Today, the 12-string guitar is often associated more with folk music and simple open-chord strumming than with intricate lead guitar, ragtime, or traditional blues. But some of the most influential blues musicians of all time forged timeless classics wielding their 12-strings. In the following video, I’ll demonstrate many of the classic Blues styles and techniques that have proven the 12-string to be the heavy-hitter of acoustic stringed instruments.
LIVE STREAM LESSON: Blues Pickin’ & Sliding on the 12-String Guitar
Early Blues greats like Leadbelly and Blind Willie McTell played the 12-string guitar almost exclusively. These artists took advantage of the full-bodied tone and assertive dynamic presence of the 12-String, to accompany their powerful and expressive singing voices. Back in the early days of audio recording, it was difficult for microphones to pick up the intricate details of a 6-string acoustic, especially when it was competing with a full-volume Blues singer belting out a vocal melody. The 12-string’s acoustic volume is almost double that of a 6-string, providing a much fatter bed for the vocals to lay over, in the mix.
Blind Willie McTell “Travelin’ Blues”
Even Blues artists that are known for their 6-string electric guitar playing have been know to cut some of their most distinct tracks on solo acoustic 12-string. Two great examples of this are Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear My Train A Coming” and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Life By The Drop.” The intricate and sensitive single-note lead lines in these two tracks are fattened up by the doubled strings of the 12-string guitar.
Jimi Hendrix “Hear My Train A Coming”
Stevie Ray Vaughan MTV Unplugged
Stevie Ray Vaughan “Life By The Drop”
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