What’s the Best 12-String Guitar?

A 12-string guitar is a unique instrument and opens a whole new world of sound for guitarists who have only played with 6-string instruments. Whether it’s looking at Brian May’s rendition of Queen’s Love of My Life or Space Oddity by David Bowie, a 12-string guitar can add depth and fullness to your music.

Of course, if you’ve always been a 6-string guitar user, a 12-string guitar may take some time to get used to. However, the instrument’s unique, detailed sound is worth it. The best 12-string guitars sound refined and richer than their 6-string counterparts, and a 12-string guitar can make an excellent addition to your collection.

Since these guitars aren’t as common as 6-string guitars, it may be challenging to navigate the market and figure out which ones are worth investing in. This guide to the best 12-string guitars will answer all your questions, including what to consider when looking for one and our top recommendations for models to invest in.

Best 12-String Guitar: How to Choose One

Making any major purchase requires forethought and careful consideration. Buying a 12-string guitar is no different. To make sure you buy the best 12-string guitar for your needs, consider the following factors before deciding on one.

Acoustic vs. Electric

Most 12-string guitars are acoustic, but it’s not impossible to find 12-string electric guitars. Determine which type you want to buy before looking at different options.

Tonewood

The type of wood used to construct the guitar body greatly impacts its sound. Each type of wood has a unique sound, which is why the wood used to make the top, back, and sides of a guitar is called the “tonewood.”

Most guitar tops consist of cedar and spruce, while most sides and backs consist of maple, rosewood, and mahogany. Some constructions even use synthetic materials for the sides and back. Choose the type of wood based on the kind of sound you prefer. For example, cedar is known for producing a mellow sound, while maple is known for bright sounds.

Body Shape

Choosing a guitar that produces the sound you want to make is essential, but it’s also critical that you choose one you can play comfortably. This means choosing one you can play while both sitting and standing. Most players opt for guitars with larger soundboards to create louder and deeper sounds. However, it’s important to ensure the guitar isn’t too big for you to play comfortably. In this case, choosing a narrow waist can help ensure you’re able to play the guitar properly. Other guitars have cutaways that let you reach higher frets more easily.

Playability

Playability is very important when it comes to buying the best 12-string guitar. These instruments are harder to play than 6-string guitars, and a few factors can improve your comfort level when doing so. One such factor is the neck, which will be wider on 12-string guitars than on 6-string ones. This will make playing more difficult, so choose a more comfortable neck.

Additionally, since you’ll have to use more strings, which might hurt your fingers, it may be wise to look for 12-string guitar models with less space between the frets and strings. Softer strings can also improve playability and make the experience more comfortable.

Use/Purpose

If you’re buying a 12-string guitar for practice, it’s very different from buying one for professional use like recording and performing for live audiences. You won’t have to invest as much or be as picky about a starter 12-string guitar. On the other hand, you’ll require a larger budget and will have to pay more attention to high-quality tonewood if you’re buying one for professional use.

Frets and Scale

If you want to buy the best 12-string guitar, keep scale length in mind when making your decision. Since longer scale length results in the frets being further apart, make your decision accordingly. It’s also critical to remember that a longer scale means that the string will need to be stretched more to result in the same pitch. This is the way to go if you’re looking for a brighter tone. A longer scale will also make it easier to play the higher frets.

Neck Shape

As previously mentioned, it’s critical to keep comfort in mind when choosing a 12-string guitar. The guitar neck will be wider for a 12-string guitar than a 6-string guitar and will generally be both wider and thicker for acoustic guitars than electric ones.

Consider the shape of the neck before finalizing your purchase. For example, you can opt for a C-shaped neck if you’re looking for something flatter in the middle or a D-shaped neck if your preference is something rounder and thicker. It’s also important to remember that rounder necks make chords easier to play but flatter necks are better for melodic playing.

Price

It’s also important to set a budget and pay attention to the price before buying the best 12-string guitar for your needs. When coming up with a figure, make sure you include other expenses, such as accessories. For example, the cost of a guitar setup, extra strings, cables, and more will add to the overall cost.

Best 12-String Guitar: Our Top Recommendations

With so many options available, it’s understandable that you’re not always able to differentiate the good 12-string guitar options from the best 12-string guitar options. We’ve done so for you here.

Fender CD-60SCE 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

This isn’t just one of the best 12-string guitars we’ve come across – it’s also the perfect price for beginners or those who just aren’t comfortable spending too much money on a 12-string guitar. While it’s affordable, it certainly doesn’t lack in quality. The Fender CD-60SCE has a solid spruce top and has a bright and strong sound. No matter your playing style, it’s sure to impress.

It’s especially great for beginners to 12-string guitars because of its easy-to-play neck. The frets are extremely comfortable to reach because of the rolled fingerboard edges, making the guitar very comfortable to play. Despiteits affordable price tag, the Fender CD-60SCE comes with a built-in tuner and its own preamp system.

Takamine EF381SC 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

If you don’t have to stick to a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Takamine EF381SC. This acoustic-electric guitar has an impressive cedar top and maple back. It also has maple sides and a mahogany neck. In addition to the sturdy construction and high-quality tonewood, it has a beautiful gloss black finish that makes it one of the most aesthetically pleasing guitars you’ll ever own.

You should note that this model comes with its own hard case, preamp system, and built-in tuner. While it comes at a high price point, it’s worth the splurge if you’re looking for the best 12-string guitar for professional use.

Dean Boca 12-String Semi-Hollowbody Guitar 

The best 12-string guitar can also be an electric one. If you’re looking for more of a rock sound, look no further than the Dean Boca 12-String Hollowbody Guitar. This classic black electric guitar boasts Grover tuners, dual humbuckers, and an adjustable bridge. It’s also made of high-quality woods, including a mahogany body and back, rosewood fretboard, and a maple neck. This versatile instrument can play many types of music and is an excellent deal for a relatively affordable price.

Final Thoughts

12-string guitars aren’t as popular as their 6-string counterparts, but there’s no denying the fullness and stunning harmonic resonance they bring to the table. Hopefully, this guide to the best 12-string guitars helped you see how remarkable these instruments can be and helped you in your journey to purchasing one.

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Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.