The Continuing Evolution of the 12-String Bass
While the 12-string bass has always been somewhat ahead of its time, it seems
as though some aspects of it have never been completely thought out or
explored to their fullest extent. Here we will examine some details we feel
would be beneficial for the instrument, but for whatever reason have thus far
been overlooked. These ideas have come from players who have found a need for
specific features that haven't been available in past production models.
Hopefully these ideas will come to fruition in the future.
There has never been a single pickup made specifically to accommodate the
12-string bass. Most models come standard with blade-style humbuckers in an
attempt to cover the span of strings evenly. They are height adjustable on
either side of the pickup, but you can't adjust for individual strings.
see this as a major oversight. The range of string volume on a 12 is very
broad, and being able to control this by adjusting the height of individual
pole pieces would be a major advancement in this area. The octave strings
could be assigned to a separate pole piece from the fundamental strings. With
this design the player could control the output of the octaves versus the
fundamentals and really dial in their own sound. It would also work well on
The very first 12-string bass was way ahead of its time. Not only did it have
four pairs of octave strings, but it also had a remarkable pickup system that
could be used to control each of the four string groups independently. The
Quad Bass was only offered by Hamer for a couple of very short years and no
one has tried to move forward on their original idea since.
technology not only could the string groups be separated from each other, but
the octaves could also be divided from the fundamentals within each group. By
having piezo pickups mounted in each of the saddles of an 8-saddle bass bridge
(such as the one Schaller offers), the output of each of the saddles could be
controlled via trim pots mounted in the control cavity of the bass. Carvin has
done this for some time now with their bass line but they do not offer a
With this type of system the player
could dial in whatever string balance suits their own tastes. Not only could it
be used to custom tailor one's electric bass sound, but it could also be used to
create the effect of a true acoustic 12-string bass. Fishman has such a system
already available but like Carvin they haven't caught up with the 12 yet. The
bass could have separate output jacks with the main jack being stereo so the
player could blend both systems (traditional magnetic pickups and piezos) and
send a mono signal through a single jack, or run stereo having the magnetic
pickups assigned to one jack and the piezos assigned to the other. Either way
the player would have the sound of two 12s (one electric and one acoustic) being
played simultaneously. The system could also be designed to run either of the
two systems by themselves. A new Quad system for the 21st century!
With all of the recording tools for computer that are available today it is a
wonder why so few companies have added this feature to their line - a USB
output jack right on the instrument.
Brian Moore Guitars has bravely gone where no other guitar company has gone
before (or since) with the addition of an onboard interface and external USB
output on several of their guitars and basses. This is an idea that's time has
certainly come. The only problem (you guessed it): Brian Moore Guitars does
not offer a 12-string bass.
This is obviously the wave of the future. It is
entirely possible that within a few years we will be plugging into computers
for live performances instead of traditional amps. The market of tools for the
computer is rich with simulated amps, cabinets, and effects of all varieties.
Yet our instrument, the primary piece of the puzzle, is years behind and can't
even plug directly into the essential machine that we use on a daily basis for
everything from communicating to banking.
This is a simple technology and one we would like to see offered on 12-string
basses in the near future. Imagine the creative doors it would open!