Handmade Music Clubhouse

Cigar Box Guitar Headquarters - CBG HQ

Due to the fact, there is no standard for CBG construction regarding the number of strings or the tuning, I am writing this information to help builders who are new to music, and offer suggestions that will make their builds function better from a musical stand point.

Guitar Tuners

The easiest way to tune your CBG is by using a headstock "clip-on" electronic tuner. They are very inexpensive. They come in two different models. A standard model that only tunes the standard 6 string guitar notes, and the one I suggest, the Chromatic model, that can tune all the possible notes.

Use standard guitar strings (medium gauge)

Guitar strings are designed to produce a certain pitch (note) when they are tuned to a specific tension. Using an average scale length (the distance between the nut and bridge) of about 24.75 inches, from low to high, the 6 strings are tuned:

E  A  D  G  B  E (numbered low to high 6 5 4 3 2 1)

Use Open Tunings

A standard guitar uses a compromised tuning that allows the guitar to be extremely versatile. It can play in all 12 different keys of music. Another method used in Folk and Blues music, Open Tuning, simplifies the instrument by tuning to one key and using a basic three note chord.

Open G Tuning (Spanish Tuning)

The Major Scale notes for the key of G are: G A B C D E F# G (Tones numbered 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8)

Open G Tuning on a 6 string guitar low to high is: D G D G B D

It contains tones 1,3,5 (G, B, D) from the G Major Scale that are required to make a G Major Chord.

Possibilities

Using the configuration of the full 6 string guitar Open G Tuning as a guide, CBGs with various numbers of strings can be tuned so they utilize the same finger positions on the fretboard. This becomes a very practical approach because the same understand of the fretboard can be applied to any instrument, regardless of the number of strings. Uke, tenor guitar, banjo...

1 String

The simplest instrument utilizing only one string is called a Diddley-Bow

Tone 1: String 5 (A) tune down to G or

Tone 1: String 3 (G)

2 String

A partial Major Chord can be formed by using:

Tones 1 / 5: String 5 (A) tune down to G / String 4 (D) or

Tones 1 / 3: String 3 (G)  / String 2 (B)

3 String

Know as G5 Tuning, only two tones, but three strings

Tones 1/5/1:

String 5 (A) tune down to G / String 4 (D) / String 3 (G) or

A full G chord

Tones 1/3/5: String 3 (G) / String 2 (B) / String 1 (E) tune down to D

4 String

Tones 5/1/3/5:

String 4 (D) / String 3 (G) / String 2 (B) / String 1 (E) tune down to D or

Tones 1/5/1/3

String 5 (A) tune down (G) / String 4 (D) / String 3 (G) / String 2 (B) or

Tones 1/5/1/5

String 5 (A) tune down to (G) / String 4 (D) / String 3 (G) / String 1 (E) tune down to (D)

5 String

Standard bluegrass banjo tuning (use banjo strings)

Tones 1/5/1/3/5: gDGbd

6 string

Tones 5/1/5/1/3/5 Open G Tuning DGDGBD

 

Video Lessons

http://www.ebay.com/sch/njmikeb/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from...

CD1 Vestapol Tuning (Open D) for 6 string & 3 string cigar box

CD2 Spanish Tuning (Open G) for 6 string

CD3 Comparing Vestapol and Spanish Tuning for 6 string

CD4 Cigar Box Guitar for 3 string (GDG) 

CD5 Cigar Box Guitar for 4 string (DGBD)

CD6 Cigar Box Guitar for 3 string Part 2

Fretless info and fretted Devil's Tuning Method. The same strings tuned GDG (CD 4), retunes to ADF# (Open D) provides a "Moveable Chord Method" that fuctions very similar to the method used on a standard 6 string guitar.


Questions? kenileeburgess@aol.com 

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Thats most helpful to me, I've only played 6 string guitars and wondered which way to go with my first CBG type build.

Thank you Davje for your reply. If this is the case, build yourself a 4 string CBG. String and tune it just like the four highest strings of a standard 6 string guitar; DGBE. Then you can utilize your standard guitar knowledge. By tuning the high E down to D; DGBD you are now in Open G Tuning for Bottleneck slide. Check out CD 5 if this interests you. Enjoy your practice, Keni Lee   

another idea you might try (depending on your scale length, I do mine a little shorter than guitars) is using those same strings as KLB said but tuning EADG, an octave above the lower 4 on a guitar or two octaves above a bass. This is how I do my 'tenors' although it is not really trad tenor gitt tuning it does present some great advantages, its all fourths and gives you a symmetry that the one Keni is talking about doesnt, cos his is broken in the middle with a major third. Also cos your lowest string is E for a lot of guitar players and bassists it presents a nice continuation of the way their mind works, fifth fret = A etc etc. have fun with it.. I do recommend a shorter scale than regular guitars, i Like 600mm (approx 23 1/2)

I have a number of partial un-used string sets that I would like to use in future cbg builds. These would include the #6 and #1 E strings. What options do I have to fill in the middle of a 3 string set-up that utilizes these leftovers?

Using strings EAD, tune DAD. This of course is the same 151 tuning like GDG, but in the key of D using lower strings. On my CD 1 which primarily covers lessons for 6 string Open D Tuning DADF#AD, I also included DAD tuned CBG lessons.

Like stated above, the 3 highest strings GBE tuned GBD Open G tuning.

Maybe you can learn how to weave them into bracelets too? LOL

I assume this is always a problem. www.juststrings.com will sell you 10 string of any gauge you want. They will also make custom sets for you. This may be a solution. Enjoy.  

 

  

scott just save em up.  when u got a lot of one sort, especially the high E, you can make a cool little zither or harp.

or they might make cool sympathy strings like a sitar has.  youll think of something..

in my 3 string days id use the high 3 from a set on one guitar and the low 3 from a set on another.  Although the tunings Keni is talking about are certainly all great and will match up with his lessons, you can use any consecutive strings from any set.  You can also use the same interval relations between strings as these tunings, you just might be in a higher or lower register.

Thanks Jeff...I have actually thought alot about building a cigar box harp...I saw a fine example recently...suppose I should order some zither pins...cheers


 
The Phrygian Kid said:

scott just save em up.  when u got a lot of one sort, especially the high E, you can make a cool little zither or harp.

or they might make cool sympathy strings like a sitar has.  youll think of something..

in my 3 string days id use the high 3 from a set on one guitar and the low 3 from a set on another.  Although the tunings Keni is talking about are certainly all great and will match up with his lessons, you can use any consecutive strings from any set.  You can also use the same interval relations between strings as these tunings, you just might be in a higher or lower register.

you'll probly get two or three strigs from each e string, so probly only need half a dozen strings.  i like a 15 string (2 octave) zither myself.

i have a few suggestions to make it really cool if you wanna hear em

AWESOME  info Keni!

I made it a new discussion in the group CBG Playing for Dummies.  Any updates to your section I should add?

Thanks!!

Thank you Ted for your comment. I guess you could remove those two videos that are no longer available. I appreciate your support, Keni Lee 

Keni,

 

I've found a really versatile tuning for a 4 string fretted CBG to be G-D-G-Bflat (open G minor).... To play minor blues, just fret as you would if you had tuned a standard open G (G-D-G-B).  To play in a Major key with the flexibility to add "minor" chords, just fret the 1 string, one fret in front of the barre with the second finger to produce a Major Chord.  Then when a minor (or 7th) is called for, just barre across the neck without adjustment.

 

This scheme adds many, many songs to a cbg'ers possible reprethoire....

 

what do you think?

 

the best,

 

Wichita Sam

Thank you for sharing Sam. I mainly listed major tuning variations in regard to string number. Yes, tuning the 3rd down a half step makes a very inspirational difference. It always amazes me, how powerful that one little note is. That tension created between major and minor tthird is probably the source of most of the Blues sound. Shane demonstrated in his video the altering of the first tone. 151 down to 15(flat 7) and 151 up to 159 (basically the 2nd in the next octave). There truely are no rules because the possibilities are almost limitless. Enjoy your practice, Keni Lee   

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