- Digging the appeal of massive 12-string bass guitars?
- Check out our top five picks in 2022
- Muscular punch and headroom for days
- Also, read up on our Best 12 String Guitars guide!
The 12-string bass guitar is occasionally spotted in modern rock, metal, or cradled in the lap of technical bass players. This hefty instrument is not for the meek or mild-mannered.
It sports four courses of three strings and is tuned eeE aaA ddD ggG.
That’s one string tuned to the fundamental tuning (as on a 4-string) and two strings tuned an octave above. Imaginably, the 12-ver is a gargantuan wall of sound waiting to happen.
That is if you can adjust to the string spacing and string tension.
Many of us know of these instruments through Davie504 or other YouTubers.
But manic bass players like Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam), Dough Pinnick (King’s X), Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick), and Allen Woody (Allman Brothers Band) have been spitting grooves on 12-strings for decades.
If you dare to splurge, the 12-string bass is a pathway to ethereal alternative tunings and otherworldly chord voicings.
But you won’t find this niche instrument at your local guitar store. Luckily, there are a few you can order online and we’ve compiled them for your convenience.
Here, we share five options if you are looking to add a 12-string bass to your collection.
What are the 5 Best 12-String Bass Guitars?
- Schecter DP 12-String Bass Guitar (Our Pick)
- Dean Rhapsody 12-String Bass Guitar (Best Value)
- Musicvox Space Cadet 12-String Bass Guitar
- BROOKS – EXB-12-Q 12-String Bass Guitar
- Gretsch Tom Petersson Signature 12-String Falcon Bass
1. Schecter DP 12-String Bass Guitar
The dUg Pinnick DP-12 is a triple-strung 12-string electric bass guitar that delivers a wide sonic range with a sharp attack and a muscular punch.
- Resonant mahogany body
- Low-end brutality
- Head-turning satin finish
Schecter Guitar Research teamed up with Doug Pinnick, the bass player of King X, to create the DP 12-string bass.
It’s the only 12-ver on our list with a right and left-handed model. The DP-12 is ideal for bass players who want to explore and experiment with something maverick.
- Mahogany body with Thin “C” profile Maple neck
- Ebony fingerboard with 22 Extra-Jumbo frets
- Seymour Duncan active split-coil pickup
- 2-band active EQ
- Diamond Custom Bass bridge
The all-black bass has a contoured mahogany body with a satin finish and beveled edges. It features a 3-piece Maple neck with a Carbon Fiber reinforcement rod and adjustable dual truss rods.
The ebony fingerboard hosts 22 X-Jumbo frets and a graphite nut.
The DP-12 is triple-strung – four three-string courses tuned to eeE-aaA-ddD-ggG. The scale length is 34-inches, with a 16″ neck radius and 2.04-inches at the nut.
Other notable features include Luminlay dots, Diamond Custom Bridge, Grover Tuners, and the “dUg” 12-fret inlay.
The bass is built for a prominent Prog Metal bass player, so you can expect a monstrous sound with a sharp attack and wide sonic range.
The Thin ‘C’ profile neck and tight string spacing are familiar, but can still be a handful for bass players transitioning from a 4 or 5-string bass guitar.
The 12-string bass features top-notch electronics consisting of a P-Style Seymour Duncan APB-1 split-coil pickup with active electronics.
The control panel hosts a 2-band active EQ for bass and treble control and switchable treble frequency. The bass ships with Ernie Ball bass strings.
The Schecter DP 12-string Bass is a formidable option to bust out big bass lines and intricate solos.
It’s the best 12-string bass for metal, Prog Rog, modern rock, or styles that demand a colossal wall of sound with a muscular punch and harmonic-laden character.
2. Dean Rhapsody 12-String Bass Guitar
This affordable 12-string bass has become a springboard for bass players to explore 12-string basses without breaking the bank
- Beautifully designed
- Capable of intricate solos
Dean introduced the Rhapsody 12-string bass in 2000 to compete with models from Galveston and Musicvox. Two decades later, the bass is still going strong.
This affordable 12-string bass has become a springboard for bass players to explore 12-string basses without breaking the bank.
- Thin Mahogany body with a Maple neck
- Pau Ferro fingerboard with 24 frets
- EMG-HZ humbucking pickups
- Dean 3D Preamp (active) and 2-piece bridge
This Korean-made bass has a mahogany body with a slightly arched maple top. It features a bolt-on maple and walnut neck with dual-action truss rods to keep the neck solid.
The Pau Ferro fingerboard hosts 24 frets with Abalone dot inlays.
The bass is an affordable gateway into the world of 12-string bass guitars. The scale length is 34-inches, and the nut width is 2-1/8-inches.
The body and weight are manageable, and it should be easy to transition to the instrument if you already play a 4 or 5-string bass.
The Rhapsody 12 sports an elongated, carved horn and ships with D’Addario EXL170-12 bass strings. You can buy a hardshell case that is sold separately.
Other notable features include a Dean 2-piece anchor bridge, black chrome hardware, Grover tuners, and a brass nut.
The 12-string bass is fitted with two EMG-HZ humbucking pickups in the neck and bridge position. The controls feature a Dean 3D preamp with knobs for Volume, Tone, Treble, Mid, and Bass.
With some light strings, the bass is capable of intricate solos with chord work.
The Dean Rhapsody 12 retails for under $900. So, it’s the most pocket-friendly way to add a 12-string bass to add to your collection.
Unfortunately, the bass is only available as a right-handed model with a black finish. Southpaws will have to contend with the Schecter DP 12.
3. Musicvox Space Cadet 12-String Bass Guitar
This 12-string bass is capable of complex tones and sparkly fullness. It can belt out punchy wallops and unique sounds that demand a category of their own.
Of course, there is a waiting period, a learning curve, and a lot of fine-tuning to dial in a good tone. But once you are past those hurdles, a new world of exciting possibilities awaits you.
- Mahogany body with a maple neck
- Rosewood fingerboard with 24 frets
- Active/Passive humbucking pickups
- 3-band EQ in active mode
- Deluxe locking tuners
The Musicvox Space Cadet features a triple-bound mahogany body with a maple neck. It sports a three-tone sunburst finish with neck-through construction and twin double truss rods for neck reinforcement.
The maple neck hosts a rosewood fingerboard with large block Pearloid inlays.
The 12-string bass has a 34” scale and a wide neck. The string spacing is generous enough for aggressive players to dig in.
The triple-bound headstock is hefty and will lead to neck dive. The bridge is custom cast by Musicvox with eight fully adjustable saddles.
The electronics feature specially designed active/passive bass humbuckers. There are two outputs – passive and active – if you want to separate signals to different amps.
There is a 3-band EQ for the active mode that you can access by pulling out the volume knob.
The action is a tad high, but the neck is solid, and the bass stays in tune well. It’s relatively lightweight and unlikely to cause fatigue.
But expect neck dive and the usual adjustment curve as you figure out how to work with the string spacing and additional strings.
The Musicvox bass is one of those inexpensive imports for curious musicians. It is a solid 12-string bass for the price, which scores well on build quality but could benefit from better electronics and a personalized string gauge.
Either way, you could easily swap the pickups and make a monster out of it.
4. BROOKS – EXB-12-Q 12-String Bass Guitar
This simply stunning, twelve-string monster bass was built to the orders of Rob van der Loo, bass player of Epica.
- Custom-built for Rob van der Loo
- Jaw-droppingly gorgeous
- Sounds great
The Brooks EXB-12-Q was custom-built for Rob van der Loo, the bass player of Epica. It takes inspiration from the Hamer design, with an Explorer body shape.
The model is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but costs upwards of $3k and may have a significant waiting period.
- Mahogany body with a quilted maple top
- Ebony fingerboard with 24 frets
- Lace Alumitone Pickups
- Coil splitting (humbucker-single coil)
- Dean 12-string brass bridge set
The Brooks 12-string bass features a book-matched quilted maple top with a glued-in mahogany neck.
The three-piece laminate neck is reinforced with a carbon fiber strip and two-way truss rods for neck adjustments. The Ebony fretboard hosts Jumbo frets with Mother of Pearl inlays.
The off-centered strap button ensures there is no neck dive, which is a remarkable achievement for a 12-string bass.
The bass has a 34” scale, the standard for 12-vers. Other notable features include a Dean 12-string bridge set, Gotoh GB 350 + Stealth tuners, Buffalo horn nut, and white binding.
As for the electronics, the 12-string bass is fitted with a Lace Alumitone Bass Bar (neck) and Lace Alumitone Death Bar (bridge). They are splittable humbuckers with dual outputs i.e., each pickup has a dedicated output jack.
The control panel features stacked pots (Volume and Tone) for each pickup and a 2-way pickup selector to toggle between humbucker and single-coil mode.
The EEXB-12-Q ships with D’Addario EXL 170 bass strings and can be ordered on the luthier’s website.
The Brooks 12-ver can be customized seven ways to Sunday. It sounds great, looks beautiful, and fills up a ton of sonic space.
The price is too steep for hobbyists or enthusiasts, but committed bass players will appreciate the fine craftsmanship.
At least you don’t need to worry about neck dive and a dreadful factory setup.
5. Gretsch Tom Petersson Signature 12-String Falcon Bass
Stunning in style and utterly seismic in tone, it puts Petersson’s distinctive stamp on the classic White Falcon Bass design, with premium features included.
- Stunning design
- Packed with premium features
- Arguably the most powerful Falcon ever
Gretsch created its first 12-string bass for Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick fame in 2013. The bass, a handful and mouthful, is named the Gretsch G1636B-TP12 White Falcon.
It attracted a lot of eyeballs at the 2014 NAAM when it was paraded in a glass case with a 360-degree rotating view.
- Laminated maple body with a center block
- “C” shape Maple neck
- Ebony fingerboard with 22 vintage-style frets
- Custom Seymour Duncan Super’Tron pickups
- Gretsch Cadillac tailpiece
This is Gretsch’s only 12-string electric bass model, and it has Petersson’s stamp all over it. It costs a staggering $13k and is available in a White Lacquer and White Lacquer Relic finish.
It features an arched laminated Maple body with a center block and a gloss-finish “C” profile maple neck.
The White Falcon 12-string bass has a 30.5″ scale length (short-scale) with 22 vintage frets.
Other notable features include gold hardware, a Space Control bridge, a Cadillac tailpiece, bone nut, Gotoh Die-Cast tuners, and an Ebony fingerboard with Mother Of Pearl inlays.
The bass guitar weighs 11.25 lbs and ships with a hardshell case. The neck width and string spacing make it easy to rake the string courses with a pick or your fingers.
However, don’t expect anything extraordinary if you try slap/pop. It’s a semi-hollow short-scale bass anyway.
As for the electronics, the bass is fitted with custom-designed Seymour Duncan Super’Tron pickups.
A 3-way toggle lets you switch between middle, middle + neck, and neck pickup positions. The control panel has knobs for Pickup Volume(s), Master Volume, and Master Tone.
Truth be told, the overwhelming price tag makes the White Falcon 12-ver GAS candy at best.
You may never get your sweat on the strings, but it cannot hurt to watch the demo, with chiming plucked notes and funky Gretsch-colored fingerstyle bass lines.
How is a 12-string bass tuned?
A 12-string bass is tuned eeE-aaA-ddD-ggG. In simple terms, there are four clusters or courses of three strings.
One string (of three) in each course is tuned similar to a bass guitar and the other two strings of the course are tuned to the octave.
Twelve-string bass guitars with six two-string courses (double string) can be tuned bB-eE-aA-dD-gG-cC.
What is the advantage of a 12-string bass?
12-string bass guitars have a sound unlike any other type of bass. They are advantageous if you want to explore, experiment, or expand your bass playing.
The four three-string courses of a 12-ver create a chorus-y sound while playing notes as the octave strings are not precisely in tune.
Moreover, each course has its own speed, resulting in a complex sound while playing chords.
Is it hard to play a 12-string bass guitar?
A 12-string bass is a multi-course guitar that varies significantly from a regular 4-string bass. It’s more difficult to pick, slap, or pluck notes on a 12-string bass.
You need to adjust your technique and use a strumming style to play the whole course of bass guitar strings.
Lastly, the instrument is heavy with a wide neck, additional string tension, and longer scale length, demanding more strength, stamina, and agility.
Who plays a 12-string bass guitar?
Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick is one of the most famous 12-string electric bass guitar players.
Jeff Ahmet from Pearl Jam, Doug ‘dUg’ Pinnick from King’s X, Allen Woody of The Allman Brothers Band, and John Gallagher from Raver are other notable 12-string bass players.