A Cigar Box Guitar Builder's Guide To Tuning

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  

Views: 9104

Comment

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Comment by Uncle John on September 29, 2012 at 9:53pm

I recall that now, Keni Lee.  I've tried ADF#  after learning about it from you.

Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on September 29, 2012 at 7:31pm

Thank you Uncle John. Using tones 5, 1, 3 from any major scale will create this tuning configuration. I commonly use ADf# / 513 Key of D because I can easily retune from GDg tuning. Here I utilize standard strings ADg. You are using strings Dgb and tuning the same. Other possibilities include: Using EAD and tuning EAC# (Key of A) As long as you use the 531 interval, string gauges can be selected to tune to any of the 12 different keys. Use a key chart to make life easier. Enjoy the vastness.  

Comment by Uncle John on September 28, 2012 at 8:26pm

Keni Lee, this is a great resource.  I did note that one of my two fave 3 string tunings is not listed.  I like to use DGB.

Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on September 28, 2012 at 2:44pm

Hello Bob,

I am glad to hear you enjoyed the information. I would greatly appreciate it if you translated this post into French and Spanish. Then feel free to share as you see fit. Please include these two pieces of info into your translation:  my email contact, kenileeburgess@aol.com  and to purchase my instructional video CDs - www.ebay.com  Search: keni lee   I would appreciate it also if you could send the finished drafts to kenileeburgess@aol.com  so I can post them too. Thank you for your interest and assistance, Keni Lee    

Comment by Alan on September 28, 2012 at 9:15am

Keni, the information I was desperately searching. So many thanks to share your knowledge.

Do you authorize me to translate it in french for the french forum (of course I will link to your blog and will put that you're the author and owner of it)

I can translate it in Spanish for you too if you are interested.

Please let me know

Comment by Bluesheart on March 6, 2012 at 4:04pm

Keni, great info. I am always amazed at your knowledge about this stuff, and you willingness to share it! Thank you.

Comment by Uncle John on February 11, 2012 at 4:18pm

Yes!   Good guide. 

Comment by Mama Mojo on February 10, 2012 at 12:54pm

Awesome stuff, Keni!!!  Thanks so much for posting!!!

Comment by Ron "Oily" Sprague on February 10, 2012 at 6:16am
Keni,

Great reference page! Thanks for all your contributions to the Nation.

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