twelfth fret toronto

The Twelfth Fret

The Twelfth Fret is an independent pro guitar shop that deals in vintage and historical instruments, specializing in banjos and mandolins. Lessons and an expert repair department are located on their upper floor.

Around since the seventies, sometimes you can find instruments in here like lutes that are a century or two old. Think Long & McQuade on steroids, except you’ll never find a chain music store like this place.

twelfth fret torontoThe Twelfth Fret wasn’t actually always located here. The shop originally opened elsewhere in an old tailor shop, then moved to a block east of the current location on the Danforth, before finally winding up here in 2000.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

They claim possession of one of the first standard electric guitars to hit the market, a 1935 Rickenbacker Ken Roberts Electro Spanish Guitar. Apparently only 50 were ever built between 1931 and 1937, making this an extremely rare find.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

Small test rooms are perfect for trying out instruments with a little more privacy, not to mention lending a little more order to the blaring chaos of teens shredding Led Zeppelin one tends to encounter in guitar shops.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

Mandolins are displayed above each doorway of room after room of almost Harry-Potter-like enchanting instruments. You might find, say, a turn-of-the-century Gibson mandolin here, a more common vintage instrument due to being built so durably.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

The Twelfth Fret is actually the largest banjo dealer in Canada. The instruments are so resonant the room echoes when I speak, full of banjos from lighter beginner models to ones with open backs and ones with resonators, some considerably weighed down by half-inch maple rims and heavy metal parts, the fretboards, headstocks and backs on others inlaid with intricate designs.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

They teach electric, acoustic and bass guitar here, along with fiddle, violin, mandolin and banjo. Private lessons are $28 per half hour.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

Been going crazy trying to find that one stupid part your local shop swears is coming in “any day now”? The Twelfth Fret is a reliable source for all kinds of finicky little parts for many different instruments, and there are four staff members here dedicated to repair alone.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

I can’t tell you how many amazing instruments there are to gape at in this place. A 1942 C.F. Martin 000-45 worth nearly $60,000. Weissenborn-style guitars with hollow necks. More Resophonics than I could count. A twenties harp guitar. They even have instruments here that date to the Romantic period, one made in Naples in 1847.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

Not only do local pros shop here, but apparently touring acts including Justin Bieber, Pink Floyd, Kim Mitchell, Rush, Elvis Costello, Daniel Lanois, Steve Winwood, Rolling Stones, and Pixies have relied on the resources of The Twelfth Fret.

Twelfth Fret Toronto

Photos by

Jesse Milns


The Twelfth Fret

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