Who Invented The 12 String Guitar? The origin of the modern-day 12-string guitar is a mystery. No one knows who, where, and how it originated. Appearing in the United States in the 19th century, these guitars were initially considered to be one of the most innovative instruments and were build and sold cheaply. Since they are on the budget side of the spectrum, a lot of commoners and street performers used it to gain attention from the crown and earned some money from it.

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History Of The 12-string Guitar

No one knows the exact location where the 12-string guitar originated. They are most likely from either the Italian immigrants or Mexican immigrants. Italian music has a very long history of double string instruments such as lute and mandolin. It is theorized that some luthiers working in America experimented with changing the appearance of a standard 6-string guitar. Another possible theory is that Mexicans have a long history pf adding extra strings to their Guitarra septimal and bajo sexto.

Because of their status as novelty instruments, 12-string guitars were usually used by commoners folk of Appalachia and American southwestern. With this popularity of the minority, they worked their way up to the genres of blues, folk, and Tejano music styles.

Popularity In Modern Era And Music Contributions

Their popularity can be traced down to the early recordings. A lot of blues musicians from Georgia and Texas used them. The extra volume it creates from the double strings added intensity and gained popularity. It is said that the intensity is so intense that a busker could work without the participation of other musicians. And it will still give you a rich ad full sound.

In the 1930s and 1940s, guitarists like Leadbelly, Blind Willie McTell, and Fred Gerlach popularized the use of this instrument. Also, folk artists like Lydia Mendoza popularized it in the American southwest. Hudy William Ledbetter was an American folk and blues musician. He is known as the king of the 12-string guitar, and he is well known for his vocals with such clarity and mastery in singing.

Eventually, in the year 1960s when guitarists like George Harrison popularized the 12-string guitar for pop and rock music. In the modern-day era, this guitar has been played by numerous musicians, including Melissa Etheridge, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, and The Edge. Whether it’s their guitar’s choice or not a lot of artist comes back to this type of guitar when they need a tone that’s unique and special.

12-string guitars are known for having a long headstock for it to be able to accommodate the extra strings. They also have shorter fretting scales because of the added tension on the body and neck. Before, they had issues with the tone of the guitar. But eventualy luthiers were able to come up with an idea and no longer pose a problem.


The 12-string guitar has a vast range of history and success. It just shows that they are beautiful in sound and design. It depends on the player to decide if this is something you need to build up your musical arsenal.

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