The twelve string guitar is one of the fullest sounding instruments used in modern music. This is because, essentially, a twelve string guitar is a double six string guitar.
Instead of having twelve individually spaced strings, the twelve string guitar is made of six pairs of notes. Each pair of notes creates an octave, which in turn gives a full, powerful, beautiful sound.
That being said, playing a twelve string guitar should be just like playing a six string guitar, right?
Well, it isn’t that simple. The pairing of strings makes for a different feel when fretting. While it isn’t essentially any more difficult, it is peculiar feeling. When you fret a string on a six stringed guitar, you use the very tip of your fingertip.
When you play a note on a twelve stringed guitar, you will have to adjust your form. While you will still be using your fingertip, you will be using the pad of the fingertip. This means you will have to put a slight arc on your finger to fret both of the paired notes.
When you try this, be sure to start off with one single note. When you feel comfortable, move on to two fretted pairs of strings using your forefinger and middle finger, and move the two note shape around. This will help you achieve a better feel for the oddity of paired strings. Once comfortable, add your ring finger onto a third, and move this shape around, and finally add your pinky.
Since the string notes of the twelve string guitar are the same, only doubled (E, E, A, A, D, D, G, G, B, B, E, E) all of your chords retain their same shapes. Take for instance a G Major chord. If you were to play this on a twelve string, the notes struck would still be G, B, D, G, B, and G.
This means that instead of single strings, you would simply fret the third fret of the low E string pair with your middle finger, the second fret of the A string pair with your forefinger, and the third fret of your high E string pair with your ring finger. The D, G, and B strings would still be played as open notes.
That being said, all of your songs would still be played the same as well. The only difference would be the way in which you fret the strings. Because of the pairing of strings, playing fast guitar licks on a twelve string is a bit difficult. When you start off, you want to take licks slowly, using a metronome, to properly build up your form. It is far easier to revert to sloppy tendencies with a twelve string as it takes more focus.
Learn a few of your favorite songs on your twelve string guitar. Be sure to pay close attention to fretting form; you want to fret hard enough for both strings to ring out properly, yet soft enough that you are not white knuckling. It may take some time to get used to, so have patience, and practice hard.
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