Stringed instruments are incredibly popular, and it's not by chance that you've decided to give one a go – guitars are the Alpha and Omega of music in the 21st century, violins are elegant and profound while basses (of all sorts) are, though not so popular, as needed as the rest of the instruments in the stringed instrument family.
Now, most people stick with what they know and don't delve too deep into details regarding the types of instruments they intend to play – we'd like to talk to you about a variation of the traditional acoustic guitar which comes with 12 strings and the songs you could practice in this fashion.
Since this instrument is a bit less renowned when compared to its 6-stringed counterpart, it's only natural that you'll have quite a hard time finding the adequate songs to play with it. That's the reason why we're opening up with a small guide before we get to the actual songs.
Before we begin, let's discuss the main differences between 6-string and 12-string acoustic guitars. The most obvious one, for start, is that the latter comes outfitted with twelve strings, which is double the amount of the traditional acoustic guitar.
Understanding the differences between 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars will help you better understand where these instruments are used and when they (could and) should be used.
In essence, a 12-string guitar is tuned in the same way as a normal acoustic guitar, but it features both low and high octaves of the root notes (whereas 6-string guitars only feature lower octaves). This gives the player more flexibility, although at the expense of playability – you'll be able to switch between higher and lower notes more easily, but the addition of six more strings will make it harder to play regular songs (as you'll have to "jump over" certain strings most of the time).
That being said, the most notable differences between six-string and twelve-string acoustic guitars are:
Even though people who know how 12-string guitars work think that this question is quite pointless, there's actually some logic behind it. Namely, there are situations where additional strings mean completely different tuning, hence for example a song composed for a 7-string guitar can't be played (in its entirety) on a 6-stringed guitar.
That means that most stringed instruments which feature additional strings are used in songs that should exclusively be played with them – for instance, you can't play Megadeth's "Hangar 18" with a 4-string bass (you need a 5-string one), or Satriani's "Hands In The Air" as it's composed with a 7-string guitar.
The situation is a bit different when it comes to 12-stringed guitars though – the tuning is absolutely identical, only that you'll benefit from being able to play notes on both octave ends. Mathematically, octaves sound exactly alike, only the pitch can be lower or higher. That means that you will be able to play songs composed with 12-string guitars on your acoustic guitar and vice versa.
This section is dedicated to songs that were played on 12-string guitars, as well as those that would sound awesome if they were played on such a guitar. Without any further ado, let's get straight to it.
The Beatles were, without any doubt, one of the world's most famous bands of all time. Their music was an inspiration for the coming generations, so it seemed only fitting that we opened up our selection of top 12-string guitar songs with one of theirs.
We're talking about the "Ticket To Ride" – it was recorded mid February 1965 and released on 9th of April in the same year. Now, the fact that Beatles used to make such memorable riffs more than half a century ago is enough to give them the pedestal.
The "Ticket To Ride" opens up with a succession of mellow notes which repeat on and about until the refrain – this song is pretty basic and suitable for beginners, but you might find the tempo as challenging if you've no experience with 12-string guitars whatsoever.
The Canadian "Rush" are responsible for numerous heartfelt ballads and ground-shaking hits, but it's their musicianship and technical prowess that made them so good. Sadly, they've split in the January this year, which is all the more reason why we're intent on keeping the flame alive – they're "Closer to the heart" than ever now.
Much like Beatles' "Ticket To Ride", the "Closer To The Heart" begins with a joyful, moderately fast paced melody which persists for roughly a minute before the heavy fuzz and funky drums come into play. There's no mistaking it – Lifeson is using a 12-stringed axe on this song for the introduction, as the beautiful ringing sounds can't be accredited to effect pedals or skill (even though he's a proud "owner" of both).
It's virtually impossible to find a "best song" list that doesn't feature at list one masterpiece from Led Zeppelin. England is known for housing some of the finest musicians the world has ever seen, and Jimmy Page, Plant, and Bonham are certainly the names that fit the calibre.
This extraordinary work of art came to be in 1972 and was released the year after on the Houses of the Holy album. Generally, there's a lot of chord play, as well as hammer-on and pull-offs, but nothing less should've been expected from a band as famous as Led Zeppelin.
This song might not be well suited for beginner guitarists, as the chords are incredibly complex and the passages somewhat unpredictable, but if you want to polish up your skills and make it big, make sure to not miss it.
Black Sabbath are, without any exaggeration, one of the world's most popular bands, and we can bet an arm and a leg that even some of their hard core fans didn't know about this precious little gem. "The Hand that rocks the cradle" is the eighth track of their 17th album labelled "Cross Purposes", and it's special in more ways than could be expressed with words.
First of all, this song, as well as this album featured Tony Martin on vocals – Black Sabbath fans have been in quarrel about who was better "Dio or Ozzy", and it feels like Tony didn't get enough spotlight, which we think is uncalled for. Tony's mellow vocals will melt on your soul like sugar pieces on tongue, but the real reason why we're recommending that you try this song out is because of the sweet intro.
Even though it wasn't originally composed on a 12-string guitar, the studio version features two guitar tracks that overlap, producing a reverb + octave effect. What better way to achieve this than by using a 12-string guitar?
This one's pretty personal, and you'll feel it at the moment you press the play button. Passanger's "Let Her Go" features powerful lyrics sung with Mike Rosenberg's sweet, soul touching voice while the instrumental parts are smooth and kind of nostalgic.
This song was written and performed on 6-string acoustic guitar, but the majority of it features plain chords, making it absolutely ideal for 12-string guitars. There's a lot of improvisation potential here, as the "Let her go" mainly focuses on singing, so make sure to check it out if you haven't already – it's a young composition which deserves more attention than it got.
Nirvana and their late Kurt Cobain have made quite an impact on the world of music of today – a revolutionary bunch, they sang and played their hearts out, their songs revelled in even today. The man who sold the world is incredibly plain, and the main theme (played by Cobain) doesn't actually require a 12-string guitar, but the follow up has a lot of potential.
Namely, the song itself is very powerful and meaningful, but the rhythm guitar doesn't appear too enthusiastic – you could change it if you added a bit of flair with the higher octaves of your 12-string guitar.
The Beatles, The Doors, The Who, The Stooges – it seems everything of quality requires the "the", and Doors didn't make it into the circle of the glorious few by chance. These guys have redefined the world "rock and roll" and put a nice, shiny ring to it, and "People Are Strange" seems like a perfect song to introduce the youngest generations to the wonders of 12-string guitars.
This song doesn't require too much guitar skill, but virtually every next passage yearns for more brightness and richness. There are numerous overlapping frets and tones which might confuse you at some point, but it's safe to say that "People are strange" would sound incredibly exquisite if performed in a more creative fashion.
Swedes are famous for their black, death, and melodic metal, and seems like Tiamat took a bit of sugar, spice, and everything nice from their home country. Even though these guys are rather "young" (considering they emerged on the scene in 1987), they made several masterpieces that deserve recognition.
Their "Do You Dream Of Me?" is nostalgic, to say the least, and it's characterized by (purposefully) lethargic, haunting vocals and beautiful acoustic guitar lines. Originally, this song is performed on a 7-string guitar, but a 12-string could do the trick just fine if properly tuned.
Now, what makes this song so unique is the solo passage (which begins roughly at 3:15) – the acoustic guitar weeps and wails rabidly and uncontrollably, and it's safe to assume that beginners wouldn't be able to follow it, much less actually play it. We recommend the entire "Wildhoney" album to all people who are looking for good music in general.
We've already mentioned Led Zeppelin, but we just couldn't leave out one of the most legendary songs out of the picture. The "Stairway To Heaven" is, without any doubt, the most epic song ever created, and there are slim chances you haven't heard about it already. Regardless, we're here to fix the issue for those who haven't – just make sure you're prepared to embrace the intensity of the incoming epicness.
The first thing there's to say about the "Stairway To heaven" is that it's quite long – this song lasts for approximately eight minutes, but there aren't too many riffs to memorize. The main theme, however, is extremely bright and resonant, leading us to the conclusion that they've used a 12-string guitar to compose it.
Even though it's safe to assume that beginners could handle this song for the most part, it's advanced in nature, so make sure to polish your skills a bit before you get to tackle this challenge head on.
Even though "Whatever That Hurts" and "Do You Dream Of Me?" are on the same album (Wildhoney), these songs are nothing alike. While the latter is characterized with joyous, slow-paced chords and melodies, the "Whatever That Hurts" is more haunting and aggressive (in a way).
The intro of this song is parallel with the refrain, but these are the only two passages that aren't played on acoustic guitar – the main theme and bridges are performed on a bright acoustic guitar – gloomy and dark, you'll easy get lost in the mesmerising glow of Tiamat. The chords are pretty basic and the tempo isn't too fast, so even beginners should consider nailing this one down.
We couldn't leave out a name such as Pink Floyd out, so we're going to recommend one of their most beautiful songs. "Wish You Were Here" is an extraordinary ballad, heartfelt and warm, full of bright, rich notes all the way. The entire composition is serene and somewhat plain technique-wise, so even if you're a complete beginner you shouldn't have too much trouble nailing it down.
On the other note, this song will help you master chords, as well as chord progressions if you're new to guitar playing.
"Hotel California" by Eagles might be the most iconic acoustic guitar song ever made. It was made in 1976, and people are still listening to it even today. What's more, it sounds so good that it will melt your heart whole, but it's actually not that hard to play.
The main theme persists throughout almost the entire song, so once you nail down the first few chords, you'll be able to learn how to play it whole.
In the sections above you can find our top picks regarding some of the most iconic, most legendary songs ever made that were either composed on a 12-string guitar, or would otherwise sound great if played on a 12 string guitar.
Since explaining every good song on 12-string guitar would take forever (literally), we've decided to kick it up a notch and compose a list of songs you should give a shot (if you haven't already, that is). These songs come from various artists that are scattered throughout numerous different music sub-genres (for example System of a down is nu metal while Bob Dylan is a country musician), but we encourage you to give them a listen regardless.
Twelve-string guitars might not be as popular as their six-string counterparts, but that doesn't take one bit of their flair. We hope that you liked the songs we've picked for you, and we wish you all the best as you listen, explore, and practice them.
Austin Consordini loves music, and his range of interests includes violin and guitar playing. He also plays the drums when it's a necessity to express strong emotions.
Music for Consordini is like medicine, helping him not only to develop and expand his musical skills but also to treat his mind and body.
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