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The Famous Rickenbacker Guitar 360/12

Rickenbacker Guitar 360/12

Rickenbacker wasn’t the first company to make an electric 12-string guitar, but when The Beatles, John Lennon, Pete Townshend, The Byrds, and many others started playing Rickenbacker Guitar, the name became associated with the big, bold sound that this instrument could make. It was a unique instrument with a sound that was becoming popular at the time.

Rickenbacker Guitar
(Image Credit: Dan Bluestein)

The Beatles Rickenbacker Guitar 360/12

Color:Jetglo, Black, Natural, Sunburst, Midnight Blue
Made in:USA
Neck:Set Neck, Three Piece Maple
Scale:629 mm (24 ¾”)
Nut Width:1.63”
Weight:3.6 kg
Fretboard:Caribbean Rosewood
Frets:21/ 24
Pickups:Two single-coil pickups, SS
Inlays: TrianglesTriangles
Case:Hard Case
Design:Semi-Hollow, Double cutaway
Fingerboard wood:Chechen

In 1920, musician George Beauchamp approached John Dopyera, who was a violin maker. They wanted to experiment with guitars, but their attempts failed the first time. Although Rickenbacker’s first product was the Frying Pan, an electric lap steel guitar, the company’s legacy continued to flourish with a wide array of acclaimed musicians, including The Beatles, along with renowned guitarists of the 1960s like John Fogerty, Paul Kantner, John Entwistle, and Pete Townshend, who all embraced the iconic Rickenbacker guitars.

George Harrison, alongside his classmates, formed a band and took to the stages of Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany, igniting the spark that would eventually blaze into The Beatles – the world’s most successful rock band. 

In 1964, during the Beatles’ inaugural U.S. tour, a momentous event unfolded for Harrison. He received a game-changing “secret weapon” – a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar – a gift from none other than Francis C. Hall, the owner of Rickenbacker. Sensing the potential to introduce his guitars to the British invasion, FC Hall arranged a meeting with the band through Brian Epstein. John Lennon, after exploring several models, knew he had found the perfect match for Harrison in the 360/12. The Melody Maker magazine coined the term “secret weapon” of the Beatles.

The Beatles 12 string
Image By: Micheal Ochs Archives / Getty

George Harrison immediately put the Rickenbacker to good use, using it on stage during the Beatles’ TV show appearances on “Ready Steady Go!” in October 1963 and “Thank Your Lucky Stars” in 1964. He also took it on a week-long tour of Sweden and played it during the recording of the band’s hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at Abbey Road. 

Rickenbacker Guitar Body Type

When it comes to guitars, Maple is one of the most popular types of wood. But because of the high cost of maple, solid maple electric guitars are rare. The guitars made from it are thicker and brighter-toned. The Rickenbacker guitar stays true to the original Sixties model by having a maple body with large resonance chambers that, when paired with the twelve strings, provide the trademark jingle-jangle sound with a light, natural chorus effect. It also has a glued maple neck with a thin profile that makes it easy to play.


As we’ve already said, maple wood makes heavier guitars. Rickenbacker portrays exactly what it is. The guitar weighs around 3.6 kilograms. Body wood plays a very important role in the guitar’s weight. Most electrical guitars’ bodies are either alder, ash, basswood, mahogany, or maple. Alder, ash, and basswood are all light, but mahogany is heavy, and maple is even heavier. Most guitars with heavier bodies have better sustain and guitars with thicker bodies sound fuller, warmer, and louder.


The Caribbean Rosewood fretboard is what makes this guitar one of a kind. Rosewood is known for having deep, warm tones. Since they don’t need a finish, they feel very smooth to play and are perfect for cutting out some extra high frequencies in higher resisters. Compared to maple, the difference is clear, as rosewood will soften the sound, even on guitars with maple necks.


Two Rickenbacker Hi-Gain-Single -Coils change the tone of the 360/12’s electricity. Single-coil pickups are well-known for the clear sound they can make. Since their vibration sensors are not enclosed, they pick up the vibration of the guitar strings right away and make sharp and clear notes for playing.

When plugged into a guitar amp, the semi-hollow 12-string guitar has great vintage tones that capture the wide sound of the six-string choirs with lively dynamics that help expressive guitar playing.

Each pickup has its volume and tone controls, and there is also the usual Rickenbacker mixer pot for setting a sound preset. Also, playing with effects like distortion and delay is a little bit easier when you use single-coil pickups.

Rickenbacker Guitar 360/12
Image by: banjo d

You can check out The Late Late Show with James Corden, where Stephen Sanchez performed a live rendition of his renowned song “Until I Find You,” skilfully playing a Rickenbacker guitar in a compelling cover rendition.


The Rickenbacker Guitar also has the Rick-O-Sound, which lets the signals from both pickups be sent to separate amps in stereo mode as well as the traditional mono mode.

Compared to active pickups, passive guitar pickups typically generate a warmer, more organic sound. Also, the passive pickup can produce more subtle tones, which will give your music a greater range. Twelve Schaller Mini tuners on the compact headstock, a signature Rickenbacker guitar arrangement, enable accurate and secure tuning of every string.

Additionally, this guitar has a chrome plate on the side, a trapeze tailpiece, triangle inlays, double white pickguards, and black control knobs.

Check out the best 12-string guitars under $1000


Maple is used in the soundboard of this Rickenbacker Guitar. As we know, Maple has a dense grain pattern and is a hefty hardwood. it is not only beautiful to look at, but it is also a highly regarded tonewood. Instruments have a unique tone and sound because the tonewood is very dense and strong.

Bigleaf maple wood is beautiful and sought after by instrument builders because it has curls or strips that make it look different. What makes this guitar special is that the hardness of the maple reflects vibrations rather than absorbing them, giving it a lively or responsive feel. 

As for the reference to this particular part of the Rickenbacker guitar, Roger McGuinn said,

“It sounds different from any other 12-string on the market. I have a Fender 12-string, and it sounds completely different, even though I put Rickenbacker pickups on it. Maybe it’s the wood or the dimensions of the wood or the semi-hollow body construction. It could be a lot of different things. But it’s got a distinctive sound.”

Who played Rickenbacker Guitars?

The Rickenbacker Guitars are a famous electric guitar brand and have been played by numerous musicians over the years. Some notable artists who have used Rickenbacker include:

George Harrison of The Beatles

George Harrison is perhaps one of the most iconic players of the Rickenbacker 360/12. He used Rickenbacker 360/12 on several Beatles songs, including “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Ticket to Ride.”

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds

Roger McGuinn is known for his influential use of the Rickenbacker 360/12 on songs like “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Along with 360/12, another favorite guitar of Roger McGuinn was the Rickenbacker 370/12.

Tom Petty

Tom Petty and his band, The Heartbreakers, used Rickenbacker 12-string guitars in their music, contributing to the distinctive sound of songs like “American Girl.” The Rickenbacker 625 is another Rickenbacker guitar that drew his attention.

Pete Townshend of The Who

Pete Townshend of The Who occasionally used Rickenbacker 12 strings, adding a unique texture to the band’s sound. But one interesting thing is Pete Townshend liked Rickenbacker’s 1998 model so much that he ended up recording a whole album named  My Generation with it.

Johnny Marr of The Smiths

Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar sound in The Smiths was often achieved using a Rickenbacker 360/12. He also loved other Rickenbacker models. And one of his top performances was with Rickenbacker 330.

Pros of the Rickenbacker Guitar

Neck: Set neck with a three-piece maple construction offers stability and sustain

Semi-Hollow Design: Semi-hollow design with double cutaway offers a versatile range of tones and improved access to higher frets

Pickups: Two single-coil pickups deliver a classic and distinctive Rickenbacker sound

Cons of the Rickenbacker Guitar

The Nut: The nut width of 1.63″ may not suit players who prefer wider string spacing

To read about more 12-string guitar history click here.


Pran Jawty Khanam

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