What are the pros and cons of 12 fret guitars? Should you look to add a guitar with less frets to your collection?
Doesn’t less frets mean less options to play?
Not at all, 12 fret guitars are actually a more traditional style of guitar building.
Some of the first modern renditions of acoustic classical guitars, were in fact, 12 fret guitars.
It wasn’t until the 19th century where we started to shift away from this traditional build, towards a guitar that offers more frets and therefore “more” options.
12 fret guitars aim to provide a warmer, brighter tone, with more volume, without making the body of the guitar larger.
What are 12 fret guitars for?
12 fret guitars are made for guitarists that want a traditional build of guitar, a warmer tone, greater sustain or a larger spectrum of volume to play with.
12 fret guitars are a conscious decision to shorten the length of the fretboard, and usually do not include a cutaway to reach passed the 12th fret.
Further, the bridge and saddle of 12 fret guitars typically sits lower on the guitar body.
This helps utilize all the resonance the body has to offer and more.
12 fret guitars can something look a little odd at first, because it seems like the bridge to too far away from the sound hole.
In reality, this is by design and aims to make better use of the guitar as it is.
12 fret guitars are good for those looking for an improved tone, and have been said to be more ergonomic than traditional guitars.
12 fret guitars are more ergonomic, because the shortened neck allows the player to reach the first few frets while keeping you fretting arm in a more natural position.
Therefore, if you’re someone who has shoulder trouble, or doesn’t want to reach as far to play open chords, a 12 fret guitar may be just what you’re looking for.
Are 12 fret guitars good for strumming
Yes, 12 fret guitars generally offer a more comfortable position to strum in.
Because the neck is shorter, and the scale is smaller, you can more easily reach the open chords on the guitar.
Also, because of the warmer tone and resonance, strumming open chords will seem more “full” when playing on a 12 fret guitar vs modern styles of guitar builds.
Why do 12 fret guitars sound better
It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the number of frets, but the location of the hardware of the guitar.
The bridge and saddle of the guitar is positioned in a lower spot on the guitar.
The change in scale on twelve fret guitars aim to offer a warmer tone and sound.
Most ears, especially when listening to an acoustic guitar, prefer warm tones and bright resonance.
This is why twelve fret guitars tend to sound better than guitars with more frets or with cutaways.
Are 12 fret guitars easier to play
Yes, 12 fret guitars are easier to play because they tend to be more ergonomic when compared with modern styles of guitars.
The shortened scale of the guitar means your shoulder and arm are in a more natural position.
This means your arm will not tire the same way it might if it were in a less ergonomic position.
You should note, however, that because most 12 fret guitars are dreadnaughts, it will not be easy to play past the 12th fet.
While you can stretch and reach past the twelfth fret, you won’t find it a comfortable position to play in for extended periods of time.
You’ll likely just want to avoid musical material that utilizes more than 12 frets for this reason.
If you’re aim to to play mostly open chords and do not have a need to use the frets passed the 12th, then yes a 12 fret guitar will be easier to play.
Again, if you’re expecting to “shred” on the 15th fret, you’re in for a bit of a surprise.
With a exception for guitars with a cutaway, but even cutaways deviate from the more traditional method and shape of the guitar.
Is playing a 12 fret guitar different than playing a 14 fret guitar?
Yes, you’ll have a few more inches of reach to get to the 1st fret. While you may not immediately notice a massive difference, 12 fret guitars do play a little different from a 14 fret.
Will any listeners be able to tell the difference? Not as much, unless their listening for changes in tone or resonance, where the 12 fret should outperform the 14 fret guitar.
However, the difference will not be massive, or noticable for the average listener.
Are 12 fret guitars better and worth it?
If you want a guitar that offers a warm tone and bright resonance, long sustain and greater depth of volume, yes a 12 fret guitar is better, and worth it.
If you want an all around workhorse that can do everything from open chords to high fret noodling, you might want a more modern style of acoustic guitar.
12 fret guitars bring back a traditional style of instrument building. It does away with cutaways and reaching all over to fret the right strings.
What you’re left with is a more “pure” tone that sticks to the original design of the guitar as we know it.
If it is better or worth it, of course, is personal preference. A quality solidwood acoustic 12 fret guitar will sound much nicer i your strumming through open chords.
If that doesn’t match your guitar style then you might not be the ideal demographic for this type of guitar build.
playing around the upper frets will be much easier, and a 12 fret guitar will make a great addition to any guitar collection.
But of course, if it doesn’t fit your play style it will just sit there collecting dust.
Whether a 12 fret guitar is worth it for you, is up to you and your play style.