I'm considering using a 12-string guitar I don't play all that much as a testbed: Is it possible to restring an acoustic guitar as a baritone guitar, or even just string it so I can tune it down a few frets?
For anyone who doesn't know, a baritone guitar is tuned much like a normal guitar, but with the high E removed and a low B added. Standard tuning on a baritone guitar would be B-E-A-D-F#-b, I believe, or, more realistically, C-F-B♭-E♭-G-C. You can get regular guitar tuning using a capo.
Using heavier or lighter strings can require setting up a guitar for the different gauge of strings, and a 12-string guitar is built to take the enormous weight of 12 steel strings pulling at the neck.
Is it possible to do this? Questions I have include:
- Am I better off stringing it with twelve or six strings?
- What tuning would be best?
- What problems are likely to show up?
- Do I need to have a new nut cut to do a quick-and-dirty test?
- The guitar has tuning problems; will this make them worse or, due to the thicker strings, might it make them better?
Edit: If this plan is impractical, what about stringing the guitar with slightly heavier strings and tuning it down two or three frets?
Update on the project:
It works well, but not perfectly The guitar has tuning problems, but they're improving slowly with each round of changes. And the guitar sounds great! It's now named Barry. I've recorded with it, but I'm not planning on gigging with it until it stays in tune for longer.
I currently have a set of .015 - .080 strings on the guitar, strung as a 6-string tuned down 5 frets to BEADF#b. I widened the nut slots carefully with thin sandpaper, but you really need a proper set of nut files to do this. Have been making changes very slowly, restringing each time.
That nut is a bit of a problem - I'm looking into getting one cut professionally, but I don't know if I can afford it yet. But the locations of the tuning machines also pull the strings sideways a little too much, particularly the middle ones. I'm wondering if a string tree might help or if it woud introduce more problems. I'm not against the idea of drilling new holes for machines further in and cutting down the headstock.
The low B string has the most problems staying in tune, Reaming out bridge pin hole may also help; an .080 is big, and the pin sticks out quite a bit.
That truss rod adjustment Jduv recommended is without a doubt in my future, once I get the nut and tuning machine problems sorted.