Hot Tips
How to Make Your 12 Look, Play and Sound Even Better

These are some "Tricks Of The Trade" used by working musicians to make their 12-string basses sound, play and perform better.
If you have a tip that would be helpful to other bassists, send it in!

No more neck dive!


Neck dive is the #1 problem reported by many 12-string basses. The problem is solved!

Video is from the first day of the 2015 LA NAMM show with Surf and videographer / 12-string bassist Momo Laredo.
The technique is demonstrated on a Musicvox MI-5 12-string bass. Video shot by Clira.

A Quick Fix for E-String Rattle
A Hot Tip from Ken Ritchie

Ken had trouble with the two 'E' octave strings rattling against each other. The string slots on the saddle were the same distance apart as on all the other saddles, but due to the larger diameter of the strings they were close enough to hit each other when played. As a temporary fix Ken simply removed the outside 'E' string from it's saddle. He positioned it about the width of a .060 pick away from the other octave 'E' string and the problem was solved.

When asked if the string stayed in that position Ken wrote, "On mine, the string stayed out of the groove but only because of the 'bearing' angle of that string across the saddle, based on the where that string is anchored in the tailpiece of the bridge system. In my case, the geometry was such that the unsaddled string had a straighter run to the tail, so it wants to stay out.  HOWEVER, I do recommend cutting a new notch for two reasons: it keeps the string in place on a heavy down stroke near the bridge; and it maintains the original string height."

Nylon Tuning Machine Bushing Replacement
A Hot Tip from Philip Snyder

"During the re-stringing of my 12 the other day an unfortunate thing happened: the nylon bushing that separates the tuning key from the machine-head housing broke. This bushing not only provides smooth operation of the tuner but it also acts as a spacer. As insignificant as it may seem it's actually an important part."

"Instantly I began going over my choices to resolve this problem. I scoured the internet looking for a source for these bushings but found nothing. From there my path went directly to replacing all of the fundamental tuners, as they are only sold in sets of four! I just couldn't justify spending $45.00 to replace a 1¢ part."

"At that point the creative juices kicked in. In rummaging through all sorts of parts I found a pack of four 10-24 Nylock nuts. The nylon inserts in these nuts appeared to be roughly the same size as the bushing I was trying to replace. I took one to a lathe and slowly began machining off the crimped lip that holds the nylon insert in place. As it turns out, the O.D. (outside diameter) of the insert was just about exactly the same size as the tuner bushing, but the I.D. (inside diameter) needed to be opened up some to accommodate the size of the shaft that fits into the tuning key. This was difficult to do with the insert loose so on the next try I reamed out the I.D. before I removed the insert from the nut."

"And there it was... a perfect replacement nylon bushing for my tuning machine. Not only is it the correct size but it is also made of a higher-quality grade of nylon and it was FREE!"

Lubricating The Nut
A Hot Tip from Philip Snyder
"Many stringed-instrument players experience tuning issues that are caused by a variety of variables. One factor in the tuning equation is the nut. The string grooves in the nut are sized accordingly to the gauge of the strings applied at the factory. Usually, although not always, keeping with these exact gauges will reduce the likelihood of tuning problems concerning the nut. However, most players over time will begin to experiment with a variety of gauges to find what suits their needs best. Since most manufacturers use lighter gauge strings, most changes in gauge by the player will be towards the heavier side. This causes a pinching of the strings at the nut. This pinching can produce a 'pinging' sound when tuning the instrument and cause the pitch of the string to jump dramatically during tuning. This can make it difficult to tune the instrument, especially when you have 12 strings to go through."
"Here's a cheap and reliable solution. Carefully pull each string out of its groove in the nut one at a time. Apply a small amount of regular Chap-Stick to the groove with a small flat-head screwdriver. Wipe away any excess and gently return the string to its groove. The Chap-Stick will not corrode the string and will provide ample lubrication for the life of the string. You should repeat this procedure each time you change strings."

"Having the nut re-grooved to fit new string gauge specifications is not advisable unless you are an experienced player and know for certain what gauges you will be sticking with. Even after having this modification done the Chap-Stick trick is still a useful tip."

Tuner Maintenance
A Hot Tip from Bob Nimmo

"When changing strings, it's a good idea to check the ring nuts on your tuners as well as the screws on the back. I assume it's due to the massive tension as well as the vibration, but I'm amazed at how loose these things often are. I also tighten the screws on the string retainer at the bridge."

String Changing Made Easier
A Hot Tip from Mark Rowe

Tired of twisted octave pairs and disorderly arrangements?


"This simple trick makes string changing easier. Take a low-octave E string that has outlived its usefulness. Cut it to a length of about three inches. It should fit through the ball ends of most brands and gauges of strings, but if it's too snug the low A string will work just fine. Use this Guide to line up the new strings as you change them. I always start with the E's and work my way across the neck. After the entire 12 strings have been lined up and changed just remove the Guide."

"You can also cut the Guide a bit shorter, leave it in place and then put a 90° bend in it. This way the new strings will be "locked" into place between the ball and the bend."

WD-40 and the 12-String Bass
A Hot Tip from Jamie Hunting

WD-40 is widely used throughout many different industries to maintain equipment in top working order. Veteran 12-string bassist Jamie Hunting sent in this Hot Tip:

"I use the stuff on all of my instruments and carry a small can in all cases and it is wonderful. It preserves strings and also acts as finger ease. It works great. Try it. It keeps the machinery in tip top condition. I don't put it on my cornflakes although it is not out of the question! That's a joke."

Adjusting String Spacing For FREE
A Hot Tip from Philip Snyder

"For those of you who like the idea that the octave strings should be spaced a little further away from the fundamental strings here's one you can try and it doesn't cost a thing! Take a black medium gauge pick. Gibson makes them. Cut it into four tiny squares about 1/8" x 1/8". Prying your octaves away from your fundamental string with you fingers near the bridge, gently wedge the pick-piece / shim in between the saddles until it is just below the surface. Voilą! Instant wide string spacing - and with no ugly side effects!"

"In fact, this also solves another problem I've noticed about 12-string basses - saddle rattle! Some saddles rattle against each other as you play, some don't. No more! The shim insulates the saddles and prevents them from vibrating against each other thus totally eliminating any buzzing you might be getting from the bridge! Try it, it really works. If you aren't completely thrilled it is also totally reversible without any harm to the bridge."

"After this modification the string spacing as measured at the bridge saddles from string center to string center measures 3/32" between each pair of octave strings, 5/32" between each fundamental string and its nearest octave string, and 11/32" between each course of three strings."

Hamer "PS Custom" Pickguard
Directions for making a custom pickguard for your Hamer CH-12 or B12L Chaparral Bass
A Hot Tip from Philip Snyder

"Here is the pattern for the pickguard and the directions for making it. You may want to go to the Warmoth website to see what material options are available."

"Print out the pattern and cut it out. Fit the paper pattern on your bass to see that the openings for the pickups line up and fit properly. Make any adjustments needed and trace the revised pattern on another sheet of paper. Cut out the new pattern and trace it onto the clear protective film on the face of the blank pickguard material of your choice. Also mark where the screws will go. A Sharpie is good for this."

"Drill a couple of small holes in the area outside of the pickguard and where the pickguard screws will go on the finished piece. Be sure that the holes in the pickguard area are the correct size for the screws you will be using to attach it to the bass. Pickguard screws can be purchased at any music store, and for this design you will need six of them. Screw the material to a piece of wood that is at least as large as the pickguard area, a 1x6 piece of lumber makes a good backing. This will prevent the material from splintering while cutting."

"Using a band saw, cut the pickguard out following the lines drawn on the film. Go slowly! Unless you have lots of material laying around this is a one-shot deal."

"Take the cut pickguard and countersink the screw holes so that the screws fit flush with the face of the pickguard. Be sure to use a sharp tool and go slowly as this can splinter the material as well. Then take a medium file and carefully file an even bevel around the pickguard. Don't bevel the area around the pickups. After that take a very fine piece of sandpaper and smooth out the bevel to a professional finish."

"Lay the pickguard on the bass and mark the screw holes in the instrument with a small nail. Drill the holes ¼" deep into the body and attach the pickguard. With the leftover material, trace the stock truss-rod cover on the protective film and repeat the steps above to make a matching truss-rod cover for the headstock."

Doug Pinnick of King's X And Philip