How to Play 12 String Guitar

Since the Oscar 12-string guitars of the 1990s, the instrument is here to stay as a mastery of irresistible sonic nuances. It is a perfect choice for bright, sharp and warm mellow sound. This guitar is rich in sound for diverse styles and genres that indulge guitarists, vocalists, performers, and audiences.

Perhaps we have to give it to the famous 12-string guitar innovations like Harmony, Martin, Guild, Gibson among others. Nevertheless, playing a 12-string guitar isn’t a walk in the park especially for those starting out.

A lively read through this piece will help unlock and decipher that intimidation usually associated with 12-string guitar playability.

If you are passionate about solo performances or rhythm play accompaniments, this guitar will have you onboard. To understand the guitar, the tuning, and playing basics, we will have to delve into it.

About the 12-string guitar

12-string guitars come with a wide neck than standard designs, arguably to accommodate the impact of the courses. It produces the jangling, crispier and fuller sound than a 6-string guitar.

If you are an ardent classical guitarist, you might find it a little easier to get along with a 12-string guitar. However, all won’t fall into place overnight, practice and mastery of fingerstyle techniques will be of great help. All you need is a quality model.

The position specifics

So, how do you play a 12-string guitar? It turns out it isn’t complicated to play as the conventional wisdom would like to postulate.

To play effectively a 12-string guitar, avoid lurching into a low sofa since this might restrict your hands and body responsive movement.

On the other hand, an arms chair might ruck up your elbows. A high stool would leave your legs hanging downwards losing the right body balance you need.

Therefore, to play 12-string guitars enjoyably ensure your hands are freer from any kind of hindrances. Advisably, your knees should be angled towards your body.

Tuning the guitar

How about tuning a 12-string guitar? If you opt for standard tuning, you will have to jingle the thick gauge strings to their respective notes. This refers to the E, A, D, G, B and E notes.

However, to tune the narrow notes it is done the same way but you have to exclude the high octave. This is important for that high pitched sound (commonly knowns as the ‘chorus’ sound).

For most guitarists, the standard tuning will involve the 12 strings in the order of E3-E2 A3-A2 D4-D3 G4-G3 B3-B3 E4-E4. You are never restricted to the options because you can do the testing and try what works out for you.

Tuning helps you familiarize with the strings and fret arrangements with respect to the notes. If you want it a little bit easy, consider using electric tuners since they are very precise.

How to Play: The basics

Taking some learning curve on the 12-string guitar notes is everything given they come with numbering for effortless mastery.

Have heard of the 6th string usually tuned to E? This can serve as your low E string essential when seeking that deep or low note.

Besides, you have the 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st tuned to A, D, G, B, and E notes respectively.

Notes are what you hear when you strike one string but chords are a collection of notes played simultaneously at once. For instance, if you are strumming the A, B and E string at the same time, you are playing chords.

Since the E string, in this case, is the thinnest of all the strings, you can play it if you want to produce a high note.

Remember, these fretboard notes need to be at your fingertips for smooth play. However, with regular practice, this should be easy hence the need to do a little understanding of the chords.

Use the tips of your fingers to play your 12-string guitar by creating enough space between each string. This is important for clarity and smooth resounding of the notes void of the muffling.

Position your finger in the midst of the frets, fitting into the gaps, but not on the frets to eliminate numb note pitches.

How to play: The in-depth 

Since 12-string guitars come with a pair of strings, you will find playing it is a little different from a 6-string guitar.

When playing the chords you have to apply a little extra force on the strings to counter the string tension.

For a higher pitch, single out the note you want and tighten the string. However, if you want a lower note, slackening the string will help you play your specific tone.

How to play: Fretting the strings 

Frets are the metal strips in your 12-string guitar that normally form 90-degrees with the 12 strings. They denote every note of the guitar. You just have to press your finger down these metal strips to play the note of your choice.

When you say you are playing the fourth fret, it implies your finger is positioned between the third and fifth string.

If you hear a buzzing sound, this requires that you move your finger to a lower fret but close to the fret on the higher side. Notably, as you move your fingers up and down the fretboard, your pitch will sound high and lower.

Playing your 12-string guitar with fingers is good for a start but mastering a pick is way easier. Nevertheless, make sure you hold it in the form of a thumb sign.

Final thoughts  

A 12-string guitar is a manifestation of low and high octaves sounds. It can produce a variety of sounds not characterized with typical 6-string acoustics since notes are played in pairs.

Probably if you have listened to “Hurricane”, Desire by Bob Dylan, you know the power of a 12-string guitar. It is a favorite among to artists like John Lennon and George Harrison of The Beatles, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds and many other musicians. I hope you had some extra tips to get along with your 12-string guitar.

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