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Ask Bob: 12-String Tone

Question: I’ve always wanted a 12-string but have never been able to find one that I like. Perhaps I can’t get what I hear in my head, but to me, every 12-string I’ve ever played seems to lose its acoustic warmth and just sounds like 12 strings strapped across a 2×4! Is it not possible to get a warm, full-bodied tone, but with that 12-string chime? Most of the work I use acoustics for is for strumming to thicken up guitar tracks in a mix. Lots of a rhythmic tone, but not too cutting. I like the warmth and the body, but [with] some sparkle to support the rhythm.
Steven G Kelly


Answer: Well, I hope our 2×4 models aren’t the ones you’re talking about, Steven. Compared to other brands, I think ours are at least a 2×8! This is a hard question to answer because it’s so subjective. But I’ll give you a hint. Whatever 12-string you’re playing, tune it down a full step to D, or even further with fatter strings, and then back your tracks with a lower-tuned 12-string. See if you like that better. The guitar will be warmer, richer, looser, and maybe have the tone you’re looking for. Use mahogany guitars. Maybe try a Leo Kottke Signature Model, because the last time I heard him in concert it sounded way better than a 2×4. And he tunes low.


Thank you for reading.