Many like to tune a 12 string 1/2 to 1 full step down. I understand it reduces tension, reduces breaking the high G string and/or allows you to run thicker gauges for a fuller sound.

However I normally run the capo on the 2nd fret. It works but I always have problems getting the capo fully set on the 12 string, and I don't like the sound as much as playing the guitar normally. So I'd like to tune it 1 full step up and then not have to use the capo.

So I've ordered an extra light set of strings that start at .008. I hear this will work but that I may have to go with two standard G strings rather than the high G (which would actually be playing high A)

But to experiment I also ordered a few individual .007 strings, hoping I can get to that octave high A, and also hoping to reduce chances of breaking the high E (one step up to F) strings too.

I understand the sound will be weaker. This is a slight concern for me finger picking but when I strum with standard strings the my guitar is actually too loud for my voice, so I think I probably won't mind a quieter guitar overall.

And I'm very much a thumb strummer. I don't use a pick and I don't bend the strings or move them up the fretboard too far. I hope to get more versatile at some point but will worry about that later.

So I wonder your thoughts as I go into this experiment? Meanwhile I've tried a few capos and never been happy, but I have ordered a new 12-string specific capo as well, as I may be going back to one if the experiment fails, and I still like to use a capo to go even higher if need be.

I'd appreciate your thoughts?

  • Risky, I'd go for the capo option instead of risking your strings. – AJFaraday Jul 30 '16 at 21:38

I recommend against doing this. It's been my experience that the octave G string is the most likely to break, and tuning it up would make that even more of a problem. I agree that transposing (as Tim has suggested) or simply using a capo would be best. If tuning the guitar up is the only option, I highly recommend getting a different gauge of strings and having the truss rod adjusted. The tension on a 12-string neck is enormous and changing it could cause problems with the guitar down the road.

I've had to try several capos until I found one that works on my 12-string. In my case, the Paige 12-E capo did the trick, but several musicians I spoke to swear by the G7 12-string capo. Keep looking until you find one that works.

If the guitar is too loud for you, consider getting a soundhole blocker, or using a lighter pick; but learning to play more quietly is your best long-term solution.

Also: If a 12-string at standard tuning isn't working for you, perhaps you need a different instrument altogether. Maybe check out something like a tenor guitar, or an 8-string tenor ukulele. There are also travel guitars that have shorter necks and will be quieter. It's also possible that this particular guitar you have is simply very loud.

  • Thanks. I'm forget exactly what I ordered but it is a 12 string specific capo that seems to be well rated. If it doesn't work though I'll give the others a go. – JKelly Jul 28 '16 at 18:02
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    I love the look of the other capos, but I ended up getting this one from Shubb. I did get the strings too but as others also mentioned the quality Capo seems to do the trick. I think my issues with the sound primarily came from only using lesser capos that didn't fully lock down the strings. I may try the lighter strings and tuning one day just to hear the difference for myself, but this works for now. tks. – JKelly Sep 1 '16 at 9:51

A set of .008s will do the job and a .007 for the octave G will be o.k. What I don't understand is why it needs to be tuned non-standard, or up a tone. Changing the key might solve a vocal range problem, or is it that you prefer particular (open) chord shapes? What I mean is instead of playing a song in C, play it in D; instead of D, play it in E, etc. You could even tune down a semitone, and instead of playing in A, play in C.

  • Yeah I play most things in D for my limited vocal range. Actually it's not necessarily D, but the chords I use are the standard ones; D G Am Em C G A E and all the basics. If I try to do songs one key up, say hitting Bm instead of Em, it means I'm making a bar chord and when I'm picking I never have enough strength to pull off all the notes, so essentially my index finger is the worst capo! Just many of my compositions sound best to me one full step up. It could be just that I don't have the right capo, but no capo I've ever seen quite seems to have the same warm sound as the full guitar. – JKelly Jul 28 '16 at 18:01

You can do this, but I would refrain from doubling the g- (i.e. actually a-) string an octave up then. I have tried playing a .007 tuned up to a' for a while, but it was short-lived and really pretty painful to play. (And that even was even on the shorter Les Paul scale!)

Just use two identical .016 strings (unwound) and tune them both to a. If you otherwise keep the total tension low enough, and I think .008 should be ok for that, then I see no reason why tuning up a whole step shouldn't be fine.

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