Do your bit for the environment and turn those empty Cigar Boxes into Musical Instruments, Swords into Ploughshares
so to speak, do your bit for carbon offset.
These wonderful little instruments have loads of mojo and big karma,
get one, play it, tell
the revolution starts here !
Image from the National Cigar Box Guitar Museum. Photo by Shane Speal
Cigar Box Guitars - background history. The cigar box guitar is a primitive chordophone whose resonator is a discarded cigar box.
Because the instrument is homemade, there is no standard for dimensions, string types or construction techniques. Many early cigar box guitars consisted of only one (Diddley Bow) or two strings that were attached to the ends of a broomstick that was inserted into the cigar box. Other cigar box guitars were more complex, with the builder attempting to simulate a traditional string instrument such as a guitar, banjo, or fiddle.
3 String Cigar Box Guitars
are often Tuned to DAD.
The tune is played on the
melody string and the other
two strings act as drone strings
filling out the backing sound
3 String Cigar Box Guitar Common Tunings -
DAD (Key of D)
DGD (Key of G)
EAA (Key of A)
DAA (Key of D)
DGA (Key of G)
DAC (Key of Dm)
CGG (Key of C)
CFC (Key of F)
EAG (Key of Am)
EAE (Key of A)
A YouTube video by Red Dog Guitars about early Cigar Box Guitars
History of CBG's Cigars were packed in boxes, crates, and barrels as early as 1800, but the small sized boxes that we are familiar with today did not exist prior to around 1840.
Until then, cigars were shipped in larger crates containing 100 or more per case. After 1840, cigar manufacturers started using smaller, more portable boxes with 20-50 cigars per box.
Trace evidence of cigar box instruments exist from 1840 to the 1860s. The earliest illustrated proof of a cigar box instrument known is an etching of two Civil War Soldiers at a campsite with one playing a cigar box fiddle copyrighted in 1876.
The etching was created by illustrator and artist Edwin Forbes who, under the banner of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, worked for the Union Army. The etching was included in Forbes work Life Stories of the Great Army. In the etching, the cigar box fiddle clearly shows the brand ‘Figaro’ on the cigar box. In addition to the etching, plans for a cigar box banjo were published by Daniel Carter Beard, co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, in 1884 as part of 'Christmas Eve With Uncle Enos.' The plans, eventually retitled ‘How to Build an Uncle Enos Banjo’ as part of Beard's American Boy’s Handy Book in the 1890 release as supplementary material in the rear of the book. These plans omitted the story but still showed a step-by-step description for a playable 5-string fretless banjo made from a cigar box.
It would seem that the earliest cigar box instruments would be extremely crude and primitive; however, this is not always the case. The National Cigar Box Guitar Museum has acquired two cigar box fiddles built in 1886 and 1889 that seem very playable and well built. The 1886 fiddle was made for an 8 year old boy and is certainly playable, but the 1889 fiddle has a well carved neck and slotted violin headstock. The latter instrument was made for serious playing.
The cigar box guitars and fiddles were also important in the rise of jug bands and blues. As most of these performers were black Americans living in poverty, many could not afford a "real" instrument. Using these, along with the washtub bass (similar to the cigar box guitar), jugs, washboards, and harmonica, black musicians performed blues during socializations.
The Great Depression of the 1930s saw a resurgence of homemade musical instruments such as the Cigar Box Guitar and the Diddley Bow. Times were hard in the American south and for entertainment sitting on the front porch singing away their blues was a popular pastime. Musical instruments were beyond the means of everybody, but an old cigar box, a piece of broom handle and a couple wires from the screen door and a guitar was born.
With thanks to Wikipedia
SlideGuitarist.com purchased the CBG above from WeeklyHouse on Ebay. Inexpensive with a wonderful sound, built by Chris Weekly an enthusiast of the genre and a champion of bringing quality Cigar Box Guitars to you at a price you can afford.
The 'Casa Torano' box above has a piezo pickup, it is fretted, well balanced and it is a wonderful instrument to play, so good infact that we bought another from him, this time a 4 string 'San Cristobal' CBG pictured top left.
The 'San Cristobal' is also a wonderful instrument, full of life and the mahogany 'San Cristobal' cigar box gives it a resonant ring plus the extra string gives the guitar a fuller tone, almost banjo like, a joy to play infact. So pleased were we with our new 4 string that we bought another 3 string 'Ashton' (pictured left) from Chris Weekly. If you are ever considering getting a Cigar Box Guitar then we recommend that you check out Chris Weekly's CBG's first. Click here to see more of Chris's work >
3 styles to choose from - 2 piezo's embedded into a small thin line pyramid shaped bridge. The piezo's don't actually touch the top of the box so they don't pick up unwanted sounds like bumps against the box.
SlideGuitarist.com purchased the centre pickup on Ebay from Smoketack Guitars. an inexpensive solution to an old cigar box piezo problem, great idea and a wonderful sound. Click the image above to see more
Harry Manx- Springsteens'I'm on Fire' with Cigar Box Guitar
Harry Manx Harry Manx is a musician who blends blues, folk music, and Hindustani classical music. He was born in the Isle of Man where he spent his childhood and now lives on Saltspring Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Manx plays the slide guitar, harmonica, six-string banjo, mohan veena and Ellis stomp box. He studied for five years in India with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. He has released eight albums.