12 String vs 6 String

Pink Floyd playing a 12 string guitar while singing ‘wish you were here’ has captured everyone’s attention. The song’s soft tune and amazing music had got everyone wanting to play a 12 string guitar since the song’s release. Let's see 12 String vs 6 String comparison.

Other well-known songs like Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to heaven” include 12 string guitars. On the other hand, 6 string guitars are very popular too and are still played by the majority of the artists.

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If you are a new guitarist and are confused about whether you should get a 12 string or a 6 string guitar, then you should read our article! If you can’t choose either you want to play as 12 string like your favorite guitarist or take up 6 string as a beginner, we will help you decide. We have discussed all the differences between a 12 string vs. a 6 string guitar.

How did the 6 string and 12 string originate?

Lute used to be the parent instrument of modern-day guitars. Many of the string instruments originated from the ancient lute. At the beginning of the 20th century Antonio Torres Jurado, who was a Spanish Luthier developed the modern-day guitar.

While his developed guitars had mane designs and versions, his innovations soon led to the development of the 6 string guitar which is very popular today. On the other hand, 12 string guitar is the advanced version of the 6 string guitar. Despite its looks, 12 string guitar is played like the 6 string version.

Differences: 6 strings vs. 12 string. 

As its name suggests 6 string guitars have fewer strings than 12 string guitar. A 6 string guitar has a narrower neck compared to a 12 string guitar, and allows beginners to have better comfort while playing it. In a 12 string guitar, the guitarist has to fret one note with 2 strings together.

As a result, 12 string guitars have reduced playability and a wider neck. In terms of natural chorus and tone, 12 string guitars produce a richer tone as it has several octave strings.

Tonal Distinction

Compared to 12 string guitars, 6 string guitars are available in a large variety of tonal distinctions. They come in smooth tones to warm, punchy to bright tones, and many more. This does not mean 12 string guitars have only a single tonal nuance.

They also exist in different tonal variations, including half to full soundings. Many of them even have a sparkle that results from its subtle construction. 12 string guitars have double the strings than in a 6 string guitar. They have double 4 lower strings that are tuned to result in an octave higher than a regular 6 string guitar’s tone.

Sound Quality

If you want to play with extra shimmer, subtlety, and jangle, 12 string guitars would be better for producing that sound quality than 6 stringed ones. 12 string guitars produce a fuller and slightly heavy sound than 6 string guitars. If you are playing in a chorus, in that case, both 12 and 6 string guitars will sound the same. 

Construction differences

Even though they are both guitars they have subtle construction differences. The headstock on a 12 string guitar is bigger than 6 string ones, as they need to hold together all the strings and tuning heads together.

However, the body and the neck of a 12 string guitar do need to be reinforced to handle the extra tension caused by all the strings. In some of them the necks have shorter scales to reduce the tension.

The biggest construction difference lies in its neck, which is a lot thicker than a 6 string guitar. This causes fretting a 12 string guitar tougher than a 6 stringed one.

The first four strings in a 12 string guitar are the thickest, it includes low E, A, D, and G have their strings tuned to a higher octave. So 6 of the strings are regular strings and are the same as the 6 strings while the other is tuned as a higher octave.  

Tuning

12 string guitars are tuned the same way as the 6 string guitars. There is no difference in the tuning. However, if you are a guitarist you will know that how tough it is to restring a 12 string guitar compared to a 6 string one.

As there are more strings in a 12 string guitar restringing them one by one is a tedious task and requires a lot of patience and time. 

While tuning a 12 string guitar, you will notice that each of the string pairs have a gap between them and the immediate next pair of strings. You will also notice that the bottom pair of strings has uneven thickness.

One string is thin and the other string is thick. This is an important factor you need to keep in mind if you are tuning a 12 string guitar. 

Do not tune all the thin strings together, but rather in pairs – one thick and one thin. The thick ones produce higher notes. Tuning the G string in a 12 string guitar is tough.

As the moment you tune you G string, soon you will hear that the other G string got slightly out of tune. Fixing this requires experience. And as for 6 string guitars, you tune them as you tune them normally. 

Playing Style Difference between a 6 string and a 12 string guitar

If you are an amateur you may not get the difference in tone between a 12 string and a 6 string guitar. But as days pass by, you will notice a vast difference in both of their playing styles.

On a 6 string guitar guitarists can pick up any song and play almost any music. They can cover tunes and compose their own music too. Most beginners start with a 6 string guitar, as it is easier to learn, practice with, and pick up songs.

On the other hand, 12 string guitars as tough to play. It is tough to perform and pick up different guitar techniques, like soloing, legato, and bending.  

Bending

Bending is very difficult on a 12 string guitar as there is double the tension caused by 12 string than a 6 string guitar. Bending also requires a wider space, as a pair of strings that up more space than a single string.

Advantages and Disadvantages of both 6 string and 12 string guitars 

In this section we have listed down all the advantages and disadvantages of both 6 string vs. 12 string guitars for you. After going through all of the pros and cons you will be able to decide whether you should get a 6 string or a 12 string guitar.

12 string guitar

Pros 

  • Produces a smooth resonant tone that is heavy and sounds fuller.
  • A 12 string guitar sounds like 2 guitars are being together in perfect sync
  • You can adapt to different musical genres using a 12 string
  • 12 string guitars are great for solo performances, they help to highlight the guitar’s tune and sounds pleasing to the ears
  • Great for solo performances or live gigs
  • 12 string guitars are the best alternatives for replacing a weaker tone.

Cons

  • Restringing a 12 string guitar takes a lot of time and patience
  • It needs to be tuned precisely otherwise the sound quality will be dissatisfactory 
  • Tuning 12 strings can be troublesome 
  • It has a wider neck, and hampers playability. It is hard to hold onto 12 string guitars especially is your hands as small
  • Has added tension force on its neck as it has twice more strings than a 6 string guitar
  • Not advisable for newbie guitarists as they need stronger finger strength 
  • Limited guitar techniques can be applied only

6 string guitar

Pros

  • More covers, and notes can be picked up using a 6 string guitar
  • Easier to hit high notes using 6 string
  • Has a uniqueness 
  • 6 string guitars have better stability, durability, and balance
  • Best guitar for beginners 
  • The chords are easier to learn
  • Easier to handle and play on stage
  • Has Bass VI

Cons

  • They are more in demand and are thus expensive 
  • Has less number of strings 
  • Heavier 
  • 6 string guitars have narrower string spacing

Video links

You can check these YouTube videos out to know more about the difference between 6 strings vs. 12 string guitar 

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Bottom Line

Most of the guitarists and musicians play 6 string guitars as they can cover most styles and techniques using them. And as there are many variations in 6 string guitars like different tonewoods and structural variations people prefer 6 strings over 12 strings. It completely depends on you which you want for yourself and the type of music you want to play.

You can also read: How to Play A Slide Guitar?

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