Top 12-String Guitar Songs (With TAB)

A 12-string guitar can completely transform a song. Most of the songs on this list wouldn’t be as popular if it weren’t for the shimmer and full sound of a 12-string guitar.

Before you give these songs a go, read through this guide on How to Tune a 12-String Guitar.

Wanted Dead or Alive – Bon Jovi

12-string guitars stand out the most when arpeggiating chords. Instead of hearing single notes as you would with a normal 6-string guitar, you hear something very different.

The intro to Wanted Dead or Alive is a great example of how a 12-string guitar can add something unique to a song.

The chords during the rest of the song have a distinctive 12-string shimmer, but it’s the intro that really shines in this song.

12-String Tuning: Standard (eE aA dD gG BB ee)

Here is the Guitar TAB for the intro. If you’re new to Guitar TAB, read this guide on How to Read Guitar TAB to know what all the symbols and numbers mean.

Wanted Dead or Alive 12-String Guitar TAB

Hold your fingers down when playing the third and first strings to let the notes ring out. Practice sliding between the positions and think about which fingers are best to play these notes.

For the simple riff in bar 10, try to put some attitude into that 1/4 bend.

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

This song wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the 12-string you hear from the very beginning.

Playing this song on a 6-string guitar just doesn’t sound right and feels slightly dull.

This is a simple part to learn and the slow tempo gives you plenty of space to think about each note.

12-String Tuning: Standard (eE aA dD gG BB ee)

Here is the Guitar TAB for the first few bars of the intro before the lead guitar comes in:

Wish You Were Here 12-String Guitar TAB

Pay attention to the chord names above the staff to give you an idea of what position your hand should be in.

You may also notice that the top two strings on the third fret remain for the entire time. Keep your third and fourth fingers on those two frets the entire time.

Ocean – John Butler Trio

If you’re looking for something a bit different than the rest of the songs in this list, give Ocean a try.

This song uses a lot of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and tapping. If you feel adventurous, you can try adding percussive sounds by tapping your guitar’s body as shown in the below video:

If the hammer-ons and pull-offs are too fast for you, start by playing the song slowly and gradually build up the tempo as you develop your confidence.

There are many different versions of this song as it is largely improvised, so if you like the ideas in the above video, search for other live versions and you’ll hear similar variations on the main themes.

12-String Tuning: Open C (cC gG cC gG CC EE)

Capo: 4th fret

Here is the Guitar TAB for a short section that starts at 1:00 in the above video. This is possibly the simplest part of the song but is interesting to play thanks to the tapped notes.

Ocean by John Butler Trio 12-String Guitar TAB

As you will see in the above video, the lower notes are played by tapping with the picking hand. This frees your fretting hand to continue to play the higher notes.

Practice the hammer-ons and pull-offs and try to keep the notes ringing out without having to re-pick them. If you hit the string hard enough on the first hammer-on, it makes it easier to keep the string vibrating.

Once you get the basic idea of this part, try to come up with your own variations and try to improvise around it.

More Than a Feeling – Boston

If the last song was a bit overwhelming, this song is a good change of pace.

The simple picking pattern and chords make this a great 12-string song to learn for beginners and up.

This is another example of how arpeggiating chords sounds great on a 12-string guitar.

The electric guitar riffs are also great, but as soon as the 12-string guitar comes it, it adds something interesting to the song that would separate it from a typical song.

12-String Tuning: Standard (eE aA dD gG BB ee)

The below Guitar TAB is for the arpeggiated chords during the intro.

More than a feeling 12-String Guitar TAB

Think about the best finger positions for these arpeggiated chords and hold them in place to let the notes ring out. Aim for smooth transitions between the bass notes in the second bar.

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

One of the most iconic guitar riffs played by an iconic guitarist on an iconic double-neck guitar (for live performances).

Stairway to Heaven is a great 12-string guitar song to learn and showcases what makes a 12-string guitar great.

If you’ve only played this song on a 6-string guitar, you may find it feels and sounds completely different when you try it on a 12-string guitar.

12-String Tuning: Standard (eE aA dD gG BB ee)

Here is the Guitar TAB for the first few bars:

Stairway to Heaven 12-String Guitar TAB

The very first chord shape will require firm pressure from your first finger to avoid buzzing notes. If you’re not used to playing barre chords, this may take some time to play cleanly.

Make sure you hold all of the notes down so the chords continue to ring out as you pick other strings. Try playing this part with fingerpicking, then try to play it with hybrid picking (pick and fingers).

Another great Led Zeppelin 12-string guitar song to check out is Over the Hills and Far Away.

Ticket to Ride – The Beatles

Even if you don’t want to learn how to play this song, I highly recommend you watch the below music video for a great example of “I really don’t want to be here” by the entire band.

The drumming technique alone at 1:37 makes this video worth watching.

While the 12-string guitars used in this song (2x Rickenbackers were used) doesn’t stand out as much as other songs in this list, it still adds to the overall vibe of the song.

12-String Tuning: Standard (eE aA dD gG BB ee)

Here is the Guitar TAB for the 12-string intro:

Ticket to Ride 12-String Guitar TAB

For more Beatles songs using a 12-string guitar, check out:

  • A Hard Day’s Night
  • I Call Your Name
  • If I Fell
  • I Should Have Known Better
  • What You’re Doing
  • If I Needed Someone
  • Help!

There are plenty of Beatles songs featuring 12-string guitars in different parts. Some songs feature them throughout the entire song while others only layer them in in certain parts.

Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty

While most of the other songs in this list focus on arpeggiated chords and riffs, this one is purely strumming chords.

This song will give you plenty of practice at applying firm pressure onto the strings.

The chords are the same throughout the entire song, so this is the easiest song in this list from a chords point of view.

12-String Tuning: Standard (eE aA dD gG BB ee)

Here are the chords for the song:

Free Fallin 12-String Guitar TAB

If you want to practice similar strumming based songs, check out this Guide on Easy Chord Strumming Songs. It includes chord diagrams and strumming patterns. It’s a great way to develop your strumming abilities.

Hotel California – Eagles

Hotel California is another iconic song that gets it’s easily identifiable sound thanks to a 12-string guitar at the very beginning of the song.

The 12-string guitar is played on and off throughout the song in some of the verses and the intro.

12-String Tuning: Standard (eE aA dD gG BB ee)

Capo: 7th fret

If you don’t have a capo, check out this guide for different capos suitable for a 12-string guitar.

If you are good with barre chords, you could play this part as barre chords, but it will require firm pressure to make sure the notes ring out.

Here are the first 8 bars of the 12-string guitar part. Remember that this is played with a capo on the 7th fret:

Hotel California 12-string Guitar TAB

All of the notes in these chords should ring throughout, so keep your hand in the chord positions as needed.

Suicide Note Part 1 – Pantera

For something very different and a lot heavier than the rest of the songs on this list, check out this Pantera song.

The 12-string guitar by Dimebag comes in after a long synthy intro.

This song is in Drop-D, which gives the 12-string guitar a heavier quality than what you hear on other songs on this list.

12-String Tuning: Drop-D (dD aA dD gG BB ee)

Here is the intro part in Guitar TAB:

Suicide Note Part 1 Intro 12-string Guitar TAB

Here is the verse, which combines some interesting chord shapes with a variation of the above riff:

Suicide Note Part 1 Verse 12-String Guitar TAB

While this song sounds great on a 6-string guitar, something about the 12-string guitar gives this simple song a menacing quality.

There aren’t many heavy songs that make use of a clean 12-string guitar, but this is definitely a great example of how a 12-string guitar can be used across genres.

Other Great 12-String Guitar Songs

The above 12-string guitar songs will give you plenty to work on. Here are some more 12-string guitar songs worth checking out:

  • Hurricane – Bob Dylan
  • A Horse With No Name – America
  • Space Oddity – David Bowie
  • 39 – Queen
  • I Stay Away – Alice in Chains
  • Mama, I’m Coming Home – Ozzy Osbourne
  • Hear My Train a Comin’ – Jimi Hendrix (acoustic version)
  • Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds
  • Eight Miles High – The Byrds
  • Over the Hills and Far Away – Led Zeppelin
  • A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
  • Substitute – The Who
  • Rude Mood – Stevie Ray Vaughan

There are plenty of other songs not listed above that make use of a 12-string guitar. If you listen to enough of these songs, you’ll start to recognize the 12-string as soon as it appears in a song.

Here is a Guitar TAB book with 25 songs for 12-string guitar from a range of different artists. If you’re looking for some 12-string songs not covered above, check out the list of songs in this book.

Spend some time learning the parts in the above songs to get an idea of what makes a 12-string guitar unique and how to make it shine.