Good morning, fellow bargain basement luthiers!

I am new to the use of any musical instrument (aside from the obligatory month or two with a recorder while in the SCA 30 years ago), and my CB Gitty Diddly Bo arrived over the weekend. I've watched Shane's 4 part series on the DB on Youtube, and since I have no formal training in music (but a bit of a background in ethnomusicology) I sat down with it and noodled around with a small plastic rod as a string hammer and a piece of wood as a slide.

There are a few dozen questions that come to mind, and I hope at least a few of them can be answered here.

1. Since the original diddly bos seem to have used fence or screen wire, what are the acoustic and practical differences between guitar strings in steel, bronze, or fence wire? Has anyone recorded and compared the differences in sound?

2. How do I work a slide over the fret wires without the frets changing the sound? Us a fretless diddly bo with a brass tack to mark the fret a better option?

3. Is there any extant footage or descriptions of diddly bo players using a hammered style of playing, rather than plucking?

4. Are there any documents indicating what scales were common c. 1850-1890 with southern folk musicians? Did Cajuns play the diddly bo? What tunings were in use or are in use in Africa with instruments like a diddly bo?

5. Were there diddly bos that used a second string as a drone?

Thanks in advance for reading these questions.

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1 No idea if anyone has done this. But it would be an AWESOME thing to try. 

2 Totally agree with Wayfinder. String hight makes it easier. 

3 Again, agree with Wayfinder. Check out 'One String Willy.'

4. I fi remember right most songs were in the key of D. Looking threw and old Wesleyan Church hymnal would give you the best information. He was known for using popular secular tunes. The tuning we have today is relatively modern. Wasn't in use by most people in the 1800's.

5 Hard to say. But with all the other drone stringed instruments it more than likely true. Even a three or four stringed instrument could be played with one string as a drone. 


I'm just going to chime in on #2 ... use a gentle touch.  you don't have to MASH the slide down, just touch the string.

this guy talks about what they used as strings in this video.

I"m not sure where you would find this kind of wire now days. Perhaps bailing wire?

Thanks one and all for the replies. Time to hit the books, Youtube and start experimenting.


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