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12 String Techniques (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Lincoln

12 String Techniques

Mark Lincoln teaches valuable techniques for the 12 string guitar. He implements these techniques in several exercises.

Taught by Mark Lincoln in 12 String with Mark seriesLength: 36:31Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
As mentioned in the previous lesson, fretting the 12-string is more difficult and may require some additional work to get yourself to the comfort level you have with a 6-string. Since it has twice as many strings, the 12-string naturally requires almost twice the strength to fret compared to a 6-string guitar. Also, a 12-string demands as much or more accuracy in the process. Please review the last lesson if you feel you need to brush up on some of that material and/or get some additional practice fretting barre and open chords. We'll begin this week with some more strength building exercises.

We'll use the following chords in the first few exercises. They should be played in the order listed:







E_____3____| B_____0____| G_____0____| D_____0____| A_____2____| E_____3____|

Please play the four chords diagramed above on your 12-string until you feel comfortable with them and are able to fret them cleanly without muting strings or creating fret buzz.

Exercise 1
Play along - play the four chords with me using the strum "down down-up-down." Focus on producing a smooth and quality sound out of the guitar. Watch me in the video, and strum the chords in the same rhythm and timing as me.

Some of you may find yourselves making a grating sound on the 'up' portion of the strum. Or, the pick may be getting caught on the strings. This is what I like to call "crashing" and can be remedied in part by how you're holding your pick. Many guitar players are unsure of how to hold their picks when they're strumming, and more specifically, how much area of the pick should be exposed while strumming. This factor can determine how smooth your strum is and whether or not you may be more prone to crash, especially on the upstroke of the rhythm.

When I'm only strumming (as compared to strumming in addition to picking notes and/or playing arpeggios) I tend to play with the side of the pick or one of the longest smooth curved sides of the pick. Holding it in this manner causes a softer surface to contact the strings. This will be evident the first time you try it. In addition, I tend to leave about 1/3 of the pick area exposed so that on the way back 'up' the strings come into contact with the exposed surface area of the pick, or the flat area instead of the edge. Watch me in the video for a clear demonstration.

Exercise 2
Eyes Wide Shut - please play Exercise 1 again, only with your eyes closed this time. Make sure to adjust the manner in which you hold your pick if you're finding that you're crashing, especially on the 'up'. Remember to pay close attention to the distances between the frets as well as the distance between each mini-set of two strings, as these are likely to have a different feel from what you are used to on the 6-string. Be sure to play each set of two strings as if it were one string. This can be new and unusual for many people going from the 6 to the 12 string and often requires some time to get used to.

You've likely noticed at this point that your 12-string needs to be tuned more frequently than your 6-string. This is an unfortunate and sometimes unpleasant consequence of playing the 12-string guitar that many find unpalatable. Over time though, you'll start to get in the habit of just tuning it between songs or exercises and making minor adjustments as you go. Like anything else, you'll find yourself getting adjusted to its quirks and sensitive nature just as you would with any other instrument, or person.

But enough chatter! Let's do some more exercises shall we? In this next set, we'll be using barre chords and give your chord hand a nice thorough workout. We'll be using the chords:





Please play the four chords over and over again until you become comfortable with playing them on your 12er. As usual, make sure you're not getting any muting or fret buzzing, if you can avoid it.

Exercise 3
Play along - Play the chords along with me in the video using the alternating rhythm (if you need a reminder of what an alternating pattern is you can go back to the previous lesson and review) pattern - "down down-up down down up-down down-up-down." So, your strum pattern is "down down-up-down" on the first and third chords and "down up-down down-up-down" on the second and fourth chords. As usual, go for quality sound even if it means slowing down and playing the chords at a more comfortable tempo for you. Ideally, you should try to play the high E-string in the E chord on the 7th fret if you can. If not, don't worry about it too much as the root of this chord is on the A-string, 7th fret.

Exercise 4
Shut...your...eyes! - yes, try the exercise above again with your eyes closed. Don't be afraid to look at what you're doing, the placement of your fingers, the distances between the frets and so forth. Then, shut your eyes. Try to get an “innate” feel for what you're playing and how each chord feels to your hand. The shaping of each chord is similar but slightly different from what you're used to on the 6-string, so get used to it!

Finger Glue
Yes folks, it's back! The super-fantastic glue you've come to love and use on all of your household guitar needs! Now, for a short period of time, finger glue is available in the double sized, two-for-one tube made especially for all you 12-string guitar players!

Okay, enough of that! I'm hoping that you all remember the concept of finger glue. For any players out there new to the concept, finger glue is not glue at all but rather the idea that when you form chords, your fingers tend to sort of, stick together. Some people refer to this phenomenon as muscle memory and the idea is the same whereby your hand, in a sense, learns to move into a certain form automatically. The more you can develop this tendency, the quicker and easier it will become for you to form chords on the fly with precision.

Now that you're playing the 12-string you may need to reform that muscle memory in lieu of the fact that the fingerboard is wider and the number of strings has changed. Keep this concept in mind as you go through the exercises and try to form the chord you're playing. Then, pull your hand away from the fingerboard while still keeping the chord intact. Watch me in the video for more on this process.

Alright, let's do some more strength-building exercises. This time however, we're going to step it up a little and use some chords in the upper frets of the guitar. Some of you may be familiar with these chords from previous lessons or from some other context, but believe me, playing them on the 12-string is another matter completely. Here are the chords:





Please note that with the Am (9th fret), you can also place a finger on the high E-string on the 8th fret, but it's not necessary. The chord can be played in either way and is slightly easier in the manner I have shown you. Also, when you see strings marked with an 'X,' mute or don't play the indicated string. Please get comfortable with the chords above and play them continually until you're able to fret them without muting or buzzing.

Exercise 5
Play along - Please play the progression along with me using the strum "down down-up-down-up." You can also use the strum pattern more than once with each chord. I'll show you what I mean by this in the video. See if you can keep up with me and avoid rhythmic inconsistencies. I know that the G chord in this series is likely the most difficult. If you want, play it without the pinky on the A-string like this:


Just keep in mind that you'll need to mute or avoid the A-string completely if you decide to go this route.

Also, see if you can incorporate the idea of finger glue into this group of chords. Form each chord and then pull your hand away from the fingerboard at least by 3-5 inches. Get a good sense for what each chord feels like to your hand, the relative distances between your fingers, etc. Then, put the chord back into place on the fingerboard. Do this for each chord until you start to develop a sense of what the chord looks and feels like when it's not in place on the guitar.

Exercise 6
Eyes closed this time. You can do the finger glue portion of the exercise with your eyes closed and see (or not, as it were) how the chord feels without the interference of sight. Keep in mind that many people who have been born without sight, or have lost their sight due to trauma or illness have become great players and have developed their other senses more completely without the ability to see.

I'm sure that most of you know what this technique entails by this point in your playing experience, but for those of you who might need a refresher, here it is: hammering on the fretboard involves hammering or tapping one or all of your fingers onto the strings as you play, ranging from a single note to all of the notes in a chord. Usually the technique involves coordinating the hammer with the strum so there is some difficulty intrinsic to the process and without a doubt, timing is absolutely essential to make the technique work properly.

Exercise 7
Let's do the last progression again. This time though, we're going to incorporate some hammer-ons into the piece. As stated above, you can hammer-on any of a number of ways, so don't be afraid to experiment while you're playing. Watch me in the video and see if you can follow the way that I'm hammering. Then, use that as a jumping off point for your own invention. Keep in mind that you will be hammering both strings of each pair of two since you're playing a 12-string. So, the hammer process can take a little more finger strength and dexterity.

An arpeggio can be defined as the picking or plucking of individual notes in a chord, or consecutive notes in any given scale (i.e. a lead). For our purposes today, we'll be looking at picking notes in a chord and more specifically, picking the notes in the last chord progression.

Arpeggios are generally easiest to read in tab form, so let's take a look at what that might look like. If I wanted you to pick the strings of the first chord (the Am chord on the 9th fret) in the last set of chords that we've been using, beginning with the D-string (or fourth string), then following with the G-string (or third string) the B-string (second string) and then finally the E-string (first string), the tab would look like this:


The numbers indicate the fret at which each note should be struck, and the letter at the far left of the tab tells you which string you should be playing. A zero on the tab line indicates that the string should be open when picked. Easy right? If I wanted you to pick the strings of the second chord in the progression (the C chord at the 8th fret), the tab would look like this:

With the third chord (the G chord on the 7th fret), notice the note on the A-string:


and the fourth (the Bb chord on the 6th fret):


Alright, so let's try an actual arpeggio with our current set of chords, shall we?

The actual arpeggio will be similar to the ones above but with a slight twist. It is notated as a continuous riff:
                       Am                           C


                        G                            Bb

    G---------------7-----------7-----------------7-------------------- --7--------

Watch me in the video and see if you can match up what I'm doing with what you are reading in the tablature. This is a simple form of tab and will be the primary method by which I dictate an arpeggio to you, so please familiarize yourselves with it thoroughly.

Exercise 8
Please play the arpeggio above using the last set of chords. You can also play along with me in the video. Remember to pick both strings in each course as if it were one.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

12convert6612convert66 replied

I am excited to find lessons for the 12 string, though I see you have been here awhile. I have been doing mostly finger style and strumming with my fingers. I would like to use the pick on my 12 string. can you suggest the best thickness? thanks so much.

jamduvijamduvi replied

Congratulations Mark you are a excellent teacher some of you tricks are very usefull. I play non professional 12 string since 1971 on my first guitar.Now I've got a new resophonic 12, my new love, pluged on a digitech rp250 on a reverb preset it feels like angels, gives it a even deeper sound

sourcoresourcore replied

Just traded an IPOD for a 12 string, "aaaahh" : ) Where's Mark???

jets42689jets42689 replied

sounds like sister golden hair... man i need to get me a 12 string

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Yes my friend you're very astute, sometimes I'll slip a little snippet in of something or other....good seeing you in the chats btw! Mark

sarabesarabe replied

I love this kind of guitar.

antunes123antunes123 replied

awesome lessons man!

kebigkebig replied

Please go on with the lessons! It's really a beautiful set of lessons!

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Hey Kebig thanks for the great feedback! Mark

colingrantcolingrant replied

funny cool and informative. I like how you teach.

dodsiedodsie replied

I am absolutely loving this Mark. The second lesson was definitely more challenging and when you say things will get tougher and tougher I couldn't be happier. I hope this series goes on a long run, great job!

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Thanks for that lengthy, but incredibly informative letter DJ! I'm glad you found yourself a good 12-string and yes, there are definitely some good buys out there if you keep your eyes and mind open, right? Nice to have you aboard my friend! Mark

12 String with Mark

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

The 12 string guitar is known for its full and unique sound. In this lesson series, you will learn everything you need to know about your instrument. Topics provided include history, tunings, chords, picking, exercises and much more.

Your 12 String GuitarLesson 1

Your 12 String Guitar

This lesson covers all of the basics and history of the 12 string guitar. Mark also provides several exercises that will get you started on your way.

Length: 45:01 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
12 String TechniquesLesson 2

12 String Techniques

Mark Lincoln teaches valuable techniques for the 12 string guitar. He implements these techniques in several exercises.

Length: 36:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Chords & StretchingLesson 3

Chords & Stretching

Mark Lincoln shares some fun exercises that will help you warm up and nail a few tough chords on your 12 string guitar.

Length: 43:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Mark Lincoln

About Mark Lincoln View Full Biography Mark Lincoln was born in S. California but was raised near Portland Oregon in a town called Beaverton. When he was twelve years old, he began his journey into the realm of the creative by composing poetry and was later published in a journal called "In Dappled Sunlight." He wrote for four years until his older sister blessed him with his first guitar, an old beat-up nylon stringed classical guitar. Mark played that guitar for five years, continuing to compose his own lyrics and starting the process of matching his own words with chords that he was learning on the guitar. He learned to play chords from his friends and from music books that he both bought and borrowed. Mark cited his four biggest influences, at that point at least, as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Rolling Stones.

Mark cites his most current influences as Radiohead, U2, older music by REM, and Peter Gabriel amongst others. He performs with two acoustic guitars, one being a six-string M-36 Martin with a three-pieced back for increased bass response, and a Guild Twelve-string which is his most recent acquisition. Mark is fond of saying that the twelve-string guitar is better because you get two guitars for the price of one, but he still plays his Martin equally as much and with the same passion.

Mark ended up in Fort Collins Colorado where he currently lives, works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and continues to write, teach and perform music. He currently performs with a group called "Black Nelson" as well as with a number of other seasoned professional musicians including his cousin David, a virtuoso lead-guitar player. Mark has performed in many of the smaller venues in Denver and Boulder, as well as some of the larger ones including the Fox Theatre, The Boulder Theatre, Herman's Hideaway, and also at The Soiled Dove where he opened for Jefferson Starship as a soloist. Some of Mark's originals are also available for your listening pleasure on MySpace.

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