Best 12 String Electric Guitars
As guitarists, we’re always on the lookout for another great sounding guitar, and although there’s nothing new in the idea of a 12-string electric guitar, it’s something worth considering. Just remember those sweet sounds from Jimmy Page’s double necked guitar (6-string and 12-string) on “Stairway to Heaven”. And it doesn’t stop there, other songs that have included the use of a 12-string guitar include;
- Hotel California – The Eagles
- Ticket To Ride – The Beatles
- Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
- Wanted Dead Or Alive – Bon Jovi
- Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
- More Than A Feeling – Boston
- And Many More
Recommended 12 String Electric Guitars
Danelectro DC59 12-String Guitar Red
- '59 style double-cutaway body made of laminated wood Vintage textured tape binding on the side Maple bolt-on neck Elongated "bottle" headstock Rosewood fretboard Dot inlays Lipstick tube pickups Dual/concentric "stacked " master volume and tone controls with 3-way toggle switch Matte finish Nut width: 1-3/4" Scale length: 25" (635mm) Satin hardware Gotoh tuners Fully adjustable bridge Strung with D'Addario XL EXL150 regular light nickel wound strings
Rickenbacker 360/12 C63 Fireglo
Gretsch G5422G-12 Electromatic Classic Double Cut 12-String Walnut Stain
- 12-string Hollowbody Electric Guitar with Maple Top
- 2 Humbucking Pickups - Walnut Stain
- Laurel Fretboard
- Maple Neck
Ibanez Artcore AS7312-TCD · Electric Guitar
- AS Artcore-12 set-in neck Maple top/back/sides Medium frets Bound Rosewood fretboard Pearl dot inlay ART-12 bridge ACH1 neck pu ACH2 bridge pu Individual volume and tone controls with 3-way pickup selector Case sold separately
- Maple top/back/sides
- Medium frets
- Bound Rosewood fretboard
- Pearl dot inlay
What Are The Pros & Cons Of A 12-String Electric Guitar?
Before you make a decision on whether a 12-string electric guitar is right for you or not, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of an electric 12-string guitar.
What Are The Advantages Of Playing An Electric 12-String Guitar?
The advantages of playing an electric 12-string include;
- A richer, fuller sound
- Sounds like 2 guitars playing at once
- Easy to learn if you are already playing a 6-string
- Perfect for adding sound and tone
- Can be used in many genres
What Are The Disadvantages Of Playing An Electric 12-String Guitar?
The disadvantages of playing an electric 12-string guitar include;
- Needs to be perfectly tuned to sound good
- Takes twice as long to restring
- Increased tension on the strings (requires extra finger strength)
- Wider neck (can be difficult for small hands)
- Harder to execute certain techniques (string bending etc)
Why Should You Buy A 12-String Electric Guitar?
If you’re in the market for a 12-string electric guitar, you probably already play the guitar but want to have a go at playing a 12-string. You’re probably looking to create a fuller, richer sound that’s only really possible by using a 12-string. The sounds created by a 12-string are far more melodic than on a 6-string and an electric 12-string can be modified further via effects pedals or modellers.
12-String Electric Guitar Buyers Guide
We don’t need to sell you on the idea of an electric 12-string, or you wouldn’t be reading this article. So let’s get straight into what you should be looking at to get the best from your electric 12-string.
How Does It Play?
This is the most important feature of any guitar, but particularly a 12-string. The whole point of buying a 12-string is to play it and sound good while playing it. Let’s face it, guitar manufacturers know how to make any instrument look great, but the important part is how they play, not how they look.
You need to check every fret on each and every string, look for fret buzz or any dead spots.if there are any problems like that, they can be fixed by a visit to a luthier but that’s extra expense and aggravation that could be avoided at the very start.
How many frets are there? 12-string electric guitars have fret numbers that range from 17 to 24, that’s 7 semitones difference.
The next thing to check is the height of the action, if the action is too high, you’re going to struggle to press all 12 strings down. Granted, you can adjust the bridge or saddle but only so far. Again it’s better to not have that problem in the first place.
Then check the intonation or how true to pitch it sounds across the fretboard. Check the open stringed note against the same note on the 12th fret of the same string. It could be fine and sounds the same (but an octave higher) and that’s great. If it sounds way off however, you might want to swerve that particular instrument.
How Are The Electrics?
The first and most obvious place to check with any electric guitar is the jack socket. Does a jack plug fit in snugly or is it loose? If it is loose, look at a different model no matter what the salesman says a brand new guitar shouldn’t have a loose jack socket. Plus getting the socket tightened usually takes an expert to do properly which is an extra, unnecessary expense.
Check that the volume and tone controls all work correctly, there should be no crackling or phasing in and out when in use. Don’t forget to check the pick-up selector and be sure it works properly in each position (bridge, neck and mix of both).
Check The Hardware
Try every machine head, you’re looking for the Goldilocks feel, not too loose and not too tight. If they’re too loose you will probably experience problems at some point in the future. Too tight and not only will tuning up be an epic workout, but eventually they will seize up and need replacing. Check also for a smooth action when you turn the head, not a jerky shift of pitch.
Also the position of the machine heads makes a huge difference to how comfortable it is to restring and tune the guitar. With 12 machine heads on the headstock space is going to be tight, but on better quality 12-strings the machine heads are positioned at an angle to create more space.
Check to see what material the nut is made from, cheaper models use plastic while better quality instruments use bone. Bone is the best material for the nut as it has great sustaining qualities and will last the longest too. With that said, as long as the plastic used is as dense as possible it will last a long while and give a great sound with plenty of sustain.
There is no right or wrong body shape for an electric 12-string or 6-string for that matter. Just the correct shape for you. How does it feel when you play it? Or, if you’re buying it online, does the shape look like it will suit you? Where are the cutaways? How many frets does it have? Does it have a short or long scale length?
How wide is the neck? This can make a huge difference when fretting any guitar, but with those extra 6 strings, it can be a deal breaker. It’s not only the width either, the thickness of the neck can make a great difference in playability as well.
You will probably be playing this guitar for some time and its weight will have an impact on how long you can play it. Also remember 12-strings have extra machine heads which increases the weight on the headstock. There are straps available that can be tied around the neck just below the headstock to help counterbalance this weight if you find it uncomfortable.
The difference in tonal quality between the various types of pick-ups is amazing. The choices in pick-ups for electric 12-strings are just as varied as for 6-string electrics. From single-coil, lipstick shape, soap bar shape, to humbuckers, the choice is yours.
How Much Does An Electric 12-String Guitar Cost?
As with all guitars, electric 12-strings vary a great deal in quality and price. You can pick up an unknown brand electric 12-string for around £120.00 with the price rising to around £3,500.00 for a well known brand.
How To Tune An Electric 12-String Guitar
The strings on a 12-string are tuned in the following fashion;
E3•E2 A3•A2 D4•D3 G4•G3 B3•B3 E4•E4
Starting from the thickest strings at the bottom (bass strings) the 4 lower strings are coupled with strings tuned one octave higher and the top 2 strings are coupled with the same pitch exactly.
Is It Harder To Play A 12-String Guitar?
You will find some difference when playing a 12-string compared to a 6-string. The extra strings create extra pressure on the fingers of the fretting hand, and the neck is usually wider on a 12-string. Soloing can cause problems due to the extra tension, which makes string bending more challenging. But with practice none of these becomes too much of an issue long-term.
How To Change The Strings On An Electric 12-String Guitar
We have found this to be the easiest and most convenient way to change the strings on an electric 12-string guitar. You will need;
- A new set of 12-strings
- String winder
- Enough space to work comfortably
- Lay New Strings In Order
Lay all 12 strings from the lowest to the highest to ensure you replace each one in the correct position. Usually there are 2 strings in each pack, the standard string and the octave higher string, so you should have 6 packs in order of thickness.
- Remove Old String
By removing just the one string you are going to change makes it simpler to be sure you are replacing the correct string each time.
- Stretch The New String
Once the string is secured at both ends, place your thumb on top of the string while gripping the string with your hand. Gently push down with the thumb while twisting the hand upwards.
- Use String Winder When Restringing
Using a string winder saves time, energy and is easier on your hands.
- Tune The String
Once the string is taught, tune it to the correct pitch using a tuner.
- Repeat For All 12 Strings
Repeat this process for each of the 12 strings.
- Check Tuning
Recheck the tuning and you’re finished.
Double Neck Guitars
If you fancy the convenience of switching from 6 to 12-string without changing guitars, a double neck guitar might be for you. The usual set up is the 12-string neck at the top and the 6-string below. The better quality double neck guitars have individual pick-up selectors for each neck.
The downsides to these are they’re cumbersome, awkward to play and they are quite a bit heavier than standard 6-string electric guitars.
Frequently Asked Questions
Guitarists who are famous for playing a 12-string guitar include; Jimmy Page, George Harrison, along with bands like The Eagles, Bon Jovi and Pink Floyd.
On Stairway to Heaven Jimmy Page used a Fender electric XII although it has been said he also used a Rickenbacker 12-string too.