12 String Guitars: The Ultimate Guide & FAQ

12 string guitars

12 string guitars are becoming more popular due to talented players like John Butler. These guitars are known for their rich sound, and more obviously, the fact that they have 12 strings rather than the ordinary 6 which you’d typically find on a guitar.

However, for players who are less familiar with 12 string guitars, many questions come up about these instruments. In this post, we’ll be taking a look at the most common question players ask about 12 string guitars, and giving in depth answers to help you along your guitar journey.

What Are 12 String Guitars Used For?

Many players what a 12 string guitar is used for, what the benefits are, and what these guitars sound like. For the most part, a 12 string guitar offers a richer fullness of sound and resonance compared to its 6 string counterparts. This is simply because there are twice as many strings producing music compared to an ordinary guitar.

Most players use their 12 strings largely for rhythm guitar. String bending and intricate alternate or flat picking can be difficult with a 12 string, so they’re most often used in strumming the rhythm parts of songs. However, fingerstyle players like John Butler also favor a 12 string because of the unique sounds it can produce when fingerpicking.

Are 12 String Guitars Harder to Play?

If you’re used to playing a 6 string guitar, adjusting to the 12 string will likely take some time. These guitars have more total string tension, and the necks also tend to be a bit wider on a 12 string. This means that 12 string guitars requires more force when it comes to fretting chords and notes.

Are 12 String Guitar Strings Different? How so?

On a 12 string guitar, the two highest strings, (the high E and B) are doubled, meaning there are two ‘pairs’ of the same exact string. For the lower four strings (EADG), however, each one a double that’s one octave higher.

To make it easy, many string manufacturers make 12 string sets of guitar strings for easy purchase. My favorite is the Ernie Ball Earthwood 12 string pack (on Amazon):

Ernie Ball Earthwood 12 String Pack (on Amazon)

Are 12 String Guitars Worth It?

Whether a 12 string guitar is worth it will depend on your goals and your desired use. Many players use their 12 strings for specific songs or composing purposes. Their “main axe” is usually still a 6 string, while the 12 string is pulled out on special occasions or songs that suit its unique sound.

Unless you plan on specializing on the 12 string guitar, it’s probably best to get a 6 string as your first instrument. But if you’ve been playing the 6 string for a while and want to add to your collection, the 6 string can be a great challenge and a way to expand your range of sounds available to you.

How Are 12 String Guitars Tuned?

Most players leave their 12 strings in standard tuning (EADGBE). If you choose to do this, the only difference is that each string now has a “pair” tuned to the same note, or up one octave. This still results in standard tuning.

Can You Convert A 12 String Guitar To A 6 String?

Another option available is converting the 12 string back into a 6 string guitar. This can be done by removing half of the strings (or each strings “pair”) and thus converting the twelve string into a six string guitar. However, this converted guitar may be difficult to play, as it will have very wide string spacing, and some players don’t care for the tone.

What’s The Best 12 String Guitar?

If you’re buying your first 12 string, it may be best to go with a middle of the road option in terms of price, simply because you’re new to the instrument. That said, there are a lot of affordable options out there. My favorite choice is the Fender CD-60SCE-12 (on Amazon).

My #1 Choice? The Fender CD-60SCE-12 (on Amazon)

It’s an acoustic-electric, and also comes with a full kit (strap, tuner, cables, picks, etc). The cut away dreadnought allows you to get high up on the high quality rosewood fretboard. You can read more about the Fender CD-60SCE-12 on Amazon.

Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?

Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out a few of my favorite resources below:

The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings – A unique polymer coating makes these guitar strings last for months or even years at a time, making for an exceptional value. They provide the perfect mix of boom, range, twang, and brightness that acoustic music is known for. — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

The Best Acoustic Guitar – Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the Martin D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever… It’s an excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more. This is also what I play myself — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Chords, Tabs & Video Lessons for 100 Epic Songs – This free guide that I created for fellow guitarists gives you chords, tabs, and video lessons for the 100 best songs to learn on guitar… I spent many hours putting this guide together to help you get better at guitar, faster. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE

Fingerpicking vs Flatpicking Guitar – Learn which picking style is right for YOU by exploring examples, history, and popular players of each style. Discover essential techniques and pros and cons of each approach. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE

Corbin Buff

Corbin has played guitar for over a decade, and started writing about it on Acoustic World in an effort to help others. He lives and writes in western Montana.

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