Twelve-string Guitar - Design


The strings are placed in courses of two strings each that are usually played together. The two strings in each bass course are normally tuned an octave apart, while each pair of strings in the treble courses are tuned in unison. The tuning of the second string in the third course (G) varies: some players use a unison string while others prefer the distinctive high-pitched, bell-like quality an octave string makes in this position. Some players, either in search of distinctive tone or for ease of playing, will remove some of the doubled strings. For example, removing the higher octave from the three bass courses simplifies playing running bass lines, but keeps the extra treble strings for the full strums.

The strings are generally arranged such that the first string of each pair to be struck on a downward strum is the higher octave string; however, this arrangement was reversed by Rickenbacker on their electric 360/12.

The tension placed on the instrument by the strings is high, and because of this, 12 string guitars have a reputation for warping after a few years of use. Some twelve-string guitars have non-traditional structural supports to prevent or postpone such a fate, at the expense of appearance and tone. Until the invention of the truss rod in 1921, twelve-string guitars were nearly universally tuned lower than the traditional EADGBe, to reduce the stresses on the instrument. Leadbelly often used a low C-tuning, but in some recordings can be recognisable low B and A-tunings.

Some performers prefer the richness of an open tuning due to its near-orchestral sound. For a very complex plucked-string sound, the 12-string can be set to standard tuning (or possibly an octave lower), then the top one and low two string pairs can be tuned to whole-tone intervals. The usual gamut of guitar tunings are also available.

The twelve-string guitar has traditionally occupied rhythm or accompaniment roles in folk, rock, and popular music. This is largely because it is more difficult to pluck individual strings on the twelve-string guitar and substantially more difficult to bend notes than on a comparable six-string instrument.

Some hard rock (Jimmy Page), progressive rock and heavy metal (Dave Mustaine) musicians use double-necked guitars, which have both six-string and twelve-string components, allowing the guitarist easy transition between different sounds.

The greater number of strings complicates playing, particularly for the plucking (or picking) hand. The gap between the dual-string courses is usually narrower than that between the single-string courses of a conventional six-string guitar, so more precision is required with the pick or fingertip when not simply strumming chords. Note bending and some forms of extended playing techniques are also complicated by the presence of doubled strings.

Twelve-string guitars are made in both acoustic and electric forms. However, it is the acoustic type that is most common.

Read more about this topic:  Twelve-string Guitar

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