12 String

Name: 12-String Guitar.
Type: Lute > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Many, USA.
Region: Many, North America.

Description: The origin of the modern 12-string guitar is not certain, but the most likely ancestors using courses of doubled strings are some Mexican instruments such as the guitarra séptima, the guitarra quinta huapanguera, and the bajo sexto. At the end of the 19th century, the archtop mandolin was one of the first instruments with courses of doubled strings designed in the United States.

Usage: In the 19th and early 20th centuries, 12-strings were regarded as “novelty” instruments. Through out the 1920s and 1930s the 12-string guitar arose in popularity due to its bright “bell like” sound, making it suitable for accompaniment for vocalists. This type of guitar was popular among blues musicians notably Lead Belly, Blind Willy McTell. Lead Belly’s protegé, Fred Gerlach, introduced the instrument into the folk-music world. Initially, it was primarily used for accompaniment, owing to the greater difficulty of picking or executing string “bends” on its double-strung courses. During the 1960s folk-revival and later the 1970s this guitar was introduced into many different genres from blues, folk, rock, jazz and popular music. In the later 20th century, however, a number of players devoted themselves to producing solo performances on the 12-string guitar.

Tuning: Typically the 12-string guitar is tuned to E A D G B E, the same as the 6-string acoustic and classical guitars. Due to the additional six strings the tuning is E3 E2 / A3 A2 / D4 D3 / G4 G3 / B3 B3 / E4 E4 – from the lowest to the highest course. The courses are arranged in pairs of two strings.

Nashville Tuning: refers to a means of simulating a 12-string guitar sound, using two six-string guitars playing in unison. This is achieved by replacing the lower four courses on one six-string with the higher octave strings for those four courses from a 12-string set. and tuning these four strings an octave higher than normal tuning for those courses on a six-string. Double-tracking this guitar with the standard-tuned six-string is commonly used in recording studios to achieve a “cleaner” 12-string effect.