How do I tune my 12-string guitar?
Answer: First, I'm going to quickly touch upon tuning a 6-string guitar to standard tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E, from lowest to highest). The easiest way to do this is to use an auto-tuner. If you've never used one of these, they're great! You simply plug in (or use the built-in mic for acoustic instruments), turn on, and tune to the correct pitch one string at a time. Usually a different color indicator tells you when you are in tune, and what note you are tuning to. Loosen the tension of the string if you are sharp, and tighten if it is flat.
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If you do not have a tuner and are playing by yourself, you can simply tune all strings relative to your low E string (the 6th or thickest string). Hold your finger down right behind the 5th fret of the low E string and pluck it along with the next string in line (the A string). If they do not sound the same, then the 5th string (A) is either too high or too low in pitch. Adjust the A-string until the 2 notes match. Listen for the pulsating sound. The faster the pulse, the more out of tune it is. Do this until there is virtually no pulsating and the notes are the same. Don't be discouraged if it takes you a while. Your sense of pitch will develop as you gain more experience.
Now do the same for the next string. Hold your finger right behind the 5th fret of the A string (like you did with the E-string) and pluck it along with the next string (4th or D string). Adjust until those two notes are the same. Repeat these steps for all strings except the B string (2nd thinnest and 2nd string). To tune this one you are going to need to hold down the 4th fret of the G-string (3rd string) to tune the B-string. The procedure is the same, with the exception of the fret.
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Once you have completed tuning all strings, go back and check them all to make sure they are still in tune. Make adjustments as necessary. You should now be able to play a decent-sounding chord (provided you've learned a few).
Tuning a 12-string guitar requires pretty much the same procedure as tuning a 6-string, you just have twice as many strings. If you take a look at the neck, you'll notice that all of the strings seem to be grouped in pairs. Standard tuning is still E-A-D-G-B-E, low to high. The difference is that there are two E's, two A's, two D's, two G's, two B's and two E's. The four lowest pairs of strings are tuned an octave (same note, higher or lower pitch) apart with the lighter gauge string one octave higher than the heavier string next to it. The two highest pairs of strings (B and E) are actually tuned to the same pitch. In other words, the two B's are tuned to the same pitch as each other, and the two high E's are tuned to the same pitch.
The easiest way to tune a 12-string is to deal with each pair individually. Pluck the larger (lower) string of a pair and tune it to pitch using an auto tuner. Once it is the pitch desired, strike both stings of the set. Adjust the lighter string until both sound the same note (but an octave apart), or until the display on the tuner says both are the proper note. Repeat these steps until all strings are tuned. Go back through all of them one more time just to make sure they didn't shift out of pitch while you were tuning the others. Voila!
If you don't have a tuner, I strongly suggest purchasing one. You can still tune by ear as mentioned above. Remember to make sure that the two strings that make up each pair are tuned to one another before you move on to the next pair.
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Johnson 12 String Acoustic Guitar