Hollowbelly (John Farr)

Musical Styles: Blues, Punk, Lo-fi, Originals

Handmade Instrument Played: Cigar Box Guitar

“I struggle to understand these blues artists who endlessly retread the old blues standards – have they nothing to say? Are they so vacant they have to sing other people’s words?” – John Farr aka Hollowbelly.

Hollowbelly is nothing if not proudly punk, lo-fi, and DIY. Born in a working class area of England, Hollowbelly grew to despise what he calls social injustice and loathe conformity.

His musical career began playing in a cabaret band from the ages of eight to 15. Special licenses were procured to allow such a young individual play in the working-men’s club circuit. Even at that tender age, Hollowbelly was known to gig relentlessly.

It was during this time that Hollowbelly developed a strong disdain for how the northern English working class were downtrodden and thusly his passion for DIY and artistic freedom flourished.

Hollowbelly was introduced to the cigar box guitar after stumbling across them on the internet. It was the influence of two men in particular, Shane Speal from the U.S., and Chickenbone John from the U.K. that Hollowbelly calls to attention as being central to this introduction.

Falling in line with his passion for all people to be on level playing fields, Hollowbelly was smitten by the ease of making a cigar box guitar. In particular, the open tuning often used on CBGs spoke to his desire for people of all classes and education to have music available to them.

After having taken several years off since performing in his punk days, Hollowbelly has made his own CBGs and one-man-band setup to record and gig anew. He has performed throughout Europe spreading the message that people can and should stand up, think and create for themselves.

Hollowbelly’s website: http://www.hollowbelly.co.uk/

Home on the Range – 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 anthem of the American West, Home on the Range.

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: Home on the Range Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars PDF

Home on the Range Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars
Click the image above to view the printable sheet.

 

Home on the Range – Traditional

A classic American song, evoking images of the wild west, cowboys and the wide open vistas of the plains. View the full text of this entry by clicking the “Read More” link below for the formatted canjo tab…

American Canjo Company

Arrangement courtesy of C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply, intended for playing on American Canjo Company™ brand one-string canjos with dulcimer-style fretting, with fret numberings as shown below. The open unfretted string is notated as “0″.

Canjo Diagram

Home on the Range

0  0    3  4 5     3     2   1   6 6 6
Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam
5   6   8    3   3   3 2 3    4
And the deer and the antelope play
0     0     0   3  4  5     3 2  1   6 6   6
Where there seldom is heard a discouraging word
6   6   5     4   3   2   3  4   3
And the skies are not cloudy all day
Chorus
8     6    5  4   5      0     0   3    3   3   3 2 3    4
Home, home on the range… where the deer and the antelope play
0     0     0   3  4  5     3 2  1   6 6   6
Where there seldom is heard a discouraging word
6   6   5     4   3   2   3  4   3
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

To learn more about this classic American song, and to find more verses, check out this Wikipedia article.

Arrangement by C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply
Copyright 2014

Homemade Drum Kit being Played, filmed in New Orleans 1928

This video from December 4, 1928 shows a young African American (likely identified as “CoCoMo” Joe Barthelemy) playing a homemade drum kit consisting of a wooden box, tin cans and cake tin cymbals. As he plays, two other boys dance. This type of homemade instrument was a part of the New Orleans “spasm band” tradition, which began in the late 1900’s on the streets of the city, playing a variety of Dixieland, skiffle, jug music and other forms of early jazz forerunners.

Usually the term “spasm” was applied to bands, often made up of children, which crafted their instruments out of cast-off items and junk. Drum kits made out of wooden boxes and tin cans, cymbals made from pie plates, horns made from old pipes and parts of other instruments, and of course guitars and fiddles made from cigar boxes and other items. These spasm bands were not just one of the forerunners of what we know as jazz… they are also a key part of the history of homemade musical instruments.

Click the image below to visit the University of South Carolina page where you can watch the full video, which is itself a series of excerpts from a longer film.

Homemade Drum Kit 1928
Click the image above to visit the University of South Carolina page where the video can be viewed.

Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones – 3-string Open G GDG – Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

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 Honky Tonk Women, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and recorded by The Rolling Stones. This is a classic rock and roll anthem through and through – from the starting cowbell solo to the unforgettable lyrics to every one of the instantly recognizable guitar licks throughout.

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!

Gitty also recorded an MP3 of himself playing this song, if you want to get an idea of how it sounds:

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Honky TonkWomen by the Rolling Stones – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones - Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

 

How a Cigar Box Guitar Tuner Works

Improve your cigar box guitars by getting to know the anatomy and orientation of open gear tuners

By Glenn Watt

Ever wonder which way is up on a cigar box guitar tuner?

Would you like to learn how a cigar box guitar tuner works, how you should orient them, and why it matters?

Well, you’re in luck, my friend.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • the anatomy of a tuner
  • how you identify which direction a tuner is oriented
  • and why the orientation of a tuner is important

Plus, you’re going to get a bonus tip on how to flip an open gear tuner for a mistakenly drilled hole.

Let’s start with… Continue reading “How a Cigar Box Guitar Tuner Works”

How to Build a 3-string Cigar Box Guitar – Free Plans

This free 8-page guide will show you all of the steps needed to build your first 3-string slide Cigar Box Guitar. The guide makes it easy, outlining all of the parts and tools you will need (along with helpful hints on where to get them), and with clear, photo-illustrated instructions on how to assemble your instrument.

This free 8-page guide will show you all of the steps needed to build your first 3-string slide Cigar Box Guitar. The guide makes it easy, outlining all of the parts and tools you will need (along with helpful hints on where to get them), and with clear, photo-illustrated instructions on how to assemble your instrument.

How to Build a 3-string Cigar Box Guitar
Click the image above to view the full, print-able document.

 

How to Cut a Rod Piezo

Rod Piezo Closeup DetailRod piezos can give you great improvements in overall tone and sound on your instrument builds, compared to a standard disc piezo. However, the standard rod piezo is made for a 6-string guitar, and at 2 ¾” in length, is often longer than a cigar box guitar builder needs or wants for embedding in a bridge. Fortunately, it is a fairly simple process to cut the rod piezos to a shorter length, for 3 or 4-string setups. However, it is important to cut it them in a certain way so you don’t ruin them, which is what this article will show you.

You can get Rod & Disk Piezos and all sorts of other great guitar and cigar box guitar gear over at our C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply Web Store. Browse on over and check it out!

Continue reading “How to Cut a Rod Piezo”

How to Eliminate Hum and Buzz on your electric Cigar Box Guitar

Electrifying your cigar box guitar or other homemade instrument build can be a very rewarding experience. Being able to plug into an amp not only gives you more volume, but it opens the door to a huge range of effects that would not otherwise be available. And it is a proven fact that having a pickup in a guitar makes it easier to sell – being able to plug in and rock out evokes images of Eddie Van Halen and Slash and is sure to get any would-be rocker’s blood pumping.

Our Disc-o-Tone pre-wired harness is a great way to add a pickup to your build.

Our Disc-o-Tone pre-wired piezo pickup harness is a great way to add a low-hum pickup to your cigar box guitar. No soldering required!

In an ideal situation, electrifying your build is as simple as gluing in a piezo (or mounting in a magnetic pickup), wiring it to a jack, and bingo. Continue reading “How to Eliminate Hum and Buzz on your electric Cigar Box Guitar”

How to Ground Cigar Box Guitar Pickups Without a Metal Bridge

Cigar Box Guitar craftsman Glenn Watt shows you how to ground your pickup to reduce humming, even if you’re not using a metal bridge!

Don't Get Mad - Get Grounded!

By Glenn Watt 

The simplest solution to your most maddening problem

For the love of all that’s good, why is my magnetic pickup humming?

You’ve installed a magnetic pickup in your cigar box guitar, and the darn thing is making noise.

“Oh, just ground it to the bridge.”

That’s the advice you read in every online forum.

“I can’t ground to the bridge, ‘cause the bridge is wooden.” you think to yourself, fuming behind your computer, and wondering what your next move is.

Well, you’re in luck. There’s more than one way to roast this chicken.

The solution: Ground to a metal tailpiece.

The point in grounding to the bridge is to connect the strings to the ground loop. Continue reading “How to Ground Cigar Box Guitar Pickups Without a Metal Bridge”

How to Install a Mini Humbucker in a Cigar Box Guitar

Glenn walks you through how he installs the mini humbucker pickup in the “Mi Amor” cigar box guitar he designed for C. B. Gitty.

How I Took This Cigar Box Guitar to a Whole New Level

The Mi Amor meets the Snake Oil Humbucker: A Killer Combo

It sounds raw and dirty.

A single coil pickup in a cigar box guitar has grit and a surly swagger. But for this build, the sound of a solitary single coil pickup is missing something.

When designing the Mi Amor – a recent addition to the C.B. Gitty line of guitars – I wanted it to have a big punch. Picture a cinder block-sized fist, wearing brass knuckles, being thrown into your gut. You know, really taking the air out of you.

Yeah. That’s what I wanted for this CBG.

And the Snake Oil Humbucker gave me just that.

Continue reading “How to Install a Mini Humbucker in a Cigar Box Guitar”

How to Install a Pre-wired Pickup Harness in a Neck-through Cigar Box Guitar

54-020-01 How-to Guide PagesThis illustrated guide written by Glenn Watt walks you through how to install the C. B. Gitty Part number 54-020-01, “Pre-Wired 4-String Single Coil Pickup Harness with Volume and Tone.” Cutout and drill bit sizes are given and the steps clearly shown for mounting one of these handy pre-wired pickup harnesses into cigar box guitars.

The principles in this guide can also be used for most any single-coil or humbucker pickup with a neck-through cigar box guitar, where you often have to notch down into the neck (and brace underneath it) to get the pickup into place.

 

How to Install a Pre-Wired Piezo Harness in a Cigar Box Guitar(C. B. Gitty Product #50-014-01)

In this article, CBG craftsman Glenn Watt walks us through how he installs one of C. B. Gitty’s Basic Pre-Wired Piezo Harnesses (Product #50-014-01)

So you want to hear that new gitty you’re building through your amplifier that’s been sitting unused behind the holiday decorations in the basement? Do you want to make certain that you can crank that little bad rabbit when everyone leaves and you’re left to your own devices in a quiet home? Or maybe you’re looking to level-up and retro-fit a pickup into a guitar you already have that’s been sorely needing a little volume. In the Pre-Wired Piezo and Jack Harness from C.B. Gitty you have the simplest way to electrify your instrument with the most basic of installation requirements.

What You'll Need - Tools and Parts
What You’ll Need – Tools and Parts

Continue reading “How to Install a Pre-Wired Piezo Harness in a Cigar Box Guitar(C. B. Gitty Product #50-014-01)”

How to Make a Simple Cigar Box Guitar (Metric Included)

Here’s the ultimate beginners guide to make your own 3 string cigar box guitar

By Glenn Watt

Do you wonder how difficult it would be to make a cigar box guitar?

Are you worried that you don’t have the tools or experience to do such a thing?

Look, not only can you make a cigar box guitar, but you will with this easy-to-follow plan.

This plan starts out by listing the tools you’ll need.

Then you’ll see the resources and hardware that you’ll use.

After that, you’ll follow a clear, step-by-step plan filled with crisp, colorful images to build a 3 string, fretless, cigar box guitar.

Enough with all the talk. Let’s do this!

Continue reading “How to Make a Simple Cigar Box Guitar (Metric Included)”

How to Make a Tambourine from a Cigar Box

Here is an easy project for you to try – making a tambourine from a cigar box!

Ben “Gitty” Baker walks you through the steps he followed to build one, along with photos of some of the steps. These are “loose” plans (more of a builder’s diary, really) with lots of room for interpretation. There is no “right way” – Ben had never built a cigar box tambourine before, and made it up as he went along, and you should too! So let’s get started…

Ben Gitty with his Cigar Box Tambourine
Ben Gitty with his Cigar Box Tambourine

Here is an easy project for you to try – making a tambourine from a cigar box!

Ben “Gitty” Baker walks you through the steps he followed to build one, along with photos of some of the steps. These are “loose” plans (more of a builder’s diary, really) with lots of room for interpretation. There is no “right way” – Ben had never built a cigar box tambourine before, and made it up as he went along, and you should too! So let’s get started…

Parts You’ll Need

 

Tools You’ll Need

  • Hammer
  • Drill with 1/16” bit
  • Hole saw or jig saw
  • Long thin screws and matching screwdrier (optional)

 

Project How-To Steps

Start by finding a suitable box. A wide, squarish, flatter box is what I recommend, though a more rectangular one could work too. The one I chose was a Joya de Nicaragua “Viajante”, and measured 8 ¾” wide x 9 ½” tall x 1 ⅛” deep.

Here is the box Ben Gitty chose to work with.
Here is the box Ben Gitty chose to work with.

Cut a hole through both the top and bottom of the box. I cut a 6” hole in my box, because it seemed like a good size and I had a 6” hole saw handy. Find something round that is the right size for your box (like a saucer), use a stencil or a compass to mark your circle.

You probably don’t have a hole saw handy in that size, so drill a smaller hole touching the inside edge of the circle you drew and then use a jig saw of some sort to cut out the hole. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Figure out how many sides of the box you want to mount jingles on. I did it on 3 sides, and left one side (the one with the hinges) without jingles, so it could be easily gripped.

Mark out where you want the jingle slots to be. I put three on each side. When measuring and marking, leave some space on either side of the jingle so they don’t hit the sides. The amount of space to leave depends on how big the holes in your jingles are.

Create slots to hold the jingles on the side of the cigar box.
Create slots to hold the jingles on the side of the cigar box.

Use a ½” drill bit to drill a hole at each end of the slots you marked out on the box. Then use a jig saw to connect the holes, to turn them into round-ended slots. A file or rasp can be used to smooth out the shapes.

There are probably a number of methods that could be used to pin the jingles into the slots. I was going for quick and easy, so what I did was drill a 1/16” pilot hole all the way down through the center of the slot from the top of the box to the bottom.

I then tapped in a finishing nail with a little larger diameter than the drilled hole, down through to jingles, and clipped it off at the top and bottom with side cutters. I then filed and sanded the sharp points down, and called it good. On the first one actually I tried a long thin screw, but found that the threads were too grabby on the jingles. A nice smooth nail seemed to work a lot better.

Mount the jingles into the slots using finishing nails with the ends clipped off.
Mount the jingles into the slots using finishing nails with the ends clipped off.

I repeated this process for all of the slots, fastening the jingles in place with the finishing nails. If the finishing nails ended up a little loose in the pre-drilled holes, a dab of superglue sorted them out.

Once all of the jingles were mounted, I went one step further and mounted some two sets of jingles on the inside edge of the 6-inch inner hole. I used 4 jingles per. I am not sure whether I like the results or not… seems like it may have made it too clattery. Using larger jingles might help.

Extra jingles can be mounted on the inner ring of the cigar box tambourine
Extra jingles can be mounted on the inner ring of the cigar box tambourine

To make it easier to hold and play, I did some sanding to round over the edges of the inner holes, and some filing to make it more comfortable.

The last (optional) step was pre-drilling and mounting two long thin screws down through the front edges of the cigar box to hold it closed. This could be accomplished in various ways. You could even glue and clamp it shut, or just rely on the latch that may have come on the cigar box.

Ben fastened the box shut with two long, thin screws. You can use whatever method works for you to hold the box shut.
Ben fastened the box shut with two long, thin screws. You can use whatever method works for you to hold the box shut.

 

Close-up showing my screw-closure method, and also the jingles held in place with their finishing nail posts.
Close-up showing my screw-closure method, and also the jingles held in place with their finishing nail posts.

You should now be ready to be your own sweet, jingly rhythm section! I hope you take this basic idea as far as it can go – there are a lot of ways to expand and improve it!

As with any seemingly simple project like there, there are many ways that it could be expanded and improved upon. Here are a few ideas for variations:

  • Only cut an opening through the back, leave the top panel in place (should be thin plywood) – could this act a little bit like the drum head on a conventional tambourine?
  • Experiment with different sizes of jingle – higher/shriller tone vs. a deeper more ringing tone – what suits a cigar box better?
  • Reclaimed items as jingles. Washers? Random metal bits?

 

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 Read and Use Chord Forms for Cigar Box Guitars

 

If you have been unsure of how to make use of the cigar box guitar chord forms we’ve been adding to the knoweldgebase here on CigarBoxGuitar.com, this document is for you! In this 3-page illustrated PDF we walk you through how to interpret the chord forms so that you can put them to use in your playing.

This document features three main sections: a breakdown of the chord form diagrams, clearly identifying each part; photos showing the chord forms being fingered on an actual cigar box guitar; and finally a full page of tips and tricks to making the best use of them.

Click the link or the image below to view the PDF. Feel free to print it and reproduce it for personal or educational use. We only ask that you do not attempt to sell it or use it for commercial purposes without permission.

How to Read and Use Cigar Box Guitar Chord Forms PDF

Chord form How-to PDF

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.