String instruments are the bane of our existence, spiraling beauty into our lives with the sweet complexities of the tunes. While the abundance of string instruments is quite diverse, we can’t deny that guitars are the alpha in that run, securing the supreme position at the top.
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And, what’s better than the standard 6-string guitar notes, you ask? Well, the 12-string guitar notes. If you own an acoustic guitar and want to set yourself up for a challenge, I’d highly recommend looking into different 12-string guitar songs.
Can you imagine that we would have never heard Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven if it weren’t for the 12-string masterpiece? The world would have been devoid of everything good and nice around it.
So, why don’t you give it a try? And, before you say, “Oh, I don’t know which songs to try out?” Well, you can leave that burden to us because we have sorted out the best ones for you. From EDM vocals to sweet country picks, we will walk you through them all.
6-String Vs. 12-String Guitar – What are the Differences?
Before I jump into discussing the best 12-string guitar songs for you to practice and eventually master, knowing the difference will help you understand the instruments a lot better.
As the name suggests, the most common difference between the two is the number of strings they come attached with. Compared to a traditional acoustic guitar, the 12-stringed guitar features double the number of strings.
However, since both of these are stringed instruments, the way you fine-tune them is the same as your normal acoustic guitar. The only difference is that the 12-string guitar consists of both higher and lower octaves of the root notes, while the 6-string guitar features only the low octave.
Even the skill level required in playing the 12-string guitar has quite a high bar. It requires rigorous practice, not to mention that you need to master the tunes and play them simultaneously with 12-strings instead of 6.
As for the design, the 12-string guitar has a larger headstock, body, and neck, which is justifiable because it has to accommodate 12-strings. Keeping that in mind, you should know that they are heavier in weight too.
Top 12-String Guitar Songs of All Time
In this list, we have assorted some of the best 12-string guitar songs for you to get started with. Some of them are completely played on 12-string guitar, while a few others have a riff or few notes that give them their iconic 12-string flair.
1. “Suicide Note Part 1” By Pantera
Dimebag Darrell’s somber guitar riffs give this song a cue to the first position in the list. “Suicide Note Part 1” is a song by the American heavy metal band Pantera. It was released as the lead single from the band’s fifth studio album, Vulgar Display of Power (1992). Despite its dark subject matter, “Suicide Note Part 1” is an incredibly powerful and moving song that offers hope and understanding to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.
2. “Wanted Dead” or Alive By Bon Jovi
The Intro to this song is a testament to how popular 12-string guitar songs are and how unique the song is. “Wanted Dead or Alive” is one of Bon Jovi’s most iconic songs, and it’s a perfect example of the band’s hard-rocking style. The guitar riff is catchy and unforgettable, and the lyrics are both poetic and tough. It’s no wonder that “Wanted Dead or Alive” has become one of Bon Jovi’s most popular songs, and it remains a timeless classic.
3. “Ocean” By John Bulter Trio
Made in 1998, this instrumental piece is an addition to the timeless sound that’s going to be prominently etched to everyone’s mind. The song is written in the key of E major and has a moderate tempo of 96 beats per minute.
4. “Wish You Were Here” By Pink Floyd
“Wish You Were Here” is one of Pink Floyd’s most iconic songs. Released in 1975, the song was written as a tribute to former band member Syd Barrett. The lyrics capture the feeling of loss and regret, as well as the hope that comes with remembering happy times. The song also features one of Pink Floyd’s most memorable guitar solos, which only adds to its emotional power. In many ways, “Wish You Were Here” perfectly captures the essence of Pink Floyd’s music: it is both deeply personal and universally relatable.
5. “A Horse with No Name” By America
The 12-string guitar has a supporting role in the song and leaves an impressionable impact you can’t walk away from. “A Horse with No Name” was released in 1971 by the American band America. The song was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard charts.
6. “More Than a Feeling” By Boston
The simplicity in the chords and picking pattern makes this a good choice for intermediate to advanced players. “More Than a Feeling” is a song by the American rock band Boston. Released in 1976 on the band’s self-titled debut album, the song was written by lead singer and guitarist Tom Scholz. It is one of the most famous examples of the power ballad genre, and its sweeping melody and arena-rock sound helped to make it one of the signature hits of the 1970s.
7. “Hurricane” By Bob Dylan
If you thought the magic of the 12-string in this song was Bob Dylan, it wasn’t. It was their guitarist Vinnie Bell. In his song “Hurricane”, Bob Dylan paints a picture of injustice and racism in America. The song tells the story of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was wrongfully convicted of a triple homicide. Dylan brings attention to the injustices faced by Carter and other black Americans, and he calls for change. The song is powerful and moving, and it highlights the need for justice and equality in America.
8. “Ticket to Ride” By The Beatles
From the drumming technique to the 12-string acoustic elements, this song is nothing short of a masterpiece. “Ticket to Ride” is one of The Beatles’ most famous songs, and it’s easy to see why. The lyrics are sad and reflective, but there is also a sense of hope and possibility. The music is beautiful and uplifting, and the message is one that resonates with many people.
9. “Early Morning Rain” By Gordon Lightfoot
The song “Early Morning Rain” by Gordon Lightfoot is a quieter, more introspective tune compared to some of his other hits. The 12-string acoustic guitar creates a mellow, almost melancholy mood that reflects the protagonist’s state of mind.
10. “Free Fallin’” By Tom Petty
If you want to try out a song with pure strumming chords on a 12-string guitar, this is it. “Free Fallin'” is a song by Tom Petty that was released in 1989. The song is about the simple joys of life, and it has a catchy melody that makes it easy to sing along to. It is widely considered to be one of Petty’s best-known and most popular songs.
11. “Best of My Love” By The Eagles
One of the Eagles’ most iconic songs, “Best of My Love” was released as the lead single from their fifth studio album, On the Border. The lyrics are simple but eloquent, and the melody is both catchy and unforgettable. It’s no wonder that the song has remained popular for over four decades. Whether you’re looking for a romantic ballad to slow dance to or a feel-good song to sing along with, “Best of My Love” is sure to please.
12. “California Blue” By Roy Orbison
“California Blue” is a song written and performed by American musician Roy Orbison. It was released in June 1964 as the lead single from his album, In Dreams. The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it Orbison’s highest-charting single in the United States.
13. “Carry On” By Fun
“Carry On” is a song by the American rock band fun. It was released on February 4, 2013, as the lead single from their second studio album, Some Nights (2012). The song was written by Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost, Jack Antonoff, and Jeff Bhasker. The song’s music video was directed by filmmakers Liz Friedlander and Shane Valdez. The video features footage of the band performing in front of a live audience, intercut with shots of people carrying on with their everyday lives.
14. “Mama, I’m Coming Home” By Ozzy Osbourne
“Mama, I’m Coming Home” is a powerful ballad by British rocker Ozzy Osbourne. The song was released in 1991 as the lead single from Osbourne’s No More Tears album. Written by Osbourne the song is about Ozzy’s wife, Sharon. Featuring a 12-string guitar and lush vocal harmonies, the song is a moving tribute to the woman who he credits for being alive to this day and becoming sober.
15. “Closer to the Heart” By Rush
In “Closer to the Heart,” Rush uses a 12-string guitar to create an ethereal soundscape. The 12 strings add depth and texture to the guitar’s already rich timbre. The result is a sound that is both lush and evocative. 12-string guitars are truly versatile instruments, and “Closer to the Heart” is a perfect example of their potential.
16. “Nothing Else Matters” By Metallica
Metallica is known for its heavy metal sound, but with “Nothing Else Matters” they took a softer approach. The song became an instant classic and has been covered by many artists over the years. Each person who has covered it puts their own spin on it, making it unique to them. But at its core, the message remains the same: bonds are everything. They give our lives purpose and meaning, and nothing else matters when you have that.
17. “Hard Luck Woman” By Kiss
“Hard Luck Woman” is a song by the American rock band Kiss, released on their 1976 album Destroyer. The song was written by band members Paul Stanley and Bob Ezrin. The song’s distinctive opening guitar riff was played by Ace Frehley. In an interview, Frehley said that he came up with the riff while he was taking a shower.
18. “Hotel California” By The Eagles
“Hotel California” is a song by the Eagles that was released in 1977. It is one of the band’s most popular songs and is often considered to be their signature song. The lyrics were inspired by the band’s experiences while staying at the Hotel California in Beverly Hills. The song features a 12-string guitar, which gives it its distinctive sound.
19. “Give A Little Bit” By Supertramp
“Give a Little Bit” is a song by the British rock band Supertramp. It was released as the lead single from their 1977 album Even in the Quietest Moments…. The song was written by Roger Hodgson and was inspired by his time spent living in a commune. It features a 12-string guitar intro and has become one of Supertramp’s most recognizable songs.
20. “Magic Bus” By The Who
“Magic Bus” is a song by the English rock band The Who. It was released as a single in 1968 and is featured on the band’s second studio album, A Quick One. The song was written by Pete Townshend and is one of the band’s most popular tunes. “Magic Bus” is a quintessential example of The Who’s signature sound: loud, energetic, and catchy. The song starts with a simple guitar riff that sets the stage for Townshend’s trademark power chords. The verses are delivered in an almost conversational style, before giving way to a high-energy chorus.
21. “A Hard Day’s Night” By The Beatles
A Hard Day’s Night is a song by the Beatles that was released in 1964. The song was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and it was produced by George Martin. The song features a fast tempo and the use of electric instruments, which were new at the time. The song was very popular, and it reached number one on the Billboard charts.
22. “Sister Golden Hair” By America
Another well-known 12-string guitar song is “Sister Golden Hair” by America. The 12-string guitar creates a bright, ringing sound that is perfect for the song’s upbeat mood. In “Sister Golden Hair,” the 12-string guitar creates a sound that is both nostalgic and hopeful, making it one of the best 12-string guitar songs.
23. “Solsbury Hill” By Peter Gabriel
“Solsbury Hill” is a song written and performed by Peter Gabriel. The song was released as the lead single from his fourth solo album, Peter Gabriel (1), in 1977. The song is about a spiritual epiphany that Gabriel experienced while walking on Solsbury Hill, a hill located near his home in the UK. The lyrics are reflected in the composition, which features an upbeat, quasi-gospel arrangement with a prominent hook.
24. “Suite Madame Blue” By Styx
“Suite Madame Blue” is a song by the American rock band Styx. It was released in 1975 as the lead single from their fourth studio album, Equinox. The song was written by band member Dennis DeYoung and is one of the band’s most popular songs. The song is also notable for its distinctive 12-string guitar intro.
25. “Over The Hills and Far Away” By Led Zeppelin
Over the years, Led Zeppelin has come to be known as one of the most influential rock bands of all time. Formed in 1968, the band members were Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. They rose to fame in the 1970s with their unique sound that blended elements of blues and folk with hard rock. One of their most well-known songs is “Over The Hills and Far Away.” The song was released in 1973 on their fourth studio album, “Houses of the Holy.” The song features a distinctive guitar riff from Jimmy Page and combines acoustic and electric guitars in a beautiful way.
26. “Mr. Tambourine Man” By Bob Dylan
One of Bob Dylan’s most popular and influential songs, “Mr. Tambourine Man” has been covered by artists ranging from the Byrds to R.E.M. The song is built around a hypnotic, folk-rock melody, and its lyrics are among the most enigmatic of Dylan’s career. On one level, the lyrics appear to be a surrealist paean to a mystical figure who wanders the streets playing music that can transport the listener to another realm. However, some commentators have interpreted the song as being about drug use, with the tambourine man serving as a metaphor for a dealer. Whatever the true meaning of the lyrics, “Mr. Tambourine Man” remains one of Dylan’s most beloved and influential songs.
Best 12 String Guitar Songs [Infographic]
Can I play 6-String Guitar Songs on 12-String Guitar Songs?
Well, there’s nothing that one can’t do.
However, you need to realize that working with extra strings means a different sound. So, a song meant for 6-strings will have a different tune when you play it on a 12-string guitar.
The benefit of 12-string songs is that you get to play notes at both octave ends at the same time. So, yes, you can play your 6-string guitar songs on the 12-string guitar and versa.
Playing a 12-string guitar is no joke and requires practice. However, if rockstars like Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin thought it wasn’t too hard, we wouldn’t have the masterpieces today. So, why can’t you?
We hope this guide gives you insight on where to start in finding 12 string guitar songs with the tabs and chords I have sorted out for you. If possible, strengthen your foundation first and learn the basics before you get into strumming the guitar strings vehemently.