12-string Baritone Conversion

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by Leaman, Mar 17, 2015.

  1. Leaman

    Leaman Member

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    I have a Hohner HEA 12-string guitar that I want to convert to baritone. I've heard that this can put a lot of pressure on the bridge and am wondering if I can reinforce it somehow. Is there a piece that I can put inside the guitar that can add support? Could I just use an electric bridge and drill into a piece of wood placed inside the guitar like this? I've thought about getting one of those tailpieces that you see on Gretsch and Rickenbacker models and using this as well. Any thoughts?

    I know that an electric bridge wouldn't match the finished part of the guitar, but I'm not concerned so much with cosmetics and functionality. I've heard that some truss rod and nut adjustments are needed as well, but I'm fairly confident I'll be able to figure these out. Thanks for your help,

    -Mike
     
  2. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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    Your biggest problem is the scale length, a baritone is usually in the 28 inch range, your donor guitar is probably only 25.5 inch scale length.

    Your idea for using an electric bridge screwed to a block of wood inside is going to seriously effect the ability of the top to vibrate, which will severely impact the tone of the guitar. You might be able to add additional bracing or something like a bridge doctor for support. that said, I think a 12 string might be strong enough to withstand the pressure on its own.

    But back to the matter at hand, I guess what I would try first is get the heaviest set of acoustic strings you can find and string them up and tune it to your baritone tuning and see how it works. I think the issue will be that the short scale length will inhibit your ability to maintain that tuning.

    Looks like you can find 14s (thier baritone set is 16's):

    http://www.amazon.com/DAddario-EJ18...sr=1-1&keywords=heavy+acoustic+guitar+strings

    Alvarez makes a very affordable and well made acoustic baritone now, if you hunt around they can be had for under 400 new, and around 300 used

    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/bass/alvarez-artist-series-abt60-baritone-guitar
     
  3. Leaman

    Leaman Member

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    You're right, it is a 25.5. Is there anything I can do to for tuning? I actually found a custom set of Labella strings (15-80) that I'm going to try out. My worry is that the bridge has already popped off from a previous owner, presumably with standard gauges, and is starting to rise again. Ok, so the drilling is out. The bridge doctor seems like a good, cheap cure all. I'll probably head in that direction so thanks for that. Would a tailpiece be a complete dead end? Apparently the volume drops but mine's acoustic-electric so that might not be an issue.

    The Alvarez is nice, but I'm really just looking to modify mine or deal with as is.
     
  4. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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    If the bridge is rising again, you need to figure that out first. perhaps pop it off and reset it.


    Personally, if I had an old 12 string I wanted to convert into something, I would try an octave mandolin or a mandocello.
     
  5. Leaman

    Leaman Member

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    Mandocello... I'd never even heard of this before. I am definitely going to give this a look. I appreciate all the help, man. Take care
     
  6. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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  7. straightblues

    straightblues Member

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    You can get baritone strings. I did mine and I like it. You get bigger strings and tune down so the pressure on the neck is the same as it would be with standard strings tuned to standard pitch. But you have to recut the nut to accomodate the bigger strings.
     
  8. Leaman

    Leaman Member

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    I saw that Labella has a set of 15-80 baritone string for 12's, so yeah... a nut tweak would definitely be in order. I think I could handle that with the assortment of files I have on hand though. EricPeterson has me thinking about a mandocello possibility now too. Basically, I want an instrument that I can down tune to B. Mandocellos are typically C I think, so that wouldn't be much of a drop but it would take some pretty major overhaul. I've also thought about getting higher gauge strings like 13's and simply dropping the high E's, putting the low B in the A slot and so forth effectively making it a 10 string and reducing tension. I think I might be able to achieve this with just an adjusted nut.
     
  9. BmoreTele

    BmoreTele Member

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    12 string guitars have a history of bowed necks and lifted bridges. They often end up with thick tops and not the greatest tone.

    That's part of the reason folks tune them down a whole step and use a capo at the 2nd fret.

    Leo Kottke got Taylor to make his 12 string a lot lighter by promising to use lighter gauge strings.

    To go baritone your best bet is a new, longer neck.

    Good luck.
     
  10. PB Wilson

    PB Wilson Member

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    But Leo Kottke didn't use lighter strings. He used a heavier 12 string set (13 to 56) tuned down to C# and on a regular Taylor scale length (25.5"?)

    His signature guitar sounds monstrous set up like that. Really amazing to play. Definitely needs nut filing if you are going to replicate it. Once your bridge is firmly glued on and with a bit of tweaking for the heavier strings, it should be a great addition to your arsenal. Joe Gore has a video of his new Taylor 150e 12 string set up with heavy strings and he makes it work very well.
     
  11. BmoreTele

    BmoreTele Member

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    I stand corrected, sir.

    I remembered it was lower tension but got mixed up on the process.
     

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