Other Guitars

12 String Electrics. Yay or Nay?


Spent part of yesterday looking at 12 string electrics. Watched some demos, cover songs, etc. I suppose I reasoned with myself it's a sound none of my other guitars can replicate. But there's that nagging question, is a 12 string a one trick pony therefore not get much play?


Yay, Not a one trick pony. Not a 25 trick pony. But more than one.


Different 12-strings, different answers. A Rickenbacker is closer to a one-tricker in my experience - but it's a great trick, and it's indispensable. And nothing else does the trick. (My choice, having tried both, is the 360 over the 620/660 - though they're definitely tonally related.)

I've heard Strat and 335 12-strings, and they sound very much like 12-string versions of what they are. How applicable they may be to what you do is an open question - and their playability helps determine how broad a range of material you can use them on. I thought the 335 translated beautifully as a 12-string, better than I'd expected. I'd expected muddy and cluttered - but it's smooth and lush. (And not at all like a Rick.)

I'd have the 335 12 if it was less expensive than it is. The Strat, not so much. Didn't do much for me.

I suppose that, as with 6-strings, the tonal character of the guitars comes down to body material/construction and pickups. All my 12s are semis with centerblocks; I've had two solid-body 12-strings, and we just didn't bond. The semis are more open and resonant, with more interaction between the overtones (I think). The Ric has that brand's signature signal-coils (and the upside-down string courses with the high string at the top of each pair), and that makes that tone.

In addition to the Ric, I have two more-trick-pony 12-strings, the Italia Rimini and the Reverend Airwave. The Rimini has mini-humbuckers, the Airwave has P90s. Both are more versatile and useful (to me) across more applications than the Ric - but the Airwave is more so. That must come down to the neck. It's ridiculously "playable." Stuff that doesn't work - is hard to play - on other 12-strings goes easy on the Airwave. That inspires me to try more parts of more songs on it, and find surprisingly that much of it works. Nother words, it doesn't do just obvious and clichéd 12-string parts, it fits in where you might not expect it. Which means you get more use out of it than simply covering the genre basics.

And that leaves out a Gretsch 12-string, which remains very much on my list - it will be the hollowest of my 12s (no centerblock), and a bit more resonant and Gretsch-chimey for that. It will also sound characteristically Gretsch, with the clarity of attack and note articulation and slightly wiry twang, all of which works nicely with the rich harmonic content of a 12-string. Either the 6122-12 with FilterTrons (quite expensive) or the 5422-12 with blacktops (quite affordable) will do.

So for me, an electric 12-string is not just a thing unto itself, but a family of things unto itself - and the more tonal variety within the family, the more they can be played.

If I had no electric 12s and wanted one - but know what I know about them now - I'd ask myself one question: "how important is the one-trick Rickenbacker sound?" If the answer was "it's all that matters," I'd know where to start. If the answer was "it's nice, but not supremely important," I'd go for a Gretsch or the Airwave. My advice would be to try both of those.


Interesting, Proteus, on your take on the Reverend. Have not looked at that one. So far I have been drawn to the Charvel Surfcaster 12. Like many of us, I search for something to add to my arsenal that separates it from the other guitars. I have the Tele, Strat, Gretsch, ES-335, SG/LP Jr., baritone, bass and acoustic thing covered. The 12 string has such a unique quality to it that it's kind of hard to resist. Mind you a recent house acquisition/restoration in progress certainly tempers one's impulses!


First- "Yay, definitely".

Now, 3 takes on electric 12s-

Rickenbacker- perhaps not the most versatile, but what it adds to a rhythm section can and often does define a band's "sound". They're very hard to master, kind of like a golf game, but you can get decent sounds out of them quickly and progress from there. Personal favorite- 360/370 12

Fender XII- as unique as the Rick. give a listen to any old Herb Alpert tune from the TJB era. John Pisano is a master of the solid body 12. Again- it was one of the definitive sounds in the overall TJB noise. (note- Model corrected thanks to an eagle-eyed post below.)

If you are a flatpicker- look at the Hamer 12 string electric. Glen Campbell used one for many years; it has a song that was harsher than a Ric, but not as quacky as a Strat..

If I had the dollars (and the space), I'd have one of each, and a Fender Coronado 12 on the side.



Like Proteus said.


I'm more in the one-trick-pony camp. My electric 12 is the only guitar I have that lives in it's case. Don't get me wrong; it sounds great. Mine is a Yamaha 302-12 from the first year they made them, so it has gold hardware rather than chrome, but otherwise it's basically an alder-bodied Strat-style guitar. Nice wide neck and individual saddles which I like because it means you'll stay reasonably in tune even higher up on the neck. I put Tex-Mex pups in mine.

But for me the magic of the sound isn't something I find myself wanting or needing that much. Even with the wide neck and amazingly low action it's still kind of a PITA to play compared to a 6 string. I was in a band a few years ago where I played it quite a bit, but since then it's lived in it's case and never sees the light of day.


Yay! I built this partscaster more than 15 years ago.A few years back I converted it to a 12string.It had original 60s Filtertrons thenbut now it has a real set of Hilos that I got at a vintage guitar swap for $40.00 for the pair. A perfect match! Idon't use this guitar a lot but man ,it just works! I call it the Fiestarossa!


The headstock . I inlaid the RCA nipper badge from an old radio.Everyone should have a 12 string in ther arsenal.


I LOVE electric twelves!!! '66 Gretsch 6075 12 string.


Apollo 2208 Deadly Dozen.


It was by way of a cover song demo that made me consider a 12 string and it was a Yamaha Pacifica 303-12 that was being played. Guess it took off from there for me.


'68 Ovation K-1122 Hurricane.


A Ric ain't in the budget but Tim's love for the Reverend may have swayed me (once the sticker shock of renovations wears off the wife!).


Mine... Ric 370/12

Tub- is that a 6-saddle bridge on your Gretsch 12?? Was that a choice or is that all there is?

I'm curious because I ordered my Ric with both, put the 12 saddle on, then took it off after a while and put the saddle back on.

Then, there is.....



I have been having so much good luck getting acoustic AND electric sounds out of the 6 string T5z, I may just have to pony up for the 12 string version.


Mine... Ric 370/12

Tub- is that a 6-saddle bridge on your Gretsch 12?? Was that a choice or is that all there is?

I'm curious because I ordered my Ric with both, put the 12 saddle on, then took it off after a while and put the saddle back on.

Then, there is.....

– Kevin Frye

Yep, box-stock 6-saddle. In spite of that, intonation doesn’t get audibly iffy until up around the 9th fret.

Not the case with the Rick’s 6-saddle. I had to get an aftermarket 12-saddle for it or I’d have lost my mind.

I also have a 3-pickup Danelectro Hodad 12 that’s better for barre chords than cowboy chords, oddly enough. And a Rick 660/12 is on order from Andy Babiuk’s so I’ll actually have a 12 with toasters that I can actually halfway play. (Not the guitar’s fault, however.)


i come from 50 yrs of folk groups and an ongoing series of large-bodied acoustic 12s going back to 1968 when I was given my first Aria, so a little dissonance beyond the 12th fret is normal to me.

When I had the 12 saddle on the Ric, I was able to get the intonation somewhat closer than with the 6-saddle, but still could not quite get it "spot on". Worse, to my ear, something was lost. The sound became too 'sterile'. After a couple of string changes, I put the 6-saddle back on, tuned it up and it's fine to me. I don't play licks much above the 13th fret on anything that pairs wire and wound anyway, so the dissonance is barely noticeable, except to my piano-tuner friend, who simply won't allow a 12-string of any sort onstage with him at all! (His loss )

I can't think of a situation where I wouldn't have a 12 string available. When I finally sell off everything, the last to go will be a 12 string, I am sure.

Or maybe my Chet....



The 5422-12. A great guitar! It has several things going for it that other 12s may not.

1) It has a 1 3/4" nut, allowing you a little bit more finger room for your no-longer-skinny fingers.

2) It has filter'tron pickups on it to get it closer to Rickenbacker jangle but still maintain a smoother sound. The blacktops work great for this.

3) The G tailpiece. You won't notice it unless you have had to change strings on a Gibson, Guild, Rickenbacker, Hagstrom or other 12 string that make you catch the strings on the UNDERSIDE of the tailpiece. The Gretsch tailpiece loads the strings on the top. You will probably put flat-wounds on it so you don't have to change them often but when you do you will develop a NSW vocabulary. Some others mount into a top mounted block like the Reverend and some Mosrites. Fenders mount from the bottom of the guitar or a combination of top and bottom.

Kevin talked about John Pisano playing a Stratocaster 12. I don't think that's correct. He played a Fender XII that had an offset body and split pickups, like a P Bass. That was a fantastic 12 string and Fender should either reissue it or bring out a Squier model. Individually adjustable bridges back in the '60s.

With the Gretsch 12, I was able to have a new nut cut and reverse the courses Rickenbacker style.


Don,, you are absolutely correct about Pisano- I chose the wrong model name. My bad.


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