How To Play A 12 String Guitar

Mastering The Further 6 Strings Is Simpler Than You Assume

The majestic jangle of a 12-string guitar is totally unmistakable. From Lodge California by The Eagles, to Hear My Practice a Comin’ by Hendrix, to Breaking the Lady by the Chili Peppers, these double-string wonders are the cornerstone of numerous basic songs.

Their distinctive timbre has drawn in lots of a six-string strummer through the years, and in the event you, too, have been seduced by their shimmering siren tune, you’re in the correct place. Right now, I’m going to be supplying you with some key tips on taming this mythic 12-stringed beast.

Is Taking part in A 12-String Guitar The Identical As Taking part in A 6-String Guitar?

As individuals not often soar straight to the 12-string once they first begin their musical journey, I’m assuming that you simply’ve already been taking part in a 6-string for a sure period of time.

If that’s certainly the case, then I’ve bought some incredible information for you! All the abilities you picked up taking part in your 6-string guitar will translate seamlessly onto a 12-string — hooray!

That’s proper, people; in addition to just a few minor variations in approach, taking part in the 12-string doesn’t differ all that a lot out of your backyard selection axe. The core fundamentals are the identical. You fret notes, pluck or strike the strings, and voilà; music to our ears!

Nevertheless, these minor variations I simply talked about, they will make the transition from 6 to 12 strings slightly…turbulent. Should you’re unaware that you want to alter your approach, the guitar’s further steel could get the higher of you, incomes it a primary place in a dusty nook of your attic.

However I’m not going to let that occur. Let’s check out a number of the difficulties new 12-stringers face and the way they are often overcome.

Obstacles You’ll Run Into When Selecting Up A 12-String For The First Time

Fretting And Neck Width

Essentially the most irritating hurdle I confronted once I introduced residence my first 12-string guitar was that I couldn’t fret notes or chords for a really very long time. Inside seconds, the notes can be marred by fret buzz, killing the maintain (and my vibe).

Despite the fact that I’d been taking part in a “customary” guitar for years, it took all of 10 minutes on a twelver for my fingers to name it quits, however why did this occur?

Properly, there are just a few the reason why loads of 12-strings are tougher to worry than their 6-string counterparts, essentially the most prevalent being that you simply’re coping with higher resistance — extra strings require extra muscle.

One more reason is that the doubled-up strings could be too far aside so that you can fret on the identical time along with your fingertips. As quickly as a string slips out of your grasp…the excitement cometh!

The ultimate motive why it may be tougher to worry notes on a 12-string is that their necks are often significantly wider, that means your fingers need to pressure extra to succeed in sure places.

The Answer

As a substitute of fretting notes with the very ideas of your fingers, it’s best to drop your wrist from behind the neck, to beneath it, flatten out your hand, and use the meaty pads of your fingers as an alternative. This offers you a wider floor space for fretting the strings and prevents the surplus neck width from limiting your attain.

You may need already come throughout this handshape in the event you’ve ever discovered any songs on the 6-string that require massive stretchy chords, comparable to Message in a Bottle by The Police. It feels alien to start with, however after every week or so of follow, it turns into second nature.


Selecting will also be fairly tough once you purchase a 12-string guitar. The strings can really feel loads nearer collectively to your selecting hand, and also you additionally need to strike them slightly tougher than regular to chime each as one.

The necessity for higher choose accuracy and energy is a lethal mixture, one that may journey your selecting hand up for some time.

The Answer

A heavier choose will assist right here, however aside from that, there isn’t a prompt repair you could apply to your taking part in to resolve this situation. It simply takes tons and many follow. Ultimately, your strumming hand will develop muscle reminiscence particular to the 12-string’s spacing, and your selecting will turn out to be extra correct.


The additional rigidity within the strings of a 12-string guitar could be one other shock to the system. Abruptly strumming doesn’t really feel pure, you’re lacking strings, and also you’re dropping your choose each two seconds.

The Answer

Agency up your maintain in your choose, however don’t let the muscle tissue in your hand and wrist seize up, as the important thing to hitting each string when strumming is to maintain the wrist loosey-goosey. Strive to not depend on your arm and shoulder.

7 Suggestions For Making The Most Of Your 12-String

With these pitfalls lined, let’s give attention to methods you need to use to essentially let your 12-string shine.

  1. Arpeggios

12-string arpeggios sound breathtaking! Break up your chords for further twinkle.

  1.  Keep away from Barre Chords

The additional rigidity will fatigue your fingers and wrist, and open chords sound approach cooler on a 12-string.

  1. Your Capo Is Your Pal

Should you assume a 12-string sounds good usually, throw this Shubb 12-string capo into the combination and prepare to weep.

  1. Use Totally different Chord Voicings When Taking part in With One other Guitarist

A six-string and a twelver blasting out the identical chords is usually a bit a lot. Let your six-string buddy take the usual chords, whilst you shimmer your approach up the fretboard with some triads and arpeggios.

  1. Know When a 6-String Is a Higher Alternative

I like 12-strings, however generally, a 6-string serves a tune or passage higher.

  1. Trim Your Nails

It’s simple for longer nails to get caught up within the double strings, so hold ‘em brief for velveteen fingerpicking.

  1. Hold It in Tune

6 out of tune strings sound dangerous sufficient. Introduce 6 extra, and it’s headache central.

How To Play A 12-String Guitar — Summing Up

That almost covers all bases. With a heavier choose, a 12-string capo, and some minor adjustments in approach, you’ll have all of the instruments you want to discover these fantastic devices.

My last piece of recommendation is to hunt out artists recognized for his or her 12-string work, comparable to Roger McGuinn and Peter Buck, watch movies of them taking part in, and see in the event you can choose up any extra neat methods.

Carry on twinkling!

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