The 12-string guitar has been a popular choice in various music genres for many years. However, like any musical instrument, it has its advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, we delve into the pros and cons of the 12-string guitar, discussing its unique sound and playability, to help you determine if it’s the perfect guitar for you.
What makes 12-string guitar different?
The 12-string guitar stands out from other guitars. Although the ways of tuning and playing are very similar, it has some obvious differences:
The difference in the number of strings
Obviously, the 12-string guitar is a type of guitar that has 12 strings instead of the standard six strings found on most guitars.
The extra six strings are paired with the standard strings, with each pair tuned to the same pitch. The difference between the two strings in each pair is that one string is tuned an octave higher than the other, producing a richer, fuller sound.
The difference in the design
The design of a 12-string guitar is different from that of a standard guitar to adapt to the increased number of strings. The neck of a 12-string guitar is wider, and the body may be slightly larger to provide the necessary resonance to support the extra strings.
The difference in the sound
The sound of a 12-string guitar is unique and distinctive, with a richer, more complex tone than a standard six-string guitar. The extra strings add depth and complexity to the sound, making it ideal for certain types of music, such as folk, country, and rock.
The difference in the playing technique
Playing a 12-string guitar requires a slightly different technique than a standard guitar, as the extra strings require more pressure to press down on the frets. However, many guitarists find the extra effort worth it for the impressive and beautiful sound that a 12-string guitar can produce.
Pros of 12-string guitar
There is no coincidence that many famous musicians choose to play a 12-string guitar. It offers numerous advantages for players and makes the creative process a joyful experience.
The 12-string guitar has an amazing sound
12-string guitars sound so good because the extra six strings create a fuller, richer sound with more complexity and depth.
The paired strings, tuned to the same pitch but with one string an octave higher than the other, create a chorus-like effect that adds dimension to the sound. The bigger number of strings also increases the resonance and sustain of the guitar, making the sound more lush and full-bodied.
The 12-string guitar provides a wider range of notes and chords
The extra six strings on a 12-string guitar provide a wider range of notes and chords than a standard six-string guitar. With the extra strings, players can achieve a fuller, richer sound that allows for greater musical expression.
The 12-string guitar tunings allow a wider range of tonal possibilities
With the paired strings tuned to the same pitch but with one string an octave higher than the other, you can reach a deeper sound with less effort.
The tuning can be adjusted to suit different playing styles and genres. For example, you may tune your 12-string guitar to an open tuning, which allows you more playing experimentation and creativity. This can lead to distinctive chord voicings and harmonic progressions that are impossible on a standard six-string guitar.
The 12-string guitar provides more playing technics to experiment with
Since the guitar has 12 strings, it offers more options for playing fingerstyle or using alternative tunings. With a wider range of strings to work with, you can experiment with various picking patterns, arpeggios, and other techniques to create complex and intricate sounds.
Cons of 12-string guitar
After listing the main advantages of the 12-string acoustic guitar, it’s time to introduce you to its weaknesses:
The 12-string guitar is harder to play
The 12-string guitar can be more difficult to play than playing a 6-string guitar for several reasons.
Six pairs of strings
The extra strings mean that the player has to press down two strings at once with each finger to create a full chord. This can require more finger strength and dexterity than playing a single string on a standard guitar.
The neck of a 12-string guitar is wider than that of a 6-string guitar, making it more difficult to reach some chord shapes and stretch across the fretboard.
More string tension
The increased tension of the 12 strings can also make it more challenging to maintain proper intonation and tuning, which can require more frequent adjustments to keep the guitar sounding in tune.
The 12-string guitar is harder to tune
Due to the increased number of strings, the 12-string guitar can be more difficult to tune than a standard 6-string guitar. Here are some reasons why:
The tuning is different
Each of the 12 strings is tuned to a specific note, and six are tuned an octave apart. This means that the tuning of the strings is more complex than on a 6-string guitar and can take more time and effort to get right.
Tension issues may occur
The extra strings can also create tension issues. If the strings are not tuned properly, or the tension on the strings is uneven, it can affect the playability and sound of the guitar.
A 12-string guitar may require more frequent tuning than a 6-string guitar due to the increased tension on the strings. Also it may require more maintenance to keep the instrument in tune, such as adjusting the truss rod or replacing worn-out strings.
However, we’ve got you covered – here you can check a detailed guide on how to tune a 12-string guitar.
The 12-string guitar is harder to restring
Restringing a 12-string guitar can be more challenging, and the reason is – the extra strings, of course. More strings – more time and effort than restringing a 6-string guitar.
But besides the double strings, there are more reasons for changing the string of 12 string guitar to be that hard.
The pairs of strings on a twelve-string guitar are usually closer together than the strings on a six-string guitar. This can make threading the strings through the bridge and the tuning pegs more difficult.
Each pair of strings on a 12-string guitar includes one string tuned to a standard pitch, and another tuned an octave higher. This means that you must pay close attention to which string goes where and ensure they are strung correctly.
The twelve strings and paired tuning create higher tension on the guitar’s neck and bridge. This increased tension can make it more difficult to remove the old strings and attach the new ones without damaging the instrument.
12 string guitar may be uncomfortable for some musicians
Playing a 12-string guitar can be uncomfortable for some musicians due to several factors:
Size and weight
12-string guitars can be larger and heavier than standard six-string acoustic guitars, making them more difficult to handle and play for some musicians.
We mention sting tension again. The additional strings and paired tuning of a 12-string guitar create higher tension on the guitar’s neck and bridge. This can make the guitar harder to play and put more pressure on your fingers.
The paired strings can make the fretboard narrower and more difficult to navigate than on a standard guitar. This can make it harder for some players to create complex chords and fingerings.
The 12-string is an expensive instrument
A 12-string guitar can be more expensive than a standard 6-string guitar. These are the reasons why:
Requires more materials to make
This includes more strings, specialized tuning machines, and a larger body to accommodate the extra strings. These materials increase the cost of manufacturing the guitar.
Making a 12-string guitar requires skilled craftsmanship to ensure that the all of the strings are properly balanced and that the instrument produces a rich, full sound. This level of craftsmanship can increase the cost of the guitar.
12-string guitars are less common than standard 6-string guitars, making them harder to find and more expensive to purchase. This is especially true for higher-end models that are made with premium materials and craftsmanship.
Brand and reputation
Some brands have a reputation for producing high-quality 12-string guitars, which can increase the cost of the instrument due to the brand’s reputation and the perceived value of the guitar.
The unique sound of a 12-string guitar makes it a desirable instrument for many musicians. This high demand can increase the guitar’s price due to market forces and the law of supply and demand.
The 12-string guitar can be a fantastic part to any musician’s collection, with its unique sound and versatility.
However, it’s important to keep in mind the potential downsides, such as increased difficulty in playing and tuning and the added pressure on the musician’s hands and fingers.
Ultimately, whether or not a 12 string guitar is right for you depends on your individual needs and preferences. So, weigh the pros and cons carefully and make an informed decision before buying a 12-string guitar. Regardless of your choice, the 12 string guitar remains a beautiful and unique instrument that can enhance any musical experience.