The 12 string guitar, which appears in both acoustic and electric versions, is not necessarily a big improvement on the regular acoustic guitar or electric guitar with six strings, but the sound produced by a 12 string guitar is richer, brighter and has a more subtle ringing tone. Its sound carries more than those produced by a bass guitar, and since it has a natural chorus effect, the use of guitar amps might even seem redundant. The quality of sound produced by a guitar, though, still depends largely on the quality of the guitar itself, not just the number of strings. Epiphone guitars, for example, have been built with different types of wood and in different designs, and the make and quality of the body affect the sound that are produced by them.
If you're a beginner learning to play the guitar and are trying to choose between the 12 string and regular guitar as your primary instrument, the best way to really come to a decision is the direct way: That is, listen to them both. Borrow a room with soundproofing (so you won't be bothering any neighbors) and a home theater, if you can. If you still can't play very well, ask a friend who can play to help you. Have your friend play the guitar and the 12 string guitar. Listen to how the sound is translated by speakers and amplifiers. You can also compare the tones better this way, and whether or not you like the sound when it bounces off the ceiling. Try playing them on your own too, and see if your fingers like it.
You can also come to a decision sooner by looking at the features of a 12 string guitar summarized below in good points and bad points.
- Instead of the usual six, the strings are arranged in courses made of paired strings. The strings are usually played with their twin, but some players choose to retune or remove some of the doubled strings altogether. The sound differs depending on how you choose to tune it, which means that you have a bit of freedom in customizing your music through your 12 string guitar.
- The sound is richer than that made by a regular 6 string acoustic guitar.
- Great for rhythm and accompaniment but has also been used successfully for lead musical roles.
- More difficult to play because of the extra number of strings. The tuning is certainly more complicated, and playing it requires a higher level of skill. The strings are also difficult to pluck individually, so playing a 12 string guitar requires a lot of practice and patience.
- The tension on the instrument placed by the guitar's twelve strings is greater. 12 string guitars tend to warp after a few years of good use, and placing special supports to prolong the guitar's life span is done at the cost of its visual appearance and sometimes even the tone. And so, if you play a 12 string guitar, you will be required to replace it from time to time.