Left Handed 12 String Guitar Beginner Buyer Guide

Looking to pick up your very first left handed 12 string guitar? This quick primer article should clue you in on what you need to know!

Although you probably won’t find many left-handed 12 string acoustic guitars in your local store, there are some great options for us out there.

Ever since I first saw John Butler playing Ocean on his Maton acoustic, I knew that a 12 string was missing from my collection. So I’ve gone out and done the research so that you don’t have to!

Left Handed 12 String Acoustic Guitars

Left Handed 12 String Guitar

Before we look at some good examples of left handed 12 string guitars, let’s first answer a few basic questions to give you an idea of what you’re about to get yourself into…

Why Choose a 12 String Guitar?

The main selling point of a 12 string guitar is the much fuller sound that they produce when compared to a 6-string. Having twice as many strings gives a natural chorus effect, which sounds similar to playing two guitars at the same time.

How To Tune a Left Handed 12 String Guitar

The main difference between 12 and 6-sting guitar tuning, is that on a 12, the strings are paired. Oh, and there’s double the strings – but you knew that, right?

It’s totally up to you how you decide to pair them, but generally, the 4 lowest pitched strings are coupled with thinner strings tuned an octave higher. The highest two are simply paired with another identical string tuned to the same note. This gives you that fantastic, airy, and jangly sound that only a 12-string can produce.

The most common 12-string guitar tuning from lowest to highest is (E3-E2) (A3-A2) (D4-D3) (G4-G3) (B3-B3) (E4-E4). So basically, standard 6-string guitar tuning with some additional octave notes thrown in.

Check out the diagram below for a visual representation of standard tuning on a left handed 12 string acoustic. Also notice that the thicker strings are the lower of the paired strings.

How to Tune a Left Handed 12 String Guitar

If your current tuner does not have the ability to correctly tune up a 12-string, check out my huge guide to guitar tuners for some inexpensive (or free!) alternatives.

How To Play a 12-String?

Although we have twice as many strings as found on a regular guitar, the paired strings are spaced closely together to allow them to still be played with a single finger simultaneously.

It isn’t like a 7 or 8-string guitar where the fretboard is widened to accommodate extra strings – although the neck is very slightly wider. If you are comfortable with a 6-string acoustic, you’ll be fine on a 12 as well.

Although the paired strings are usually close enough together to be played with the callused tips of your fingers as normal, this may not be comfortable for many. Oftentimes, 12-string players will adopt a flatter fretting technique to allow a larger area of the finger to be used.

Because of the extra tension and doubling of strings, extra force is required to play a 12-string. For this reason, it is much trickier to perform strings bends and solos, resulting in the instrument being mainly used for rhythm purposes.

There will also usually be a period of adjustment required to make sure that all strings are strummed or picked with control and accuracy.

A Note About Extra Tension

The added tension introduced by the extra strings is high, which necessitates improved reinforcement of the neck and body. 12-string guitars used to have a bad reputation for warping over time, but with modern design techniques, this is largely not a huge issue anymore.

Still, some players will tune down a half-step or two to help relieve stress on their instrument. You can still quickly revert to standard tuning by placing a capo at the 1st or 2nd frets. Learn more about how to do this in my guitar capo guide.

I only bring this point up to try and dissuade you from buying a super cheap 12-string which may not be up to the task. Check out the suggestions below for some great, but still affordable, lefty models.

Due to the additional tension, you should also be careful not to remove too many strings from one side at a time. Similarly, taking all of the strings off at the same time could potentially lead to issues with the neck thanks to the sudden large drop in tension!

So when restringing, it is a good idea to remove and replace one string at a time. If this isn’t possible, just try to keep the tension as balanced as possible.

12-String Guitar String Gauge

As I’ve mentioned above, due to the additional number of strings there is a lot of extra tension placed on the neck of a 12-string.

So to overcome this, most players will use a lighter gauge of strings than what they would usually play on their 6-string acoustics.

Downsides of a 12-String Guitar

Cost. You have twice as many strings, so restringing will set you back twice the price of a 6-string acoustic.

Time. You have twice as many strings, so restringing and re-tuning will take double the time.

Harder On Fingers. Fretting two strings at once is more difficult and will require more finger strength.

Wider Neck. The slightly larger neck and fretboard could be a struggle for people with smaller hands.

Set Up Issues. The additional string tension can lead to issues such as bowed necks and high action if not kept in check. Read my guitar setup guide for more information on how to prevent this.

Best Beginner Left Handed 12 String Guitars

If you’re anything like me, you just won’t have the patience to wait potentially months for your local store to special order a southpaw guitar from the manufacturer.

Need a left handed 12-string acoustic guitar right now? Here are my top 3 readily available choices which you can pick up today!

Sawtooth Maple Series – Best Value

Left Handed Sawtooth 12-String Left Handed Acoustic Guitar

Pricing Information: Check it out by clicking here.

If you’re looking to take your first steps into the world of left handed 12 string guitars, my top choice is the Sawtooth Maple Series. When it comes to sheer value for money, there is a lot on offer here.

It features a solid Sitka spruce top with beautiful flamed maple back and sides. A maple neck is paired with an ovangkol fingerboard to warm up the tone a little.

Electronics duties are handled by the excellent Fishman Presys II system, which also includes a handy in-built tuner.

In the video below, shred maestro Michael Angelo Batio puts the Sawtooth through its paces.

Check out this guitar at the link above for current pricing information.

Vangoa VA20CE – Budget Choice

On a tight budget, I’m going to send you over to the brand that really has us lefties covered when it comes to niche guitars – Vangoa. At the time of writing, this guitar is just a shade over $200 – an incredible bargain.

Left Handed Vangoa 12-String Left Handed Acoustic Guitar

Pricing Information: Check it out by clicking here.

The Vangoa VA20CE electro-acoustic won’t quite be able to go toe-to-toe with the Sawtooth above, but then again, it is less than half the price! However, it should give tentative new players a perfectly solid taste of 12-string life without breaking the bank.

It features a spruce top with Sapele back and sides, and an Okoume neck with walnut fingerboard and bridge. A cutaway provides improved upper fret access, and it comes complete with built-in electronics to connect to an amp or recording device.

Astonishingly for such little money, the Vangoa is also bundled with a quality gig bag, plus a ton of other accessories such as a capo, tuner, spare strings, and a strap.

Check out the link above for more information plus owner reviews.

Martin D12X1AE-L 

If you’d prefer to stick with one of the bigger, more well-known brands, then how about this beauty from acoustic legends Martin Guitars? Recently updated, it is undoubtedly one of the best value Martins available, at just a touch more expensive than the Sawtooth above.

Martin D12X1AEL LEft Handed12 String Acoustic Guitar

Pricing Information: Check it out by clicking here.

Main features include a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, extremely strong birch laminate neck, and richlite fretboard. It is also equipped with an excellent Fishman Sonitone onboard preamp system.

Further Options

All of the brands listed below offer left handed 12-string acoustic guitars which may or may not need to be specially ordered depending on where you live.

Note that this list is for acoustics guitars only – I do plan to add a guide for left handed 12-string electric guitars at a later date.

Hopefully, that’ll give you plenty of left handed 12 string guitars to choose from.

If I’ve missed any brands, please shoot me an email and I will be happy to add them.

Top 5 12 String Acoustic Guitar Songs

To finish up, here’s a great video from Andertons that showcases some iconic 12 string guitar songs that you can learn when you get yours!

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