Types of 12-String Basses

There are several different types of 12-string basses that are commonly encountered. While they do indeed have twelve strings, some of these are outside of the scope of this website. Other than these few photos they are not included here. Here's why...

Two-Handed Tapping Basses

Tone Weaver by Mobius Megatar with Fanned Frets


Shamray 12-String Tap Bass - Made in Moscow, Russia


Two-Handed Tapping 12-String 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.

The Warr Raptor body shown here shows a typical string layout. As these tapping basses do not include the string groupings of a fundamental string with high-octave strings, they are outside of the scope of this website.

Extended Range Basses

Left-Handed Fretless 12-String Bass played by Yves Carbonne in France

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.

6-String / 2-Course Basses

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 here as played by John Paul Jones is representative of this type of 12-string bass.

The Topic of this Website:
4-String / 3-Course Basses

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.