12 String Guitar Tuning

Are you new to the 12 string? 12 string guitar tuning isn't a mystery believe me. You will learn over 45 different 12 string Guitar Tunings in this easy to understand lesson. Are you ready?

At first a 12 string guitar may seem like a completely different instrument from the regular 6 string guitar.

To most peoples surprise it is pretty much the same instrument.

I'm not saying that it's exactly the same but in this lesson you will start to see how similar they actually are.

The sound of a 12 string guitar is very wide and open. Each string is doubled with another smaller or same sized string making the sound a lot bigger than a normal 6 string guitar.

I must say when you first see a 12-String Guitar you probably will be overwhelmed and confused when it comes to 12 string guitar tuning.

It looks confusing but it will be so much more easier than you may think.

Let's start with the basic 12 string guitar tuning.

Tuning a 12-String Guitar

A 12 string guitar is normally tuned to standard guitar tuning just like a 6 string...


You are probably wondering about the extra six strings right?

Notice how each string is doubled with another smaller string or another string the same size.

The very top string (the one closest to you when you are playing) is an E string. Notice how the string right below that string is a bigger string.

That bigger string is actually your low E string on a regular 6 string guitar.

So, the first two string are both tuned to E. The first little string is tuned an octave higher than your normal tuned E string.

The next set of strings are your A strings. Here are the notes in order from the biggest string to the smallest string on a standard tuned 6 string guitar.

  • E
  • A
  • D
  • G
  • B
  • E

So each group of strings will be tuned this way. The first two are tuned to E. The first string is one octave higher than the bigger E string right below it.

The second set of strings are tuned to A. The first string in this set is tuned one octave higher than the A note right below it.

The third set of strings are tuned to D. Like the two sets of strings before this one the first string in the set is tuned an octave higher than the next one.

The fourth set of strings are tuned to G.

Here is where it gets even more simple. Both sets of B and high E strings are the exact same string. They are both tuned exactly the same.

So now you know how to tune a 12 string guitar to standard tuning.

I will give you a visual of standard 12 string guitar tuning.

The lower case letters are the added strings or the small octave strings. The upper case letters are the original strings of the 6 string guitar.

The B and E strings are the same because both strings are tuned to the same octave and they are the same size string.

  • e
  • E
  • a
  • A
  • d
  • D
  • g
  • G
  • B
  • B
  • E
  • E

This method allies to every single 12 string guitar tuning.

If you wanted to tune your 12 string to DADGAD, which is a very popular alternate tuning, then you would use this tuning method.

Your strings would be tuned to this. These notes are in order from the top string or the string closest to you when you are playing.

  • d
  • D
  • a
  • A
  • d
  • D
  • g
  • G
  • A
  • A
  • D
  • D

This is very simple once you start doing it. Always use a tuner! This will cut your tuning time in half.

So for the rest of this 12 string guitar tuning lesson use this method. I will give you the six notes of that tuning and all you have to do is follow the instructions I mentioned before.

All the strings are tuned to the same note just an octave higher or exactly the same octave when it comes to the B and high E strings.

So, before you move on make sure you are all tuned up. A 12-string guitar needs to be tuned frequently. If one of the octave strings goes flat or sharp slightly then it throws the whole sound off.

Luckily, you don't need a 12-string guitar tuner to tune a 12-string guitar.

A simple Guitar Tuner will work just fine.

Let's start this 12 string guitar tuning lesson with...

Open Guitar Tuning

What is an open guitar tuning? An open guitar tuning is tuned so when you strum all your open notes a chord will ring out.

So, to make a chord you use three different notes. The 1, 3, and 5 of the scale.

If you want to play in an open D guitar tuning then you have to know that to make a D major chord you have to use the notes..

D, F#, A. So these are the only notes you will use to tune your open strings to.

There is a specific note for each open string which I will show you, but these are the only open notes of the open D guitar tuning.

This is because these are the only notes that make up the D major chord.

Here is a list of guitar open tunings you can use in your own music!

(Open A) E,A,C#,E,A,E
(Open A (2) E,A,C#,E,A,C#
(Open A (Slide) E,A,E,A,C#,E
(Open B Tuning) B,F#,B,F#,B,D#
(Open C) C,G,C,G,C,E
(Open C#) C#,Ab,C#,F,Ab,C#
(Open D) D,A,D,F#,A,D
(Open Eb) Eb,Bb,Eb,G,Bb,Eb
(Open E) E,B,E,Ab,B,E
(Open F) F,A,C,F,C,F
(Open F (2) C,F,C,F,A,F
(Open G) D,G,D,G,B,D

Crossnote Guitar Tuning

Most people haven't heard of this alternate tuning.

What is a crossnote tuning? This alternate tuning is just like the open tunings, but the open tunings are major chords.

The Crossnote tuning has a minor third which makes it a minor chord when all the open notes are played. Here are the Crossnote Guitar Tunings.

(Crossnote A) E,A,E,A,C,E
(Crossnote A (2) E,A,C,E,A,E
(Crossnote C) C,G,C,G,C,Eb
(Crossnote D) D,A,D,F,A,D
(Crossnote E) E,B,E,G,B,E
(Crossnote F) F,Ab,C,F,C,F
(Crossnote F (2) F,C,F,A,C,F
(Crossnote G) D,G,D,G,Bb,D

Next let's talk about the...

Drop Guitar Tunings

Drop tuning is when the low set of E strings are tuned relatively lower compared to the other 5 sets of strings. What I mean by this is if you have standard tuning then instead of having the set of low E strings tuned to E they would be dropped to D.

Try out these different drop tunings for your 12 string guitar and see which ones you like best.

(Drop A) A,E,A,D,F#,B
(Drop A (2) A,A,D,G,B,E
(Drop Bb) Bb,F,Bb,Eb,G,C
(Drop B) B,F#,B,E,G#,C#
(Drop C) C,G,C,F,A,D
(Drop C#) C#,Ab,C#,F#,Bb,Eb
(Drop D) D,A,D,G,B,E

Double Drop Tunings

Double drop tuning is just like the previous drop tuning the only difference is the last set of E strings or your set of high E strings will be tuned to whatever your set of low E strings are.

If you play in Drop D and your set of low E strings are tuned down to D then so will your high set of E strings.

Try out this list of double drop tunings.

(Double Drop A) A,E,A,D,F#,A
(Double Drop Bb) Bb,F,Bb,Eb,G,Bb
(Double Drop B) B,F#,B,E,G#,B
(Double Drop C) C,G,C,F,A,C
(Double Drop C#) C#,Ab,C#,F#,Bb,C#
(Double Drop D) D,A,D,G,B,D

Here is another 12 string guitar tuning that isn't very well known.

Modal Guitar Tuning

A modal tuning is when you strum all the strings and a chord rings out but it's not major or minor.

Normally the chord will be some sort of Suspended Tuning. Here are some to try and play with.

(Asus2) E,A,B,E,A,E
(Asus4) E,A,D,E,A,E
(Bsus4) B,F#,B,E,F#,B
(C6) C,A,C,G,C,E
(Csus2) C,G,C,G,C,D
(Csus4) C,G,C,G,C,F
(Dsus2) D,A,D,E,A,D
(Dsus4) D,A,D,G,A,D
(Esus2) E,B,E,F#,B,E
(Esus4) E,B,E,A,B,E
(G6) D,G,D,G,B,E
(Gsus2) D,G,D,G,A,D
(Gsus4) D,G,D,G,C,D
(E Modal) E,B,E,E,B,E
(G Modal) G,G,D,G,B,D
(B Modal) B,F#,C#,F#,B,D#
(A# Modal) A#,F,A#,D#,G,A#

There you go! You have a bunch of 12 string guitar tunings here to play around with. Enjoy writing and playing in these alternate tunings!

Recommended Pages!

If you enjoyed this lesson on 12-string guitar tunings then check out these recommended pages and sites that will take your playing to the next level.

12-String Acoustic Guitars

12-String Guitar Books

Free Downloadable Guitar Lessons

Alternate Guitar Tunings

Guitar Music Theory

Guitar Tunings

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