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In praise and appreciation of the Hummingbird 12 string


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I’ve had some real joy today from my Hummingbird 12, a 2005 Custom Shop model sold to me several years ago by John Turner (aka JohnT) of this very forum. Such a lovely guy, and kept the Bird for me for close to a year whilst I got the funds together to buy it.

Truth be told, I’ve played it very little in the last couple of months. After I was unwell at the end of last year I was left with ongoing joint pain, which has made anything but lightly strung six string action tough going. The 12 was more pain than the glorious tone could justify, so it sat in its case, waiting for the right time to come back into rotation.

I even toyed with the idea of moving it on and letting someone in better physical shape give it the love and playtime it deserves. I had thoughts of archtops or an L-00 that would be easier to wrangle. But in the end I couldn’t do it, it had to stay. 
 

Today was a bit of a beat-up of a day. My Dad has been ill for some time with heart and kidney failure and has taken a real turn for the worse in the last 24hrs. He has always loved 12 string guitars and whenever I have owned and played a 12er over the years he has absolutely lit up with pleasure to hear it, so I decided that I needed to get back on terms with my big Bird and see what I could do to make it easier to play, as I’m not sure whether the next time I get to play for my Dad may be the last time. 
 

I cracked open the case and noticed that the neck relief was a little excessive, so slackened the strings and gently tightened the rather stiff truss rod by a 1/4 turn. Tuning back up, instantly the action felt much better. I tune my 12 a half-step down which helps, too. 
 

Somehow, today the Bird sounded better than ever before, even sporting an old set of Martin Lifespans that have done a year of touring in 2019 and a fallow year last year, bar some recording. She boomed, chimed, sang and sparkled like an orchestra, all whilst I cursed my stupidity for ever considering parting with such a glorious instrument, and felt immense relief that I came to my senses in time. 
 

All the while, whilst this internal monologue was playing out, my hands just got on with the job and played up and down the neck for close to an hour, pain free. The truss rod tweak really made the guitar play like butter, so easy but still so warm and articulate. We’re so lucky to get to play these amazing instruments and make music.
 

Safe to say, the Bird 12 is going nowhere. Whether I‘ll get to play it for my Dad remains to be seen...if he can stay out of hospital for just a few more days, I’ll make it happen. Let’s see.

 

Edited by Jinder
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2 hours ago, Jinder said:

I’ve had some real joy today from my Hummingbird 12, a 2005 Custom Shop model sold to me several years ago by John Turner (aka JohnT) of this very forum. Such a lovely guy, and kept the Bird for me for close to a year whilst I got the funds together to buy it.

Truth be told, I’ve played it very little in the last couple of months. After I was unwell at the end of last year I was left with ongoing joint pain, which has made anything but lightly strung six string action tough going. The 12 was more pain than the glorious tone could justify, so it sat in its case, waiting for the right time to come back into rotation.

I even toyed with the idea of moving it on and letting someone in better physical shape give it the love and playtime it deserves. I had thoughts of archtops or an L-00 that would be easier to wrangle. But in the end I couldn’t do it, it had to stay. 
 

Today was a bit of a beat-up of a day. My Dad has been ill for some time with heart and kidney failure and has taken a real turn for the worse in the last 24hrs. He has always loved 12 string guitars and whenever I have owned and played a 12er over the years he has absolutely lit up with pleasure to hear it, so I decided that I needed to get back on terms with my big Bird and see what I could do to make it easier to play, as I’m not sure whether the next time I get to play for my Dad may be the last time. 
 

I cracked open the case and noticed that the neck relief was a little excessive, so slackened the strings and gently tightened the rather stiff truss rod by a 1/4 turn. Tuning back up, instantly the action felt much better. I tune my 12 a half-step down which helps, too. 
 

Somehow, today the Bird sounded better than ever before, even sporting an old set of Martin Lifespans that have done a year of touring in 2019 and a fallow year last year, bar some recording. She boomed, chimed, sang and sparkled like an orchestra, all whilst I cursed my stupidity for ever considering parting with such a glorious instrument, and felt immense relief that I came to my senses in time. 
 

All the while, whilst this internal monologue was playing out, my hands just got on with the job and played up and down the neck for close to an hour, pain free. The truss rod tweak really made the guitar play like butter, so easy but still so warm and articulate. We’re so lucky to get to play these amazing instruments and make music.
 

Safe to say, the Bird 12 is going nowhere. Whether I‘ll get to play it for my Dad remains to be seen...if he can stay out of hospital for just a few more days, I’ll make it happen. Let’s see.

 

Jinder, I'm so happy to read this post.   If anyone in the world deserves that 'Bird 12-String it's you...and you can make it sound better than most people.   I sure hope you get back to the condition where you can record and even play out again.  Keep the faith, ol' buddy.

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I hope that plan comes to fruition for you, Jinder. Good luck.

I was quite surprised to hear you pulling out a 12-er already. I'm very happy that worked out.

**Just to point out to some folks watching some recent threads and blindly having a go at the truss rod, Jinder is a professional, and did NOT blindly have a go at his.   **

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While  12 strings have never been my main guitar there is a certain itch that only they can  scratch.   Hard to believe now but when Gibson came out with the B45-12 in 1961 the only U.S. company even offering  stock 12 string models was Harmony.  It took Guild to open the flood gates.

Our best to you and yours.

Edited by zombywoof
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The story I heard wad that Dave Guard when he was still with the Kingston Trio was the pioneer player of Gibson’s initial 12 strings.  Dave Guard left the trio in 1961 (replaced by John Stewart, who later on in the trio played a stunning looking all blonde/natural 12 string that I believe may have been a custom Guild.)

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

 

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On 5/12/2021 at 4:27 PM, Jinder said:

Somehow, today the Bird sounded better than ever before....

 

Good to hear it, Jinder.  That's pretty much how I always feel about my Gibson Songwriter 12-string -- just a stunning 12er.

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15 hours ago, QuestionMark said:

The story I heard wad that Dave Guard when he was still with the Kingston Trio was the pioneer player of Gibson’s initial 12 strings.  Dave Guard left the trio in 1961 (replaced by John Stewart, who later on in the trio played a stunning looking all blonde/natural 12 string that I believe may have been a custom Guild.)

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

 

Prior to 1963 a natural top Gibson B45-12 would have been a custom order.  Very few of the slope shoulder 12 strings were made as it was in production  something just over one year.  Only 77 were shipped in 1961. 

Here is Rev. Gary Davis playing one.

(1) Rev. Gary Davis - Children of Zion - Bing video

Edited by zombywoof
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6 hours ago, zombywoof said:

Prior to 1963 a natural top Gibson B45-12 would have been a custom order.  Very few of the slope shoulder 12 strings were made as it was in production  something just over one year.  Only 77 were shipped in 1961. 

Here is Rev. Gary Davis playing one.

(1) Rev. Gary Davis - Children of Zion - Bing video

Some interesting folks sitting around that table, in addition to the Reverend: Pete Seeger, Donovan, and Shawn Philips (sitar player)

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