How to Tune a 12-string Guitar: An Ultimate Guide

12-string guitars are amazing instruments to play. But, if not properly tuned, they will not let you create the melody you want. In order to know how to tune a 12-string guitar, let's know the basics about it throughout this article.

What is a 12 string guitar?

A steel-string guitar with 12 strings in six courses provides a thicker, more ringing sound than a regular six-string guitar. The lower four courses' strings are typically tuned in octaves, while the upper two courses' strings are tuned in unison.

Is the 12-string guitar good?

If you are an acoustic guitarist, a 12-string guitar is the best deal for you. It will add such a rich tone to your music. The warm music of the 12 string guitar will strum the best acoustic music you can create. 

The sound of a 12-string guitar is filling and robust. A 12-string guitar is best for performing specific kinds of songs as mentioned earlier. 

Are 12-string guitars beginner-friendly?

Let's directly get to the point, No, it's not. However, if you start practicing with a 6 string guitar, you'll eventually be able to strum a 12 string guitar. 

How to Tune a 12-string Guitar:

It is easier to tune a 12-string guitar if you think of it as a guitar with six pairs of strings. Each pair of strings on a 12-string guitar has a break before the next pair of strings. You will note that the thickness of the lower four pairs of strings is irregular. A thin and a thick string are combined together.

When tuning the instrument, keep in mind that the thinner strings are tuned to a higher pitch.

You do not need to consider 12 different strings when you play a 12-string guitar. Instead, imagine 6 pairs of strings and play each pair as a single string on a regular guitar.

Basic Tuning of a 12 string Guitar

Standard tuning is the most common tuning for a 12-string guitar. In Standard Tuning, the tuning works to make the 12-string guitar sound like a regular guitar. It is a very popular method to tune a 12-string guitar in regular E tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E, thick to thin).

Within the G, A, E, and D string pairs, tune themselves in an octave. This is an important step to tune your 12-string. Tune the remaining high B and E strings in unison to the same frequency as the others.

Pay attention to variations

The most notable variation you will notice is that the E, A, D, and G string pairs must be tuned an octave higher. The E and B strings are tuned to a High E and High B in unison. You must pay full attention to the string you are tuning while tuning the G, A, E, and D string pairs to separate octaves.

How to play the strings

Pay attention to this part as they will guide you to tune your 12 strings guitar properly. The lower octave will always be played on the thicker string, while the higher octave will always be played on the thinner string. Let's assume you are tuning the E string pair.

One of the strings is thinner than the others; tune this string to an octave higher E. One of the strings would also be thicker; tune this string to the normal (low) E. Again try this process all the way up to G.

Tune all strings in each pair to the same high frequency after the G string pair. Both strings of the high B string pair should be tuned in unison, and both strings of the high E string pair should be tuned in unison as well. You have to repeat the process until you have completed all of the strings.

The octave-lower and octave-higher tuning in the G, A, E, and D string pairs is the most important feature. High B and high E, the last two string pairs, are tuned to the same pitch. Remember to tune each pair's thick string to the low note and the thin string to the octave higher note once more.

Drop D Tuning

Any music written for Drop-D guitars can be played on a 12-string guitar. But the condition is, it must be tuned to Drop-D. To begin, tune your 12-string guitar to standard tuning using the steps mentioned earlier.

Then drop the low-E pair of strings all the way to D. The rest of the strings stay the same. The pair is still apart from an octave, but they are now tuned to D.

Open Tuning

You can easily tune your 12-string guitar to any open tuning you choose to set. You can use any flexible tuning as long as you know to tune the strings and tune the 4 pairs in an octave apart.

Use Chromatic Scale

It is a whole spectrum of a musical scale's twelve tones, plus flats and sharps. The C chromatic scale, for example, goes like this: C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb, B.

The first thing you can do is set up and turn on your tuner, depending on the kind of tuner you have. If you have a clip-on tuner, you will need to connect it to your guitar. 

If you are using a certain kind of tuner, such as a pedal tuner, you will need to plug it in to make sure it's able to accept the audio signal from your guitar as an input. You have to clip it to the guitar's edge.

 When you play a string after it's mounted, it will detect the frequency you are playing and show you how far off below E where you would fine-tune the tuning knob until it's dead-on in the center.

The tuner will turn green after you hit E. And, according to the display, one string is in tune, with a few more to go to end the process. Carry on for the rest of the 11 strings in the same manner.

12 String Guitar Tuners

High-quality guitar tuners are made by Snark and KLIQ, two well-known brands. Many of the major guitar makers also produce outstanding tuners. The Fender clip-on tuner works pretty well. It is not complicated.

However, if you want a tuner with more features especially accuracy, we recommend the KLIQ UberTuner. It is a clip-on tuner similar to the Fender that guitarists use. It is loaded with detailed features and it shows the frequency on the display.

iOS User-friendly Tuning apps

A guitarist may want to record and tune a guitar on his/her iPhone, iPad, or even Mac. For them, there are some great apps. This works well for recording and tuning 12 string guitars as well. iOS has a built-in app called GarageBand for all the guitar activities. Additionally, in AppStore, you will find many other apps suitable for you.

GuitarTuna is a program that is preferable for iOS users. Overall, it has received mixed reviews. The only drawback to GuitarTuna is that it needs an in-app payment to tune 7 and 12 string guitars. It is only available for free for standard 6-string guitar tuning and recording.

This might be quite disappointing to some, which is why it is preferable to use the physical KLIQ UberTuner.

Android User-friendly App

You will be able to see that the top tuner on the iOS App Store - GuitarTuna - is also available on Google Play. If you want to tune your 12-string guitar, the GuitarTuna app charges, much like the iOS edition. If you are serious about having an app, this one will do the trick.

The tuner software named iStroboSoft is a chromatic tuner that works amazing with a 12-string guitar.

Regardless of which operating system you use, iOS or Android, it's better for you to use iStroboSoft to tune a 12 string guitar. 

Roadie Automatic Tuner

The Roadie Automatic tuner also pretty much does the work and you do not have to worry about it while using the app.

Simply choose the tuning you wish to use, then place it over each string and it will tune itself to pitch.

Final Thoughts

Tuning a 12-string guitar is a bit more difficult than tuning a 6-string guitar. The guitar has twice as many strings and much more tension. To keep 6 pairs of strings in tune isn't an easy task.

Besides, the first two pairs are to be kept on the same note and the remaining four pairs are tuned in octaves. The first few strings you tuned will sound flat. You will need to balance it a few times before you get it right.

So just by practice and focus, you can really ace tuning a 12 -string guitar.

You can also read: How to Play Shallow on Guitar

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