Want to play the opening riff to “Smoke on the Water” on a 3-string cigar box guitar tuned to Open G GDG? Just use your index finger to “bar” (hold down) all three strings, and move it as follows while strumming:
Open / 3 / 5 / Open / 3 / 6 / 5 / Open / 3 / 5 / 3 / Open.
You can also sing along! DAH DAH DUHN, DAH DAH DAH DUHN, DAH DAH DUHN, DAH DUHN (dundundundun).
Fretting your cigar box guitar diatonically can be a nice alternative when building. But a lot of people are not clear on what it is.
A diatonic scale sounds like the familar “DO-RE-MI” scales we learned as kids. It contains only the “whole” tones of the scale, with no “accidentals” (sharp or flat notes that are outside of the primary scale). A chromatic scale on the other hand gives you all of the “extra” notes as well, and though it sounds much less pleasant when played from low to high, it presents a lot more flexibility when playing music.
For more information on this topic, check out our knowledgebase article.
Traditionally, open-gear tuners have been used on acoustic guitars and sealed-gear tuners have been used on electric guitars. They do the same thing, but their appearance and methods of mounting differ. Open-gear tuners usually have at least two screws, and often utilize a press-fit bushing that mounts in the front of the headstock. Sealed-gear tuners usually have a threaded bushings that screws through the headstock into the tuner base plate. Choosing which to use is personal preference – both will serve equally well in most scenarios.
When building cigar box guitars, there ARE NO RULES… except those which you choose to follow. There is no single right way – there are only ways that you have found work for you. Relax, don’t worry, build a guitar!
We’ve just added the second of two new how-to-play video lessons from One-hand Dan Russell, showing you how to play “Freight Train” and “Take ‘Em Away“.
Like all of Dan’s lessons, he presents these two songs with energy and gusto, and these are great songs to have in your ukulele toolbag.
Click below to view the knowledgebase entries for these two songs, which include the ukulele chords you’ll need to strum along.
Take ‘Em Away by the Old Crow Medicine Show
Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotton
Piezo disks work best as pickups in cigar box guitars if you provide some cushioning for them. This helps tone down their harshness. Embedding them in a generous glob of hot glue when mounting them to the inside of a cigar box lid is a popular method.
Learn more about using piezos from our free knowledgebase.
People often ask how thick to make the headstocks on their cigar box guitars. Most standard guitar tuners, whether sealed-gear or open-gear, are intended to be used on a headstock that is about 9/16” (0.5625 inches/14.3mm) thick. Ukulele tuners are made to work on thinner headstocks, usually in the range of ⅜” (0.375 inches/9.53mm) or 7/16” (0.4375 inches/11.1mm).
Remember that the “scale length” of a cigar box guitar or other stringed instrument refers to the vibrating length of the strings. It is measured from the point where the strings leave the nut to the point where they first touch the saddle/bridge.
Need help calculating your scale length? Try our free fret spacing calculator tool!
When mounting sealed-gear tuners in cigar box guitars or other handmade instruments, be sure to keep the gear towards the instrument body, not the top of the headstock. The gear is inside the rounded portion of the sealed tuner base.
For great prices on sealed-gear tuners and other cigar box guitar parts, you can’t do better than C. B. Gitty.
In this new knowledgebase post, Ben “C. B. Gitty” Baker recounts what he has learned about using trademarked, branded items (like cigar box guitars, oil cans, beer cans, tin advertising signs, etc) in making musical instruments for resale.
Turns out, there some bad news and some not-so-bad-but-still-somewhat-worrisome news. If you are building and selling, or intend to build and sell, cigar box guitars or other items that include a repurposed item that includes another companies trademarked branding images, you need to read this article.
C. B. Gitty has been busy designing and creating a new series of laser-cut tools and templates to make it easier to build cigar box guitars! From sound hole templates to fretting scale templates, and even a cool neck-notching template, these tools can help take your CBG building to the next level.
We just got done adding four new cigar box ukulele how-to video lessons to the knowledgebase. All four were created by One-hand Dan Russell, our resident ukulele expert.
Here are the links:
Stack-o-Lee – a classic old bluesy song, also known as “Stagger Lee”, which has been sung by a wide range of musicians from Mississippi John Hurt, to Dr. John and many more.
If I Needed You – a beautiful folk/country song written by Townes Van Zandt, that Emmy Lou Harris did an amazing version of.
I Still Miss Someone – One of Johnny Cash’s better-known compositions, this great old song tells a tale of longing… “Oh I never got over those blue eyes…” Emmy Lou Harris, Stevie Nicks and many other musicians have also done versions of this song.
Take a Whiff On Me (Cocaine Habit Blues) – though its subject matter may now be considered taboo in polite company, this is a classic American blues/folk song first documented and published by Alan Lomax in the 1930’s. It has been covered by a wide range of performers from Woodie Guthrie to Jerry Garcia to the Old Crow Medicine Show.
That’s it, so grab your ukes and get to pickin’!