Thinking Forward:
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.


Adjustable Pickups
 
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.
 

 
We 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 8-string basses.

Piezo Bridge Pickups

 
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.
 
With today's 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 12-string bass.

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!


USB Connection
 
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!