The Different Types of 12-String Basses

There are several different types of instruments that are referred to as being 12-string basses. All of these descriptions are accurate, but this is comparable to saying you drive a car - there are many different types. The focus of this website is on the triple-strung 12-string basses. While the other types do indeed have twelve strings, they are all outside of our scope so other than these few photos on this page they are not otherwise included on this site.

Our Focus - Basses with 4 Groups of 3 Strings

This website focuses specifically on 12-string basses that have four fundamental strings with two upper octave strings each. This arrangement gives the bass a thick, massive sound that is quite unlike any other type of bass guitar. The sound of this type of 12-string bass has been described as a dinosaur eating cars, a dump truck with no muffler, and a Bossendorfer grand piano played with a sledgehammer. This type of 12-string bass is hands down the most common type of 12 encountered.

Basses with 6 Groups of 2 Strings

Another type of 12-string bass combines the fundamental strings found on a 6-string bass with one high-octave string for each fundamental. This type of 12-string is a much closer relative to 8-string and 10-string basses than it is to the 12-strings that are the subject of this website. While these 'octave-paired' basses have a bigger sound than their 4-, 5-, or 6-string counterparts, their sounds do not rival the massiveness of the 12's that are our focus.

The Manson bass shown played by John Paul Jones is representative of this type of 12-string bass.

Two-Handed Tapping Basses

Tapping basses are a bass / guitar hybrid. In their basic format they are a 6-string bass combined side by side with a 6-string guitar. They are also commonly encountered as a 5-string bass / 7-string guitar combination. The necks are about double the width of a standard bass neck to accommodate all of these strings.

These instruments are designed to be played by tapping the notes of the fingerboard rather than by either using a pick or the fingers to pluck the strings. Both bass parts and guitar parts can be played simultaneously by using both hands on the neck.

Extended Range Basses

Two left-handed fretless extended range 12-string basses.

Yves Carbonne - Master of the Extended Range 12-string bass.

As the name suggests, extended range basses have strings tuned both above and below the frequency range of the standard bass guitar. As with the two-handed tapping basses, they do not include the fundamental / octave string groupings that are our focus.