Many of the most influential songs of the last 60 years have one thing in common. They were played on a 12 string guitar! With many beginners picking up a guitar for the first time wanting to play their favorite music, wanting to buy the best 12 string guitar for beginners is a natural step to take!
Not to be confused with the double neck guitar, the 12 string guitar has 6 pairs of strings. They are tuned just like a 6 string, but with different octaves for each pair of strings.
We dive into great detail about 6 string vs 12 string guitars, what to look for in a 12 string, and tuning these instruments later, but lets start by giving you our four favorite 12 string guitars!
The Best 12 String Guitars
Want more detailed reviews? In the next section we look at each instrument individually so you have a better idea what you’re getting!
Ibanez AEG1812II AEG 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The first pick on our list is the Ibanez AEG 12 string. This is also our best budget 12 string guitar option, but that in no way means this isn’t a great instrument!
The Ibanez is an acoustic electric and was designed to help electric players transition. To this end, the guitar has a shorter 25” scale and a thinner AEG body.
The combination of the short scale and thin body will remind electric players much more of their instruments than the other dreadnought 12 strings that are on this list.
[amazon box=B01B24ITB4, description_items=0]
The smaller body of this guitar does come with some drawbacks though. When played acoustically the smaller sound chamber doesn’t project as well as the other instruments on this list. This leads to a softer tone that lacks the boldness of many 12 strings.
- Solid Spruce Top, Mahogany Body
- Dark Violin Sunburst finish is super sharp
- Fishman Sonicore Pickup with AEQ-SP2 Preamp
- Smaller frame for electric guitar feel
- Best Value Guitar on our list!
- Smaller body and scale leads to softer acoustic sound
[amazon fields=”B01B24ITB4″ value=”button”]
Takamine G Series GD30CE-12 Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric
Our top pick and “Amazon’s Choice”, the Takamine G Series 12 String is a stage worthy instrument you won’t regret purchasing!
The Dreadnought size of this guitar leads to a bolder, perhaps richer, and often louder tone than the Ibanez, but the cutaway body design and slim neck give this guitar great playability.
This guitar also comes equipped with the Takamine TP-4TD preamp and electronics system, which is one of favorites on the market today.
[amazon box=B017LX3JAG, description_items=0]
If you are a beginner or intermediate looking for a 12 string guitar that you won’t outgrow this is a phenomenal option. For those of you wanting to jump on stage, look into this guitar’s big brother, the Takamine Pro Series 3 12 String Acoustic Electric Guitar!
- Solid Spruce Top and Mahogany Body
- Takamine electronics System
- Dreadnought shape projects amazing sound
- Slim neck for easier chord fingering
- Phenomenal Quality for this Price
- Dreadnought size can be hard for smaller individuals to play
[amazon fields=”B017LX3JAG” value=”button”]
Fender CD-60SCE-12 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Fender CD-60 series shows up on many of our acoustic guitar lists and the 12 string version was a no brainer for the top 12 string acoustic guitars!
This guitar shares many of the same features as the Takamine, including spruce top, mahogany body, dreadnought body shape with cutaway and the X bracing pattern.
The big difference between this instrument and the Takamine is the electronics system. The Fishman Classic just doesn’t quite compete with the Takamine in our opinion.
[amazon box=B06XXX4YXL, description_items=0]
If you don’t want to spend the extra $150 for the Takamine, you would be hard pressed to beat this instrument in this price range. This is a affordable, high-quality instrument perfect for an introduction to the 12 string guitar world!
- Solid Spruce top with Mahogany Body
- Dreadnought Shape with Cutaway
- Rolled fingerboard edges for easy-to-play neck
- Beginner kit with nice case and accessories
- Best instrument at this price range!
- Fishman electronics not quite as nice as the Takamine
[amazon fields=”B06XXX4YXL” value=”button”]
Alvarez Artist Series AD60-12 Dreadnought Twelve String Acoustic
The last instrument on our list is the Alvarez Artist Series. The Artist Series is an award winning line of guitars that has received rave reviews in both the States and Europe.
Alvarez uses a forward shifted scalloped FTSM bracing design, combined with a solid spruce top, mahogany sides and a design that aims to get the best sound from the setup, we love the tone the Alvarez produces.
This instrument shares the Fishman electronic system that the Fender employs.
[amazon box=B0057GPKEI, description_items=0]
Many of the reviews come in saying this guitar could easily cost twice this price! Some even compared it to expensive Gibson’s and Martin’s. If you are looking for an affordable option for your first 12 string guitar, you could do a LOT worse than the Alvarez Artist Series!
- Spruce Top and Mahogany Sides
- Alvarez special FTSM bracing design
- Award Winning Artist Series
- Alvarez Quality at it’s finest!
- Fishman electronics
[amazon fields=”B06XXX4YXL” value=”button”]
6 String guitars vs. 12 String Guitars
Before choosing between a 6 string and a 12 string guitar, there is really one main difference between them. It’s actually quite obvious… This difference is the number of strings. The number of strings effects many other aspects of how these two play though.
Without a doubt, a 6 string is the most widely used and is the go-to guitar for many guitar players and their unique styles. Whether it’s a finger-pick or strummed, a 6 string is available in many designs and tonewoods. When you hear a lot of songs, chances are the acoustics are played on a 6 string.
12 String guitars tend to be harder to learn on, and require a precision with the fretting hand that is above and beyond that needed for the 6 string.
Deciding on Tonals
With tonals, you will be glad to see that a 6 string provides many tonals that range from warm all the way to bright nuances. That being said, they don’t hold a candle to the range that a 12 string guitars can provide.
A 12 string doubles the notes of a 6 strings. The result is that the lower four strings are tuned to a higher octave than what is normally seen with the tuning of a 6 string. This means you get the same sharp, crisp bass notes on your E and G strings, but then you get a twinkling, bright higher octave of the same note.
From a sound perspective, the 6 string just can’t compete with the complexity and liveliness of the sound produced by a 12 string instrument.
What should I look for in a 12 string Guitar?
Owning the best 12 string electric guitar is always a great idea and there are many motives behind owning one. But you also need to be aware of negatives that may exist. Here are some things that you should look for in a 12 string guitar.
Is it the right choice?
Look For These Things When Buying a 12 String Guitar
A 12 string is made up of choruses that match the same sound that 2 separate guitars produce as they play together. A great alternative is to play a 12 string instead of 6 strings. This will provide more sounds that is also full.
The songs being played may make a difference in the overall performance of the 12 string because of the needed skill that can produce precise sounds for each song.
Be aware that a huge amount of maintenance is required for a 12 string.
Having improper pitch can cause a bad experience for all involved. Knowing how to make adjustments is important, but if you do not know how, then you may want to skip a 12 string.
What type of player is perfect for 12 strings?
Playing a 12 string is a great option for guitarists with experience. They also provide more motivation to play than what the 6 string is unable to do. Most of the classics that are played use a 12 string so it is absolutely necessary to have one available.
Also, the 12 string will provide the perfect sound every time that it’s needed without having to worry about trying other guitars.
Is it more difficult to play a 12 string?
Yes, it is more difficult to play a 12 string guitar. Not many people find it easy to play 12 string guitars. The fretting hand needs to hold down 2 strings for each note, making precision hand placement a must. If you are fingerpicking rather than strumming, you will run into the same difficulties on that side of the guitar too.
In fact, even experienced guitarists you may find it pretty difficult to play at first due to the additional strings. More finger strength and accuracy is needed in order for the notes to be fretted perfectly.
Besides looking out for the above, some other hurdles that you may be faced with include:
• Difficult picking due to the doubled strings
• Needs more attention so muting does not occur
• Increased stretching may occur because of the wider neck
Advice for the Novice
For the novice player that really feels inclined to master the best 12 string electric guitar, they should look into sticking to a neck that is wide due to the need to stretch more as you pick the chords.
Not only that, but you may find fretting difficult if your hands have not adjusted yet. Plus, you need to be able to make the proper tuning. The last thing that you need to do is be using valuable time tuning and then have no interest once you’re ready.
What it boils down to is having a perfect tone for your 12 string. You will see that it will improve the performance and the sound won’t let you down. Ultimately, you will be excited to play every chance you get.
How to Tune a 12 String Guitar
If you need to tune your 12 string, be aware that it may be a bit difficult because of the strings that comprise a 12 string guitar and how each pitch can be affected. The first 4 strings are tuned simultaneously, while the remaining strings are separately tuned octave.
Due to the duplicate nature of the strings, their tuning needs to be perfect. If tuning is not done correctly, then you will experience an unwelcome negative impact. With an increased neck tension, the tuning may need to be lower so that a capo can be reached. This is what will allow you to have the best sounding 12 string electric guitar possible!
The Final 12 String Note
A 12 string guitar can bring a complexity to your playing and your sound that few other instruments provide. That being said, they are much more difficult to play and not for everyone. If you’ve decided to stick with 6 strings after reading our review, check out our article on the best 6 string acoustics or our fingerpicking guitar guide, they may be more to your liking!
A ukulele player pretty much from birth, Edward has gone on to play banjo, lead guitar, and bass for a number of bands and solo projects! Edward loves talking, teaching and writing about music!