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HOW TO TUNE A 12-STRING ...FOR DUMMIES

I was on Craigslist doing my usual keyword searches for my favorite 1990-era USA-made gear like Ampeg, Hartke, Gallien-Krueger, and Peavey. Every once in a while I will check for old USA Dean guitars (have yet to find one), so I searched "Dean." Loads of the usual non-noteworthy stuff, except for something I didn't know existed and was intrigued by the ridiculous novelty of it: a Korean-made Dean Rhapsody 12-string bass. Originally conceived by Cheap Trick's Tom Peterson and the first one built by Hamer in 1977, 12-string basses have been described as sounding like a "freight train powered by a jet engine." I had to have it for my collection, even if I couldn't play it - with a hard shell case, I snagged it for $300 in excellent condition.

I have a Digitech Drop pedal that can overlay the dry signal with a signal that is one octave lower, which produces an interesting organ sound (fun on guitar) - this Dean does something similar, except it delivers a higher octave along with a little additional texture from the third string's signal. I bought a set of EXL170-12, pulled the old strings off, oiled and cleaned the fretboard and frets, got the dust out of the bridge nooks, and began to restring it even though I had no idea how to tune it.

How To:
The four main strings are tuned normally: E-A-D-G
The eight other strings are tuned in pairs, each pair being tightened so they are both one octave higher than their parent string, which is equivalent to the 12th fret of that parent string.
So across the nut (left to right): eeE-aaA-ddD-ggG.

I used my Boss TU-3 set in Chromatic Mode. I first strung the four main strings and tuned them to the standard EADG. Then, starting with the E, I added the octave pair and tuned them both to a standard E and moved on to the next pair. Once all twelve strings were on, I went back through and retuned the EADG strings and then all of the octave strings. At the two smaller strings for the E, I started turning the peg of one of them to tighten it up. I continued to tighten through all the notes until I arrived at another E - this E is one octave higher than the E of the parent string which is exactly what we want. Continue to do this with the each of the pairs.

It does get kind of tedious individually strumming these smaller strings with them being so close together. Also, there is a lot of pull being added to the neck as you move along, so you will find yourself constantly going back to retune the other strings as they loosen back up. I found the best way when you start tuning the octaves, is to just redo all the strings after each pair of octaves is in-tune.

CrankyGypsy (established 2001)