How do I tune a 12 string guitar?

I know a lot of people like to number the strings of a twelve-string guitar from one (high E) to twelve, but I find it much easier to number them as a six-string guitar, that is one through six, adding the designation “a” or “b” to each string as well. “A” means closer to the floor (as viewed when I am sitting with the guitar) and “b” is closer to the ceiling. The main reason I do this will, hopefully, be readily apparent when I tell you that all the “a” strings are tuned just like those of a regular guitar in standard tuning. So if you ignore the “b” strings for the moment, you’ll see that the two guitars compare like this:

String equivalents 1

The first two sets of strings, the high E (1a and 1b) and the B strings (2aand 2b), are unison pairs. When struck, they sound the same note and this is the same note as on the first and second string of a normal guitar. So let’s add them to our chart:

String equivalents 2

And now the fun begins. The next four pairs of strings are tuned in octaves.This means that, although they are the same note in name – like the “do’s” in”do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do” – they will be two different notes. String”3a,” we already know is the same as the G string on regular guitar. String”3b” is tuned to the G note that its an octave higher. The simplest way to think about it, if you’re a linear person, is to think that it’s the note at the twelfth fret of the G string. But it’s just as easy to find these notes in first position.The G an octave higher than the open third string is at the third fret of the first string. Let’s go on and find the rest of the notes:

String equivalents 3

These six “b” strings give the twelve-string guitar its fullness of sound.Whenever you play a string, you are playing an additional note.

For a complete lesson on using a 12 string guitar see the article Double Your Pleasure – A Guide to the Twelve-String Guitar.