Interested in exploring the 4 string Cigar Box Guitar?
Check out my instructional video CD 5.
Combined with this banjo book, the fingerboard will really open up and reveal it's bounty.
Note: On CD 5 the guitar is tuned Dgbd. This is the exact tuning used on the 5 string banjo in this book (gDgbd)
Learn two instruments at the same time!

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Question from member:
My strings are high off the neck. They sound muted when played without a slide. How do I play leads, cords etc
You need to lower the string height (known as action) at the nut and bridge...
and bring the strings closer to the fingerboard. If you try to fret notes with high action, the string bends and plays out of tune. / The string height for regular playing (fretting notes, chords, etc) is about the same for bottleneck slide. "Possibly a little higher, but you still want to fret notes over the entire fingerboard easily". The "correct string tension" for the slide to ride on the strings correctly so you don't bottom out and hit the frets is a balance between string gauge and tuning. Use at least medium gauge strings. Lower tunings below standard tuning (EADGBE) like Open D (DADf#ad) use heavier strings. On CBG - GDg or DAD. Higher than standard like Open A (EAEac#e) use lighter strings to take the pressure off the neck. On CBG - this would be AEa or EBE. I hope this helps. Enjoy, Keni Lee

Guitar Open Tuning Correlations
There are 12 keys of music. Using numbers to represent the 8 notes that makes up their respective major scales, it is easier to understand the tunings. These three are the most common open tunings mainly because they can be achieved using a standard guitar string configuration (EADGBE) They are called "open" because they produce a major chord when strummed. A major chord requires 3 notes (1,3,5) from the major scale.

Vestapol Tuning: 151351 aka Open D (DADf#ad)

Spanish Tuning: 515135 aka Open G (DGDgbd)

Open C Tuning: 151513 (CGCgce)

Any grouping of these three notes creates a "triad" (basic 3 note chord). The musical distance between two notes is called an "interval" and when these triads are strummed, the different configurations produce their own unique "voice". Two notes played at the same time are called "double stops". They can be thought of as a little chord fragments.

Notice the 3 major chord variations found in the above tunings:

135, 351, 513

A major chord contains three intervals:

Example: 513 = 5-1, 1-3, 5-3

I routinely use these tunings on Cigar Box Guitar:

3 string: 151/GDg and 513/ADf# (Key of G and D)

4 string: 5135/Dgbd (Key of G)

With a little study of the above 6 string tunings, it is easy to realize my CBG tunings are based on these tunings. Of course, by keeping the same tone configurations, I can restring or retune to any key.

CD2 (Open G - 6 string - DGDgbd), CD 4 (G5 tuning - 3 string - GDg), and CD5 (Open G - 4 string - Dgbd) comprise a comprehensive course of applying Open G on three different instruments. Exploring in this way really opened up the fingerboard for me. After exploring CBG, I never looked at the full 6 string fingerboard the same way again.

Considerations for Building Cigar Box Guitars
from a Players/Musicians Perspective 1
Many builders are new to music, so here are some thoughts about what makes an instrument function better from a musical perspective.
1. Scale Length: This is the string distance from nut to bridge. The longer the scale the further the frets are apart. Lower pitch sounding instruments like bass guitars have longer scales. Higher pitched sounding instruments like ukulele have shorter scales. On the guitar to be able to make the necessary stretches between frets and form chords, the scale has been standardized to approximately 24" - 25". The center of the string between the nut and bridge is at the 12th fret (harmonic). Usually smaller guitars (Ex: 3/4 size) are not only physically smaller, but the scale it smaller too. These guitars are good for traveling or for players with smaller hands. Please share any thoughts you may have concerning Scale Length.
Considerations for Building Cigar Box Guitars
from a Players/Musicians Perspective 2
Many builders are new to music, so here are some thoughts about what makes an instrument function better from a musical perspective.
String Height: The distance the strings run above the fingerboard is called string "Action". Guitars that are played in the lap style using a metal bar to fret the notes have high action. They usually have no metal frets, but just lines across the fingerboard.This style is popular with Hawaiian and Country Dobro Bluegrass players.
For the more conventional style of holding the guitar, the action needs to be low. This makes fretting the notes easier. Furthermore, understand when you push down on a string to fret a note, this actually bends the string causing the note to play slightly out of tune. If the action it too high, the guitar will play way out of tune. On an acoustic guitar, a correct string height at the 12 fret is about 1/8".
Neck angle to the body, string gauge, tuning, nut and bridge height all affect action. Guitars with a truss rod installed in the neck makes it possible to make adjustments so the guitar plays in perfect pitch. When the guitar plays the correct notes on any fret on any string, the guitar has good "Intonation".
Please share any thoughts you have about String Height.
Considerations for Building Cigar Box Guitars from a Players/Musicians Perspective 3
Many builders are new to music, so here are some thoughts about what makes an instrument function better from a musical perspective.
Number of Strings and Tuning
There are endless possibilities to stringing and tuning a CBG. Using a standard guitar as a model is one choice. On a 3 string CBG using the 3 lowest strings (EAD) or on a 4 string CBG, the 4 highest strings (Dgbe) is one way to utilize standard chords and scales. Futhermore, it is possible to simply retune to an Open tuning and have another tuning to explore. EAD can be tuned down to DAD (the lower part of the full 6 string Open D Tuning - DADf#ad) and Dgbe can be tuned down to Dgbd (the higher part of the full 6 string Open G Tuning - DGDgbd).

CD 1 - On this CD I teach mainly 6 string played in Open D, but I also include 3 string CBG tuned DAD. I clearly explain how it is possible to micronize the 6 string down to a 3 string.
CD 4 & 6 - For 3 string CBG - Using strings ADg, I tune GDg (See note) This is the lower part of the full 6 string Open G tuning D(GDg)bd. On CD 6, I simply retune to ADf#. This is a part of the full 6 string Open D tuning D(ADf#)ad that makes possible a simple method of movable chords that functions very similar to the method used on a standard 6 string. "A great approach if you want to strum chords."

CD 5 - For 4 string CBG - Using strings Dgbe, I tune to Dgbd which is the higher part of the full 6 string Open G tuning    DG(Dgbd).
By using this approach, CBGs and 6 string guitars are related. You basically are learning to play both. The different number of strings and how the strings are arranged offers various possibilities for arranging songs.
Note: DAD and GDg are fingered exactly the same. The difference is one sounds notes in the key of D and the other is in the key of G. DAD can be tuned lower to CGC/key of C or higher to EBE/key of E. GDg can be tuned lower to FCf/key of F or higher to AEa/key of A.

About the 3 String Rural Primative Banjo

A standard 5 string banjo is often tuned to Open G (gDgbd). Disregarding the high drone g string, using a 4 string CBG, I usually use Dgbd tuning (CD 5). This is also the highest strings of the full 6 string tuning on guitar for Open G - DGDgbd (CD 2).

This banjo simply reduces the standard banjo tuning down by elimating the two highest strings. gDgbd into gDg. I use this GDg tuning on 3 string CBG too (CD 4). The only difference is the (banjo) tone created by having a high drone g instead of a lower g on CBG.

(Note: I am tuned up a full step to aEa on this banjo. Due to the fact the relationships between the strings are staying the same, all the finger positions will be the same.) A fundamental understanding of musical theory can go a long way to seeing the various possibilities of playing in different keys. (CD 7)

In a future video, I will present a more traditional approach by alternating the high drone a and E strings while playing a melody line on the first a string. Keep in mind, 5 string banjos are usually fingerpicked (Earl Scruggs 3 finger style) or use the claw hammer method. 4 string tenor or plectrum banjos are played with a flat pick.

Another interesting possibility would be an altered 4 string banjo. A high g drone and Dgb. Dgb is the same string relationship from the major scale (513) as the ADf# tuning I use on CD 6 for 3 string CBG. Using the movable chord method that this tuning offers could make for a very versatile instrument. (Note: This instrument could be tuned up a whole step to aEac# and all the fingering positions would remain the same.)

Enjoy your practice.

I have really enjoyed your instructional videos #3 and #6. The fretboard has really opened up to me lately. Also, the newfound theory has carried over to my 6 string standard playing as well. Just like you said..

My question is how hard would it be to carry over the A D F# theory over to 4 string? I'm wanting to give the 4 string a try, and I think it would be a big difference in the tonality of what I play.

I have been working exclusively on fingerpicking. I really enjoy Travis picking and the 3 string seems very limited in the richness of sound. I know it seems I want a standard sound from a primitive instrument. I'm just looking for more color for a lack of a better explanation. Thanks for any input and God bless!


Thank you for your purchases. Glad to hear you are finding the lessons informative.

Using the tone numbers from the major scale, the 513/ADf# tuning I use on CD 6 is part of the full 6 string Open D tuning D(ADf#)ad. In the key of G for Open G tuning, the 513 major triad is found here too. DG(Dgb)d.
On CD 5, I use it also on the 4 string CBG tuning here (Dgb)d. So of course you can utilize it on 4 string too. You could also string GDgb using standard strings ADgb. If you wanted to do this in the key of D, DADf# uses standard strings EADg.
Having the 3rd tone on top is found in another tuning called Open C: 151513 CGC(gce). I hope this answers your question. Please feel free to write if I can be of further assistance.
Enjoy your practice, Keni Lee

I made a cbg tutorial dvd a few years ago, its free with my cbg purchase:



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