Recently I’ve been planning to get myself one 12 string acoustic guitar. However, I had a few questions and concerns about it. It’s perfectly natural to be suspicious about everything new at first.
Is getting yourself a 12 string guitar worth it? Or is it just a waste of money?
In this article I’m going to try to answer all of the concerns related to this. I’m going to present you all of the differences I noticed between regular, 6 string, guitar and a 12 string guitar.
First major difference between 12 string and 6 string guitar is the difference in shape and structure. 12 string guitar has 12 strings. On the headstock of a 12 string guitar you can see there are 12 tuning posts, one for each string.
First four (four thickest) pairs of strings (low E, A, D and G) have their second string tuned an octave higher. So basically, you have one regular string, like on a 6 string guitar, accompanied with the other string, tuned one octave higher.
Second major structural difference is the neck. 12 string guitars have wider neck. That’s kind of what to expect, since there are twice as much strings in comparison with 6 string guitar.
Wider neck can be an issue for some beginners, but we’ll get into that later on.
12 string guitar is tuned the same way as the regular, 6 string, guitar. However, it is much tedious to restring and tune up a 12 string guitar. There are twice as much strings to setup and tune!
Also, it’s hard to keep the pairs in tune. For example, you tune your G strings, and after a while you hear that one of your G strings is slightly out of tune, while the other is fine.
That can become frustrating. On a 6 string guitar that’s not that big issue. Although, it can become, see this article from this page.
If you’re not so patient, then perhaps you might want to skip it. Or just take it to a guitar center and pay for the restringing and tuning.
Anyway, it can really become tiring and irritating to tune up a 12 string guitar, so keep that in mind.
Playing style is significantly different on a 12 string guitar. On a 6 string guitar you can play nearly everything you want (if you’re technically good enough).
On the other hand, on a 12 string guitar it is much harder to perform various guitar techniques. Bending, soloing, legato etc.
12 string guitar is ideal for strumming and simple picking. It is meant to be used as a strumming instrument. You get that rich, fuller sound on it.
Bending is something you just have to forget if you want to get yourself a 12 string guitar. Why is that so?
It’s because it’s much harder to perform bending on a pair of strings. There is a twice as much tension for each bend, and also you will have to bend on a wider space, since two strings take more space than one string.
If you’re a guitar player, you know that it comes natural to you to bend strings now and then. If you’re a beginner, your fingers are probably too weak to bend even a one string on a regular 6 string guitar.
Take that into your account. See the article from this page about bending:
They wouldn’t make 12 string guitars if the sound coming out of them remains the same.
12 string guitar have a richer and fuller sound. It sounds more like a harpsichord. Guitar harpsichord, to be more precise.
Anyway, that’s the main advantage of a 12 string guitar, in my opinion. The sound you get is louder and more beautiful. Take a look at this cool video, where you will hear exactly how a 12 string guitar sounds like.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can A Beginner Play a 12 String Guitar?
It is probably best for a beginner to play a 6 string guitar first. Why? To play a 12 string guitar properly, you just have to have more playing experience.
Fretting a string is harder to perform on a 12 string guitar. Beginners often struggle with fretting, strumming, picking, bending and so on.
Barre chords, for example, are typical struggle every guitar beginner has to overcome through his playing experience.
In general, you have to be more accurate when playing a 12 string guitar.
You have to be able to crawl first to be able to walk later. That’s how the old saying goes. The same can be applied in this case. If you’re a beginner, wait until you become fairly good at 6 string guitar.
Regular 6 string acoustic guitar is the best guitar for a complete beginner. See the article:
There’s no point in getting yourself a 12 string guitar while you still don’t know how to play with ease. Anyway, check the article from this page to see if you’re a beginner or an intermediate.
What Is The Advantage Of a 12 String Guitar?
As I said before, the biggest advantage of a 12 string guitar is a sound coming out of it. Sound of a 12 string guitar is richer, fuller and louder than the sound coming out of a regular 6 string guitar.
Other than that, I cannot seem to find any additional advantage. What advantage do you need, other than sound? That’s why they make those guitars.
It’s up to you. Is the sound coming out of a 12 string guitar the sound you want? Then, go for it!
Should You Tune Down A 12 String Guitar?
12 string guitar has twice as much strings, and therefore, it has at least twice as much tension in its neck.
Should you tune it down? It depends. If you have an older model of some 12 string guitar, then perhaps it’s better to tune it down. How much should you tune down?
At least half a step. One full step is ideal. Some tune their 12 string guitars even 2 steps down.
If you have a really high quality, new model 12 string guitar, then it’s probably the same. New guitars are made better than old ones, when it comes to this.
Old 12 string guitars have usually a lot of problems, from action height, big tension and so on.
Can You Play 12 String Guitar The Same As a 6 String Guitar?
Yes, you can. You can remove 6 strings and leave the remaining six and play it as a regular 6 string guitar. However, you should keep in mind few things.
First, the tension. As it’s been stated above, 12 strings provide much bigger tension than just a 6 strings. Acoustic guitars have something that’s called a truss rod, inside their neck.
Truss rod provides a counter tension to the neck. Strings pull neck in one direction, while truss rod pulls the neck in the opposite direction.
If you remove 6 strings from your 12 string guitar, you’ll probably have to relieve some of the counter tension caused by truss rod.
If you don’t have experience in making minor guitar adjustments, I strongly advise you to take it to the professional guitar service where right actions will be performed.
Can You Use Capo On A 12 String Guitar?
Yes, you can use capo on a 12 string guitar. Especially if you tuned down your guitar before.
However, keep in mind that having a capo on a 12 string guitar can lower the action height.
Anyway, see this article from this page about capos on electric guitars:
Some Cool Songs That Use 12 String Guitars
There are many great songs that use 12 string guitars. Here are my favorites!
Wanted Dead Or Alive by Bon Jovi
Great cowboy rock song. Bon Jovi really nailed with this song. You can hear that fullness of sound coming out of Ritchie Sambora 12 string guitar.
Hear it on Youtube.
Ticket To Ride by The Beatles
The Beatles are, in my opinion, best band ever. And they also couldn’t resist the sound of a 12 string guitar. Ticket To Ride is their big hit.
You can hear this iconic 12 string guitar intro.
Mama, I’m Coming Home by Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy made this beautiful song with the help of a 12 string guitar. Its beautiful intro wouldn’t be that rich and beautiful if it weren’t for a 12 string guitar you can hear.
Hurricane by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is the man! You can hear the distant sound of a 12 string guitar under his voice in the rhythm section. It gives you that hurricane feeling.
More Than A Feeling by Boston
Everybody likes this song. Perhaps it’s because of the beautiful 12 string guitar intro? Check it out.
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
This is one of the greatest modern songs ever. Beautiful intro is played on a 12 string guitar.
And by the way, check this category of articles on this page. It may interest you.
I hope this article gave you an insight about differences between 12 string and a 6 string guitar. Let’s recap the most important ones:
12 string guitar has twice as much strings and also it has a slightly wider neck than a 6 string guitar.
Tuning a 12 string guitar is more tedious and tiring than tuning a regular 6 string guitar. Also, it can be frustrating to tune only one string in a pair.
- Playing Style
12 string guitar is perfect for strumming chords and a rhythm in general. It’s harder to perform solo, or string bending.
Bending is much harder to perform on a 12 string guitar. That’s because you have to bend not one string, but a pair of two strings. If you’re a beginner, you may want to keep this in mind, since your fingers are probably to weak to perform bending.
12 string guitar has richer, fuller and louder sound than a regular 6 string guitar. If you like that sound so much, go for a 12 string guitar.
If this article helped you in any way, I’m more than happy about it.
Cheers, and rock on!