6-String vs. 12-String Guitars: Key Differences

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You are likely to be interested in learning more about the 12-string model due to their amazing sound. It’s almost love at first sound when a player first attempts one. The first time I tried one was in my youth. I was astonished at its tone and decided to get one.

This new type of work requires a lot of learning. It is not enough to just jump in and start playing. It is important to understand the differences between 12-string and 6-string guitars in order to benefit your music.

A 12-string guitar is longer and requires more advanced playing techniques. Due to the fact that there are two strings per note to fret, fingers must have greater accuracy and strength than what is required for a 6. Some abilities, such as bending, are more difficult and require more effort than others.

A 12-string guitar creates a unique sound that is unmatched by any other instrument. This natural phenomenon creates a richer and more full sound that is desired by musicians who play certain styles.

It’s obvious that you are interested in this topic. Let’s now look at the differences between 12-string and 6-string guitars.

Difference Between 6-String and 12-String Guitars

The 20th century saw the development of the modern guitar. It was based on the classical guitar design standard, which was established in 1850 by Antonio Torres Jurado, a Spanish luthier. There are many extended-range options, but the most popular guitar is still 6 strings.

Modern 12-string guitars are based on the same instrument design as the 6 string versions. They can be played exactly the same way. You only need to fret the strings together in order to play one note.

The idea was to create a doubled and shimmering sound that resembles an electric or acoustic guitar. A 12-string acoustic is often louder than a 6-string one.

Let’s start by looking at the differences in physical dimensions and additional part counts. Both types of guitars use many of the same parts and shapes. However, the 12-string has a smaller design. This style has a higher number of parts and can only be constructed within specific parameters to ensure it performs well.

Body Sizes

There are many sizes of 6-string guitars, from travel models to jumbos. There’s a size that suits everyone. There is however a smaller range for the 12 because of the additional parts.

  • Dreadnought
  • Grand concert
  • Jumbo
  • Auditorium
  • Concert

These 12-string guitars are quite large and some people may have trouble playing them. A few brands make smaller units, or have modified them to provide more comfort and convenience.

The Taylor 562ce guitar is a great example of a guitar that can still deliver a big concert but has been made to be more comfortable and easier to use. A cheaper model is available that provides electronics and has a better body. It is loved by those who own it.

Wider Neck Size

To make the instrument playable, the 6 additional strings must be added to the neck.

This means that your neck will be a little wider when you play a 12. This means that you will need to adjust to a slightly wider neck.

It may be more challenging for players with smaller hands. Although this is not impossible, it will require some practice and learning. The guitar’s sound is worth it.

We recommend that you work hard to master the new size fingerboard, as you will be rewarded every time you play.

The width of the slits can vary from?” to 3/16″, depending on make and model.

Number of Strings

This is a simple one, the 12-string has 6 additional digits. This is where you will hear the wonderful sound, but it also provides a little more complexity. The addition of two buttons means that you must press two instead of one.

You need to have more strength and accuracy when fretting both the strings at once. The chords are the same, but each finger must fret more strings. This can be difficult.

As we’ll see, tension builds up because they are tuned up. It takes practice and time to master it. Once you are comfortable with it, it becomes easier and more rewarding. You will soon see them as 6 pairs, and each note will be a single note.

Tuning Differences

A 12-string player’s first concern is how to tune it. You will quickly realize that it is not the same. While the guitar is still tuned to standard tuning, the lower rows are an octave more on four of them.

This adds tension to the press and makes it more difficult to get them to press.

  • Standard: E-A-D-G-B-E

You will need to tune your E, A, and D strings an octave higher than the note. You can tighten the tuning by having them tuned to the same octave. It is easier for your lower B and E to have their partner tuned at the same octave.

To make their guitar more comfortable, some players tune it down a bit. This not only reduces the need to have more strength but also relieves the pain of finger cramps. To keep your fingers in tip-top shape, you will need some calluses.

12-String Guitar Sound

The only reason someone would choose to play this instrument is because of its sound. It would need to be able to produce some impressive sound gains due to the additional complexity of playing a 12-string. It does! It produces a tone unlike any other.

A chorus-like effect is created by having some pairs tuned up one octave. This creates a rich sound with lots of sparkle.

The 12-string guitar has been a hit with many players. This is a significant change, and a testimony to the guitar’s unique sound.

Although it may take some time to get used to the new sound, the full-bodied and rich sound is rewarding. The tone can be used to complement any music, depending on what genre it is.

Why use a 12-String Guitar

Although 12-string guitars are often thought of as having more string options, they cover the same range as 6-string guitars.

However, the primary purpose of such instruments is to produce a “doubled” tone. This is similar to the effect we see with instruments like the mandolin and the Mexican traditional instrument “guitarra septima”.

Technically, each string of the six standard strings has its “twin.” However the top two strings have the same tones while the bottom four strings are performing octaves rather than unisons.

In the 1960s, 12-string electric guitars were popular. There was even a double-neck version of these guitars that had both 6-string and 12-string versions.

Gibson’s red EDS-1275 is the most well-known example, popularized largely by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. This guitar instantly brings back the song “Stairway to Heaven” when one glances at it.

In the case of electric guitars, thicker necks meant thicker strings. Also, there was a different pickup construction. The headstock construction is also different from 6-strings. It’s much longer and more wide than 6-strings.

Construction stability was a challenge due to string tension. Therefore, the necks and bodies of construction are reinforced. String tension is also reduced by a shorter scale and shorter distances between frets.

Twelve-strings are often used as backing instruments. They have been used by many artists over the years, including Jimmy Page, Michael Nesmith and Lead Belly. Stevie Ray Vaughan, John McLaughlin and others used them as solo instruments.

Pros and Cons of 12-String Guitars

Pros:

  • Different tone – Octaves, slight differences in tuning and subtle “microscopic”, variations in tonalities offer natural chorus effect that makes it sound as if two instruments are simultaneously playing.
  • Louder output in acoustic settings
  • Tone for mandolin

Cons:

  • Strings with more strings can mean more complex restringing and higher prices for new strings.
  • Although the tone is richer, they are still limited to folk and blues music.
  • Doubled strings require more effort from the fretting hand. It will be harder to press the strings.
  • Thicker necks, especially when it comes to lead parts, can cause problems.
  • They are not recommended for beginners in terms of both playability and ease of use.
  • 12-strings are more expensive.
  • Instruments with less versatility

Is a 12-String Guitar Harder to Play

The 12-string guitar is generally more difficult to play. Technically speaking, a 12-string guitar is more difficult to play than a 6-string.

This is due to thicker necks and the fact that you have to press two strings simultaneously while keeping your grip. It is not easier because of the string tension.

These differences can prove problematic for guitarists of all levels. However, it is rare to see a 12-string guitar in the context of an 6-string.

A 12-string guitar can be used for backing music and chords. However, one requires more strength to play, even when you are playing simple chords in an open position.

There are still musicians who play it as a lead instrument. String bending is another challenge when playing it as a leader instrument. Due to the higher string tension and increased number of strings, bending can be very difficult.

6-String or 12-String Guitar for Beginners

A 6-string is recommended for beginners who have never played a note before. This is especially important for younger players who may not be able to use their fingers and hands properly.

For those who have played regular 6-string guitars for some time, they will be more comfortable adapting to 12-strings.

It’s the same for musicians who have experience with other string instruments like cellos and violins. They will be able to adapt more easily. It helps a lot to have calluses on the fretting fingers.

A 12-string guitar’s price can be a problem. They are more expensive and often require more investment in string replacement. It’s worth noting that tuning and restringing 12-string guitars can be twice as difficult as 6-strings.

However, if a player is more into folk, folk-rock and blues music and really likes the 12-string sound, they can choose to go down this path instead.

There are no written rules and everyone can choose the instrument they like to play. They should also remember that 12-strings are more difficult.

You can use a 12-string instrument with just 6 regular strings. Their necks and overall spacings are designed for 12 strings. This may pose additional problems for beginners.

Conclusion

It is difficult to determine which one is better than the other. These two types of guitars are used in modern music for the simple reason they are distinct.

We could quickly answer that 6-string guitars have “better” because they are more versatile and can be reproduced with simple chorus pedals to some extent.

The organic tone of 12-strings can’t be convincingly duplicated by a chorus effect. This tone works better for certain music genres.

Twelve-string guitars can be used in folk-rock and blues settings. They still have a much narrower range of use than 6-strings, but that’s what we said.

When talking about electric guitars high-gain distortions and power chords won’t work on 12-string instruments. These are more appropriate for parts that are clean or slightly overdriven, with lots of notes that should be left “ringing”.

FAQ for 6-String vs 12-String Guitars

What are the key differences between 6-string guitars and 12-string guitars?

There are fewer strings for a 6- string guitar, so the neck is narrower. The more strings on a 12-string guitar results in less room on the neck. This makes playability less convenient – it takes 2 different strings to fret one note. However, a 12-string guitar has a better sounding chorus tone than a 6-string because of the coupled octave strings.

Which the 6-string or 12-string guitars is more popular?

The 6-string guitar is the most popular guitar in the world. It accounts for 90% of all guitars sold worldwide.

The 12-string guitar is the second most popular stringed instrument in the world. It only accounts for 10% of all guitars sold worldwide.

How to tune both guitars?

The most popular tuning for 6-strings, E-A-D–G-B-E is the most used. However, there are many other tunings, such as drop tunings or open tunings. These same tunings are used in every 12-string guitar, with the exception of the E-A-D–G-B–E.

There’s a catch. The top two strings E and B are doubled. Each of the four bottom strings have a double one octave lower. The full tuning goes like this: E3-E2-A3-A2-D4-D3-G4-G3-B3-B3-E4-E4. This requires special strings.

Can you play a 12-string like a 6-string?

A 12-string guitar is played just like a 6-string and uses the same notes, chords and techniques as you would use with a standard six stringer. To make things more difficult, it will be harder to play advanced techniques on a twelve string guitar.

Should you tune down a 12-string?

12-string guitars are traditionally tuned in the E standard, but can be tuned down a semitone or whole tone without any issues. The reason is that they hold a lot of tension in their neck, and tuning them down would make for a more flexible strings.

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