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12-String Guitar Strings To Buy

12-string guitar strings

Exploring 12-String Guitar Strings Options

For guitarists who are looking to create a sound rich in overtones that is both prominent and nuanced, the 12-string guitar is an essential instrument. There is an interesting thing going on inside 12-string guitar strings.

When the strings are paired together, they create a “chorus” sound because even strings that tune in unison can’t vibrate exactly at the same time; they vibrate out of phase.  The result is a sound that seems to “shimmer”, which geeky terms aside, just sounds soothing to the ears.

We pick up 12-string guitars for the sound, not the playability. And so, it’s even more important we know how to bring out the best tone of them – by focusing on the source of the tone, the strings. In this article, we will go through every detail we need to know about 12-string guitar strings. 

Check out 12-string Guitar Chords to learn as a beginner here.

Types of 12-String Guitar Strings

12-string guitar strings are not just accessories; they come in various types, each with its own tonal qualities and playability. Understanding these types can help you choose the best strings for your 12-string guitar. Here are some common types:

Material

Phosphor bronze: Phosphor bronze strings are the most popular type of string for 12-string guitars. They offer a bright, full sound with good sustain.

80/20 bronze: 80/20 bronze strings are brighter and more twangy than phosphor bronze strings. They are a good choice for players who want a more aggressive sound.

Nickel-plated steel: Nickel-plated steel strings are warmer and smoother than bronze strings. They are a good choice for players who want a mellow sound.

Silk and steel: Silk and steel strings are the softest and warmest type of string. They are a good choice for players who want a gentle sound or who have sensitive fingers.

Gauge

Light: Light gauge strings are the easiest to play, but they may not have as much volume or sustain as heavier gauge strings.

Medium: Medium gauge strings are a good compromise between playability and sound.

Heavy: Heavy gauge strings offer the most volume and sustain, but they can be more difficult to play.

Coated

Coated strings have a thin layer of material applied to them to help protect them from corrosion and extend their lifespan.

How do they even fit in so many strings, though?

12-string guitars have 6 pairs of strings. That might seem redundant, so think of it this way: Each pair of 12-string guitar strings are situated close together and are tuned to the same note. The top two pairs are tuned in unison, like a pair of E4 for the 1st and 2nd strings and a pair of B3 for the 3rd and 4th strings. The other strings are tuned an octave apart, for example, the bottom string pair would be an E2 and an E3, and so on.

This method of tuning enables guitarists to stick the same chord and scale fingerings as standard tuning. The 12-string guitar demands barely any difference in playing techniques yet brings the gift of a rich soundscape.

Why do the strings demand your attention and time?

As any experienced guitarist knows, the electric and acoustic strings choice can make all the difference in the sound and feel of your playing. The material used as the core of the string, the coating material, and the string gauge i.e. thickness, and other factors influence the quality of the strings – the reason why you should be looking at the best options for 12-string guitar strings with elaborate explanations.

Highly Recommended Acoustic 12-string Guitar strings:

Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings: Elixir’s nanoweb strings produce a bright, well-balanced tone. Nanoweb technology, which is applied to Elixir strings, helps to increase their longevity and keep their tone for extended periods of time. 


Check out how to tune your 12-string guitar here.

D’Addario EXP38 Plated Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings: These strings are ideal for musicians who prefer a more traditional sound because of their warm, rich tone. They are coated with EXP technology, which protects the strings from corrosion and extends their lifespan.


Martin MSP7600 SP Lifespan 92/8 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings: These strings have a premium phosphor bronze metal composition that produces a warm, well-balanced tone. Martin’s Lifespan technology has been applied to them, preventing corrosion and extending the life of the strings.


Ernie Ball 2556 Everlast Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings: These strings have a bright, punchy tone because they are composed of a premium phosphor bronze alloy. Everlast technology is applied to them, preventing corrosion and extending the life of the strings. 


GHS J12-52 12-String Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings: These strings have a warm, rich tone because they are manufactured with a premium phosphor bronze alloy. They are made especially for 12 string guitars and provide excellent balance and intonation.


All of these strings are adaptable and can be used in lower tunings like D or C as well as the common E tuning.

Highly recommended Electric 12-string guitar strings:

Ernie Ball 2236 Nickel 12-String Electric Guitar Strings: These strings are made with a high-quality nickel-plated steel wire that delivers a bright and clear tone. They are known for their balanced tension and consistent intonation, making them a popular choice for guitarists of all styles.


D’Addario ECG25 XL Chromes Flat Wound Electric Guitar Strings: These strings are made with a flat wound design that produces a warm and mellow tone. They are coated with a smooth surface that reduces finger noise and provides a comfortable playing experience. These strings are ideal for jazz and blues players who prefer a smooth and silky tone.

Image by D’Addario

GHS GB12L 12-String Electric Guitar Strings: These strings are made with a high-quality nickel-plated steel wire that provides a bright and punchy tone. They are known for their excellent balance and consistency, making them a favorite among rock and pop guitarists.


DR Strings VERITAS 12-String Bass Guitar Strings: These strings are made with a unique construction that combines a round core with a hexagonal outer wrap. With an amazing price point, this design provides a clear and powerful tone with excellent sustain and longevity. These strings are ideal for guitarists who need to cut through a mix and want a powerful and dynamic tone.

12-string guitar strings

Elixir 12450 Nanoweb Coated 12-string Electric Guitar: This ultra-thin coating keeps grime out, reducing finger noise and extending those bright, punchy tones you love. With a comfortable 10-46 gauge, these strings are built to last without sacrificing playability.


How Do You Pick The Best String For Your 12-String Guitar?

Choosing the best strings for your 12-string guitar involves considering several factors to match your playing style, musical preferences, and your guitar’s characteristics. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you pick the right strings:

1. Determine Your Playing Style

Consider whether you primarily strum, fingerpick, or use a combination of both techniques. If you strum aggressively, you may want strings that can handle higher tension and provide volume and projection. Fingerpickers might prefer strings with a softer touch and a mellow tone.

2. Understand String Materials

Learn about different string materials, such as phosphor bronze, 80/20 bronze, silk and steel, flat-wound, and coated strings. Phosphor bronze is known for warm tones, while 80/20 bronze offers a brighter sound. Silk and steel strings are gentler on the fingers, and flat-wound strings produce a vintage mellow sound. Coated strings are corrosion-resistant and have a balanced tone.

3. Consider Your Preferred Sound

Decide whether you want a bright, crisp tone or a warmer, mellow sound. Think about the musical genres you play and which tonal qualities best suit your style.

4. Check Your Guitar Type

The type of 12-string guitar you have can influence your string choice. Acoustic, classical, and electric 12-strings may require different string types. Ensure the strings you choose are suitable for your specific guitar.

Check out the best 12-string budget guitars here.

5. Gauge and String Tension

Choose the right string gauge (thickness) that matches your playing style. Lighter gauges are easier on the fingers, while heavier gauges offer more projection. Consider the string tension, as it can affect playability and tuning stability.

6. Experiment

Don’t be afraid to try different string types and brands to find the perfect match for your guitar. Experimenting can help you discover the strings that offer the tone, feel, and playability you desire.

7. Consult with a Guitar Technician or Luthier

If you’re uncertain about the best strings for your guitar, consider seeking advice from a professional guitar technician or luthier. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your instrument and playing style.

8. Read Reviews and Seek Recommendations

Read reviews from other 12-string guitar players to learn about their experiences with different string brands and types. Seek recommendations from fellow musicians who may have insights into the best strings for your needs.

Remember that string preferences can be highly subjective, and what works for one player may not work for another. The best approach is to explore various options and find the strings that enhance your playing experience and complement your musical expression.

You need to care

For maximum efficiency and durability, your 12-string guitar strings and the instrument must be properly maintained and cared for. Here are some pointers to help you maintain your instrument well:

Regular cleaning 

After each use, clean your strings to help prevent corrosion and shorten their lifespan by removing sweat, oils, and other particles. After each use, wipe the threads with a soft cloth.

Don’t forget to check the best guitar cleaning kit guide here.

Use a humidifier

Acoustic 12-string guitars are composed of wood, like all other acoustic guitars, and are sensitive to changes in humidity. In dry areas, using a humidifier can help keep the wood from cracking and preserve the condition of your instrument.

Change your strings frequently 

The tone and playability of your instrument can be impacted by aged and worn-out strings. Depending on how frequently you perform, you should replace your strings every three to six months.

Use the proper kind of strings

Ensure that the strings you use are made especially for 12-string guitars. Also, find out if the guitar you use is built to withstand the pressure from the gauge of string you use. The wrong strings can degrade the tone of your instrument and harm it.

Keep your instrument in a case

To guard against damage from dust, moisture, and other environmental factors, keep your guitar in a case when not in use.

Do you know about some of the 12-string guitars that made their mark in history?

Why do the strings demand your attention and time?

Guitar strings go out of tune quickly, especially when they are new. This is because the strings are stretching and settling into their grooves. If your strings are out of tune, your guitar will sound bad, and it will be difficult to play.

In addition to this practical reason, guitar strings also demand your attention and time because they are the voice of your guitar. The strings are what produce the sound, and they can have a big impact on the overall tone and character of your instrument. Players often experiment with various types of strings to find the ones that best suit their playing style and desired sound. This requires time and attention to achieve the desired tonal characteristics.

It’s all up to you

Choosing the right option for your 12-string guitar strings is to work the required painful research, trial and error. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and ultimately leaves it up to the user’s preference. Hopefully, this article will reduce the research work by a considerable margin, and you’ll be able to decide with ease which string set goes with your aesthetics.

12-String Guitar Strings FAQs

Sabih Safwat

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