Has it been your wish to be able to play the best 12 string acoustic guitar someday? Do you wonder if you could ever play a 12 string guitar when all you play is a 6-string guitar? Well, it is possible for you to learn and perform on a 12 string acoustic regardless of the guitar you can play now.
After all, a 12 string acoustic guitar is not as complicated as you think it might be. In fact, although you will need more force and effort to play it, you will feel like you are just playing a 6 string acoustic guitar once you get used to it. The reason behind this is that it isn’t about the method you use to play your 12-string guitar that matters but the quality of the final sound that you produce when playing your song.
Uses of a 12 String Acoustic Guitar
When the first 12-string guitar was introduced in America in the early 1900s, it was used by street performers and by vocalists as an accompaniment for folk and blues music. Today, people use it for varied genres such as the famous jazz and rock music.
This 12-string instrument has also become a vital musical instrument in solo performances. And also, it is always present in rock band performances. Moreover, it is regarded as an essential accompaniment in recordings because of the significant impact it brings on the quality of the sound.
Advantages of a 12 String Guitar
Even though the 6-string acoustic guitar is often preferred, the 12-string acoustic instrument does not lose its appeal among its enthusiasts and guitar lovers in general. The 12-string acoustic is more commonly used compared to its electric counterpart. In fact, it is favored by those musicians who want more out of their guitar because of the benefits it provides.
What are the benefits of using the best 12 string acoustic guitar?
- It can produce a combination of the low and high octaves sounds that are quite pleasing to the auditory senses.
- It can produce a variety of sounds that are not typical in a 6-string acoustic.
- This guitar can create a much louder volume when playing than a 6-string guitar.
- It can provide a more dramatic effect on the music because of its jangling sound.
- It is compatible with almost all music genres.
- The 12-strings guitar works best either as an accompaniment or as a solo instrument.
- Its sound is fuller than a 6-string instrument.
Main Focus When Playing a 12 String Guitar
Have you ever wondered what makes the “A Horse with No Name” by America sound so great? Are you fascinated by the rich acoustic sound of “Ocean” by John Butler? Well, they were played on the best 12 string acoustic guitar. They are unique and more appealing due to the effect of the sound that this guitar produces.
When you tweak the 12-string guitar, it produces a crispier and fuller sound than the 6-string guitar. This is because this model of guitar has paired strings (also called courses) which are responsible for creating better sound quality.
You should know that the notes on a 6-string acoustic guitar are also present in a 12-string acoustic guitar. The only difference is that each string pairs with a second string, hence, the term “12-string guitar.” The B and E strings pair with other strings of the same kind. Therefore, you play two notes of the same type every time you press down any note.
The four bottom strings (G D A and low E) also pairs with a second string that is found on another octave. As a result, each of the four bottom strings consists of a combination of a low octave string and a high octave string. Therefore, when you strum the strings, they create a more significant impact on the overall quality of the music.
Remember to use a thumb pick instead of fingerpicks when playing a 12-string guitar. For the octave 10th string, use the wired string alternative to avoid nuisance.
Points to Consider When Selecting the Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar
Although there are many good models of 12-string acoustic guitars on the market today, it does not mean that all of them will suit your needs. You should consider comparing different models of these guitars before opting to buy one.
When purchasing the best 12-string acoustic guitar for your needs, you shouldn’t limit your choice based on the design that you like. It is a good idea to consider other factors as well.
Read on to learn about these factors.
First, you need to know the reason why you want to buy a 12-string guitar. The following questions will you to reach a decision. “Why do you want to get a guitar?” Is it because you need it for your band practice? Or perhaps you want a second instrument apart from your other guitar? Well, it might also be that you want it as your first guitar so that you can learn to play during your spare time. Any reason can prompt you to buy one. Just make sure you justified it.
The price of 12-string guitars varies. There are affordable guitars and expensive ones. You need to set your budget so that you can purchase the one you can afford. However, if you have the money to buy the most expensive guitar, then go for it by all means.
Nothing can be more disappointing than buying a guitar that breaks too soon because it is an unreliable brand. It is important to select the best brand there is so that you can get the most durable and the highest quality acoustic guitar. Try to ask some guitar experts as they can give you some beneficial advice on what brand of guitar to choose.
The best 12-string guitar brand can cost a fortune, but it is worth it. However, you can get a good old guitar at less price than the original by looking at second-hand online stores. You should get an average quality brand if your budget is available, especially when you are the beginner.
It is also wise to base your choice on your expertise or experience. If you are starting to learn the basics of guitar playing, you most probably want to keep your budget to a minimum especially if you are going to own a guitar for the first time. However, when you have learned a lot about guitar playing and have improved over time, you most certainly want to get one of the high-end 12-string guitars.
The body is one of the most critical parts of the guitar as it affects the sound when you play as well as the quality of your playing. If you prefer a guitar with a louder and deeper tone, select the best 12-string acoustic guitar that has a rather large soundboard. You should consider its shape and size very carefully.
If you have a small body frame, you will find it uncomfortable to play guitar with a large body. Therefore, make sure that you pick out a guitar that is neither too small nor too large for you. Check if it is comfortable to hold, not only when you are standing but also when sitting while playing it.
The top part of the best 12-string guitar matters a lot since it affects the quality of the tone. That is why the material used for the top part is very important. If you are very particular about the tone and volume of your guitar, you can never go wrong with the solid wood variety. The solid wood is more amazing because it tends to make the sound vibrate more.
On the other hand, the laminated variety can also do so much. You should take note that the solid wood costs more than the laminated one. If you are buying your first guitar, it is all right to start off with the laminated so that you do not get to spend much on it.
The size and thickness of the neck differ from one acoustic guitar to another. It is dependent on the body of the instrument. You should know that the sound is not affected by the structure and size of the neck at all. However, you should consider it very carefully since it can affect the way you play your guitar.
It will give you much discomfort if its size is rather large for your small hands. It is even worse if you cannot play well because it feels very awkward to hold. Therefore, check if it feels comfortable on your hands or not.
Best 12 String Guitar Songs
Everything has been done on this guitar lists. There is a list of which is the fastest, the best, the best riff, the solo, and so on. But there isn’t much information on the best 12-string guitar songs. Here are some of them.
When considering these songs, we looked at how prevalent the 12-string guitar is in these hits and how influential the songs are at inspiring beginners to venture into the world of 12-string guitar.
Let’s take a look.
1. The Eagles – Hotel California
Topping our list is “Hotel California” by The Eagles, which was released as a single in 1977. Its opening theme begins with a long 12-string guitar intro which was introduced as an instrumental piece by the lead guitarist Don Felder. The song further made a hit by the dual electric guitars by Felder and Walsh which complements the catchy lyric electric melodies throughout the chorus and verse. It also takes the spotlight.
2. The Beatles – Ticket to Ride
This hit begins with a four-act intro that repeats a unique single-measure guitar riff four times played by the gorgeous George’s Rickenbacker 12-string guitar. Swiftly, a spectacular drum roll from Ringo introduces the rest of the band for the final two acts of the intro. “Ticket to Ride” was released in 1965.
3. Led Zeppelin – Over the Hills and Far Away
Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away”, the third single in the album “Houses of the Holy”, was released in 1973. In the song, Page plays a 6-string guitar intro with a sweet melody then repeats the intro with a 12-string guitar in unison. The rest of the band enters for the next verse.
4. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
“Wish You Were Here” starts with a unique chord intro from Gilmour’s 12-string guitar, fine-tuned to sound as if it’s coming from a vehicle stereo. The sound pops and crackles, and when another guitar comes into effect, the disparity between the two is thrown into shrill relief. The second one is too loud and blemish-free. The song was released in 1975.
5. The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn!
Commenting on this song, McGuinn revealed that the sound he has on the 12-string guitar came about because he played the 5-string banjo before he played the 12-string guitar. He had developed some rolling pick tricks which he applied to the guitar. If you listen carefully to this song, which was released in 1965, you will hear a rolling arpeggio design which is McGuinn playing his 12-string guitar.
6. Tom Petty-Free Falling
“Free Falling” is a Tom Petty’s 1989 hit that is quite simple. It contains just a few of 12-string guitar chords that a beginner can handle with ease. As a simple song, it provides enough humor for a laugh. And that exactly what Tom wanted when he composed it.
12 String vs 6 String
When it is time to choose an acoustic guitar, you can either go for a 6-string guitar or a 12-string one. There are a few differences between these two types of guitars. The major ones are:
You will notice that a 6-string guitar comes in a wide range of tonal nuances from smooth and warm, too bright and punchy and everything in between. A 12-string instrument also provides a coveted tonal variation that is generally full-sounding and usually with an oomph that is the outcome of its exclusive construction.
The 12-string guitar doubles up the strings in 6 pairs with the four lower strings doubles being tuned an octave higher than the ordinary 6-string instrument tuning.
Structurally, a 6-string guitar is different from a 12-string model. First, you can easily figure out that the headstock on 12-string guitars is longer than the 6-string models to accommodate the tuning heads and all the strings. The body and neck of the 12-string instrument also need to be strengthened slightly more to deal with the extreme string tension, and sometimes these necks come with a shorter scale to minimize tension.
The major difference that you will notice when playing either of the guitars is the width of their necks. A 12-string model has a wider neck that makes it a bit trickier to fret when compared to a 6-string guitar.
The Pros and Cons
The benefits of a 12-string guitar are obvious – it is more versatile, capable of more complex and fuller sounds, and isn’t hard to fingerpick than a 6-string model.
However, there are some things that make a 6-string guitar a better choice. For example, a 12-string guitar takes time to tune. It also costs more than a 6-string guitar and it makes it harder to pull off some bends due to the increased density between the strings while sounding clean.
However, with the perfect songs, a 12-string guitar is a melodic blessing, to say the least. But you should be prepared for a more thorough maintenance session.
12 String Guitar Chords
Since all the string notes of a 12-string guitar are similar, only doubled (E, E, A, A, D, D, G, G, B, B, E, E), all of the chords retain the original shapes. For instance, take a G Major chord. If you played this on your 12-string guitar, the notes struck will still be G, B, D, G, B, and G.
You need to alter your form when playing a note on a 12-string guitar. Although you will still use your fingertip, you will only use the pad of it. It means that you need to put a slight bend on your finger to fret the paired notes.
Ensure that you begin with a single note when trying this. You can gradually move to two fretted pairs of the 12-string guitar using your middle and forefinger, and also move the 2 note shape around. With that, you will achieve a comfortable feel for the uniquely paired strings.
Once comfortable, incorporated your ring finger onto the third, and also remember to move the shape around, and lastly, add your pinky.
Although there is no exact documentation regarding the first 12-string guitar organization, there exists a theory about its Mexican origin because of its resemblance to the Mexican instruments that consist of double strings. Another theory is that it might have been developed by the Italian mandolin instrument that also includes paired strings.
In fact, its origin is not precisely traced. People used the best 12 string acoustic guitar over centuries. A few musicians use it in the past as a mere accompaniment. Today, most musicians use it as an essential part of a solo performance or any music recording. Therefore, learning how to play a 12-string acoustic guitar is definitely worth your time and effort.
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