The Rickenbacker 360/12 is among the first electric twelve-string guitars. This instrument is visually similar to the Rickenbacker 360. Rickenbacker uses an innovative headstock design that incorporates both a slotted-style peghead and a solid peghead, thereby eliminating the need for the larger headstock normally associated with a twelve-string guitar. Another feature unique to Rickenbacker twelve-strings is the ordering of the courses. Most twelve-strings have the octave course on the bass side of the standard course; Rickenbacker reverses this convention. This feature along with the semi-hollow body design and thru-body neck structure contribute to its unique timbre. The 360/12 was given worldwide attention by George Harrison, who used it on many Beatles recordings, introducing the distinctive new sound of this guitar on “I Call Your Name” in March, 1964.
Rickenbacker began developing its electric twelve-string in 1963. The folk music revival of the early ’60s witnessed a surge in the popularity of acoustic twelve-string guitars, but the electric variety was still rare. The company created three prototypes, all incorporating the unique headstock design submitted by employee Dick Burke. The design features three tuners on each side mounted as on a standard guitar, with the tuner posts projecting out from the face of the headstock. Two parallel channels are machined into the face of the headstock, reminiscent of the slots in the headstock of a classical guitar, but cut only halfway through the headstock. Three more Kluson tuners are attached to each side of the headstock. The knobs of the tuners project towards the rear of the headstock, and the posts transsect the slots in the headstock. The original tuners (machines) were Kluson brand. This innovation minimizes the size of the headstock, and keeps the instrument from feeling “head-heavy” in the player’s hands. It is also one of the very few twelve string guitars to use a conventional width six-string neck, making it somewhat more difficult to play cleanly for those with large hands/fingers, as the string courses are much closer together than they would normally be on most twelve string guitars.
The distinctive “jangly” sound of the Rickenbacker 360/12, while approached by other electric twelve strings, has a uniqueness of tone that is unavailable in other guitars of the same type, making it a high-value commodity to musicians attempting to get that particular sound.