12 string guitar setup

When exploring the 12-string, it all begins with Lead Belly, who used his huge, dropped-tuned Stella flattop to orchestrate such folk-blues classics as “Rock Island Line,” “Goodnight Irene,” and “Midnight Special.”

Ace Nashville luthier Joe Glaser and his crew reveal their recipes for maximum chime and jangle.

A handful of musicians have built their careers around the 12-string guitar—Lead Belly, Leo Kottke, and Roger McGuinn come to mind—but for most guitarists, an electric or acoustic 12-string is a specialty instrument to be hauled out when a song needs a little extra jangle. As such, 12-string guitars get a smaller part of a player’s setup budget and are rarely checked, despite the fact that they may suffer more from string tension issues than their 6-string siblings. That’s too bad, because when a 12-string’s action is too high or it’s not set up correctly, it feels twice as hard to play.

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