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Joe McHam's Keyless 12 String

BMI E9/B6 Universal Tuning

Joe "Mac" McHam is a steel player who lives in Houston, Texas. He sent me a chart of his very interesting "universal" 12 string tuning. Notice the heavy bass changes on Left Knee Left.

Joe Mac writes:

The BMI was made by the late Zane Beck. This guitar is probably the last keyless guitar that Zane made before he passed away. I owned the guitar from 1986 until 2000. It was a great little guitar. I now own a Kline S-12 with a similar setup on it.

            LKL    1    2    3    4    5    6   LKR   RKL  RKR  Vert 
1  .013 F# ______________________+G__________________________________
2  .015 D# ________________________________________________-C#_______
3  .010 G# ____________+A____________________________________________
4  .014 E  _+F______________+F#_______+E______________-Eb____________
5  .018 B  _______+C#_______+C#____________+C#__________________-A#__
6  .022 G# ____________+A__________________+A#__+A#__________________
7  .026 F# ______________________-F__________________________________
8  .030 E  ___________________________-D______________-Eb____________
9  .038 B  _+C____+C#______________________________________+D________
10 .046 G# ____________+A_______________________+A#__________________
11 .056 E  _-D#__________________+F________________________+F#_______
12 .068 B  _-G#__________________+C#_________________________________ 

The player typically shifts his foot position to work pedals 4 thru 6 when B6 tuning is played. The setup that I use is easy for me to play. The pedals are easy to reach as I have short legs. The BMI came with 7 pedals, but the 7th pedal was removed and placed on the LKR. This arrangement is as tricky as it seems...

I rarely used the 8th string being raised to F so I took it off and put the DO-WAH pedal on the LKL. You don't use string 4 with this pedal, or do you use the other strings with string 4. It may seem "odd-ball", but it works fine with me and you can use it with pedal 4, like you're suppose to.


I asked Mac for a bit of personal information to fill out the page. Turns out he's a very interesting, multi-faceted guy. Here's what he wrote:

I am Joe "Mac" McHam and I live in Houston, TX USA. I have been in Houston since August of 1994, after retiring from the US government. I retired with 32 years of federal service, of which 4 was in the Navy.

I have been playing pedal since 1967. I was able to take lessons from Julian Tharpe about a year. I use to drive from Sherman, TX to Dallas to get lessons once a month. I was able to tape the lessons and practice a lot. Played with local bands in the Sherman - Denison, Texas area. I played lead guitar for a few years until someone would let me play with them as a pedal steel player. I also played with some of the local groups around El Paso and Las Cruces, NM. I don't have any great claim to fame, but I've met a lot of musicians, and had a ton of fun trying to play pedal steel. I would recommend this most versatile instrument to anyone that wants a ton of challenge.

Currently, I am playing a BMI keyless that I've owned since 1986. I have a modified E9/B6th universal setup on it. The guitar is light weight, and plays really good.

I am married to the former "Joanie Breuer" of Shaker Heights, OH, and we have 5 beautiful grandchildren, Jaron 12, Christopher 11, and Kassandra 10, Chelsey 14, Brittany 18.

My other interest are flying, and "Ham" radio. I hold a Single Engine Land (SEL) Private Pilot license. My ham radio call is K5MAC.

Although I retired from federal service, I began a new career in Novell Network Administration. I am a Certified NetWare Administrator (CNA). I currently work for UT Health Science Center, Houston, Center For Health Promotion as their PC Specialist.

My email address is

Copyright ©1996 by Joe McHam, HTML by Bobby Lee

updated 17 July, 2001