How Is A 12 String Guitar Tuned

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The 12-string guitar is a unique and distinctive instrument that is beloved by musicians for its rich and full sound. Tuning a 12-string guitar can be challenging for beginners, but with the right guidance and practice, it can be mastered. In this article, we will explore the question: “How is a 12 string guitar tuned?”

We will also delve into the history of tuning for this instrument, discuss the different tuning options, and provide tips on how to maintain proper tuning. Whether you are a seasoned guitarist or a beginner, this article will provide valuable insights into the art of tuning a 12-string guitar.

Learn more about guitar tunings in general here.

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Difference Between 6 and 12 String Guitar Tuning

The primary difference between a 6-string guitar and a 12-string guitar is obviously the number of strings. A 6-string guitar has six strings, whereas a 12-string guitar has 12 strings.

However, in terms of tuning, a 6-string guitar is typically tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E, with the low E string being the the thickest string and lowest-pitched string and the high E string being the thinnest and highest-pitched string.

On the other hand, a 12-string guitar is tuned similarly to a 6-string guitar, but each string is doubled ( E-E-A-A-D-D-G-G-B-B-E-E). The lower-pitched string is tuned to the same note as the corresponding string on a 6-string guitar, while the higher-pitched string is tuned to the same note but one octave higher. So the 12 strings are arranged into six string pairs, with each string pair tuned to the same note. One string is tuned normally & the 2nd is tuned an octave higher.

With all the extra strings playing & each string pair playing the same high frequency, the 12 string guitar is able to produce a rich chorus-like effect that makes it distinct & harp-like.

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Are 12-String Guitars Harder To Play?

12-string guitars can be harder to play than 6-string guitars because they have more strings and require more finger strength and dexterity.

The additional strings can make it more challenging to press down on the fretboard, especially for beginners or those with smaller hands.

Additionally, the paired strings on a 12-string guitar require the player to be more precise with their finger placement and strumming technique.

However, with practice, many guitarists find that the unique sound and character of a 12-string guitar are worth the extra effort.

Standard Tuning A 12 String Guitar

Here are the basic steps to tune a 12 string guitar:

Start by tuning the low E string. You can use a guitar tuner, clip-on tuner, or the video down below to help you get the correct pitch.

After the low E string is in tune, move on to the A string and tune it using the same method.

Next, tune the D, G, and B strings, again using the same method.

Once all six of the primary strings are tuned, it’s time to tune the doubled strings. Start with the doubled low E string (the thickest one) and tune it to match the pitch of the low E string you just tuned.

Continue to tune the doubled strings in pairs, starting with the A string and then moving on to the D, G, and B strings.

Finally, tune the doubled high E string to match the pitch of the high E string you tuned earlier.

If the back & forth is a bit too much to handle, you can always just tune all the strings in order but you might have to go back & do more adjustments.

Related: All about tuning an eight string guitar

Chromatic Tuner Recommendations

KLIQ UberTuner

This is a great tuner for use in louder environments, it’s highly portable, and among the highest rated.

KLIQ MetroPitch

If you don’t much traveling & play mainly at home, this option provides a tuner & metronome in one. Still it’s very portable but because it uses a mic, can pick up unwanted tones in the environment.

Snark SN1X Clip-On Chromatic Tuner

For a budget option, you can’t go wrong with the Snark tuner which a standard among tuners. It’s not as fancy as the KLIQ options but certainly holds its own

Can you Use Regular Guitar Tuners For 12 String Guitars?

While regular guitar tuners can be used for 12-string guitars, a specialized chromatic tuner specifically designed for 12-string guitars is recommended.

Regular guitar tuners may not be able to detect and accurately tune all 12 strings, especially the paired strings, which require the tuner to differentiate between the two strings in each pair.

Chromatic tuners are capable of detecting different tunings and displaying the pitch of each individual string, including the paired strings, which is necessary for accurate tuning of a 12-string guitar.

Therefore, it is recommended to use a chromatic tuner designed for 12-string guitars to ensure the best possible tuning accuracy.

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Tips To Maintain Your 12 String Guitar Tuned

Use a quality tuner: Invest in a quality chromatic tuner specifically designed for 12-string guitars to ensure accurate tuning.

Tune regularly: Tune your guitar before every playing session to maintain the correct pitch.

Stretch strings: Stretch the strings by gently pulling them after each tuning to minimize the need for frequent retuning.

Keep humidity levels consistent: Keep your guitar in a room with consistent humidity levels between 40% and 60% to prevent warping or damage to the guitar’s neck.

Store your guitar properly: Store your guitar in a proper guitar case to prevent damage and keep it in tune.

Use quality strings: Use high-quality strings that are designed for a 12-string guitar to ensure the best possible sound and longevity.

Avoid extreme temperatures: Avoid exposing your guitar to extreme temperatures, such as leaving it in a car or near a heater, as this can cause damage and affect tuning stability.

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Common Tuning Problems & Solutions

Tuning stability issues: 12-string guitars are more susceptible to tuning instability due to the increased tension and number of strings. Vibrations from playing can cause strings to slip out of tune.

Solution: Make sure the strings are properly stretched before playing and use good quality tuning machines. Consider replacing worn out tuning machines for better tuning stability.

Intonation problems: Due to the extra tension on the neck and the increased number of strings, intonation issues may arise, particularly at the higher frets.

Solution: Adjust the saddle to improve intonation. If intonation is still an issue, a professional luthier can help.

String breakage: 12-string guitars put more tension on the strings, leading to more frequent string breakage.

Solution: Use high-quality strings designed for 12-string guitars and check the bridge for sharp edges that may damage strings. Properly maintain the guitar, including keeping it clean and changing strings regularly.

Humidity changes: Changes in humidity can cause the wood to expand or contract, leading to changes in tuning.

Solution: Store the guitar in a stable environment with consistent temperature and humidity levels. Consider using a guitar humidifier to maintain optimal humidity levels.

Improper string gauges: Using the wrong string gauges can affect tuning stability and intonation.

Solution: Use strings recommended by the guitar manufacturer or a professional guitar technician. Avoid using lighter gauge strings as they may not provide enough tension for the guitar to stay in tune.

By addressing these common issues, players can maintain proper tuning on their 12-string guitars and enjoy the rich, full sound that the instrument is known for.

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Other Guitar Tunings

7 String Guitar Tuning

8 String Guitar Tuning

9 String Guitar Tuning

Eb Half Step Down Tuning Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb

Drop D Tuning D-A-D-G-B-E

D Standard Tuning D-G-C-F-A-D

Open D Tuning D-A-D-F#-A-D

Standard C Tuning C-G-C-F-A-D

Open F Tuning F-A-C-F-C-F

Nashville Tuning: Also known as High Strung Tuning, involves replacing the lowest 4 strings with lighter strings, then tuning them an octave higher to mimic the sound of a 12 string guitar.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Put 6 Strings on 12 String Guitars?

It is not recommended to put 6 strings on a 12-string acoustic guitar that is designed to double the strings, due to increased string tension and the unique construction of the instrument.

Removing half of the strings from a 12-string guitar can cause the neck and bridge to become unbalanced, which can lead to potential intonation and tuning issues.

The sound of the guitar will also be altered as it is designed to resonate with 12 strings, and removing half of them can result in a less full and rich sound.

Therefore, it is generally recommended to stick with the intended number of strings for a given 12 string acoustic guitar model.

Do 12-string guitars stay in tune?

Like any guitar, a 12-string guitar requires regular tuning to stay in tune.

The 12 strings on a 12 string guitar are tuned in pairs, which can make tuning a bit more complex than a traditional 6 string guitar.

However, with practice and the use of a guitar tuner or clip-on tuner, it is possible to tune a 12-string guitar effectively.

It’s important to note that the quality of the strings, the age of the guitar, and the guitar’s overall condition can also affect how well it stays in tune.

Regular maintenance and proper storage can help keep a 12-string guitar in tune for longer periods of time.

Are 12 string guitars tuned the same as 6 string?

12-string guitars are typically tuned the same as 6-string guitars using standard tuning.

The extra strings are usually just tuned as string pairs, which are typically tuned to the same pitch as on a 6-string guitar, but 1 of the strings is an octave higher.

The main difference is that 12-string guitars have twice as many strings, which can create a fuller, more resonant sound but also require more complex string tunings and playing techniques.

Are 12 string guitars harder to play?

12-string guitars can be more difficult to play than 6-string guitars due to the increased string tension and wider neck that comes with the additional strings.

Playing barre chords can be more challenging as it requires more finger strength and dexterity to hold down multiple strings at once.

However, playing individual notes can be easier due to the added sustain and resonance of the 12 strings. Ultimately, the difficulty of playing a 12-string guitar depends on the individual player’s experience, technique, and personal preferences.

Can you fingerpick a 12-string guitar?

Yes, fingerpicking can be performed on a 12-string guitar, with the benefit of a richer & fuller sound.

The player typically uses their index, middle, and ring fingers to pluck the upper strings while resting the thumb on the lower strings.

Fingerpicking on a 12-string guitar however, requires precision, coordination, and practice due to the closer strings.

Despite the extra effort, it can be a rewarding and unique musical experience!

Are 12-string guitars louder?

Although the volume of a guitar depends on various factors such as wood type, body size, and specific model, 12-string guitars may not necessarily be louder than 6-string guitars.

The fuller and more resonant sound of 12-string guitars is attributed to the doubled strings that create a more complex and textured sound, with a natural chorus-like effect and additional harmonics and overtones.

This produces a fuller and more resonant sound, even if it may not be louder than a 6-string guitar. Despite this, 12-string guitars still produce a unique and highly valued sound.

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About The Author:

I've been a guitar player for going on 20 years now. I love to play everything from classic rock to metal & want to share some things that I've learned along the way.

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