Amazing Grace – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

If you had to choose just one song as the anthem of Western Christianity, it would probably be Amazing Grace. The words to the song, written by English poet and clergyman John Newton, were first published in 1779. The words were first put to a tune around 1835, when William Walker began using an old traditional tune New Britain along with the words… and that is largely the same tune we use today.

New_Britain_Southern_Harmony_Amazing_Grace
This image from a hymnal published in 1847 shows the words and music of Amazing Grace, still under the title of the traditional tune “New Britain”.

In the centuries since its first publication, Amazing Grace has been arranged, re-arranged, performed, recorded and re-imagined uncounted thousands of times. It is a song that is truly in the public domain, part of the collective consciousness of large swaths of the modern world that have taken part in the Christian Tradition.

Glenn Watt and Ben “C. B. Gitty” Baker are creating a series of 3-string cigar box guitar tablature PDFs for this timeless song, which have begun to be released here on CigarBoxGuitar.com. These tablatures are released entirely into the public domain without advertisements, and with no need for attribution, copyright or branding of any kind. We believe this to be a song that belongs to the world, which no one person can claim to own, and we give our personal interpretations of it freely. We hope you enjoy it!

Version 1 – Basic Melody

This version of the tablature gives you the song in its most basic melody form. Recommended for new players! Click the image below to view the printable PDF file.

AmazingGracePDF

Version 2 – Melody and Chords

Here both the melody line and some chord accompaniment is given, for a fuller and more soulful sound. Some filler notes to lead up to and down to the main melody notes are also added to flesh out the tune. Click the image below to view the printable PDF file.

Amazing Grace with Chords Tablature PDF

Amazing Grace – 4-string Open G GDGB – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

This tablature will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the hymn Amazing Grace on 4-string cigar box guitars tuned to Open G GDGB.

If you are uncertain how to read this tablature, please watch this video by Glenn Watt in which he explains how to read and understand it.

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Amazing Grace Tablature for 4-string Cigar Box Guitars – Open G GDGB Tuning

Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.

Ashokan Farewell – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe tablature in the PDF link below will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the popular tune Ashokan Farewell, written by Jay Ungar. This tune has pretty much become the “go-to” song any time someone wants to evoke plaintive, longing, wistful Americana… for example, it made quite a few appearances in Ken Burns’ immensely popular PBS documentary on the American Civil War. It is also always a favorite at campfire pickin’ sessions, so it’s a great one to have in your cigar box guitar tablature toolbelt!

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Ashokan Farewell Cigar Box Guitar Tablature PDF

Listen to an MP3 Demo of this Tab

Auld Lang Syne – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

This is the the popular Scottish New Year’s celebration song Auld Lang Syne, as arranged and tabbed by Glenn Watt. Glenn has created two versions of the tab – the first one is just the basic melody lines, and the second adds some chord accompaniment.

You can view the printable PDFs by clicking on the images below. You can also watch the video below where Glenn shows you how to play the song on his 3-string cigar box guitar tuned to Open G “GDG”.

Aule Lang Syne - Melody Only - Click Image to view PDF
Auld Lang Syne – Melody Only – Click Image to view PDF

 

Auld Lang Syne - Melody and Chords - Click image to view PDF
Auld Lang Syne – Melody and Chords – Click image to view PDF

 

Blank 3-string Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Blank 3-string Tab Sheet
Click to open the print-able PDF document.

Here is a blank tablature sheet for 3-string instruments, including our favorite the 3-string cigar box guitar! You can use this if you want to try your hand at creating some of your own tablature of your favorite songs.

Click on the link above or on the image to the left to download the full print-able PDF document. This sheet can be used freely, for any educational, personal or commercial purpose. We hope to see it being put to good use!

Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes – 3-string Open G GDG – Chords & Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

Open G GDG Listing ImageBlister in the Sun is one of the classic alternative rock anthems. First released in 1983 on the self-titled album by the Violent Femmes, it remained popular through the 1990’s and still is heard today. The opening riff is one of this song is one of the most recognizable in rock and roll, right up there with Smoke on the Water.

 

Another great thing about this song is that on the 3-string cigar box guitar tuned to Open G GDG, it can all be played on one string! An alternative arrangement could take it lower to make use of the second and third strings, but we leave that up to you. It is a very simple melody line, so have some fun with it!

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes

Click the image above to view the print-able PDF for this tablature.

Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe 3-string cigar box guitar tablature in the PDF link below will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the song Blowin’ in the Wind, written and performed by Bob Dylan. This is one of the best known of Dylan’s songs, and is a bona-fide folk anthem. It also has a nice easy-to-play melody and chord structure.

The printable tablature sheet linked below contains both the simple melody-only version as well as a more advanced version that includes some chords.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

We also have a video by Glenn Watt that shows you how to read and play this style of 3-string CBG tablature: click here to view it!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Blowin in the Wind by Bob Dylan – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Blowin in the Wind by Bob Dylan - Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

 

Blue Christmas as performed by Elvis Presley – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe tablature in the PDF link below shows you the notes and chords you need to play the bluesy Christmas song Blue Christmas on your 3-string cigar box guitar or other homemade instrument tuned to open G GDG. Perhaps the most famous artist to record this song was none other than the King himself, Mr. Elvis Presley, but a whole cast of other singers and bands have done so as well. They include Johnny Cash, Collective Soul, REO Speedwagon, Kelly Clarkson, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Buble, just to name a few.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

If you need some help with this style of tablature, here’s a video where Glenn Watt shows you how to read it

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley) Cigar Box Guitar Tablature PDF

Boogie in G – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing Image

This melody and rhythm combination is one of the basic building blocks of the blues, and an awful lot of songs have been recorded using it or variations of it. Feel free to make up your own words, and have fun with it!

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Boogie Woogie in G Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

View the video below to see and hear C. B. Gitty playing this exact tablature.

Boogie Woogie in G Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Build Me Up Buttercup – 3-string Open G GDG – Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

This song is a feel-good rock and roll classic, first recorded by The Foundations in 1980 and covered a number of times since. This version of it has been arranged and tabbed by Glenn Watt. Glenn gives us two versions of the song – the basic melody line, and then the tabbed version with the chords.

You can view the printable tablature sheets by clicking on the link or images below. You can also watch the video below where Glenn shows you how he plays (and sings!) the song on his 3-string cigar box guitar tuned to Open G “GDG”.

Build Me Up Buttercup (Melody Only) – Tablature for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars

Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.

 

Build Me Up Buttercup (Chords) – Tablature for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars

Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.

 

Camptown Races – 3-string Open G “GDG” – Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

Stephen Foster did not believe in smiling for the camera.
Stephen Foster clearly did not believe in smiling for the camera.

For anyone who grew up watching old Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny Cartoons featuring Foghorn Leghorn, this song will be instantly recognizable.

Camptown Races is another classic American folk song written by Stephen Foster, who was the first American composer whose works were widely popular. He wrote this song and others like Oh Susannah in the middle of the 19th century for performance by the many minstrel groups that were popular at the time.

Thee tablature arrangements of this public domain song were created by cigar box guitar afficionado Glenn Watt. He has created two versions of the song – a simpler melody-line-only version, and then a little more advanced version that includes some chord strumming.

You can view the printable tablature sheet by clicking on the links or images below. You can also watch the video below where Ben “C. B. Gitty” Baker shows you how he plays the song on his 3-string cookie tin banjo tuned to high open G “GDG”.

Camptown-Races-chords Camptown Races by Stephen Foster – Melody Line Only – Tablature for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars

Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet for this song.
Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet for this song.

 Camptown Races by Stephen Foster – Chords & Melody – Tablature Sheet

Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.

Carolina in my Mind by James Taylor – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe 3-string cigar box guitar tablature in the PDF link below will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the song Carolina in my Mind, written and performed by James Taylor. This is one of James’ greatest hits, instantly recognizable from just the first few notes. Like a lot of James Taylor’s songs, the melody line is fairly straightforward but the chord progression can be a little complex.

The printable tablature sheet linked below contains both the simple melody-only version as well as a more advanced version that includes some chords.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

We also have a video by Glenn Watt that shows you how to read and play this style of 3-string CBG tablature: click here to view it!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Carolina In My Mind by James Taylor – 3-string Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.

We hope that you will find the tablature useful, and that you’ll use it to make great music with your cigar box guitars!

Cigar Box Guitar Chord Forms for 3-string Open G “GDG”

Here are the chord form sheets for all of the common keys that you might want to play on your cigar box guitar. These are all for 3-string cigar box guitars tuned to Open G “GDG”.

This single post replaces the separate posts we used to have for all of these, to make it easier to find what you need. All of these sheets were created by C. B. Gitty and are presented for free personal and educational use. They are not to be used for commercial purposes without permission.

For help on how to make use of these chord forms, click this link to view the guide:

How to Read and Use Cigar Box Guitar Chord Forms PDF.

Click the images below to view the printable PDFs. The sheets are presented in musical order starting with A and proceeding through G.

A Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitar PDF B-flat Cigar Box Guitar Chord Forms PDF B Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitar PDF
C Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitar PDF D Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitar PDF Eb Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitars PDF
E Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitar F Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitar PDF G Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitar PDF

Deck the Halls – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe tablature in the PDF link below will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the classic Christmas carol Deck the Halls.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

If you need some help with this style of tablature, here’s a video where Glenn Watt shows you how to read it

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Deck the Halls Cigar Box Guitar PDF

 

Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

This tablature will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the song Folsom Prison Blues, written and performed by the “Man in Black” himself, Johnny Cash.

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe tablature in the PDF link below will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the song Folsom Prison Blues, written and performed by the “Man in Black” himself, Johnny Cash. Cash first recorded this song way back in 1955 and it quickly became one of his signature pieces. It is a rocking fusion of blues and country elements, with murder, prison, trains and longing woven all through it. It is a favorite at jam sessions and definitely worth having in your toolbag.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

We also have a video by Glenn Watt that shows you how to read and play this style of 3-string CBG tablature: click here to view it!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash - Cigar Box Guitar Tablature PDF

 

Fretted vs. Fretless Cigar Box Guitars by Shane Speal

Shane Speal Slide GuitarA fan recently asked me:

Hey Shane, is it better to learn on a fretted or slide cigar box guitar?

Turns out, that’s a great question!  When I built my first cigar box guitar over 20 years ago, it had no frets, no fret markers and was played 100% with a slide.  For me, that was the perfect instrument because I wanted to play the deepest Delta blues possible.  I wanted the music to be primitive, creaky and have that slight out-of-tune sound of old Smithsonian recordings.

If you’re looking to capture the really old timey sound of a traditional cigar box guitar, then I suggest you shove a slide on your finger and grind away without frets.  There’s nothing like the whining moan of metal against metal going up the neck.

But wait!!!  There’s also magic happening with the modern Cigar Box Guitar Revolution where people are bucking tradition and utilizing these homemade instruments for something new.  They’re taking the concept of a homemade instrument and mixing it with new sounds they have in their heads.

If you’re not looking for the old time creaky stuff, then a fretted cigar box guitar may be the right tool for you.  Even a simple 3-string fretted cigar box guitar will allow you to play rock power chords, dulcimer-style passages and whatever your fertile brain can imagine.

The lesson here is to simply think about what you want to accomplish and then choose the right tool for the job.  The cigar box guitar is an instrument borne from American poverty back in the days even before The Great The Depression.  The builders and players simply were searching for a sound they couldn’t afford to purchase, so they made their own.  Be like them.  Follow the sound.

I have been working with C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply in creating a library of free cigar box guitar lessons.  Although we are still in the early stages of this project, you can still get a wealth of lessons at their sister site, CigarBoxGuitar.com.  In addition, I have posted my easy-to-follow video series at ShaneSpeal.com.

BTW, when I perform, half of my instruments are fretless and half are fretted.  Since my music encompasses a wide range of mutant styles, I need many guitars to perform a 3 hour bar gig.

Speaking of mutant styles, here’s a freakish video I filmed last night as I was practicing sitar sounds with a 3-string cigar box guitar.


If you just can’t decide between fretted or fretless, then heck with it – build (or buy) one of each! There is no rule that says you can only learn one, and having both styles in your trick bag will only help you become a better player.

– Shane

P. S. For a nice primer on what it takes to fret your own build, check out this article here on CigarBoxGuitar.com: Deciding Whether to Fret Your Cigar Box Guitar

 

 

 

 

Fur Elise by Ludwig von Beethoven – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing Image

Here is one of the most famous and easily recognized classical music masterpieces of all time – Beethoven’s “Fur Elize” piano sonata. We have taken this fairly simple melody and arranged it for 3-string cigar box guitar. It does require a little moving around the neck, and one or two finger stretches that take a little practicing, but it is definitely worth the effort!

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Fur Elise by Ludwig von Beethoven 3-string Cigar Box Guitar Tablature PDF

Fur Elise by Ludwig von Beethoven 3-string Cigar Box Guitar Tablature PDF

GDG – The King of Cigar Box Guitar Tunings – by Glenn Watt

What makes Open G – GDG tuning for Cigar Box Guitars so popular?

It’s the King of cigar box guitar tunings.

G-D-G is the most widely used tuning you’ll find used in videos throughout most cigar box guitar communities.

Why is this tuning so popular?

This article unpacks that question, and gives you the straight facts to answer it.

Let’s first begin with what G-D-G actually is.

G-D-G is an open tuning

G-D-G is an open tuning; it refers to how the strings are tuned.

The thickest string is tuned to G.

The string in the middle is tuned to D.

And, you guessed it, the thinnest string is also tuned to G.

When you strum 3 strings tuned G-D-G, without using a slide or your fingers to fret them, you’re playing the strings open.

And when all 3 strings are played open in G-D-G, you hear a “G” chord.

That “G” chord you hear is referred to as a power chord.

Power chords in an open 3-string tuning lack a note to make it sound happy (major) or sad (minor).

Also, there are no sour notes, unlike a standard tuning on a six string guitar that sounds several different notes when played open in the standard EADGBE tuning.

As Bad Finger, member of Cigar Box Nation, replied in a Nation forum topic,

“…think of standard tuning as a really nice pair of channel-lock pliers. You ‘can’ do about anything with them. … Fix the kitchen sink, hold a workpiece, twist a nut off a bolt, use it as a hammer, pry tool, . . . lots of things.”

An open tuning, on the other hand, has a simpler focus.

Bad Finger went on to say,

“Open tunings are a bit more like a specialized tool that will have features making it good for a particular purpose or purposes. Like an impact wrench. You can break a nut off about anything – and fast, but don’t try to use it as a hammer.”

But don’t let that specialization fool you.

A power chord open tuning is capable of much more than you think.

You can play nearly any song

A 3-string cigar box guitar tuned to an open power chord can play nearly any song in western music.

That’s right, nearly any song.

Most of the music we hear can be broken down into simple chord progressions.

And whether you’re listening to Mozart, Robert Johnson, or The Beatles, every song has a simple version that can be played with an open tuning.

Most songs in western music are built on some variation of 3 to 5 chords.

Every one of those chords can be played on 3 strings.

Now here’s where your mind will be blown.

You can play all of those songs with only 1 finger.

“What’s that?” you ask. “Any song?”

Believe it.

Play cigar box guitar with 1 finger•

Is there anything more beautiful that that?

Not only can you build your own cigar box guitar, but you can make music with your guitar by using only 1 finger.

Use that 1 finger to hold down all 3 strings behind any fret and you’ll play a chord.

The same can be done by holding a slide on top of the strings.

So, all along the entire fretboard, nearly the whole of western music is available to you using only 1 finger with a power chord open tuning.

The simplicity doesn’t end there.

Forget about confusing music theory

Open tunings are perfect for cigar box guitars.

Just as the simplicity of a cigar box guitar makes it inclusive for would-be builders, the simplicity of an open tuning makes it inclusive for all players.

Making music with your cigar box guitar doesn’t need to weigh you down with the science of music.

There’s no need for scales, or sight-reading, or complicated chord forms and fingerings.

A cigar box guitar with a power chord open tuning allows everyone, regardless of musical experience or education, to feel the joy of making music.

“That’s all well and good,” you may say, “but do I need special strings to get tuned G-D-G?”

It’s easy to get tuned G-D-G

Finding strings that can be tuned to an open power chord is easy.

Of the 6 strings on a conventional guitar, 4 of them can be used to easily achieve 2 power chord open tunings.

The 6th, 5th, and 4th strings – traditionally tuned E, A, and D – can be tuned to D-A-D.

Additionally, the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings – traditionally tuned A, D, and G – can be easily be tuned G-D-G.

So you can pull off the strings from that dusty ol’ guitar that’s been sitting in your closet for 15 years and finally put ‘em to use.

“Can other strings from a conventional guitar be used on a cigar box guitar?” you ask.

Absolutely.

Even better, you can find single, or bulk, sets of strings to get tuned to G-D-G from C.B. Gitty Crafter Supply.

“Still” you wonder, “what makes G-D-G stand out above the rest?”

The people’s key

In the music world, the key of G is often referred to as the people’s key.

Many people’s vocal range fits into melodies written in the key of G, making it inclusive of a vast number of voices.

On top of that, the key of G works well with most stringed instruments used in western music.

Guitars are easily tuned to open G.

Half the strings on violins and mandolins are in the G chord.

And the standard tuning for banjos is to an open G.

“Okay. This all sounds good. But where’s the hard evidence to support this popularity?”

The straight facts

On Cigar Box Nation, member Turtlehead conducted an exhaustive survey of the the community.

One of the questions posed determined the most widely used tunings among 3 string cigar box guitar builders and players.

And a whopping 93% of those surveyed who play 3 string cigar box guitars use the tuning GDG.

Long live the King

So now you can see why G-D-G is the King of cigar box guitar tunings.

  • •It’s an inclusive key for an inclusive instrument
  • •It can be used to play almost anything
  • •You can use just 1 finger to make music
  • •There’s no need for music theory
  • •The strings are widely available
  • •The key fits most voices and stringed instruments
  • •And you can easily play along with almost every other 3 string cigar box guitar player.

Bear in mind, there are numerous ways to tune a cigar box guitar; no one way is the right way.

This is a fun, and fact-filled article, but the joy of making and playing cigar box guitars is based in the freedom of expression.

Keeping in line with that spirit, let’s close with more of Bad Finger’s forum topic reply,

“As a teacher, we are encouraged to start our students with an “I can” statement. This is often a lot more productive than “With open tuning, I can’t . . .” Focus on exploring the possibilities vs. the limitations.”


What are your thoughts on GDG tuning? Let us know in the comments below! 

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe tablature in the PDF link below shows you how to play the melody and chords for the song Hallelujah, written and performed by Leonard Cohen. This is one of the best known of Cohen’s songs, and has been covered many times. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful modern songs, and like many of the most powerful songs it has a quite simple melody line that is pretty easy to play on a cigar box guitar.

The printable tablature sheet linked below contains both the simple melody-only version as well as a more advanced version that includes some chords. You can also view the video below where Gitty shows you how to play it.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

We also have a video by Glenn Watt that shows you how to read and play this style of 3-string CBG tablature: click here to view it!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF:

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – Tablature for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars 

Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the printable tablature sheet.