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12 String Guitar Tuning

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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby robmull » Fri May 02, 2008 6:07 pm

So the guitar won't stay in tune?
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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby gregorycartoon » Fri May 02, 2008 6:10 pm

I've managed to get it in tune but it goes out almost immediately. Do you think I need to have it looked at?
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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby robmull » Fri May 02, 2008 6:15 pm

Setting up the intonation on guitars can be tricky unless you are certain about what you're doing and have some experience. So yeah I'd have it checked out if I were you. Could be something simple like the machine heads just not being tight enough but its hard to know without seeing it.
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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby Spiked Lunch » Fri May 02, 2008 6:28 pm

Welcome to the forum!

has it always had tuning issues or is it since a restring?

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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby dubbmann » Fri May 02, 2008 7:52 pm

hi there,

welcome to the forum, it's a great place for asking this sort of question. 12 string gtrs (and all 'double course' instruments like mandolins and bouzoukis) is that octaves and unisons will reveal very small differences in pitch. if you're strumming the guitar and singing, this is not such a big deal but if you fingerpick it can be a nightmare. there are many possible causes (neck intonation problems, nut problems, ...) but assuming that your guitar is fine then the likely problem is the way your finger makes contact w/t strings when you fret - i speak from experience. if when you fret a pair of strings your finger inadvertently bends one of the strings more than the other, which is VERY easy to do if you don't focus like a zen master ;-), what will happen is that you get an interval - unison (upper strings) or octave (lower string pairs) - that is a few cents off. then you get beats, similar to what you get when tuning any guitar. what i do when a play a 12 string is to make sure i'm holding the guitar in way that is most conducive to accurate fretting (in my case, i play classically) and then i try to play a riff or chord slowly until i'm sure i've got the fretting correct before i try to increase speed.

all this is much harder on an unfamiliar guitar, of course, as relatively few gtrs have perfect intonation of their necks. i have an old hagstrom 12 that is out of correct intonation on the upper strings past the 8th fret. what i do then is take this as a challenge to my chord-voicing and revoice the chords i use when i play this particular gtr.

hope this helps, feel free to ask follow up q's as you try to sus the problem out.


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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby Hewesy » Fri May 02, 2008 8:08 pm

A few details if you can:

Make/model - intonation is easier set on electrics with adjustable bridges over acoustics

How old are the strings - have you just changed them? If so did you change one at a time or all at once?

Is the instrument new/used?

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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby Jack Ruston » Fri May 02, 2008 8:51 pm

Cut off all the little extra strings and then tune normally.


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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby zenguitar » Sat May 03, 2008 2:11 am


One of the reasons 12 strings sound so great is the harmonic complexity introduced by the slight out of tuneness. So, a little out of tuneness is a good thing.

So can we break down the problem into smaller parts...

When the guitar is first tuned does it sound right across all 6 courses? If so, the likely problem is that the strings need proper stretching when fitting. And after that they should remain relatively in tune.

If not, the next place to look is the saddle. The unison pairs should be fine, but I would expect the octave pairs to have problems because the different gauge strings require different intonation from 1st principles. If that's the case, a properly cut saddle is in order. Could be easy, could be a major job, depends on the guitar.

Hope that helps

Andy :beamup:
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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby djangodeadman » Sat May 03, 2008 12:56 pm

It's pretty much impossible to get a twelve string perfectly in tune (owing to intonation problems mentioned above) unless you have a bridge with twelve individually adjustable saddles. The Fender XII has these, as do twelve string Strats. I'm not aware of other guitars that do, but there may be some.
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Re: 12 String Guitar Tuning

Postby Wonks » Sat May 03, 2008 2:32 pm

The Yamaha Pacifica 312 12-string has individual saddles as well.
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