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Best 12 String Guitars for Beginners – Buying Guide & Reviews

12-string guitars are a bit of an enigma. Most seasoned guitarists will have played a dreadnought or an auditorium acoustic guitar, but relatively few have dabbled with the mighty 12-string.

A 12-string sounds a bit like two guitars playing in unison – or like applying a chorus effect via a pedal, naturally. It sounds epic, giving you a much fuller sound than a normal guitar.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know if you’re thinking about purchasing one.

Best 12 String Guitars: Product Guide

Fender CD-60SCE-12

Fender CD-140SCE 12-String Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar with 2-Year Warranty, Fishman Pickup and Preamp System, Natural, with Case
348 Reviews
Fender CD-140SCE 12-String Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar with 2-Year Warranty, Fishman Pickup and Preamp System, Natural, with Case
  • Single-cutaway 12-string dreadnought body style
  • Solid spruce top with scalloped “X”-bracing
  • Ovangkol back and sides

This single-cutaway 12 string dreadnought from Fender is a great guitar.

With mahogany for that rich and warm sound with a built-in Fishman pickup and preamp, makes it ideal for live performance.

It has a solid spruce top and boasts an ‘easy to play neck’ with rolled fingerboard edges for easier playing, as well as scalloped “X” bracing for extra punch.

It also has a built-in tuner and pre-amp, making live performances a bit more straightforward.

What we like:

  • Built-in tuner and pre-amp
  • Solid spruce top
  • Easy to play neck

Takamine GD30CE-12NAT

Takamine GD30CE-12NAT Dreadnought 12-String Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar
  • Solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides that produce a rich, resonant sound
  • Slim mahogany neck and 12″-radius rosewood fingerboard provide great feel and playability
  • Takamine TP-4TD preamp system gives you a built-in tuner and three-band EQ and gain controls for excellent amplified performance and versatility

The Takamine GD30CE-12NAT has mahogany back, sides and neck and solid top construction for a rich, resonant sound.

The slim mahogany neck and 12″ inch radius fingerboard provide great feel and playability. It also packs a rosewood fretboard and a soft Venetian-style cutaway, for great playability.

In addition, you get an onboard tuner and 3-band EQ/gain controls to amplify your guitar. If you’re into shiny finishes, you’ll love it too (it’s got a beautiful gloss finish).

What we like:

  • Dreadnought size
  • Venetian-style cutaway
  • Built-in tuner and pre-amp

Yamaha FG820

Yamaha FG820 12-String Solid Top Acoustic Guitar
324 Reviews
Yamaha FG820 12-String Solid Top Acoustic Guitar
  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Mahogany Back & Sides
  • Rosewood Fingerboard

Yamaha’s 800 Series guitars have a pretty impressive reputation, in part thanks to the scalloped bracing which provides you with a louder and stronger sound in the low to mid-ranges.

Yamaha is a quality producer of musical goods in general, so you also know you’re getting something half decent.

The FG820 also features mahogany back and sides for the quintessential 12 string warm sound, as well as a rosewood fretboard for smoothness in playing. It also has chrome die-cast tuners.

The one downside? It comes with no electronics, so if you frequent your local gigging joints, you’ll have to buy a separate pick up.

What we like:

  • Quality build
  • Variety of colors available
  • Good sound at a relatively affordable price

Ibanez AEG5012 AEG

Ibanez AEG 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar (Dark Violin Sunburst)
109 Reviews
Ibanez AEG 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar (Dark Violin Sunburst)
  • Purpleheart Fingerboard – Dark Violin Sunburst
  • 12-string Acoustic-electric with Spruce Top
  • Sapele Back Sides

Over now to an offering from guitar maker Ibanez. This one comes in the AEG body shape, which is relatively small compared to the other 12 strings reviewed here.

The build quality is superb too, with customary mahogany back, sides, and neck with a rosewood fretboard and bridge.

A stand out feature is the ivory body binding which adds a touch of class. Sound-wise, the tiny size projects a unique tone of its own, with great mids, but slightly lacking in some bass notes.

What we like:

  • Classic AEG shape
  • Built-in pre-amp and tuner
  • Low action

Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations

Wider Neck

To accommodate the extra strings, neck width (or nut width, as it’s measured at the nut) needs to be increased – the neck width is often closer to that of a classical guitar.

The neck profile and length is usually the same as a regular guitar, just the fretboard width that changes.

Is this a problem? Not necessarily.

But it could be problematic for people with small hands, as you’ll need to stretch quite a bit more to reach certain chords than on a regular guitar.

The increased tension of twelve strings also means the neck of these guitars needs to be stronger and thicker, adding to the weight.

For some, this would make playing less comfortable, especially if you play standing up.

Playability

As you press down on two strings at a time, more pressure is needed.

This won’t be an issue for open chords but could be problematic for hard to play barre chords that require a lot of hand strength.

The same goes for techniques like bends, which are almost out of the question, and hammer-ons are much harder.

Want to use a capo? Well, your regular 6 string capo won’t work as it won’t apply enough pressure. Fortunately, there are some really good capos designed for 12 string guitars available.

How Does The Tuning Work on a 12 String?

In essence, they follow the same open tuning as a regular guitar: E A D G B E.

However, there is a difference:

  • E, A, D and G have double sets of strings that are tuned an octave apart.
  • B and E are a little different. These don’t have partners that are an octave apart, but rather two of each string tuned to the same pitch, creating unison.

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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