12 string guitar --- some resources (books, CD's, DVD's)

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12 string guitar --- some resources (books, CD's, DVD's)

Postby Oldbones » Thu Apr 02, 2015 9:12 pm

This thread, I suspect, will mostly be of interest (if that) to those of you who love the 12 string guitar.

Ever since 1963, I’ve developed an abiding interest in the instrument. Don’t get me wrong, I love and have both 6 string acoustics and an especially gorgeous PRS electric … but 12s have always been there as a companion in my life as an inveterate noodler.

It has therefore followed that over the span of years, I’ve seen, heard or acquired quite a lot of recordings and resources associated with 12 strings. The list that follows is in no way comprehensive; it just reflects my own idiosyncracies.

I hope others might find something here that they’d like to track down – or maybe it will trigger others to suggest some recording or resource that they’ve found which caught their interest:

So here goes …

I’ll start with a couple of resources associated with Leadbelly, oft cited as the original master and innovator on 12 string guitar. As far as books go, one of the most focused is almost certainly The Folksinger's Guide To The 12-String Guitar As Played by Leadbelly (Julius Lester/Pete Seeger 1965 Oak publications). This was published 50 years ago and is clearly of that period, but it is nevertheless an excellent guide to Leadbelly’s style of playing. It can’t be described as a ‘tutor’, just as a guide, but there is a wealth of detail about how Leadbelly played particular songs, licks and breaks. The book is still out there to be found, but isn’t cheap. However, I think there’s a version for the Kindle. There was, of course, never an accompanying audio resource, apart from Leadbelly’s own recordings. The other nearest thing is Pete Seeger’s own independent Folkways recording ‘12-String Guitar As Played By Lead Belly’. This is now available on CD or as an mp3 download. The two together form a very powerful resource.

Naturally, there are innumerable LP’s, CD’s, compilation CD’s, mp3s and YouTube examples of Leadbelly’s playing. Far too many to even attempt to itemise.

The problem with books which purport to be for players of the 12 string is that very few actually are. Many are simply collections of folk songs and tunes which you can arrange if you want to, or they’re slightly revamped tutors for 6 string guitars – but they’re definitely not specifically for the 12 string.

Here are a few examples of those that I think of as being either out-and-out frauds or, when I feel more charitable, as being mis-titled:

TWELVE-STRING GUITAR STYLES: 12-STRING GUITAR - Mr. Roger Holtmann & Mr. Roger Erb and 12-String Guitar (Guitar Recorded Versions) (2003 Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation) are ‘tutors’ which have rather a tenuous or (to be generous) 'patchy' association with 12 string playing. But for a grade one disappointment, things don’t get much more blatant than FLATPICKING TUNES FOR 12-STRING GUITAR (Mr. William Bay - 2000). This book is just a collection of well known folk tunes. Far better to look for straightforward collections such as those put together by Jerry Silverman.

If you’re already a competent fingerpicker on the 6 string guitar, then Fingerpicking 12-String Guitar Method (Tommy Flint 2001) might be worth a look – but fingerpicking on a 12 is definitely not for the beginner or those who are easily put off and the coverage in this book is, to say the least, rather too variable. As one Amazon reviewer wrote “... The ultimate 12-string fingerstyle book is probably still to be written…”

If you want a book that IS a bona fide collection of transcriptions of the key parts of 12 string instrumentals now available on CD, then ‘The Big 12 string guitar’ (Pacific Popular / Davon Music 1960’s) is the book to look for --- if you can find it!. The CD in question is “The Complete Twelve String Story” (2008 by Various Artists). This is a compilation of 2 vinyls released in the early 1960’s. It is also available as an mp3 download. (I played my own vinyls to the edge of destruction back in the 60’s and 70’s).

As for DVD’s featuring the 12 string guitar – I have four which are worth mentioning:

Techniques for Contemporary 12-String Guitar (Region 1) by Chris Proctor is OK, but it focuses almost exclusively on the use of alternate tunings. (Having said that, DADGAD on a 12 string is a mind-blowing sound). Chris focuses mainly on open G and C tunings and plays an AMAZING Taylor 12. He also uses thumbpick and Alaska fingerpicks, so it's interesting to see them and hear his comments. (The first track is a superb instrumental but is marred by a weird bell-like pinging which I can't fully explain. Is that the result of one of the Alaska picks? Personally, I feel that you either need to have at least a pair of 12’s to be able to easily and adequately experiment with alternate tunings OR you have to have the resilience to constantly retune your instrument and to accept the likelihood of strings going ‘boing’.

12-String Guitar Technique [Region 1] by Happy Traum is a much better proposition. As with the Leadbelly book, this is an old-style approach but is not worse for that. Happy focuses a lot on Leadbelly’s style and techniques, but he also covers a lot of other topics and styles.

The 12-String Guitar Of Roger Mcguinn (Region 1) has – not surprisingly – most relevance for owners and players of Rickenbacker electric 12 strings. However, it should also be of interest to acoustic players. He spends a lot of time going through his own recordings and teaching those tunes. A split screen is used extensively to good effect to show left and right hand technique. At the end, he switches to a gorgeous 1970 Martin D12-45 and features the Leadbelly song ‘On Easter morn he rose’. When playing ‘Mr Spaceman, a G string breaks and it’s good to see how he reacts. He also neatly demonstrates the wrap-over technique for the thumb. If you get this DVD make sure the TAB booklet is enclosed because there’s no pdf version on the disc.

12 string guitar and beyond by Paul Brett is partly a tutorial and partly a glimpse at Paul’s renowned collection of vintage 12 string guitars. The main problem is that the DVD plays as a single track, so there’s no way to skip to particular sections or to repeat those you want to watch several times. There are references to Paul’s partnership with John Joyce including a clip of John playing ‘Jubilee’ which can also be found on YouTube.

LP’s and CD’s that I have are as follows. (I can’t guarantee all LP’s will still be available, although many are available on CD or as mp3 downloads). Or you can trawl YouTube.

LPs (Not all exclusively feature 12s)

Billy Strange: 12 string guitar
Billy Strange: Funky 12 string guitar
Billy Strange: Railroad man
Bradley Wayne: 12 string guitar nanny
Fred Gerlach: Twelve-String Guitar: Folk Songs and Blues
Glen Campbell & the Folkswingers: 12 string guitar
Glen Campbell: Swinging 12 string guitar
Glen Campbell: The astounding 12 string guitar of ..
Gordon Giltrap: Fear of the dark
Gordon Giltrap: Perilous journey
Gordon Giltrap: Visionary
Leo Kottke: 6 and 12 string guitar
Leo Kottke: Balance
Leo Kottke: Best of (1971 – 1976)
Leo Kottke: Burnt Lips
Leo Kottke: Guitar music
Leo Kottke: Regards from Chuck Pink
Leo Kottke: Time step
Paul Brett:: Earth birth (The first 12 string guitar suite)
Paul Brett:: Interlife
The twelve string story (Volume 1)
The twelve string story (Volume 2)

Obviously, people like Leo Kottke released many more LP’s. These are just the ones I have.

CD’s (Some are CD releases or compilations of LP’s just listed)

Billy Strange: Railroad man
Billy Strange: Strange country
Blind Willie McTell: (The ultimate blues collection)
Gordon Giltrap: Perilous journey
Gordon Giltrap: Visionary & Fear of the dark
Jimmy Reed: 12 string guitar blues
Leadbelly: The definitive …
Ned Allat: 12 string guitar
Neil Jacobs: 12 string guitar
Shaun Phillips: I’m a loner ***
The complete 12 string story
The Folknicks: Twelve string guitar and banjo

There are far too many singers or groups who use a 12 string to even think of trying to list them all. For starters there are Steve Hackett, Andy Latimer (probably my favourite guitarist of all time, although he’s mostly known for his electric guitar playing), David Gilmour (joint favourite of all time), The Eagles, Anthony Phillips and so on and on and on …

*** One name which might have escaped your notice is Shaun Phillips who has been around for years. His rhythmic use of the 12 string for accompanying his singing is stunning on his first LP ‘I’m a loner’ (1965 Mono) although it’s now hard to find and the limited-release CD is prohibitively expensive. Luckily, he features quite a bit on YouTube.

And as for YouTube – it’s an amazing resource. There are all manner of uploads, demos, tutorials (of varying quality), reviews etc which feature the 12 string. I found a lot which featured audio recordings by one of my early 12 string heroes, Dick Rosmini, not to mention my first ever 12 string hero, Billy Strange. I’m also hoping that Justin Sandercoe expands his catalogue of tutorials for the 12 string.

Naughty, I know, but I’ve also assembled for myself 2 complete CD’s of 12 string music from audio grabs off Youtube, mostly featuring demos or performances by amateur players.

Finally – where do luminaries such as Bert Weedon and Chet Atkins feature in the history of the 12 string? Surely their forté was 6 stringers? Yes – but not exclusively … Bert, with his brother, wrote, recorded and published the classic ‘Twelve string shuffle’ plus an excellent version of Howard Roberts’ ‘Color him folky’. (Roberts’ own version is on that ‘Twelve String Story’ CD). Chet used a Gretsch 12 string for the odd track (and cover) on his LP/CD ‘Chet Atkins picks on the Beatles’.

So that’s my starter for 10 …
It isn't how fast you can play that counts - it's that you only play as fast as you need to play that is important.
Silence can be as eloquent as sound.

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