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

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.


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 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, 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

Jamming Guides for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars: Chords for Keys of C, G and D

These three printable sheets give you the 3-string cigar box guitar chord forms for playing in the three most common keys: C, G and D. These chord forms are intended for Open G “GDG” 3-string tunings.

For each of the 3 keys, we give you the major, relative fourth and relative fifth chords, as well as the 3 relative minors and the seventh forms for the root and fifth. Using these chords you should be able to play the vast majority of popular songs from rock to blues, country to folk, religious songs and more. These sheets are perfect for jam sessions!

Click one of the three images below to view the printable PDFs. For help with how to understand and use these chord forms, check out this article.

Jamming Guide for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars - Key of C Jamming Guide for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars - Key of G Jamming Guide for 3-string Cigar Box Guitars - Key of D