Twelve-string guitar

Twelve-string guitar

:"This article is about guitars with six courses. For guitars with more than six separate strings, see extended-range classical guitar or ten-string guitar."

The twelve string guitar is an acoustic or electric guitar with twelve strings, which produces a richer, more ringing tone than a standard six string guitar. Essentially, it is a type of guitar with a natural chorus effect due to the subtle differences in the frequencies produced by either of the two strings on each course.


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 is tuned in unison. The tuning of the second string in the third course (G) varies: some players use a unison string which is less prone to breakage, 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 tension placed on the instrument by the strings is great, 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 recently, twelve-string guitars were nearly universally tuned lower than the traditional EADGBE, to reduce the stresses on the instrument. Lead Belly may have used a low C-tuning{See Julius Lester/Pete Seeger The 12-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly, Oak Publications, New York, 1965, 6.

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. Many performers who play the twelve-string guitar use an ordinary six-string guitar as their primary instrument, switching to the twelve-string guitar for certain songs that seem to call for a brighter sound.

Because it is substantially more difficult to pluck individual strings on the twelve-string guitar, and almost impossible to bend notes tunefully, the instrument is rarely used for lead musical parts. 12-string guitar is however primarily suited to a rhythm or accompaniment role and is often used in folk songs and some popular music. Some hard rock and progressive rock 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 pick or fingertip when not simply strumming chords. The pairing of thin, easily broken octave strings with larger, stiffer bass strings presents difficulties to the player also, and only a very skilled player can reliably pluck single strings from within a course at any speed (notably the very high octave G string, which is the highest-pitched string on the instrument). Nevertheless, with practice, the twelve-string guitar is not unduly difficult to play. It is, however, generally used in a fairly restricted role which emphasises its strengths: rich ringing, full-bodied chords, and fast, rippling single plucked notes on the twinned strings. Twelve-string guitars are made in both acoustic and electric form. However, it is the acoustic type that is most common.

Chorus effect

The double ranks of strings of the 12-string guitar produce a shimmering chorus effect. To produce this effect individual sounds with roughly the same timbre and nearly (but never exactly) the same pitch converge and are perceived as one. When the effect is produced successfully, none of the constituent sounds is perceived as being out of tune. Rather, this amalgam of sounds has a rich, shimmering quality which would be absent if the sound came from a single source. The effect is more apparent when listening to sounds that sustain for longer periods of time, such as a long guitar chord.


Use of twelve-string electric guitar almost appears to be cyclical: beginning with Blind Willie McTell in the '20s and '30s, Lead Belly in the '40s, and continuing with Bob Gibson in the '50s and early '60s, performers and Gibson acolytes such as Mike Pender of The Searchers and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, brought it to the fore for a decade, until it fell out of favor and was largely limited to niche use by progressive rockers in the 1970s. The instrument was revived in the 1980s by alternative rockers such as Peter Buck of R.E.M., Marty Willson-Piper of The Church, and Johnny Marr of The Smiths. During the 1990s, its popularity waned again, although it plays a key part in the sound of indie rock acts such as Low and The Decemberists. During the 2000's Les Fradkin made many albums with the Rickenbacker 360/12 12-string guitar and once again, popularized the sound on Apple iTunes. Recently its use has also been growing once more, with the rise of psych folk and freak folk and anti-folk spearheads Television Personalities as current styles which make good use of the instrument's bright, drone-y qualities. The most popular electric twelve-string model since the 1960s has been the Rickenbacker 360/12, first popularized by George Harrison. Many double-neck guitars have a twelve-string neck, in order for guitarists to switch between tones during live performances, for example, when playing "Stairway to Heaven", "Hotel California" or "Xanadu".

Notable performers

Performers who use acoustic 12-string guitars span a range of genres, from folk (Arlo Guthrie) and traditional blues (Lead Belly) to folk rock (Paul Simon) (Neil Young) and rock bands (George Harrison of The Beatles and Pete Townshend of The Who) [] . Some musicians, notably Leo Kottke and John Butler, use it as their main instrument. Electric Rickenbacker 12-string users include a range of jangle pop guitarists, ranging from Jim/Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) to Peter Buck (R.E.M.). The Gibson EDS-1275 electric 12-string was used by blues rock/early heavy metal guitarist Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Guns and Roses guitarist Slash, Alex Lifeson of Rush, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, System Of A Down & Scars On Broadway guitarist Daron Malakian. For a longer list, see the List of 12-string guitar players article.

ee also

*Portuguese guitar
*Classical guitar
*Electric guitar

External links

* [ History of the 12-string]
* [ Vintage Guitar Museum]

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См. также в других словарях:

  • twelve-string guitar — /twelv string / an acoustic guitar having twelve strings instead of six, with each pair tuned an octave apart, and more difficult to play than the standard guitar. * * * …   Universalium

  • twelve-string guitar — /twelv string / an acoustic guitar having twelve strings instead of six, with each pair tuned an octave apart, and more difficult to play than the standard guitar …   Useful english dictionary

  • twelve-string guitar — /ˌtwɛlv strɪŋ gəˈta/ (say .twelv string guh tah) noun a guitar which has six pairs of strings, the four pairs lowest in pitch having one string tuned an octave above the other …   Australian English dictionary

  • Electric twelve-string guitar — The electric twelve string guitar is an electric guitar with twelve strings in six courses. Both semi acoustic and solid body versions exist.Makers and models* Fender Musical Instruments Corporation: ** Fender Stratocaster XII. ** Fender Electric …   Wikipedia

  • King of the Twelve-String Guitar — Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Twelve-string bass — The twelve string bass is an electric bass with four courses each of three strings.Normal tuning is eeE aaA ddD ggG, with one string of each course tuned similarly to the corresponding string of the four string bass, and the remaining two strings …   Wikipedia

  • twelve-string — adj. Twelve string is used with these nouns: ↑guitar …   Collocations dictionary

  • Ten-string guitar — A classical ten string guitar There are many varieties of ten string guitar, including: Both electric and acoustic guitars. Instruments used principally for classical, folk and popular music. Both coursed and uncoursed instruments. Contents …   Wikipedia

  • Seven-string guitar — A seven string guitar is a guitar with seven strings instead of the usual six. Such guitars are not as common as the six string variety, but a minority of guitarists have utilised them for at least 150 years. Some types of these instruments are… …   Wikipedia

  • Nine-string guitar — A nine string guitar is a guitar with nine strings instead of the commonly used six strings. Such guitars are not as common as the six string variety, but are used by guitarists to modify the sound or expand the range of their instrument by… …   Wikipedia

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