What is a Double Neck Guitar: History, Purpose, and Technique

Ever spotted those intriguing guitars with two necks and wondered what they’re all about? They’re called double-neck guitars, and they sure stand out from the crowd.

Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist or simply curious, join us to discover the uniqueness and purpose behind the double-neck guitar. 

What is a Double Neck Guitar?

A double neck guitar is a special kind of guitar that has two necks. One neck has six strings, and the other has twelve strings. This unique feature lets you play parts of a song that need six strings and switch to the twelve strings for different sections. It’s like having two guitars in one! Double neck guitars were made to save you from changing guitars during a song or carrying two guitars around.

In some double neck guitars, one neck is set up as a regular six-string guitar, while the other neck is arranged as a bass guitar. This adds even more versatility to the instrument, making it a fantastic choice for musicians who want a wider range of sounds in a single guitar.

A Brief History of Double Neck Guitars

The story of double-neck guitars dates back to around 1690 when a small-sized guitar had an even smaller, almost ukulele-sized guitar attached to its treble side. It was designed for professional musicians performing in ensembles or orchestras, and the second set of strings allowed them to change keys easily while playing.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, multi-necked guitars appeared occasionally, but they weren’t produced on a large scale until the 1890s when modern manufacturing methods made it possible. Harp guitars, lute guitars, and mandolin guitars gained popularity during this time, each with its unique playing method.

In the early 1930s, the first multi-neck electric guitars were lap steels. Alvino Rey, a famous lap steel guitarist, experimented with instruments featuring more than one neck to handle different tunings required for bands or orchestras.

After World War II, several builders, including Leo Fender and Paul Bigsby, ventured into creating multi-neck steel guitars. However, single-neck electric Spanish guitars gained more popularity, and multi-neck guitars were less common.

In 1952, Paul Bigsby created one of the earliest double neck electric guitars for country singer Grady Martin, featuring a six-string guitar neck paired with a mandolin neck. Gibson introduced their doubleneck electric guitars, the EDS-1275 Double 12 and the EMS-1235 Double Mandolin, in 1958.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Gibson was the primary manufacturer offering electric double-necks, while other companies occasionally produced them as custom orders. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, doublenecks gained a “guitar geek” status due to their retro appeal.

How to Play on a Double Neck Guitar

Playing a double neck guitar is quite similar to playing a regular guitar with one neck, but it comes with the added versatility of having two guitars in one.

As we already mentioned, the upper neck is equipped with 12 strings, while the lower neck has 6 strings. You can play on the lower neck when you only need 6 strings for a particular section of a song. However, if the song calls for the sound of 12 strings, you can smoothly switch to the upper neck.

Our tips For Maintaining Balance While Playing Double Neck Guitar

Maintaining the balance between the two necks while playing a double neck guitar can be challenging, but here are our personal tips:

  • Use a Proper Strap: Using a strap that is comfortable for both necks is crucial for maintaining balance. The strap should be properly positioned and adjusted to avoid discomfort and strain.
  • Adjust the Strap Length: Adjusting the length of the strap can also help maintain balance. Players can experiment with different lengths to find the most comfortable and balanced position.
  • Practice Coordination: Good coordination is essential for switching between the two necks without getting confused. Players need to practice transitioning between the two necks to improve their coordination.
  • Position the Guitar Correctly: Positioning the guitar correctly can also help maintain balance. Players should ensure the guitar is properly positioned on their body and adjust their posture as needed.
  • Consider Non-Parallel Necks: Some double-necked guitars have non-parallel necks, which can help reduce the body size and improve balance. This allows the bridges to be placed as close together as possible.
double-necked guitar can be achieved

Common Double Neck Guitars

Double neck guitars come in different versions, offering endless possibilities. Many skilled guitar makers create unique combinations, but let’s focus on the most common ones.

12-String and 6-String

12-String and 6-String is the most famous double neck combo. The 12-string neck creates a special chorus effect with 6 pairs of strings tuned an octave apart. You might recognize this sound from famous songs like “Wanted Dead Or Alive” by Bon Jovi, “Hotel California” by The Eagles, and “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. The 12-string is used for the song’s melody, while the player switches to the 6-string for solos, creating a unique music style.

Double 6-String Necks

You might wonder why anyone needs two 6-string necks. Well, some highly skilled players love the versatility it offers.

With different tunings on each neck, you can achieve various sounds and feelings. For example, one neck can have standard tuning, while the other has an open tuning for slide guitar.

This setup allows for smooth transitions between different playing styles. Some extraordinary players can even play both necks simultaneously using hammer-ons and pull-offs, demonstrating the full potential of double 6-string neck guitars, as seen in the remarkable talent of artists like Michael Angelo Batio.

6-String and 4-String Bass Combo

It’s not common for a guitarist to play bass, but this combination offers incredible versatility. A bassist/guitarist can play bass solos and quickly switch to guitar solos in the same song. Some might doubt this arrangement, but skilled players can pull it off, even using bass notes as a baseline for their guitar music.

Pros And Cons Of Double-Neck Guitar

Pros of Double-Neck Guitar

  • Convenient Performance: It gives you two guitar sounds in one, making it easy to play songs that need both 12-string and 6-string guitars without switching instruments mid-song.
  • Different Tunings: You can set each neck to a different tuning, like standard and open G. No need for extra guitars; it’s all in one!
  • Versatility: You can switch between different guitar types in a single song, like a 6-string electric and a 12-string, or a 6-string and a bass.
  • Handy for Live Shows: It helps you smoothly switch between instruments during a song, saving time and hassle.
  • Exploring New Sounds: Some double-neck guitars have cool combos, like a 6-string electric and a 6-string acoustic. It lets you create unique sounds you haven’t tried before.
  • Wow Factor: It adds excitement to your performances, even if you don’t need it for every song. Playing a double-neck guitar on stage feels special!

Cons of Double-Neck Guitar

  • Space: These guitars need more room than regular ones, so they might not fit well in small places like small rooms or apartments.
  • Heavy: Double-neck guitars are bigger and heavier than regular electric guitars, making them harder to play while standing and causing discomfort or back pain for some.
  • Looks: Some people find double-neck guitars unattractive and weird-looking compared to regular guitars. Well, I have to admit that I am one of them.
  • Limited Use: If you don’t often play songs that need both 6-string and 12-string guitars, a double-neck guitar may not be necessary, and a regular guitar could be enough.
  • Confusing for Beginners: Double-neck guitars can be tricky for beginners due to their complex setup and the need to deal with many strings on both necks.
  • Expensive: Double-neck guitars can be very expensive, with certain models priced between $5000 to $6000, which might not fit everyone’s budget.
  • Not Practical: For most players, the high cost, weight, and limited use of double-neck guitars make them impractical and not worth the investment. Regular guitars can meet their needs without the extra complications.

Double Neck Guitar Models

Here are some common models of double neck guitars:

  • Gibson EDS1275
  • Guild Crossroads Doubleneck
  • Dean GS
  • B.C Rich Bich
  • Gretsch Jet
  • Kenneth Lawrence Explorer
  • Gibson EMS 1235

Famous Double-Neck Guitar Players

Here are some of the most famous players of double-neck guitars:

  • James Hetfield – Metallica
  • Jimmy Page – Led Zeppelin
  • Slash – Guns n’ Roses
  • Alex Lifeson – Rush
  • Don Felder – The Eagles
  • Michal Angelo Batio
  • Mike Rutherford – Genesis
  • Steve Vai
  • Troy Van Leeuwen – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Joe Perry – Aerosmith


The double-neck guitar is an interesting and versatile instrument loved by many musicians and audiences. It can play two different guitar sounds in one, which is handy for certain songs. However, it’s costly, takes up more space, and is heavier, which might not suit everyone.

Despite its drawbacks, famous players from different times have showcased its power on stage and in recordings. The double-neck guitar is a symbol of musical innovation and creativity.

The future of this guitar is uncertain, but its unique features will always make it special for guitar enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or just starting, trying out a double-neck guitar can lead to exciting musical journeys.

For more guitar types, check out https://riff-mag.com/different-types-of-guitars-a-complete-guide/

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