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Guide to the Best 12 String Guitars of 2019

Types of 12-string Acoustic Guitars

Types of 12 String Guitars:

  • Types of acoustic 12 string guitars:

    • Steel String Flattop 12 String Guitars:

      • This is the most common type of acoustic guitar and is the most used.

      • Steel string 12 string guitars are great for strumming or picking but can be hard to play with classical or modern finger stylings as you need to put more pressure on steel strings than you would need to on nylon strings.

      • 3 types of steel string flattop 12 string guitars:

        • Parlor:

          • Parlor 12 string guitars are some of the smallest acoustic guitars and are really good for picking.

          • Parlor 12 string guitars also pick up vibrations easier than others due to their small bodies and do not need forceful strumming to receive a full sound.




 

        • OM:

          • An OM 12 string guitar is basically a middle ground between a dreadnought 12 string guitar and a parlor 12 string guitar with regards to size as well as the fact that it can be used for both picking and strumming.

        • Dreadnought:

          • The dreadnought 12 string guitar is the most widely available and purchased guitar body shape on the market due to its high rich tone and compatibility when playing in ensembles.

    • Nylon String 12 String Guitars:

      • Nylon string 12 String guitars are often viewed as the cheaper counterpart of acoustic 12 string guitars, and this could not be more wrong.

      • Nylon 12 string guitars have a warmer sound than their steel string brethren and also easier on fingers when playing complicated passages.

      • There are 3 different types of nylon string guitars:

        • Classical 12 String Guitars:

          • Classical 12 string guitars are used mostly to play classical music and are about as small in size as an OM 12 string guitar without such severe curves.

 

        • Flamenco 12 String Guitars:

          • Flamenco 12 string guitars are made with the intention to play flamenco music.

          • You can often find a tap plate on a flamenco 12 string guitar to help create a rhythmic tapping whilst playing.

        • Hybrid/Crossover/Other:

          • This refers to nylon string 12 string guitars that are not flamenco or classical in nature and are made to be more accessible for musicians such as with an input to connect to an amp.





 

    • Archtops

      • Archtop 12 string guitars offer a clear and precise sound without offering much of a way to sustain the sound.

      • Due to the fact that most pieces nowadays can be played by a flat top 12 string guitar with a pickup, archtop 12 string guitars are not popular guitars. It is suggested that you only purchase an archtop 12 string guitar if you want to play jazz or blues style fingerpicking melodies.





 

  • Types of electric 12 string guitars:

    • Solid Body 12 String Guitars:

      • A solid body electric 12 string guitar means that the guitar is made from solid wood, it has no resonating, air space within the body.

      • Types of solid body electric 12 string guitar bodies:

        • Stratocaster

        • Super Strat

        • Telecaster

        • Offset

 

        • Les Paul



 

        • SG

        • Firebird

    • Hollow Body 12 String Guitars:

      • Hollow body guitars are exactly what they sound like, meaning that it has a hollow body allowing for same resonance as an acoustic guitar whilst also having pickups to amplify the sound of the music.

    • Semi-hollow Body 12 String Guitars:

      • The semi-hollow guitar is based around the fact that it has a tone block running down the middle of the body, meaning that while it still has woody tones, it has less chance for feedback.

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Items that Can be Used with Your 12 String Guitar:

  • Electric Guitar Bags:

    • This is a specially designed bag to store your guitar in and transport it that is not as heavy as an electric guitar case but it is softer and can’t prevent damage from rough handling.

  • Electric Guitar Cases:

    • This is a specially designed case to store your guitar in and transport it and any accessories safely.

  • Guitar Picks:

    • These are small triangular pieces of plastic that come with varying thicknesses, that is used to pick or strum the string on your guitar.

  • Guitar Straps:

    • This is a strap that you connect to the guitar and use to help you play when standing up or moving

  • Instrument Cables:

    • This is a cable that you use to connect your guitar to your amplifier and get more volume.

  • Guitar Tuner:

    • This is a small device that you clip to your guitar and use to help you tune your strings to the appropriate pitch.

  • Electric Guitar Strings:

    • After a lot of playing, strings tend to break and it is therefore wise to purchase and keep spare strings handy for any emergencies.

  • Guitar Stand:

    • This is a specially designed stand for you to place your guitar on when you are not playing or when you don't need to place it in a case.

  • Guitar Capo:

    • This is a clamp that one can use on the neck of the guitar to transpose the notes or to avoid using bar chords.

  • Polishing Cloth:

    • This is a cloth that you use to keep your guitar clean and pristine with no smudges or dust on it.

  • Effects Pedal:

    • This is a pedal you can connect to your guitar using an amplifier, which allows you to use certain effects such as distortion, mirroring, reverb and more.

  • Amplifier:

    • This is a type of speaker that you plug instruments into amplifying their volume and in some cases change the treble and bass elements of the instrument.

 

  • Acoustic Guitar Case:

    • This is a specially designed case to store your guitar in and transport it and any accessories safely.

Important Features

Tips for Consumers:

  • Tonewoods:

    • Cedar:

      • Cedar is a soft wood that makes a bright sound.

      • Cedar is usually used for classical and flamenco guitars.

 

    • Cocobolo:

      • Cocobolo is typically used for backs and sides of guitars.

      • Cocobolo is a tropical, Mexican hardwood.

      • Cocobolo creates a quick, responsive and bright sound.






 

    • Ebony:

      • Ebony is a strong slick wood.

      • Ebony is mostly used for fretboards.

 

    • Granadillo:

      • Granadillo is a rare, denser type of rosewood.

      • Granadillo is typically used for marimbas and guitar backs and sides.

      • Grandillo produces a bright clear sound.






 

    • Koa:

      • Koa is a golden Hawaiian wood.

      • Koa is used for all sides of the body.

      • Koa is expensive as it is scarce.

    • Mahogany:

      • Mahogany is a dense wood with a slow response rate.

      • Mahogany is mostly used in country or blues guitars as a top wood.

    • Maple:

      • Maple is usually used in the body and sides of the guitar.

      • Maple has a dry sound that emphasizes high range sounds.


 

    • Ovangkol:

      • Ovangkol is an African wood that is similar to rosewood.

      • Ovangkol is usually used for the backs and sides of guitars.

    • Rosewood:

      • It can be either Brazilian rosewood or Indian rosewood, which look different but have the same overall tone.

      • Rosewood produces rich, complex overtones that do not get overpowered by bass notes.

    • Sapele:

      • Sapele is a highly sustainable African wood.

      • Sapele is mainly used for guitars backs and sides.

    • Spruce :

      • Spruce is considered to be standard for acoustic guitar tops.

      • Spruce is lightweight, strong with good resonance.

    • Walnut:

      • Walnut is a popular alternative to mahogany.

      • Walnut has a similar density and stiffness to koa.

  • Laminate vs Solid Wood

    • It is important to consider what the top of your guitar is made from a price point of view as well as a sound point of view as the type of top determines how much vibration there occurs from the strings to the whole guitar and thereby the sound.

    • Laminate tops are made from several thin laminated pieces of wood with a higher grade slab on top and six generic slabs pressed below it. Laminate tops whilst cheaper and better for beginners do not vibrate as much as solid wood tops and therefore have a lesser sound.

    • Solid wood tops can be made from any type of wood, usually, two single ply pieces of wood pressed together. A solid wood top has a better sound than a laminate top as it allows for more vibration, however, it is more expensive and suggested more for professionals.  








 

  • Parts of the acoustic 12 string guitar

    • It is important to remember that an acoustic 12 string guitar is the exact same as a normal acoustic guitar and is made of the same parts.

    • Bridge:

      • This is the small raised rectangle on the body of the guitar, to which the strings are attached.

      • It is important to make sure that your bridge is adjusted and set properly for proper playing, this can be done personally through online tutorials or through a professional at a musical instrument store.

    • Top:

      • This is the face of the body of the guitar and can be either laminate or solid wood.

    • Rosette:

      • The rosette it often the ornamentation around the opening of the guitar under the strings.

    • Pickguard:

      • A pickguard is a hard pear-shaped slab of material that is used to protect the wood of the top of the guitar from being scratched by your pick when playing.

    • Binding

      • Binding refers to the material used to connect the pieces of the body of the guitar together.

    • Strap Button:

      • This is a button that one can attach a strap to in order to play easier whilst moving about or standing up.

    • Position Marker

      • These are dots that can be found on the frets of the guitar that help guitarists find the correct fret when playing music.

      • The position markers usually mark the 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 17th frets.




 

    • Neck:

      • An acoustic guitars neck is usually listed as between 12 and 14 frets, this means the frets above the body of the guitar. The more frets listed, the longer the neck and the harder it'll be to reach.

    • Fret Board:

      • This refers to the gap between the frets on which you place your fingers to play certain notes or chords.

    • Fret:

      • Frets are the raised lines on the neck of the guitar are that indicate where you should play the chords to achieve a certain pitch.

    • Strings

      • Acoustic guitar strings can either be steel or nylon depending on what guitar you and what sound you wish to have.

    • Tuning Keys:

      • This refers to the knobs on the top end of the neck of the guitar, that a guitarist can use to tune the guitar and make sure all strings are in tune.

    • Headstock:

      • Headstock refers to the piece wood on the end of the neck of the guitar, to which the tuning keys are attached.

    • Machine Head:

      • Machine head refers to the metal bolts that connect to the tuning keys. The string is wrapped around the machine head, and the tuning key turns the machine head to tighten or loosen the string.





 

  • Parts of an electric 12 string guitar:

    • The electric 12 string guitar is made up of the same parts as a normal electric guitar.

    • Strap button:

      • This is a button that one can attach a strap to in order to play easier whilst moving about or standing up.

    • Tremolo Arm:

      • The tremolo arm makes it easier for the guitarist to achieve the effect of bending the string whilst playing, sliding the note to make it sharp or flat.

    • Tone Control:

      • This is a button on the electric guitar that allows you to change the tone of your playing by adding less or more treble and/or bass.

    • Volume Control:

      • This is a button that allows you to control the volume of your electric guitar without having to change it on your amplifier.



 

    • Pickup Selector Switch:

      • Some guitars have multiple pickups and allow you to choose the number of pickups and which ones you would want to use based on what sound you want.

    • Scratchplate:

      • A scratchplate is a hard slab of material that is used to protect the wood of the top of the guitar from being scratched by your pick when playing.

    • Frets:

      • Frets are the raised lines on the neck of the guitar are that indicate where you should play the chords to achieve a certain pitch.

    • Tuning Keys:

      • This refers to the knobs on the top end of the neck of the guitar, that a guitarist can use to tune the guitar and make sure all strings are in tune.

    • Headstock:

      • Headstock refers to the piece wood on the end of the neck of the guitar, to which the tuning keys are attached.

    • Nut:

      • A nut is a line that separates the headstock and the neck of the guitar.

    • Neck:

      • An electric guitars neck is usually listed as between 572mm and 648mm, this means the frets above the body of the guitar. The more frets there are, the longer the neck and the harder it'll be to reach.

    • Fretboard:

      • This refers to the gap between the frets on which you place your fingers to play certain notes or chords.

    • Body:

      • The body of the guitar is the entire section below the neck of the guitar.

    • Pickups:

      • As previously mentioned there are three types of pickups for electric guitars, the single coil pickup, humbucking pickup and the P90 pickup.

    • Bridge:

      • This is the small raised rectangle on the body of the guitar, to which the strings are attached.

      • It is important to make sure that your bridge is adjusted and set properly for proper playing, this can be done personally through online tutorials or through a professional at a musical instrument store.

 

  • Different Types of Pickups

    • Even though electric guitars can have different body types, that doesn't really affect their sound, however, the type of pickup you use does affect the sound of your guitar. It is therefore important to choose a guitar with the right type of pickup.

    • Single Coil Pickup:

      • This type of pickup uses a single magnet.

      • They have a lower output compared to humbucking pickups, and so don’t produce such a distorted sound.

      • Single coil pickups have a rich melodic tone when played with a lower amount of gain.

      • Single coil pickups look long and thin, about the same width and length as a tube of lipstick.




 

    • Humbucking Pickups:

      • Humbucking pickups have two magnets, one for receiving the vibration of the strings and the other to cancel out the 60 cycle hum, which is a sound that comes from your guitar when alternating currents of electricity making a sound of about 60 Hertz.

      • A humbucking pickup sounds better when playing under high levels of distortion, due to its darker voice and higher output.

      • Other than the obvious genre choice of rock or heavy metal, this pickup is also good for playing jazz due to its darker tone.

    • P90 Pickups:

      • The P90 pickup is seen as the median between the single coil pickup and the humbucking pickup as its output falls between that of a single coil pickup and a humbucking pickup.

      • The P90 pickup also produces a brighter tone than the humbucking pickup but is still more subdued than the single coil pickup.

      • The P90 pickup is slightly bigger than a tube of lipstick and has six dots on its face.

  • 12 String Guitar Tuning:

    • The normal tuning of a guitar is the standard E;B;G;D;A;E, however, with a 12 string guitar the tuning is slightly different as there is double the number of strings.

    • The twelve-string guitar is tuned in a way that the added strings are tuned to the same note as the string above or below it but are an octave apart except for the 2 sets of bottom-most strings which are tuned in unison.

    • The tuning essentially would look like this (From top to bottom):

Top-Rated Brands

Different Brands of 12 String Guitars:

  • Takamine:

    • Started in 1959 as a small family run guitar shop, on the base of the Takamine mountain, before being named after the mountain in 1962, Takamine is a global provider of high-quality guitars. Takamine provides guitars for many well-known artists such as Blake Shelton, John Bon Jovi and Garth Brooks. Takamine headquarters can be found in Sakashita, Japan.

  • Epiphone:

    • Epiphone has been making musical instruments for any genre since 1873. Going from a small family instrument repair shop to a large worldwide organization, Epiphone is a massive success. With a slogan of “Performance is our passion”, how can it be denied that this company produces fine quality instruments. Their headquarters are currently located in Nashville, Tennessee.




 

  • Martin:

    • Founded by Christian Friedrich Martin in 1833 on November 6th. A Manufacturer of guitars and other instruments for over 2 centuries, Martin is one of the highest regarded manufacturers of guitars throughout its 200 years of business. Martin headquarters can be found in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

  • Seagull:

    • Seagull Guitars began in 1982 when Robert Goden built the first seagull guitar in the village of LaPatrie, Quebec. Seagull guitars are one of the well-known guitar brands that have a large interest in sustainability and as such only source the wood for their guitars from environmentally friendly suppliers. They can currently be found in Quebec, Canada.

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