Twin Six's Learning Log Rebooted

What’s in a name?
Twin Six is what I’ve named by 12-string, after a '32 Packard Dietrich owned by my late grandfather. Packard designated its 12-cylinder cars Twin Six (until '33, when they changed to Twelve).

The Twin Six is an Alvarez Yairi DY-76 from 1986. I also have a matching six-string Alvarez Yairi DY-39 from 1989. Both are Sitka Spruce top with Rosewood back & sides. Though I consider myself an acoustic guitarist, I also have a Squier Bullet Telecaster and Vox Valvetronix VT20X amp gifted to me by my brother, who’s a drummer.

String Theory.
Having experimented with different strings on both 12- and 6-string, I’ve found distinct differences among various makes & gauges of strings. I started with Martin SP 80/20 simply because that’s what the local store sold me. I ended up with an 11-string guitar because the G string snapped. Revisiting Martin strings, I have now snapped enough strings to have ruined three complete sets, two for 12-string and one for 6-string.

Fortunately, I’ve had better luck with DR, GHS, Ernie Ball, Rotosound, and D’Addario strings. I have yet to snap a single string from any of these makers. DR Sunbeams & Rotosound Jumbo Kings for 6-string and DR Rare Bronze & GHS Vintage Bronze for 12-string represent the best value for money in terms of resonance, ease of play, & longevity. Most recently, I’ve tried D’Addario Nickel Bronze for 6-string, which cost twice as much as other bronze strings. I’m skeptical of their claim that they bring out your guitar’s natural voice. Sure, it looks cool to have all silver strings, but in the final analysis, they’re just strings.

Take your pick.
I had a hard time learning to get along with picks, but thanks to Justin’s “Side of the thumb!” lesson about holding a pick and lots of practice with the metronome, I’ve acquired a collection of picks. I have all the Dunlop Tortex triangle picks, and have worn the logo off the yellow one. I’ve also worn the writing off the Dunlop Celluloid M, H, & XH. The XH is definitely my favorite. The Dunlop Primetone 1.0mm has a positive grip and crisp attack. The D’Andrea Ultra Plecs (1.5mm & 2.0mm) have a certain magic playability, while the D’Andrea Pro Plec 1.5mm has a mellower attack that makes quiet playing easy.

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here on 12-string is coming along after lots of practice.
Velvet Underground/Lou Reed: Sweet Jane and Heroin
Beatles: I Am the Walrus and Eleanor Rigby
Frank Zappa: Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder and Dumb All Over (power chord exercise)
Tom Waits: Chocolate Jesus
House of the Rising Sun fingerstyle
Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water (obligatory on electric)

Every time I’ve contemplated starting this, I’ve picked up the guitar to practice instead of writing.
At some point, I’ll pluck up the courage to record, though I’ve only got a webcam that will leave a lot to be desired in terms of sound quality.


Good to hear from you again, Jonathan. Glad to hear all is going well. Would love to hear some of the less frequently played songs on your repertoire.

And if you get to wanting to record and have a mobile phone you may find that is a better option. I have found that the video recorder of my phone, which while not old is not an upmarket brand or model, does an acceptable job, better than the audio recorder apps on the phone.

Thanks, David.

The mobile phone is my wife’s domain, so I have limited access. The webcam is always available, and would be better than nothing. Eventually, I may invest in a decent microphone setup, and plan to ask the local music shop for advice.

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Photos of my guitars. The matched Alvarez Yairi dreadnoughts.

Squier Bullet Telecaster & Vox Valvetronix VT20X.

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Hi Jonathan,
You did well…play the guitar first and write later :wink:…the right priority due to lack of time,
Have fun with everything :sunglasses:

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Thanks for sharing the pictures, Jonathan. I especially liked the pick-guard on the 12 string.

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Thanks, Rogier. Play first and write later, because writing properly takes a lot of time, especially on occasions when my keyboard goes wonky. :chipmunk:

They sound as good as they look. One thing I love is the AY logo inlaid in abalone, which remains unchanged in their current guitars.

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Indeed. I remember you posted a recording of Happy Birthday finger-style. Would love to hear more :wink:

Yes, here’s the video, shot with my webcam, so the sound quality leaves something to be desired, but it’s better than nothing.

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In other news, I’ve made a breakthrough in practice on the 12-string. Alternate picking of both strings of each course has proven quite a frustrating challenge. The other day, I managed successfully to pick the beginner finger-stretching exercise alternately with almost complete accuracy. This success has encouraged me to practice it more, and this is how we progress; we work through frustration until we experience an initial success, which drives us to keep practicing.


Just got a new Peterson Stroboclip HD tuner to replace the Snark that popped out of its clip and won’t go back. Using this new tuner is a bit of a learning curve, but it’s almost like getting a whole new instrument.

Those are good tuners :+1: That’s a good choice you made Jonathan.

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Yesterday I changed the strings on the Twin Six with SIT Golden Bronze 80/20 10-46 gauge. The package says “Bright & Deep Sound,” and this is so far an accurate description. I certainly prefer them to the Martin SP 80/20s they replaced. They’re also cheaper than comparable strings for 12-string. SIT stands for Stay In Tune, which, after only 24 hours, appears accurate.

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Cross-posted from the Gear section discussion of which picks we use.

I now have over 25 picks to choose from, which include all the DunlopTortex triangles, all the Dunlop Delrin 500, all four Dunlop Celluloid, Two Dunlop Ultex triangles (.60 & 1.0), One Dunlop Primetone 1.0. My new favorites are the D’Andrea Ultraplec (1.5 & 2.0), Proplec (only comes in 1.5), and the celluloid XH (1.12) and large triangle (.96).

The ones I use most lately are the D’Andrea Ultraplec 1.5 and the celluloid large triangle, which makes it relatively easy to pluck both courses of the 12-string consistently – and a maddening amount of daily practice.

You’d never guess that I once hated & dreaded picks.

Incidentally, the orange semicircle at the top is an ashtray from a Conran restaurant called Mezzo in the former Marquee Club. I use it to hold picks that are out of regular circulation.

Here’s some background on music in my family, starting with my great-great-grandfather, George Frederick Root.

According to family legend, he could not stand to listen to his children practicing their music, so he had a separate house built away from the main house that was nearly as large, known as the “music room.”

His grand-daughter, my grandmother, was trained as a concert pianist. She had nested concert grands in her & my grandfather’s Park Avenue apartment. One day, their friend George Gershwin paid them a visit, greatly excited about his latest composition, which is how my grandparents, Franklin Pierce Adams & Esther Root Adams, became the first audience ever to hear Rhapsody in Blue.

When I was a young child, my mother regularly played the piano and sang to me, which was my first experience of actual instrumental music. I used to try to make pleasing harmonies by playing certain keys at age four or five, long before I had any practical musical knowledge.

Around age 10, I started to learn French horn, and practiced daily at the piano. I was just about coming to terms with reading musical notation, but in my one and only band practice I recall being terrified by losing my place in the score. Then my family moved, and the only French horn in the new school was left-handed, and so I didn’t continue. Later, in my mid-teens, I started learning piano, and though I struggled mightily with reading musical notation, I found memorization easy.

In the latter half of my mid-twenties, I discovered the sitar through a friend, and a month later took a trip to India, had a sitar made for me, and was taking lessons. From that point on, I continued practicing the sitar for at least three hours per day. Later, I took up the guitar also, which I have resumed since the pandemic struck.

My brother has been playing the drums for about twenty years now. One brother-in-law (sister’s husband’s brother) has just retired as a school music teacher and is also a choir director. My sister’s husband plays the banjo. My wife’s sister’s husband plays trombone in a symphony orchestra.

That, for what it’s worth, is the true (and mercifully short) story of music in my family.


Nice. I have a 1990 DY-67.


Sweet! How do you like it? Any recordings of you playing it?

It’s a great guitar, and I think it’s only gotten better with age. I was living in Japan in 1990, but somewhat ironically I didn’t find this guitar in Japan, but in Branson Missouri after I returned to the states. I bought it used; a Branson musician was selling it via consignment to a local guitar store. Came with an awesome case.

A few years ago it needed some fret work, so I took it to a luthier at Texas Music Emporium in Houston. When I went to pick it up he asked me about the guitar, and told me it played and sounded awesome: equal to the best guitars he had in the shop.

I haven’t recorded with it a lot. Lately I’ve been favoring 00 or OM sized guitars, and playing a Martin OM-35 a lot. However, I did recently use it on a recording, along with the OM-35 I just mentioned. On this recording the DY-67 is the fingerstyle guitar panned slightly left. (The OM-35 is strummed and centered.) I do plan on using the DY-67 more going forward, though. Getting it out to record on that song reminded me what a fantastic instrument it is. That recording probably isn’t the best showcase for the guitar. Not only is it mixed in with the Martin and my vocal, but it also needed a string change. At the time I recorded I was too impatient and just went forward with somewhat dead-sounding strings.

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Sorry for the delayed response, Jason. Events keep occurring.

The Alvarez Yairi guitars of the '80s & '90s are exquisite instruments that represent great value for money. Their one Achilles heel is the epoxied neck, which makes a reset nearly impossible. The newer instruments are made with hide glue. There’s a Yairi appreciation thread on the Acoustic Guitar Forum: The K. Yairi / Alvarez Yairi appreciation thread - The Acoustic Guitar Forum

When a friend of mine who’s a much more accomplished guitarist than I played the Twin Six, my '86 DY-76, he remarked that people pay thousands of dollars for a 12-string with that tone & action. Then, in 2020, when I took up the guitar again, I took a gamble on a AY DY-39 6-string listed as an Alvarez on Ebay. It needed a lot of cleaning up and the tuning machines needed tightening, but the gamble paid off. Judging by the condition, the original owner must have been a vigorous strummer who played a lot, perhaps professionally, and must have died for the guitar to come up for sale as part of the estate – an educated guess. Often these Alvarez Yairi guitars are only sold when their owners die.

As for living in Japan, I spent a cumulative 15 years there, initially as a teacher of English conversation in Kyoto, and later as a translator in Yokohama and finally Tokyo. I also did not acquire any guitars while in Japan.