“Open A” AEA Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips

Cigar Box Guitar StringsNot as widely used as some of the other open “power chord” 1-5-1 tunings, the A E A tuning is still a good one to try out and have in your toolbag. A full step higher than the more widely-seen Open G tuning, the high A note can be a bit too trebly for some people, but the lower tuning with the unwound .016″ as the middle A puts out a really nice sound.

This article gives you the exact strings to use to achieve this tuning on a cigar box guitar (or other instrument) that has a scale length in the range of 24.5 to 25.5 inches.

First, a disclaimer: these recommendations are made based on our experimentation in the C. B. Gitty shops, and it is what we have found to work. Other people may have different opinions, and they are welcome to them. I’m not trying to set any standards or lay down any laws – I am just going to tell you what works for us. 

Check out the various string sets available over at www.CBGitty.com!

Continue reading ““Open A” AEA Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips”

“Open D” DAD Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips

Cigar Box Guitar StringsThis article follows the format used in our first article on cigar box guitar tunings, which covered the GDG Open G method. If you read that article, you may find some of this repetitive – feel free to skip down to the bottom where the specific string sizes are listed! – Gitty

After the GDG “Open G” tuning, the next most popular on 3-string cigar box guitars is probably DAD “Open D”. This tuning actually shows up, in part, on standard 6-string guitars, in the alternate “DADGAD” tuning. The lower-pitch versions of this tuning really have a low, bassy feel because of that big low D string, so it can be a very interesting option for cigar box guitar builders.

I have actually personally tested and confirmed (and revised!) the string gauges listed below during the writing of this article, so this isn’t just theory and guessing!

These Open D string sets and Many More available over at www.CBGitty.com!

Before we dive in, a disclaimer: these recommendations are made based on our experimentation in the C. B. Gitty shops, and it is what we have found to work. Other people may have different opinions, and they are welcome to them. I’m not trying to set any standards or lay down any laws – I am just going to tell you what works for us. 

Continue reading ““Open D” DAD Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips”

“Open E” EBE Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips

Cigar Box Guitar StringsThis article follows the format used in our previous articles on cigar box guitar tuning. If you have read those articles, you may find some of this repetitive – feel free to skip down to the bottom where the specific string sizes are listed! – Gitty

The Open E tuning is not seen as often as the more popular GDG and DAD tunings, but it is a great alternative for cigar box guitar players, especially if you are playing a lot of blues. Shane Speal used this tuning on his recent album Holler!, on the track Big Leg Woman/Swing the Hammer.

Because of the bluesy feel of this tuning, we purposefully used a little smaller gauge strings on this tuning. The means that the strings are a little looser on the instrument, which is good for playing slide blues. If you like things a little tighter, try bumping up to medium or even heavy-gauge strings.

I have actually personally tested and confirmed (and revised!) the string gauges listed below during the writing of this article, so this isn’t just theory and guessing!

Before we dive in, a disclaimer: these recommendations are made based on our experimentation in the C. B. Gitty shops, and it is what we have found to work. Other people may have different opinions, and they are welcome to them. I’m not trying to set any standards or lay down any laws – I am just going to tell you what works for us. 

Continue reading ““Open E” EBE Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips”

“Open G” GDG Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips

Cigar Box Guitar StringsOf all of the three-string cigar box guitar tunings, the most popular is probably the G D G open G tuning. Featured on many how-to-play videos on YouTube and CigarBoxNation.com, this tuning has become the de facto standard for 3-string slide blues.

A lot of new builders run into the question of how they achieve this tuning – which strings they should use, whether to go with larger strings or smaller, and so I wanted to try to demystify the topic.

First, a disclaimer: these recommendations are made based on our experimentation in the C. B. Gitty shops, and it is what we have found to work. Other people may have different opinions, and they are welcome to them. I’m not trying to set any standards or lay down any laws – I am just going to tell you what works for us. 

These Open G string sets and Many More available over at www.CBGitty.com!

Continue reading ““Open G” GDG Tuning on your Cigar Box Guitar: 4 Methods, with String Sizes & Sound Clips”

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! 

How to Pick the Right Strings for your Cigar Box Guitar

One of the most frequent questions we hear from new cigar box guitar builders is what strings they should use on their cigar box guitar, and how they should tune it. This can be a very mysterious for a builder, especially folks without much of a musical background. While it is often said that there are no rules when it comes to building CBGS (and that is often true, which is one of the great things about this hobby), it can be very frustrating to hear when you just want a simple answer to a question. In this article, we’ll try to demystify some of the theory behind strings and tunings, and also give some straightforward clear answers for those who just want to know what to do.

Southbound Strings Open G 3-string SetFirst, we’ll give a clear answer for those of you who just want to know what to do: at C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply we consider a “standard” cigar box guitar to be a 3-stringer with medium-gauge acoustic strings tuned to either Open G (for slide playing), or G-B-E for fretted playing. The strings used are equivalent to the three highest-pitched strings on a standard six-string guitar, and the scale length of the instrument (the distance from the nut to the bridge) is around 25 inches.

This happens to be the most popular set of CBG strings we sell in our shop – our C. B. Gitty 3-String Acoustic Medium Open G/Standard Set. If you are building your first cigar box guitar and have no idea what to do or what you need, start with these strings. These strings are based on a “medium” weight set sold for a standard 6-string, but includes only the 3 highest-pitch strings (the smallest/lightest ones) from the pack, so you don’t have any leftovers. It can be tuned either in “Open G” tuning for slide playing (G-B-D), or if you have a fretted neck it can be tuned like the 3 highest-pitch strings of a standard guitar (G-B-E).

This “standard” tuning will allow you to utilize partial chords that you might know from a standard guitar. Continue reading “How to Pick the Right Strings for your Cigar Box Guitar”

How to Tune a 3-string Cigar Box Guitar to Open G GDG

In this video, Ben “C. B. Gitty” Baker and Glenn Watt show you the basics of getting your cigar box guitar in tune. Both tuning “by ear” and using a digital tuner is covered, so even if you have no experience with musical instruments or tuning, this video will help you get started. At the end of the video, Ben and Glenn even do a little bit of jamming with their newly-tuned cigar box guitars.

Master String Size & Tuning List for 25-inch Scale

bulk-strings-500pxThis article is presented by the Southbound String Company – the first brand focused solely on providing strings specifically chosen and voiced for Cigar Box Guitars and other handmade/homemade instruments!

 

This chart shows you the string size to use for every pitch from double-low B (one Octave below the low B on a guitar), all the way up to High A.

Using this chart you can figure out the strings to use for pretty much any tuning you want. These strings should work for instruments with a scale length of 24.5 to 25.5 inches, with 25 inches being the middle point.

The string gauges shown below are for a “light” string set. For a “medium” set, add .002″ to the wound string sizes and .001″ to the unwound string sizes. For example, for a medium set, for low C you would want .036″ instead of .034″. For high E you’d want .011″ instead of .010″. Increase string gauges from there to move towards “heavy” sets.

Continue reading “Master String Size & Tuning List for 25-inch Scale”

Video: Two Tenor Tunings for 4-string Cigar Box Guitars

In this excerpt from a Cigar Box Nation TV episode, A. J. Gaither and Ben “Gitty” Baker discuss two great tenor guitar tunings for 4-string cigar box guitars: “Arkansas Tenor” (low E, A, D, G) and “Chicago Tenor” (D, G, B, E). Both allow you to use partial 6-string guitar chords – Ben even shows you how to use 6-string chord forms with both of these tunings.

In this excerpt from a Cigar Box Nation TV episode, A. J. Gaither and Ben “Gitty” Baker discuss two great tenor guitar tunings for 4-string cigar box guitars: “Arkansas Tenor” (low E, A, D, G) and “Chicago Tenor” (D, G, B, E). Both allow you to use partial 6-string guitar chords – Ben even shows you how to use 6-string chord forms with both of these tunings.

Cigar Box Nation TV is a presentation of CigarBoxNation.com, the online home and rallying point of the cigar box guitar revolution. It is sponsored by C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply, the general store for all things cigar box guitar and homemade/handmade music – instruments, kits, parts and gear.