Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Fender XII


Folk Music purists almost rioted when Bob Dylan played electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival. Pete Seeger even says he was so angry he wanted to cut the cord to the sound systems amplifier.

The people that attend the event overlooked an important event in rock music history. This was the birth of Folk Rock.

The Byrds, Barry McQuire, the Mamas and the Papas and others took on the mantle. For a few years Folk Rock was the the thing.

The sound for many of the artists was an electric twelve string guitar with it’s jangly, chimey, almost harpsicord-like sound.


The Beatles were the first to use the Rickenbacker twelve string. They influenced Roger McQuinn to purchase a Rick 360.


McQuinn played banjo and he transferred his finger-picking style straight over to the twelve string guitar.

Everyone I know loves the way the Rickenbacker looks and sounds, but there are also those that have some complaints.

It is difficult to change strings on this guitar. Even McQuinn states it is a bear to restring, because the strings hold the tailpiece in place on the guitar. I have also heard complaints regarding tuning the Rickenbacker and keeping it in tune.

The older model Rick twelve strings came with six adjustable bridge saddles with two strings per saddle.

It would make sense this could make intonation difficult to achieve.

I’ve also heard guitarists complain because of the close spacing of the strings. This is because Rickenbacker uses the same neck for it’s six string and twelve string guitars. Then there are some that love this feature.

Due to the sudden interest in electric twelve string guitars, most all of the manufacturers came out with there version for sale.


Gibson and Epiphone each had a 12string model. Danelectro intoduced a Vinnie Bell creation that was named the Bellzouki. Hagstrom guitars also came out with a twelve string model.


Fender's concept for a 12 string model was simply known as the Fender Electric XII.

The body design was similar to the Jaguar, Jazzmaster shape but the lower bout had a slightly deeper carve.

The neck was a bolt-on Fender style neck. The guitars headstock was quite unique. It had a downward pitched carve on the neck’s distal end which made it resemble a hockey stick.


The Fender neck was wider than their six string models, which eliminated that cramped feeling guitarists complaint about on other models. It was an electric guitar purposefully designed to be a 12 string guitar.

The guitar also had tunable bridge saddles for each string, so compensation adjustment was a breeze. The strings went through the body and were held in place by string grommets, similar to the Telecaster design. This increased sustain.

The guitar was strung like most 12 string guitars with the lower string being an octave higher than the next string. Rickenbacker uses a reverse process with the lowest string first and the octave second.

Another unique feature was the pickup design. The placement is comparable to split pickup placement on a Fender Precision Bass guitar, which staggered the pickups. Essentially the twelve string had four staggered pickups in two sections. The player could get four different and distinctive sounds allowing for neck, neck and bridge in series, neck and bridge in parallel and bridge only options.

Fender XII Bridge/Saddles
Where most other 12 string electric guitars were built to accommodated two strings per saddle, Fender designed a special saddle for each string with a string-through-body design for extra sustain. The 1965 model came with a fairly wide neck, with dot inlays. The original model came with a three colour nitrocellulose sunburst finish and later models came with colour options as well as pickguard options.

The earliest models had a natural wood headstock. Models from late 1965 through 1968 underwent some changes. The head stock was painted the same colour as the guitar, the neck was bound and the dot markers were changed to block markers.

The Electric XII was designed by Leo Fender and introduced in late 1965. Most were produced in 1966. The guitar stayed in the Fender catalog through 1969 when it was discontinued.

Fender wound up with overstock on the necks and bodies.

The always thrifty Mr. Fender turned the extra stock into a unique six string guitar that was originally called The Fender Custom. The name was replaced and the guitar was then called The Fender Maverick.

Because of the guitars adjustable bridge saddle compensation, the Fender Electric XII was a favorite with studio players of the day (1965-70). Recording companies were interested in turning out songs as quickly as possible, so most bands recorded only the vocals and left the playing up to the studio guys and gals.






The band’s guitarist may be holding a Rickenbacker on the album’s cover, but chances are the sound you are hearing quite possibly came from a Fender Electric XII.
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