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Post new topic D10, E9/B6, Bb6, or E9 Extended ?
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Author Topic:  D10, E9/B6, Bb6, or E9 Extended ?
Darren Mortillaro


From:
Nevada, USA
Post  Posted 30 Jul 2021 3:02 pm    
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Thinking of ordering a new MSA. Since the wait time is over a year, I want to make sure I get the right thing.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and confused as to which setup to order. Seems U12 E9/B6 is the latest or most modern evolution of the instrument.

From the standpoint of harmonic flexibility and ergonomics, would you agree this is the way to go? I'm looking to be able to produce "modern" jazz voicings and am not really keen on re-learning a new setup every 5 years. Currently I'm on a S10 E9. I figure continually learning new tunings will only set me back in the long run.

I'm a big fan of Greg Leisz who apparently uses E9 extended. But I also recently spoke with Junior Knight at MSA and he recommended Bb6. Yet most of my favorite players from the 1960's were on D10 Sho-Buds, like Buddy Charleton.

Unlike regular 6 string guitar, the tuning on pedal steel doesn't seem well established. Can someone please advise? I don't know if I should go D10 or some variant of a 12 string. Is the safest bet going with Jeff Newman's E9/B6 U12 or should I opt for the older more traditional D10 E9 C6 setup?

I ideally want to pick the best of the lot and stick with it.
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Andrew Goulet


From:
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Post  Posted 30 Jul 2021 3:27 pm    
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Check out Johnny Cox's D13 copedent. He just posted the most recent iteration. I think it's the best, especially if you're starting out. It gives you a super universal tuning that doesn't require you to think in E or B; an E is an E. I play a simplified version by choice, and it's incredibly versatile.

Pedal steel has a wide range of tunings and it's a beautiful thing. But if I had to recommend one tuning for doing any kind of music, it would be the D13.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 30 Jul 2021 4:21 pm    
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When you come right down to it, it's more a matter of how you approach the tuning (and how good you are) than it is the tuning itself. D10's are still the most popular, but the 12-string tunings are gaining a little popularity. Meanwhile, for anyone that 10 strings are limiting (and I'm sure there are a few), here's Tommy White on a D10 playing what I would call some regular and pretty modern jazz chords and voicings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZoPTJNmiCw
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Andrew Goulet


From:
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Post  Posted 30 Jul 2021 4:29 pm    
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Donny is right on, here. There is no "best tuning". Part of learning to play is learning what you like and need to do what you want to do.
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Dave Hopping


From:
Colorado, USA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2021 7:55 am    
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I've been very happy with my E9/B6 12-string (an '07 Mullen RP).The main advantages for me over a D-10 are weight, portability, cost, complexity of setup/tuning, and inter-operability of B6 with E9- you can slip back and forth between tunings without switching necks or having to think a different tuning.Plus being able to get lower notes than the lead player!

Did a couple of tweaks to make the universal copedent act a little more like extended E9, as I'm mostly an E9 player, but the 6th tuning is "on call" for the times I do use it.

So a big "yes" for E9/B6 12 string! Winking


Last edited by Dave Hopping on 31 Jul 2021 11:32 am; edited 2 times in total
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Greg Cutshaw


From:
Corry, PA, USA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2021 8:23 am    
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The new MSA and Excel guitars are my favorites for different reasons. Depending on the features you like you may favor one brand over the other. As far as tunings go, since I started on a D-10 I've found the Excel S12 with a C6/E9 changeover lever to be a great choice. It offers ALL of the D-10 strings but also extends each tuning to 12 strings adding a low end to the E9th and restoring the G string on the top of C6 tuning while adding two chromatic/re-entrant strings on the top.

http://www.gregcutshaw.com/Excel%2012%20String%20Keyless/Excel%2012%20String%20Keyless.html

Listen to some of the sound samples in the links above to hear the Excel.
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Andrew Frost


From:
Toronto, Ontario
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2021 11:36 am    
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One thing you can do is study the various copedants and tunings in depth, so you can understand in detail what's going on with different approaches. You may have been doing this already. If you can see what common ground the different tunings share with the one you're familiar with ( E9 ) it may help your decision making.
Additionally, you may want to try incorporating some changes onto your current guitar if that is possible. I understand your reluctance to spend time on other tunings, but some experimentation with your current guitar may help guide you forward.
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Darren Mortillaro


From:
Nevada, USA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2021 2:06 pm    
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Thanks everyone for your advice and comments on this. I think the biggest problem is that I'm sort of flying blind. If I were more familiar with what the actual differences are between these tunings, I might be able to make a more informed choice as to what the benefits and compromises are. I suspect you can really only know this after having spent a lot of hours with these different setups.

Been messing with PSG for about 15 years, but still consider myself a beginner and have some reluctance diving into new tunings for fear of confusing myself even further. Wink
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Darren Mortillaro


From:
Nevada, USA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2021 4:08 pm    
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Had a little free time and drafted up this comparison between the open tunings of 5 different setups. This tells me the similarities in open strings, but not really how flexible they are comparatively speaking.

Thoughts?


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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2021 10:46 am    
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That's a great chart, Darren.

You may find this page from Larry Bell's website useful for understanding the Universal concept so you can gauge just how successful it is in giving you the intervals and pedal changes you might get on a C6 neck... while also giving you the E9 side.

"Derivation of E9/B6 from the C6 Tuning"
http://www.larrybell.org/id24.htm

His website has several other interesting ideas about the universal tuning and how to make a customized tuning chart for your steels, so you might do some poking around there.

Given your interest in getting extended Jazz chords, it seems that either a D10 with a C6 neck or 12-string Universal are the way to go (I can't comment on D13 since I haven't studied it... and very few people play it, even though it may be a wonderful option).

Those two tunings are quite similar in terms of chords and intervals you can get, and I don't think what little musical difference exists between them has been the main factor driving people to one or the other option. A lot of it has to do with history and inertia. Universals have always been made in fewer numbers and a lot of people are just more comfortable with the traditional D10 that their hero played, so go that route. They are widely available.

But if you're equally drawn to either choice, in my mind, the main difference is more physical/ergonomic than it is musical -- and those differences can be significant. Also, the mental framework of getting your head around the two tunings is slightly different with the universal maybe being simpler, at least for someone starting out with only E9 knowledge.

There are pros and cons to each (rather than one that's just automatically better for everyone), and it comes down to personal preference:

A 12U is smaller and lighter to move around than a D10. It's conceptually a beautiful thing. Why have two necks when the two tunings are so closely related? Lower your E-strings on the 12U and BOOM, you're in the 6th tuning with almost every change you have on a C6 neck (and it's just a half-step below C6, so it's even sonically similar).

But you may not like holding in the E-lower lever to play a lot of things on the 6th side of the universal tuning (getting a guitar with a lever-lock can help here). When I played universal, I struggled with looking down and getting oriented seeing 12 strings -- scrambled my brain, and I waited too long in my development to make the jump to 12 strings, but others have had zero problem. Also, I had trouble pulling the bar back toward me without it hanging on the ultra-fat 12th string (not to mention not liking the loud scraping noise of that string when sliding over it and the additional downward pressure required in the 1st fret to keep thinner strings from buzzing). These are all 'me' things and I abandoned the universal 12 after 3 years; others don't mind any of that. Really wanted to make it work because it makes so much sense on paper... but my leg cramped and my bar hand (sometimes) cramped.

A D10 might be easier to deal with on those counts... the physical/ergonomic aspect, but again, a lot of people have zero problems with that aspect of a universal. A D10 is a big heavy guitar. You may not care about that if it's never leaving your music room. And you're having to learn a new tuning with C6. Meanwhile, a lot of folks view the universal as 'one big tuning' and don't put it into a mental framework of 'the E9 side' and the 'B6 side.' Since E9 and B6 ARE so close to being two sides of the same coin, it can potentially be simpler to get your head around learning universal for someone who already knows E9.

And just to throw another idea out there, some Jazz players who love the universal tuning idea go for Bb6 ala Maurice Anderson. If you have a deep background with music that has a lot of horns, the Bb reference point for a universal tuning might make more sense to you than B.

.
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Darren Mortillaro


From:
Nevada, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 12:07 pm    
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Thanks Tucker for the lengthy reply. Having studied and played 6 string (jazz) guitar for most of my life, I'm somewhat accustomed to following suit with an established technique developed over several hundred years. I guess the exciting thing with PSG is that there's still a lot of room left for innovation. The downside is that it might end up taking longer to actually make music as you find a methodology that best suits you.

I'm still on the fence. I like jazz and country, which is why western swing is really the genera for me. A D10 is certainly a tried and true way to go.

I guess the real determining factor for me is which setup allows for the most ease of use from a physical technique standpoint, and which affords the most number and variety of voicings.

On regular guitar you can play just about any type of chord, but physically you are limited to the type or inversion. For instance there are nice piano voicings that just can't be physically played on guitar. It may be that I'm still a beginner, but on my E9 setup it seems there are some types of chords which can't be made (at least not with a 3 pedal 3 lever setup).

However in a band context it isn't always necessary or desirable to play every note in a chord. The 9,11, & 13th can always be thought of as a triad transposed up a whole step from the root. I just don't want to find myself in a situation where I waited 12 months for an MSA only to find I can't make a certain chord type.

I still do not know which setup (D10, U12, E9 EXT, or D13) affords the most variety of harmonic possibilities, and that's not even getting into which is easiest to do single note work or chord melodies.

Sounds like at some point I just have to take a leap of faith one way or the other. If I make the wrong decision it's possible it could be pretty costly in terms of time.
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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 4:23 pm    
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I think you'll be able to play all the chords you need on D10, 12U, or D13.

There have been threads on here debating D10 versus Universal, and the upshot is that there are very few things that you can play on one that you can't on the other. They are mostly musically equivalent. Even the pedals on a universal are set up to mimic C6 guitar -- that was the original idea, to put E9 and the C6-type intervals onto one neck, combining the features of both. So, it's no surprise that C6 and Universal share so much because that was the whole point.

On E9 Ext, you get into doing as you suggested: playing the upper extensions of more complex chords. So, maybe skip that one because it's not geared for getting all the tones in, say, a 13th chord when you need the ability to raise and lower all the upper extensions a half-step, all in one bar position.

D10's have been used in Western Swing for a long time, and honestly, most of the stuff was recorded on non-pedal so a pedaled guitar is way more than is actually necessary. I think you'll find it easy to play, but it still has massive chordal possibilities. Since you did express concern about the physical aspect, that puts one more mark in the column labeled "D10."

For Jazz, it seems the universal 12 is slightly more common than a C6 on a D10. It might be physically more demanding to play than doing the same thing on a D10 since most people tune them such that you need to hold in a knee lever to access the 6th tuning.

But it isn't required to go that route; you could tune it by default to the 6th tuning, and use the knee lever when you want to get to the E9 world. Your musical style would determine -- and you can easily re-rod it and change the guitar from one setting to another in 20 minutes if you change your mind.

That D13 that Johnny Cox is talking about in another thread looks like the next level of universal evolution. I'm not a Jazz player, but if I was, I would be taking a hard look at it. That tuning removes the E9/B6 universal tuning's need to often be holding in a knee lever while you're playing and hitting various pedals, so it might be the best of all worlds: easier to play than a typical E9/B6 universal, and gobs of chord possibilities.

Yes, I think you'll just have to jump in. If there's anybody in your area with a D10 or a 12-string, you should see if they'll let you sit at their guitar for 15 minutes. You can get a lot of info very quickly as to what feels right and what doesn't.

Since you're a jazz guitarist, you might want send a private message to Christopher Woitach here on the forum and ask for his thoughts. He's a professional jazz guitarist who took up steel and finally settled on Bb6 universal. He might give you better info on why Bb6, or the pros and cons of C6 or D13.
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Steve Knight

 

From:
NC
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 6:02 pm    
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Darren,

I'm sure you know that a lot of the outside notes in modern jazz are just inside notes from another key. In other words, playing a half-step or flat-fifth away from the chord in the tune will yeild some modern sounds. You can do this in any tuning.

Also, keep in mind that the changes you're seeing available to you with each copedant are on all 12 frets and not just the "root position" of the chord you're playing over. You probably know that already; but, I find myself finding new ways to approach the instrument every time I sit behind it.

If you're playing over a G7 chord, see what notes are available to you at each fret, and with every reasonable combination of pedals & levers you have in front of you...not to mention bar slants. There are a lot of options with all tunings. If you listen to Buddy Emmons on YouTube from the 1997 Live recording, check out his version of Pat Martino's "The Great Stream" to see what his (now standard) copedant can yield. "Here's That Rainy Day" from the same recording gives you an idea of applying his copedant over a standard ballad. Obviously, Paul Franklin is another great choice for inspiration!

There's a Joe Wright seminar from 2006 on YouTube that was really helpful to me. Most of all, it helped me get a better idea of what I need to do to improve my right hand technique. This is really important, as once the right hand is down pat, you can focus more on what and where you're playing on the instrument. Working on the standard chord grips and harmonizing scales in 3rds, 6ths and triads will open up the instrument to you if you haven't already tackled that. Once you have the basics down, you can move to those outside keys and find a lot of cool stuff.

There's a lot you can play on your existing E9. If you haven't spent a lot of time with it, you may want to take some lessons to see if it's familiarity with your instrument or the copedant that isn't giving you the jazz sounds you're chasing.

Good luck! I should be practicing...
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Darren Mortillaro


From:
Nevada, USA
Post  Posted 4 Aug 2021 12:46 am    
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Very cool. Thank you all for the feedback. On the one hand I want all options available on my setup, yet on the other I recognize that keeping it simple can also yield positive results.

I'm leaning towards either D13 or a D-10. If I opt for D13, I'll have to figure a lot out on my own as I don't expect there to be any books or transcriptions using that tuning. Maybe that's for the best, as it'll force me to really use my head and ears rather than my eyes on sheet music.
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J D Sauser


From:
Wellington, Florida
Post  Posted 4 Aug 2021 5:13 am    
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I think "exotic" tunings are something very personal and are the result of their creators' very unique personal choices. I use a fairly complex 12-string C6. I do NOT try to suggest anybody to take part or all of it over... MAYBE with the exception of tuning the bottom C to D (and altering the two pedal pulls which work on it accordingly.
The VAST majority of successful players play on a fairly "standard" tuning. Those who developed a specialty tuning and set up, could play on a "off the rack" D10 any time.
C6th or Bb6th... it's a very personal choice. Having played on C, B and Bb and in earlier years A6th... I can only say "I don't know"... to me it's timbre (different string gauges for different degrees of the tuning) and maybe the ability to reach "under" C with the lower tuning (as C is a common key). BETTER? Bah! If you are learning, you will find videos and lessons for C6th... you can transpose everything, but many uses open strings... so... not every technique transposes at the same chords.

The first question to ask yourself is, do you want the "6th"-tuning at all? Only for the fewest the question arrises if they want or not E9th.
Once you know you care for one of the tunings, go with a single neck, 10 or 12 string.
IF you want BOTH tuning, you have the choice of double necks or universal S12.

I have played both, and S12 Universal for the longest time. I came away from U12, not because it didn't serve me well but for mainly 2 reasons:
I lost interest in E9th (rare) and wanted to put more changes on my B6th. So, little by little I stripped my E9th of changes for the 6th-side and finally it was gone.
I think this is one of the rarest moves.
When you look at Jeff Newman's Universal... it was E9th first and a fairly basic C6th. Now many changes on E9th (predominantly the B-pedals, and the G# half drop are typical add-on B6th changes). But I believe that's the main critique on U12... IF it is E9th based, it's a fairly basic "C6th" setup. But on the other hand, Buddy Emmons only had about ONE more change on his C6th that you wouldn't find on an E9th U12.
Maurice Anderson, who is credited for the U12 idea, was a Bb6 player with a fairly unique setup. He incorporated the standard E9th changes and for commercial purposes also setup his 6th-side fairly standard on his E9th-U12. But he also always kept his Bb6th S12U (the reddish/beige MSA) which had just a very basic Eb9th (sometimes lacking the "C"-pedal) and several generations of very personal Bb6th changes.
HOWEVER, he had a reputation to be able to surprise even the "biggies" of being able to play a Bebop concert, generating eyebrow raising chords and playing in his very own style while using his E9th U12 (the green/black MSA).
Finally he came out wailing on a S12 NON-pedal steel he tuned to C6th with some alterations (D on the bottom and some inside-out "chromatics" which replicated the 7th-pedal pull on top)... playing like he was known to play, single notes, Bebop, Jazz, Country, Hawaiian and "HIS" chords, leaving everybody wondering what the pedals and knee levers had been for, for all the past decades.

SO..., to summarize and make a short story even longer, my suggestion would be:
Start with a STANDARD tuning, E9th and/or C6th. D10 or U12, so you can develop your playing and style. Guitars are plentiful, and we grow tired of even the most beautiful and best sounding horns... give it some time and once you know what you're doing and where you want to take it, you'll either stick to "standard" and play the bloody heck out of it or come up with something totally different of which you may convince yourself is far "superior" and play the living daylights out of that, or not.

MSA currently makes one of the consistently best sounding pedal steels I have ever heard. You will be very happy with them.
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Sam Conomo

 

From:
Queensland, Australia
Post  Posted 4 Aug 2021 3:41 pm     Steel tunings
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Hi Darren,
I would go with
Johnny cox D13 ,
Especially if you can
Think in number,then
It doesn't mater what
Key the tunings in.
Numbers are so much
Faster.music theory
Is a great tool ,but
,always turn it in to
Number as soon as you
Can.
Some sort of D13
As johnny cox does.
Sam.
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Matthew Walton


From:
Fort Worth, Texas
Post  Posted 6 Aug 2021 9:59 am    
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I am far from an expert in this, but what's the point of the internet if not shooting off your mouth in situations you're unqualified for??

This is from the perspective of someone who started on D10 pedal, switched to 12 string C6 non-pedal (Reece's tuning), and after a brief unfruitful detour in D10 land, is now venturing back into the pedal world with Bb6 universal. 95% of what I play at this point is western swing, one of my goals is to play jazz on a PSG, and I can take or leave most country. So salt my opinion appropriately.

In short: Of the copedents you listed, I think you'd probably be happiest with Bb6 universal. I know of Johnny Cox's D13, but am wholly unqualified to comment on it, so I won't.

Quote:
most of my favorite players from the 1960's were on D10 Sho-Buds

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the universal copedents weren't even really developed until the 1970s. So that could explain why nobody in the 60s was using them!

Quote:
I still do not know which setup (D10, U12, E9 EXT, or D13) affords the most variety of harmonic possibilities

I think D10 will not afford the most variety, at least with the assumption you're not switching necks mid-solo. To approach it from a simple numbers game, (which hopefully isn't too reductive), for a PSG with 9 and 5, on a typical D10 (with no shared pedals) you have up to 9 changes on the E9 neck and 10 changes on the C6 neck. On an S12, you have 14 changes on one neck. Count up all the permutations once you start mashing two pedals and two knee levers, and that difference gets pretty big!

If your primary interest is in jazz, I think you would be limiting yourself by separating your changes into two necks. Of course pros have demonstrated that you can play any given lick on either neck, but to my understanding, you'll find more interesting chords and higher extensions on a S12 with say 9 and 5 (or 9 and 7). Any time I sit down at my pedal steel, I can just mash a pedal and play some strings and it leaves me going "ooh, that's a cool chord... now loet me figure out what it is!"

Furthermore on the jazz front, between Bb6/Eb9 and E9/B6, consider how many jazz tunes are in Bb or Eb, especially if you're playing with horns. While you wouldn't be down there all the time, I think I find myself wishing I could get in the way low register in Bb or Eb, and boo-wahing down to the low G firmly in bass range. Also to my mind, starting in 6th territory with no knee lever makes for a more pleasant time in jazz land and venturing into Eb9 mode only when necessary. While of course understanding that the great Universal players are able to think of Universal as one copedent rather than a mode switch.
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1981 MSA “The Universal” 9/5 | 2009 MSA S-12 SuperSlide | 1978 MSA D-10 8/5 | Peavey Nashville 112 |Fender Twin Reverb Reissue | ZT Lunchbox
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Lynn Kasdorf


From:
Waterford Virginia, USA
Post  Posted 7 Aug 2021 7:08 am    
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There are a couple Buddy Emmons albums where he is playing an S12 Emmons. Was he using an e9/b6 or extended e9?

If it was a universal, I guess he grew tired of it because he was on D10 after that.

In the late 70s and 80s when I was getting started, I was on board with Jeff Newman's advocacy of the universal tuning. However, I recall thinking at the time, if it is so great, how come nobody plays it?

And today, are there any major players using a universal? All I ever see are D10s or S10s, Greg Leisz' S12 e9 is a notable exception.
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Last edited by Lynn Kasdorf on 7 Aug 2021 8:58 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dustin Rhodes


From:
Owasso OK
Post  Posted 7 Aug 2021 8:52 am    
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Lynn Kasdorf wrote:
There are a couple Buddy Emmons albums where he is playing an S12 Emmons. Was he using an e9/b6 or extended e9?

If it was a universal, I guess he grew tired of it because he was on D10 after that.

In the late 70s and 80s when I was getting started, I was on board with Jeff Newman's advocacy of the universal tuning. I recall thinking at the time, if it is so great, how come nobody plays it?

And today, are there any major players using a universal? All I ever see are D10s or S10s, Greg Leisz' S12 e9 is a notable exception.


Cowboy Eddie Long is a big proponent of the U12 tuning
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 7 Aug 2021 9:24 am    
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*And now for more highly unqualified advice*

In other threads similar to this discussion, one of the best suggestions I recall is to get a 12 string Uni or E9 Ext, and if those additional 2 strings just boggle your mind beyond hope, pull them off and play it as an S10, in whatever tuning. You can always add the other strings later. The main thing is to settle on something and dig in to the magic it holds.

On Big Chords....Unless you play solo style, how many times are you going to slam into a fully extended 6-note altered chord, even on standard guitar? Not many. Steel is no different. Usually the four top notes will get you by, and those can be reached in just about any standard copedent.

On single-note soloing, jazz players seem to prefer 6th tuning, but apparently pedal in to a 9th tuning quite often.

When I started playing, I remember thinking (as you do now) that a single tuning would be all my pea brain could handle. I settled on S12 E9 Ext. Now, I realize that I change the tuning every time I step on a pedal. Mashing AB isn’t just about going from I to IV. It changes the starting point in the entire tuning for developing a different set of ideas, and it requires a change in thinking about how each string relates to the others.

Now, I think I could sit down with C6 or Bb6 or D13, and be playing something coherent after a couple hours of noodling. I should give that a shot sometime.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 7 Aug 2021 5:33 pm    
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Quote:
on my E9 setup it seems there are some types of chords which can't be made (at least not with a 3 pedal 3 lever setup).


What chords ? The standard E9 tuning has more then meets the eye.
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