Not quite coming full circle, more like an overzealous G, but: I love the idea of an archtop 12 string. Good luck finding one, then one that a working stiff can afford, though.
Here’s a stunningly beautiful Benedetto 12-string Cremona model, which costs about as much as a solid down-payment on a house. Even its finish name, Claret, speaks to its exclusive nature.
After that, we slide into myth and possible Photoshop jobs. Here’s a D’Aquisto I stumbled over in my search for my budget-price Grail [see below]:
So, that Grail I mentioned. I’ve heard whispers that the Vestax shop that used to make D’Angelico copies also made seven- and even twelve-string one-off custom instruments. The only ocular proof I’ve ever found of the 12, unfortunately, is this vaguely fake-looking image:
I suppose the best solution is to find and buy an affordable archtop you like, take it to a luthier to have him/her elongate and re-drill the headstock for double-six tuners and hope that you picked an ax with a really good truss rod, to keep the neck straight for the first few years of the guitar’s new life [or have the luthier do a full neck makeover, what the hell.]
Here it is, the big kahuna, ichiban number one 12-string electric guitar of our times: The Rickenbacker 360/12V64 aka the George Harrison model. Most 360-12 V64’s are finished in the same auburn sunburst color that George’s first Rick had, but if we’ve learned anything this most, it’s that I love Natural Blondes.
The classical-style back tuners paired with the conventional tuners remain as audacious and brilliant a design solution now as they must have been in 1964. And, as George himself pointed out, the 6/6 tuners make it so easy to find what string whose tuning you want to adjust that you can even do when you’re drunk. And I’m willing to pay extra to get a tailpiece that’s not that stupid “R” but I’m probably not going to buy a Ric 12 at all and that’s okay.
Like its poor relation, Gibson got into the 12-string guitar field by making their 335 model a double-six. They’re remarkably popular and easy to find, considering they don’t have the star player power of a Rickenbacker and had a short heyday of 1965-1970. The red finish here has faded into something more transparent, quite lovely.
I’m not wild about the full-sized humbucking pickups, though, having fought with and lost to similar humbuckers in a Les Paul 12 I owed until recently.
They’re surprisingly hard to find, but there are National/Dobro roundneck resonator guitars out there. I really still want to try one, but I imagine the instrument’s Dobro-ness will just emphasize the problematic aspects of the 12 string guitar, boomy bass, clashing middle and harsh high end. I hope to be proven wrong, of course.
Here are two I’ve found in my trawling of the internet.
During my Epiphone Les Paul hoarding, I always had an eye out for their intermittently available Riviera 12-string model, but never found one. I like the 335 double cutaway semi-acoustic design, and under-performing mini-humbuckers are perfect antidote for the often boomy sound that afflicts many 12stg’s. I’m not wild about their rather blah red finish, but this seems like a good intermediate model for the twelve-string electric guitarist.
The Epi 12 below with a Bigsby vibrato must be a bear to tune up and keep in tune! There are reasons why, to my chagrin, 12-string guitars don’t have whammy bars. Looks cool, however.
Closing out my Reverb.com Madness for this month [and for a while, I hope], my greatest gear obsession: The 12 String Guitar.
Acoustic, Electric, Semi-acoustic, Semi-solid, National/Resonator/Dobro, even banjo and cumbus — if it has six courses of two strings each, I love it deeply but probably unwisely.
We’ll start with what all budding guitarists should start with: the acoustic guitar. Here’s a Guild I’ve admired since the one-two of playing one that played like buttah the same week I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan rip it with the same model 12 on his now legendary episode [well, half episode, he shared it with Joe Satriani] of MTV’s Unplugged.
The GuildJF-65 is pretty swank in its decoration, but it’s still a player guitar [as compared to a wallhanger guitar]. I’m happy with my 12stg acoustic, but if I had to replace it, I would save up my allowance for a JF65 from the company’s pre-Fender’s-1995-takeover Westerly, Rhode Island factory.
Closing out Strat Week, and transitioning into 12-String Week, we present a pretty spiffy twelve-string Stratocaster.
Fender has had a 12stg Strat [the Stratocaster XII in Fender terms; they really like the Roman numberals when dealing with any guitar or bass that doesn’t have six or four strings] in production for at least a fat decade, but this Partscaster can boast of having Rickenbacker’s unique string sequencing, placing the standard, thicker strings above the octave-higher strings so that the “regular” note rings before the octave. It does make a difference, you’d be surprised. I’d rather own a Rick than this Strat, though.