How Is A 12 String Guitar Tuned? Here’s A Step-By-Step Guide

There is no secret that guitars are the most popular instrument in the world. It has the range to be in any genre and any song. Within the genres pop, rock, or metal, the guitar have you covered.  You can choose from a wide range of selections: acoustic, electric, or bass, guitars will offer you a list of versatile accompaniments.

The twelve-string guitar, as stated by its name is a guitar with another six extra strings. Some of you may ask, but why would someone want to use a twelve-string guitar?

First, it produces a richer sound than the more common acoustic guitar. The twelve-string guitar also has the “chorus” effect when played.

Tuning a regular guitar is a hard task in and on itself but doubling the number of strings can cause a lot of problems to many, especially to those who are new to the world of music and guitars.

In this guide, we will teach you how to tune your 12-string guitar. If you ever find yourself reading this, it’s safe to assume you need some help with your musical instrument.

Don’t worry! This information-packed tutorial will let you play your 12-string guitar in no time.

12 string guitar tuning

How To Tune a 12 string guitar (Step by Step Guide)

Before we start, let’s set down some basics first.

12-string guitars are tuned like the basic acoustic guitars are. It’s the standard E A D G B E, the only difference is, for the E A D and G strings you will have to tune the extra thinner strings an octave higher while the remaining B and E strings will have to be in unison.

For these steps to be easier for you, make sure to not think of them as individual twelve strings but rather six courses of two strings, especially since most of them are the pair of the same chords anyway.

Guitar with 12 strings in close-up view
Guitar with 12 strings in a close-up view.

With that in mind, let’s get into the first step:

Step 1. Get your tuner and guitar ready

How are you going to tune without your guitar and tuner! Finding a good tuner is purely based on your reference. You can have one of those clip-on tuners or a tuner app will also do you good. Get those items ready and we are off to the first string.

Expert Tip: In finding a tuner, the most recommended one is the chromatic tuner. Most modern tuners will have this function.

Tuning Electric guitar with chromatic tuner
Tuning Electric guitar with a chromatic tuner.

If you don’t have a chromatic tuner you can just fine a twelve-string tuner on the app store. Most of these tuners are designed for twelve-string guitar and the octave higher string.

The chords will go like this, from top to bottom of the strings.

e – (octave higher E)

E – Lower E

a – (octave higher A)

A – Lower A

d – (octave higher D)

D – Lower D

g – (octave higher G)

G – Lower G

B – Lower or Harmonic B

B – Lower or Harmonic B

E – Lower or Harmonic E

E- Lower or Harmonic E

Step 2. Starting with the E strings

In this, we will start with the lower octave E. This is the string resting on the topmost part of your guitar. You can tune it by turning the top peg that is closest to you.

Keep in mind that when strumming your guitar it’s best to do rest strokes. Rest stroke is a type of stroke in which you will rest the pick to the closest string after you strummed it.

A guitar pick rests atop a 12 string guitar
A guitar pick rests atop a 12 string guitar.

Since the strings on a 12-string guitar are very close to one another, the tuner may not pick up an accurate tune. Doing the rest stroke will not only give you the best quality sound you can have but it can also give you the most accurate results.

After you tune the higher octave E let’s tune the second E string. This E string is located on the bottom of the higher octave E. You can tune this string by turning the second top peg that is closest to you.

Expert Tip: If you have difficulty in knowing which string is the higher octave or the lower one, you can just look at the thickness of the strings. The higher octave strings are much thinner than the lower or standard strings.

Now that you individually tuned both the E strings, we can now check if you are in tune. To do this, just strum them together, starting upwards from the lower or standard E to the higher octave E.

If you can hear both strings as a whole or in harmony, you are now done with the E strings.

Step 3. The A strings

This step is pretty much the same as the E string. First, play out the strings individually then ring them out together to check if they are in harmony.

Step 4. The D and G strings

The D and G strings are mostly identical to the E and A strings, although take note that with the D and G strings the strings are getting thinner and thinner. If you don’t have a good twelve-string guitar, a broken higher octave D and G string might be a problem with you.

But do not worry, we will provide the and alternatives below so you can still play along with your 12-string guitar.

Step 5. The B and E string

Tuning the B and E strings is a bit different than with the E A D G strings. With these last two pairs of strings, you must set them with the same octave or the same pitch.

These last four individual strings adhere to the standard guitar tuning.

This simple, straightforward video demonstrates how to play each string one at a time, then in pairs.

With that, you can now easily tune your twelve-string guitar.

Although, maybe some of you are unfortunate enough to not have a good quality twelve-string guitar and fine that tuning especially the D and G string to the standard is hard and often results in a broken string.

Don’t worry! There is an easy fix to this problem and you only need one thing: a capo.

Expert Tip: To get away with broken strings and still play along with standard tuning, you can set your strings an octave lower so it will go from E A D G B E to D G C E A D. To be able to play with the standard tuning, you can place a call on the second fret.

Tips on how to tune your 12 string guitar

This article is nowhere near over, below are some general tips on how to tune your twelve-string guitar.

  • Keep your fingernails short. Since the strings on tare twelve-string guitars are much closer to one another, having your fingernails short will help you be more accurate when you press down on the strings.
  • Tightening your pegs will help them not slip, this will result in a more smooth turning.
  • If you ever find yourself unable to turn your pegs, oiling them will help.
  • If you find tuning your strings difficult since you are new and unfamiliar with tuning the twelve-string guitar, you can easily do it by tuning the six regular strings first.  By doing this you can easily get into the octave higher strings.

Is a 12-string guitar harder to play?

The twelve-string guitar like other instruments will come with its set of challenges. Some of you may find yourself sailing a breeze while others are encountering storms. It’s very easy to get discouraged, especially in tuning the G strings without breaking them.

Pressing the fret is harder on the twelve-string guitar. Since there is another string, the tension on the guitar’s neck is to be expected. Although, tuning the string semitone or an octave lower can help you ease this tension. You can just put on a capo to be able to play with standard tuning.

12 string guitar tuning
A seasoned guitarist playing a 12 string guitar.

Barre chords are already hard with a normal six-string acoustic guitar but it’s a bit harder with the twelve-string. You need to press down the twelve strings together, a task which some people find to be hard to do.

Along with barre chords, open chords also provide a bit of a challenge. Since the strings are very close to each other you might find yourself having difficulty with playing open chords.

To ease this you might use a pick or cut your fingernails short. These challenges may sound discouraging and scary but don’t worry, with a little bit of determination, you are sure to fix and remedy this problem in no time. Like how you can now tune your acoustic guitar.

Conclusion

With this tutorial, we hope you can now tune your twelve-string guitar easily and for our tips to help you in the long run.

If you have any more related questions or questions about other musical instruments, be sure to comment them down below.

We greatly value your comments, queries and feedbacks so don’t be shy and put them on the comment box.

About Maggie Holding

Hello! My name is Maggie and I am a proud Editor/Author for PlayTheTunes. Coming From South Carolina, USA, my whole life I've sang and played the guitar and flute! I love music with a passion, and am ecstatic to help others in their own music journey!