EASY BUILDING TIP: Bracing a Box with Corner Moulding

Have you ever tried to build a cigar box guitar with a fantastically thin box (great tone) but discover that the box needs extra bracing?  In this video, Shane Speal shows how to use common corner moulding from a hardware store to secure corners and sides together.  Note the tip on using a disposable sponge brush to apply glue.

Purchase Don Rafael boxes here: Don Rafael Boxes for sale at C. B. Gitty


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





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 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 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)”