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crazyhair

Adjustments on a 12 String?

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I just bought a used but never played Alvarez 12 string guitar. (Long story short, the person died before getting a chance to use it.) I have never played one and was looking for something to mess around with without having to plug in an amp every time. I've always loved the sound of one but never played one. While Alvarez is not the greatest guitar I factored in the newness of it as opposed to buying a used one that I who knows what is wrong with it. I payed $300 for it.

 

Geeeeeeeeeeez is this different to try to play! The more I mess with it the more I am thinking I should have bought a more expensive one, (I think). Now I see the action is pretty high and if I don't get exactly in between the frets I lose everything as opposed to my electrics. I also now see there is no adjustments to the bridge or neck. Are they all this way? Then the fact I have to press two strings at once changes things as well. I was a little intimidated when I bought it because these peoples son had died a few months ago and I didn't want to fuss with things. So I didn't check everything out like I should have.

 

Is there any way to lower the action or make adjustments to a 12 string?

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All modern (at least post war), steel string, guitars have a truss rod which can be adjusted. Some are accessed via the truss rod cover between the 3rd and 4th string, just above the nut. Some are accessed through a hole at the other end of the neck under the fretboard, via the sound hole.

 

There should have been an Allen (hex) head wrench in the guitar case. If not, acquire a set of loose "L" shaped Allen wrenches, probably metric. One of these will likely fit the adjustment head.

 

Especially on a 12 string, you will have to slacken the strings before adjusting the nut end down.

 

 

Also, 12 wire's are prone to bridge lifting. Make sure that is not the case with this one.

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I just bought a new 12 string last week. A Guild. It is definitely different to play. Especially since I play almost exclusively good quality electrics. The action on mine is fantastic. Much better than I expected. I had ordered it unplayed and was REALLY impressed.

Chording for the most part came along fairly easy. I still have some difficulty depressing two strings cleanly with my little finger but my little finger is a weak spot for me period. I'm working on using it more as opposed to working around it.

Keep at it and enjoy that sound.

Now as far as adjusting it, aside from the truss rod or rods the bridge and nut can be shaved down a bit and regrooved as well or replaced for that matter. I'm not real comfortable with doing that myself so would bring it into my tech to have it done.

 

Dave

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All good advice as usual

 

The other main issue with 12 strings is whether to detune or not

 

To relieve some of the pull upwards on the fretboard, resulting in high action

 

I have done most things with acoustic 12 strings...detuning and truss rod adjustment

 

Going light on the strings is one option whilst keeping tuning at concert pitch

 

I have tried detuning by 2 frets and 4 frets....each having their advantages

 

So their are several permutations possible

 

There is a great clip of Jimi Hendrix playing an acoustic 12 string

 

And it is evident he has detuned 4 frets....

 

V

 

:-({|=

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.

I'll kind of echo Versatile -

 

I've been playing 12s since the 70s and beyond the quality of the build and tone/sound, the action and nut width are two things you need to look at, especially if you're not experienced playing 12s. Since you already have the guitar, you're stuck with the neck width. Of course that action is adjustable with nut and saddle changes. And the neck relief should also be adjustable. So first thing is decide what strings you like, and how you want to tune (on concert pitch or detune), then get a setup done with the strings and tuning you like.

 

A lot of players will detune one or two frets. This will allow you to play easier and build to strength to fret all those strings on a barre.

 

If you detune 2 frets and capo on 2, you'll be at concert pitch and the first couple of fret markers will be where you would expect them for concert pitch (some guitars have a marker on fret 1).

 

Hope you have no trouble bringing you new guitar into your comfort zone.

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All modern (at least post war), steel string, guitars have a truss rod which can be adjusted. Some are accessed via the truss rod cover between the 3rd and 4th string, just above the nut. Some are accessed through a hole at the other end of the neck under the fretboard, via the sound hole.

 

There should have been an Allen (hex) head wrench in the guitar case. If not, acquire a set of loose "L" shaped Allen wrenches, probably metric. One of these will likely fit the adjustment head.

 

Especially on a 12 string, you will have to slacken the strings before adjusting the nut end down.

 

 

Also, 12 wire's are prone to bridge lifting. Make sure that is not the case with this one.

 

 

 

It looks like the bridge is lifting a little from the back of it. What is a good way to bring it down. Should I re glue it?

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I'm no guitar repairman, but I've played 12s, acoustic and electric, since '64.

 

Yup on the neck being wider, and yup on that requiring a different geometry for your left hand. I think it was no shock to me because when I got my first 12, my other guitar was a classical, so... it was much more similar.

 

I always used the lightest strings I could get and tuned to standard pitch. Silk 'n' steels used to be even lighter and I used them when it was purely acoustic, but I'm not sure of current gauges 'cuz I've tended to use as light as possible "regular" strungs for either an electric 12 or, as my current 12, a soundhole magnetic pickup.

 

Back in the really old days there were few string choices and a lotta guys would tend to buy individual strings and make up their own sets.

 

I think if I were worried about the bridge, I'd take it to a qualified luthier. That could also be a factor in an apparently high action, etc. Then points of setup could be addressed. I think a lotta old 12s, especially less-expensive ones had a more or less floating bridge and tailpiece 'cuz it put a lot less stress on the top.

 

Finally... <huff, puff>, I'd suggest that most folks will find a 12 doesn't necessarily respond well to the same right hand technique as a 6. I normally use bare fingers on a 6, but on a 12, I use a thumb and steel fingerpicks, but don't even think about trying to duplicate what I do on a 6 'cuz it's too likely to end up sounding all fuzzed together.

 

McGuinn used the flatpick and 2 steel fingerpick variation. I've never quite figured exactly what Leo Kottke uses but he manages to do even simple stuff so effortlessly and fast that he can make stuff sound good that I'd have sounding like a muddle.

 

For folkie basic strumming and bass runs just a flatpick works well, too. The Carter Family scratch, that works also so well on an autoharp, is an excellent option.

 

Just some thoughts.

 

m

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I'm no guitar repairman, but I've played 12s, acoustic and electric, since '64.

 

Yup on the neck being wider, and yup on that requiring a different geometry for your left hand. I think it was no shock to me because when I got my first 12, my other guitar was a classical, so... it was much more similar.

 

I always used the lightest strings I could get and tuned to standard pitch. Silk 'n' steels used to be even lighter and I used them when it was purely acoustic, but I'm not sure of current gauges 'cuz I've tended to use as light as possible "regular" strungs for either an electric 12 or, as my current 12, a soundhole magnetic pickup.

 

Back in the really old days there were few string choices and a lotta guys would tend to buy individual strings and make up their own sets.

 

I think if I were worried about the bridge, I'd take it to a qualified luthier. That could also be a factor in an apparently high action, etc. Then points of setup could be addressed. I think a lotta old 12s, especially less-expensive ones had a more or less floating bridge and tailpiece 'cuz it put a lot less stress on the top.

 

Finally... <huff, puff>, I'd suggest that most folks will find a 12 doesn't necessarily respond well to the same right hand technique as a 6. I normally use bare fingers on a 6, but on a 12, I use a thumb and steel fingerpicks, but don't even think about trying to duplicate what I do on a 6 'cuz it's too likely to end up sounding all fuzzed together.

 

McGuinn used the flatpick and 2 steel fingerpick variation. I've never quite figured exactly what Leo Kottke uses but he manages to do even simple stuff so effortlessly and fast that he can make stuff sound good that I'd have sounding like a muddle.

 

For folkie basic strumming and bass runs just a flatpick works well, too. The Carter Family scratch, that works also so well on an autoharp, is an excellent option.

 

Just some thoughts.

 

m

 

Great info Milod.

I'm not a great finger picker to begin with and trying to navigate those pairs of strings as an individual is quite the chore. I seem to have pretty good aim with a flat pick though.

The first time I picked up a 12 was a few months ago and my wife was there and exclaimed that it was like I've always played one. She's very generous and I'm very much a realist. It was at her urging that I bought mine.

What a sweety she is.

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Not much more to add, to what's been said, already...

But, in the case of the bridge, a lot of less expensive

models, glue the brige onto the "finish!" Which is one

reason, it lifts, quite often. I've seen this in 6 sting

guitars, too. I have a Washburn "Columbine" 12-string,

that had that problem, as well as high action. I took it

to a great luthier, I know...and, he sanded off the finish

under the bridge, and where it comes in contact, with the

body (only), reglued it, did a mavelous "set-up" and it plays

like a dream, now...at concert pitch. I DO use light guage

acoustic strings, however. And, the neck, at the nut, is wider...

no doubt about it. Especially, compared to my Ric 12-string,

which has the opposite characteristic. It's quite narrow...like

putting 12-strings, in the same area, that 6 would be "comfortable,"

in. So, I adapted Roger McGuinn's technique, of using fewer fingers,

to make open chords, by doubling up, whenever possible,

on strings fingered. It's easier, than I describe it. (Smile)

 

Enjoy your 12-string, when you get it "ship-shape!" They're a

great joy to hear, and to play, too.

 

CB

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That's one of the reasons I got the 12 string also was to start finger picking. Last night I tried with a pick verses using my fingers and I got some great sound. But once again I need to do adjustments. A good friend of mine who works with wood stopped by and I think we have fixed the bridge. I'll let it dry over night then adjust the neck and I also found a shim that I took out of the nut which should help lower the action as well.

 

I also bought an acoustic pick up that has a Hum Bucker. I'm interested to see what that will sound like. The only thing I don't like about that is having a wire hanging out of the sound hole.

 

With any luck I'll have all the neighborhood dogs helping me sing Country Roads tomorrow!

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Crazy...

 

I put in a regular guitar jack on mine. I know the "makers" like to use endpin jacks, but I rather dislike them, myself. Mine's on the "bottom" side of the guitar. It wasn't that hard to do at all. You just had best not yank on things or you'll lose the side of the guitar in spite of a decent-sized plate inside. <grin>

 

As for fingerpicking, I've two sets of sharp-end thumbpicks and three steel finger picks in the 12-string case. They're the same I used back when I played 5-string, too. Some folks swear by a rounded thumb pick on grounds that it works more easily as a very hard flatpick, but they always seemed clunky to me. Note that Chet Atkins' rounded-end thumbpick never sounded clunky. <grin>

 

You are well-advised whether doing a more or less "standard" fingerpicking style, a Carter Family Scratch or using a flatpick and fingerpicks such as McGuinn and others used, by ensuring the you do not "claw" the strings. It's bad on a 6-string and far worse on the 12. Think of fingertips, and even thumb technique, as brushing the strings as opposed to plucking them. I tend to mostly do what a classical picker would refer to as a free stroke.

 

m

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Crazy...

 

I put in a regular guitar jack on mine. I know the "makers" like to use endpin jacks, but I rather dislike them, myself. Mine's on the "bottom" side of the guitar. It wasn't that hard to do at all. You just had best not yank on things or you'll lose the side of the guitar in spite of a decent-sized plate inside. <grin>

 

As for fingerpicking, I've two sets of sharp-end thumbpicks and three steel finger picks in the 12-string case. They're the same I used back when I played 5-string, too. Some folks swear by a rounded thumb pick on grounds that it works more easily as a very hard flatpick, but they always seemed clunky to me. Note that Chet Atkins' rounded-end thumbpick never sounded clunky. <grin>

 

You are well-advised whether doing a more or less "standard" fingerpicking style, a Carter Family Scratch or using a flatpick and fingerpicks such as McGuinn and others used, by ensuring the you do not "claw" the strings. It's bad on a 6-string and far worse on the 12. Think of fingertips, and even thumb technique, as brushing the strings as opposed to plucking them. I tend to mostly do what a classical picker would refer to as a free stroke.

 

m

 

I looked all around before I got this one and couldn't find the type of pickup that you are talking about. If I would have been smart I would have paid a lot more and just got a good brand with a pickup built in. But I wasn't even sure I would like playing one. I was thinking a Spanish Flamenco style or classical style of picking and strumming. As far as finger picks I had a steel guitar when I was a kid. So using them might not be so bad. I was trying bar chords on it and that is hard to do. Do you pretty much use open chords on your 12 string?

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Crazy...

 

It's been a year or so since I last messed with the 12, but...

 

No, I do some barre chords. That's another reason for light strings and good low setup.

 

http://backstage.musiciansfriend.com/search/search.jsp?question=soundhole+pickups#gP=1&sB=pLH&v=g&pS=20

 

Frankly I think something less expensive as a soundhole pickup does best, and we're still talking excellent brand names. Mine sounds pretty much like an electric 12 with a single pole soundhole pickup. One thing I'd do over is a volume and probably tone control, but definitely a volume control. Several inexpensive units have that as part of the the sound hole pickup.

 

That setup can sound almost Ricky or very folkie.

 

You may have to buy a proper input jack and take off an output jack, drill a hole, do some soldering, do some metal bending, whatever, but it's something even I can do.

 

Note Kottke's soundhole pickup in this old vid:

 

 

m

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