all the input.

In the case of problem 1, no, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with a capo. I rarely capo, as I like to have access to all the frets.

In the case of problem 3, can't reach the 14th fret with the top three notes of an F position -- it's a 12 fret neck.

Bob

John Bjorkman said:
Hey Bob,

On #1, if you're talking about staying in tune as you capo up, that could be a function of how tight the capo is, and stuff you probably already know about.

If you mean that fretting the strings doesn't result in an in-tune note, that could be fret placement combined with action. That is, the frets may be properly placed for a particular action height, but if you vary from that, the geometry could throw off the exactness of the note. It is probably just most noticeable on the A's. Check out the Buzz Feiten page to see if this seems like your problem.

OTOH, if you mean that you tune the A and it's fine when you play a D chord, but *sounds* a bit off when you play an E, then you might also be experiencing the basic effect of having a "well- tempered" instrument. See this Wiki article for a detailed explanation. Basically, notes are not in perfect mathematical intervals - at least to *sound* right to our ears. But to make an instrumental capable of playing all notes, they invented "well tempered" as a really close approximation to something where most notes sound OK.

So, you might have a combination of all those with your instrument. If all else fails, tune it down, call it "jangly" and, like Pee Wee Herman, just say, "I meant to do that."

;-D

On #2 - yep, the plain steel strings get no benefit from coating, coating is just on the wound strings. All I can suggest is wiping down your strings thoroughly after each use. The B's are thicker than the E's and can hold more corrosion on them. When you wipe down, use a thin cloth and slip it under the strings to be sure you get the under side. You might also keep spare strings of just the ones going dull first, rather than replacing a whole set.

On #3, I can only guess that your particular instrument has a "dead" spot on that particular note. Try hitting the same note on the B strings - if you get the same deadness, that's just a tough break: it's the physics behind the instrument's bracing, etc. A good luthier may be able to remedy the situation with some tweaking. (You might also try tuning down, capo 2, and thus shift the note to the 14th fret. If you get the same result, it's definitely the physics. If it sounds clear, it could be the reduced tension, etc. may have sufficiently modified the physics to avert the problem. - In any case, I am just guessing. Again, an experienced luthier should still be able to help you.)
Hello, I couldnt help but notice your discussion, I played a 60s D12 35 slot head Martin check out the photos on my AGcommunity page It had a very special set of non factory tuners made by a german who pretty much machined them by hand they were engraved with some scrollwork pattern Martin tells me they ran out of tuners in the sixties for the slot head 12 and special ordered them from a custom machine shop outsource! when I came back from Japan somehow customs lost the D string gear which I have found impossible to replace it was always loose anyway I often ran into the same tuning aberation however the more I played it the less problems I had also you may try changing the string setup you can put the octave strings on top or on the bottom and you know letting it jangle may be ok I love the sound of a 12 and just recently I aqquired a Luna muse 12 and it aint bad hang in there and keep messing with it if it works for you it is right there is no right or wrong way of doing it as long as you get the results you need I will be glad to discuss details with anyone in this group and I think we are in for a neo 12 string renisance jangle on Rob Englishs
Rob,

I think I might have the same set of tuning gears... scrollwork, and one D gear has to be tightened regularly.

Bob M

ROB ENGLISH said:
Hello, I couldnt help but notice your discussion, I played a 60s D12 35 slot head Martin check out the photos on my AGcommunity page It had a very special set of non factory tuners made by a german who pretty much machined them by hand they were engraved with some scrollwork pattern Martin tells me they ran out of tuners in the sixties for the slot head 12 and special ordered them from a custom machine shop outsource! when I came back from Japan somehow customs lost the D string gear which I have found impossible to replace it was always loose anyway I often ran into the same tuning aberation however the more I played it the less problems I had also you may try changing the string setup you can put the octave strings on top or on the bottom and you know letting it jangle may be ok I love the sound of a 12 and just recently I aqquired a Luna muse 12 and it aint bad hang in there and keep messing with it if it works for you it is right there is no right or wrong way of doing it as long as you get the results you need I will be glad to discuss details with anyone in this group and I think we are in for a neo 12 string renisance jangle on Rob Englishs
I don't know from your description, which was really inclusive...but if this instrument is under martin warrenty, meaning taht you are the original owner, you should be able to send it back to them with a list of problems and they should be able to fix it! And I think it will be free...even if it is not still under warrenty, a '68 Martin anything should be well worth the cost of the repair! We have had bad luck with the martin Cert. reapir people in our area...I would send, ot take it back to Martin. That's just my 2 cetns! I do wish you the best of luck! Edward
I am not he original owner of the D12/35 however Martin did tell me about the tuners and offered to look around for a set or at least an original gear I have sent many instruments over the years to original manufacturers and that is fine as long as you can wait three to six months to get them back in the old days I sent a prime brazillian rosewood to Nazareth and got a call from Les waggoner who ran the repair shop asking me if I wanted to sell it they did excellent repair work just took a long time and sometimes it came back with shop marks or clamp marks that had not been rubbed out now Mike longworth is a legendary martin man now for repair work more and more I favor repair guys like Dan Erlewine there are many that are good it is just that I play out alot now and prefer to use newer instruments as opposed to my premium axe unless it is just a workhorse I have indeed wore out several fine guitars and will restore them some day good luck stay in touch all you 12 stringers
Robert said:
John,
Thanks for all the input. In the case of problem 1, no, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with a capo. I rarely capo, as I like to have access to all the frets.
In the case of problem 3, can't reach the 14th fret with the top three notes of an F position -- it's a 12 fret neck.

Bob
On #3 - try tuning down and just doing your 12th fret note. The change in physics might make it sound clearly, and if you stretch to the 14th fret (13th if you tuned down 1/2 step), you might get the dead spot. If that works, you might just have the easy solution of playing tuned down a speck.

BTW - if you're looking to replace the tuners, check out the Stew-Mac catalog: here's their page for a 12-string slot head replacement set. (or check out the other pages if you have other tuners)
An obsessively precise setup will cure just about any of the problems that 12's are notoriously famous for. By obsessive I mean each and every string is compensated and the crown of the octave string is exactly as high on the arc as the primary string. This makes for a bridge that looks like a saw blade but it works. The problem is finding a tech that "gets" 12's well enough to make that work. It's not cheap, BTW, but ever so worth it. Good tuners are critical. My old Framus worked much better after I got rid of thos nasty 6-on-a-strip junk tuners and put a set of Pings on. Black plastic button mitigated much of the associated headstock weight. Finally the right capo and proper use helps. The best one for 12's I've found is the Planet Waves Nick Steinberger model. My old Shubb works well. What doesn't work well is Kysers. YMMV
Yeah, that's obsessively precise, all right. I'm taking the Martin back to the shop on Tues. and I'll pass along your advice.

As to capos, I've tried both the Kyser and Shubb and you're right. I've got one with a long bar that works very well on the rare occasions when I use it. I like to have the full neck to work with (sic)
Ed,

No, I bought the Martin used (and a bit beat up) in the spring of '71, so, no warranty. As noted elsewhere, I'm taking it back to the shop for more work, possibly compensating (see Dreamslinger's post), refretting, maybe replacing the nut and bridge pins. If that doesn't work, I'll have to send it to Nazareth, tho' I don't know what I'll play in the interim. I'm going to see if there's a place where I can rent one, maybe a Taylor 455ce or a Guild. Won't sound quite as good as an aged instrument, but it might get me thru. With a recording project just beginning, I can't spare the $ for a new instrument.

Edward Sparks said:
I don't know from your description, which was really inclusive...but if this instrument is under martin warrenty, meaning taht you are the original owner, you should be able to send it back to them with a list of problems and they should be able to fix it! And I think it will be free...even if it is not still under warrenty, a '68 Martin anything should be well worth the cost of the repair! We have had bad luck with the martin Cert. reapir people in our area...I would send, ot take it back to Martin. That's just my 2 cetns! I do wish you the best of luck! Edward
I'm already tuned down a full step. The 12th fret high E is still dull either way.

The Stew-Macs look like just the thing. I'll mention them to my luthier.

John Bjorkman said:
Robert said:
John,
Thanks for all the input. In the case of problem 1, no, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with a capo. I rarely capo, as I like to have access to all the frets.
In the case of problem 3, can't reach the 14th fret with the top three notes of an F position -- it's a 12 fret neck.

Bob
On #3 - try tuning down and just doing your 12th fret note. The change in physics might make it sound clearly, and if you stretch to the 14th fret (13th if you tuned down 1/2 step), you might get the dead spot. If that works, you might just have the easy solution of playing tuned down a speck.

BTW - if you're looking to replace the tuners, check out the Stew-Mac catalog: here's their page for a 12-string slot head replacement set. (or check out the other pages if you have other tuners)
The following is not advice, just fact:
After going to a number of repair people, including a noted luthier, and getting results that I was less than satisfied with, I took matters into my own hands. I junked a LOT of nut & saddle blanks in the learning process, but I learned to do my own set-ups. Neck resets and other major surgery is still outside of that scope.

Doing this gave me the opportunity to find a set-up that works for me.

With that in mind:
1. Your intonation may be off at the saddle. You could also try a wound octave A string. Your strings are a bit on the light side for tuning a step low. I would use something like a 12-54 set rather than a 10-47.

2. Ditto.

3. Check to see if you have a high or low fret. Take a credit card and work your way up the fretboard in the offending area and see if it "rocks" back and forth as it is spanning any three frets. If so, the one in the middle is high. I realize you just had them dressed, but one could have popped up.

Just a few thoughts.

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