How To Tune a 12 String Guitar

Tuning a 12 string guitar can be slightly tricky. Luckily, your time spent tuning will pay off. 12 string guitars sound amazing once they are perfectly tuned. Let me teach you, in just a few steps, how to get your guitar tuned to perfection.

The Correct Way of Tuning

With a normal 6 string guitar, you just begin with the lowest string and go upwards. However, due to the string configuration on a 12 string guitar. It’s ideal to tune the strings in a different order. This is because the lower octave strings hold more pressure than the high octave strings.

So, let’s say you begin with E3, the first string on the guitar, and then you proceed to E2. As you are done tuning E2, your E3 string will have changed slightly in pitch.

It’s because the lower octave strings hold a lot of tension, causing the neck to bend slightly as your tuning. Therefore, you wanna get the low octave strings tuned first, and then go on to the higher octave strings.

While this is the professional way of tuning a 12 string guitar. Feel free to tune them in any order you want. It’s just a matter of how many times you are willing to tune your guitar, and how accurately you want it tuned.

Put a Capo On? Tune Again!

Whenever you put a capo on your guitar. More often than not, you’re going to detune the entire fretboard, and if you want your guitar to be in tune. Your gonna have to tune again. What happens is that the tension often ends up being different on either side of the capo.

The uneven tension happens because the strings stick to the rubber of the capo and they don’t release the held-up tension until you strum really hard.

That’s why I recommend strumming hard, before as well as after you tune, in order to eliminate any stuck strings.

Difference Between 6-String and 12 String Capos

No, there’s no difference in length. The only difference between a capo for a 12 string guitar and a 6 string guitar, is how much pressure it creates. A capo for a 12 string guitar can create double the pressure.

Twice as many strings will require just about double the pressure. The more strings you got, the more force you need to hold them down.

Some people claim you can use a 12 string capo on a 6 string guitar. While theoretically, you can. It’s not a good idea. The stronger pressure will cause the strings to get stuck ALOT when you tune. Meaning that as you tune, the tune doesn’t change until the string is slightly moved. I know this because I’ve been there and done that. Tuning will be a never-ending process when the strings get stuck all the time.

Tools For Tuning Your 12 String Guitar

There are many apps and plugins out there to help you get in tune quickly. To help you get started, here are some mobile apps, audible tuner videos as well as plugins you can use.

Audible Youtube Tuner [Easy Way]

This is Meteorite Sound’s audible tuner video for 12 string guitars. Everything in the video has been thought out so that you can have an easy experience when tuning your guitar.

Simply listen to the notes being played and match them on your own guitar. It’s that easy!

We also have a professional version, that lets you tune in the irregular (correct) order. You can find it here.

Iphone and Android Tuners

iPhone: Panotuner

Panotuner is a free guitar tuner, that doesn’t specifically support 12 string guitars, however, it works like a charm every time. I’m using it daily to tune all of my guitars with no hassle. It’s ad-supported, but it doesn’t interfere with the functionality. It’s super accurate too!

Android: Universal Free Tuner

Universal Free Tuner for Android is my favorite 12 string guitar tuner for a phone, hands down. It’s totally free, no ads in sight, and beyond 12 string guitars, it can tune almost any instrument.

VST/AU Plugins

If you wanna tune your 12 string guitar within a DAW such as Ableton, FL Studio, or Logic you can absolutely do it. There is, however, no dedicated 12 string guitar plugin. I happen to know because I have tried EVERY guitar tuner plugin out there. You can see that article here. However, there are two good ones I recommend that I use to tune my 12 string guitars.

GTune (Free)


GTune is the most popular guitar tuner plugin out there, and it works well with 12 string guitars as well. Just be sure to turn the gain up, and maybe even compress the signal before the sound is fed into the plugin, as GTune becomes pretty inaccurate at low volumes.



I’m throwing Spiral in here as a good alternative. It’s not free but it has a great trial. It allows you to tune almost any instrument, and it works well for 12 strings.

The style is slightly unusual but very precise. It won’t get you up and running as quickly as GTune. But it will give you even more accurate results. This one I would mostly recommend for professional producers due to the high accuracy and unusual interface.

Alternate tunings on 12-string guitar.

You can also switch out strings and get all kinds of interesting combinations. All you gotta do is buy 2-pack of 12-string strings, and whatever string you want on your guitar. I very much advise you, to go only switch out the lower strings for the higher strings. I just wanna say, it may be a risk to switch higher octave strings out for lower octave ones.

Thats it!

See? Tuning a 12 string guitar ain’t that different from tuning a regular guitar. Any guide longer than this is just wasting your time. Go play! Hear the awesome sound of a perfectly tuned guitar. If you have any questions or feel like something is missing. Feel free to tell us down in the comments.

Good luck!