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12 String action issue

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Estimable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 105
Topic starter  

I have a Yamaha 12-string acoustic. My wife got it for me for Christmas about 12 years ago.

The action on it appears to be getting harder. Can anything be done to improve this? Most of what I am finding says this is the nature of the 12-string beast and the best I can do is tune down a tone and capo up. I also hate to replace this since it has some sentimental value for me

Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 652

Twelve string guitars put a lot of tension on things, so in my limited experience, it's unusual for them to have especially low, or comfortable, action.

But if yours is actually raising, then you need to know why. Might be nothing important, could be REALLY important. Could wind up eventually damaging the guitar past repair.

Specifically. Give it a good visual inspection, and then start taking measurements. If you're not sure about things, get it to a good tech.

What my (beloved, now dead) 12 string did 15 or so years ago was to start bulging at the bridge. Is the top of your guitar flat? If it used to be, and isn't now, there's your problem. I'm under the impression that this is repairable, but hard. I don't know how to do it, and wouldn't be comfortable doing it myself; a good tech could probably help, though.

If the bridge isn't pulling up, it may be that the neck is bending forward. If you neck is too bowed, this may be your problem- and a decent tech may be able to correct it by adjusting the truss rod. THere are limits, though- some guitars are just a certain way.

If I'm reading this wrong, and your action has always been high (but isn't changing!) then you may not have any serious problems. Might look at height at the nut and the bridge, as well as neck relief...but it may just be the nature of the beast.

If it's changing, though, it may be more serious than that, and I'd want to know why if I were you.


Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1630

Yes, on 12 strings, and I know these Yamaha's, in 40 years had several 12's, a Pan, Framus, Washburns, '62Gibson (best with trapeze tailpiece), now I have a new Rickenbacker and a Crafter......... the tops tend to rise at the bridge, and/or the neck sinks down just ahead of the soundhole. Not much can be done.

You can shave the saddle if you haven't already, or shave the whole bridge top, but that becomes a key structural element in a 12, or get a neck re-set, or refret with frets that have expansion cleats, or crank the trussrod obviously, or use low tension strings, which are

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1089

Supposedly the newer ones are resistant to this kind of problem. I've had only one 12 string, and that is a crappy 20 year old plywood Gibson Epiphone that has dehydrated (my own fault :roll: ) and warped beyond help.

In deciding which new 12 string I want I've checked out a Seagull and Yamaha. Supposedly both can be tuned at concert pitch without any warping over time. I learned that 12 strings are very often tuned down a step and then capoed for concert pitch, to prevent the warping.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.