Most guitarists play the six-string guitar in the standard E tuning because it’s straightforward, and a fairly basic affair that most guitarists master quickly. However, some brave souls explore the realm of the 12-string guitar.

The 12-string guitar is considered to be more complicated compared to the six-string guitar. It’s because for the 12-string guitar there are twice as many strings and, therefore, a lot more tension on the guitar. Additionally, it is more challenging to play the 12-string guitar when forming chords due to the wide neck and extra strings

How-to-tune-a-12-string-guitar

Despite all the complication when playing the 12-string guitar, there are advantages of playing this guitar. The benefit you get is that it opens up to a broader spectrum of tone and a fuller sound than the six string guitar.

With all the mystery behind the 12-string guitar, we’ve come up with a guide on how you can tune the 12-string guitar. The guide is as follows;

Place the strings in ‘pairs.’

Yes, consider the 12 strings to be in pairs. Placing the strings in pairs will help you to tune the guitar to a tone that matches with the six notes in the standard 6-string guitar. Below are how the pairs strings look like;

How-to-tune-a-12-string-guitar-head

  • EE – First pair
  • BB – The Second pair
  • GG – The Third pair
  • DD – The Fourth pair
  • AA – The Fifth pair
  • EE – The Sixth pair

By placing the strings in pairs, you can see it is identical to the tuning of notes on a six-guitar guitar. Within the pairs, there are two strings that are either in ‘octave’ or in ‘unison’ with each other. Let’s take a look at what each pair does.

1. First pair – EE

Both of these strings are identical in thickness or gauge. When playing this pair, the two strings are tuned to the high ‘E’ in unison.

2. The Second pair – BB

They are also identical in gauge and tuned to ‘B’ in unison.

3. The third pair – GG

These strings are both tuned to ‘G’ and are octaves of each other. Moreover, the higher octave string is much thinner (lighter) gauge than the lower octave string.

When playing this pair, you have to be careful because the higher octave G string is susceptible to breakage. It is caused by the high tension on the G string trying to reach the high pitch. Fortunately, you can avoid this by using these tips;

  • Use a higher gauge string, which is nine instead of eight.
  • Tune the entire guitar down to a semitone which will offer you a low tension making your G string last longer.
  • Don’t wind the G string all the way up, instead tune it gradually.

Provide some lubrication by rubbing a graphite pencil in the string groove of the nut to prevent breakage caused by friction.

4. The fourth pair – DD

When tuning this pair, the higher octave string is the lighter one than the lower string. Also, tune both strings to ‘D’ and ensure they are octaves of each other.

5. The fifth pair – AA

For this pair, the high octave string is thinner than the lower one. Tune them to ‘A’ and octaves of each other.

6. The sixth pair – EE

Similar to the fourth and fifth pair, the strings are octaves of each other. They are both tuned to ‘E,’ and the higher octave string is thinner than, the lower string.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, you can see that the first two pairs, E and B, on the 12-string guitar are similar in size and tuned in unison. The other four pairs are different in size with the higher octave string being thinner than, the lower string. 

Tuning the 12-string guitar may seem a bit involving than the 6-string guitar, but for the extra effort placed in mastering how to tune it is worth the dimension of tunes and sounds you get.