There is nothing technical about this discussion/question at all. This is meant as kind of survey on the emotional side of the CBG obsession.
I am a woodworker, a furniture builder, a boat builder and an artist. I've played numerous instruments in my 49 years, some better than others. I NEVER showed ANY aptitude at stringed instruments but in the last year I have made about a dozen CBGs and intend to make more. I wonder what it is that compels me & other people on this forum to do the same. Dozens of my musician friends, serious guitar players, going back 35+ years to childhood have reviewed my efforts, they know that I am 'stringed instrument challenged' and have wondered about this new obsession of mine. The best answer I can give them is that I'm in search of making an instrument that I can produce one particular sound that I am haunted by. The best example of that sound would be this:
I guess that sums it up for me. What's your excuse?
Oh and if you never watched the rest of the movie 'Crossroads' with its lame plot but incredibly good soundtrack that the above song is part of I can save you 2 hours of looking at the Karate Kid play air guitar and 'cut to the chase' part that people talk about in that film. Here's the final headcutting segment if you're bored this evening but would like to listen to some of Steve Vai's very talented playing:
Again, why are YOU spending your free time building cigar box guitars? I'd like to hear what your motivation is.
I have absolutely no friggin' idea. I've never worked with wood before. Can barely strum a few chords. Love blues. I guess for me it's the challenge of hopefully creating something aesthetically pleasing to someone (including myself) both visually and phonetically. I love this new hobby to the point that it keeps me up some nights planning out future builds in my head. I believe I'm in it for the long haul.
I love the cutting heads scene and have had it on my favorites list for quite some time now. Great scene. For a change of pace, here's the alternate ending that ended up on the cutting room floor:
Yeah, that Steve Vai headcutting segment makes me very nostalgic. I had a high school classmate back in Maryland named Derek Day who attended Berklee at the same time as Steve Vai did as I remember and knew him or roomed with him, or somethng like that at about that time. He's a college professor now I believe.
Anyway, back at that time, I helped a friend who did 'sound reinforcement' for numerous bands in the Maryland area at that time around 1982 and I would schlep equipment. I remember one night at a nowhere, hole in the wall bar watching Derek play guitar, there must have been all of about 20 people in this place but I'll never forget him putting his Marlboro into his pegs and playing a blistering guitar solo, one handed, finger tapping to a Prince song that faded into the Kinks, "You really got me" while his other hand effortlessly alternated between his Marlboro and his 16 ounce draft beer mug with no more attention than someone would shoe a fly away. About that same time I also hung out in DC and saw Danny Gatton play guitar. When you've seen things like that it 'humbles' you to not bother even trying to play guitar. Now, years later I have strangely decided to embrace building stringed instruments in spite of knowing I will never, ever approach that level of guitar playing even in my wildest dreams. But I find enjoyment now in building and hacking away at my own stringed creations.
I have to agree with that sentiment as well.
One friend recently commented I might want to build CBGs and sell them. I responded that the field was already flooded by many others who are making excellent products. Some of those manufacturers have even taken to building their own boxes, etc, themselves to assure continuity in their product, distancing themselves from the "found item" cigar box construction.
Others on this forum have spoken about the need to build a CBG and then experiment with different strings and different tunings until the instrument itself finally lets you know how it wishes to be tuned. I think I like that more than trying to manufacture a consistent product to rival commercially marketed instruments. Experimenting with 'found items', so to speak, amd building an instrument from those items, then searching for their perfect voice strikes me more in keeping with what the cigar box instrument 'ethos' may be. I mean, I can buy a perfectly fine guitar at a myriad of outlets very affordably. So what possesses us to build our own instruments?
I have always been fascinated with the sound of early Blues, though played on modern six stringed guitars i always wondered how the songs sounded originally. Having listened to some poorly recorded Blues albums from the 20's and 30's, where the artsts used acoustic guitars, the magic was there but difficult to relate to after listening to a lifetime of modern highly polished sound recordings.
Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and the Rolling Stones did some great covers of early Blues songs, but things opened up after i saw Bo Diddley on stage with his big red square guitar, though a six string, was a real belter and something about the sound of it got me excited, and some years later i, along with many others, saw Seasick Steve on TV one night and ...that sound!! Real Blues! I had by that time got rather tired with legendary uncontactable pedestalled Strat weilding guitar "heroes" and wanted to meet and get involved with some real ones...the 'Nation has loads of them!
I always like the sound of slide and struggled on six strings for years but always sounded like a poor Hawaiian guitar beginner, until i saw some guys on Youtube playing cigar box guitars, firstly Mike Snowden who remains a huge influence, partly due to the fact he uses a pick, something i cannot play without. Enter the 'Nation, plenty of pictures and plans so i spent weeks soaking up the theory of build and sound before embarking on my first project, and now have several builds, each with its own sound, behind me.
In my videos i have tried to replicate the early traditional Blues sound on them, though not carbon copies as there has to be a bit of me in there too, for better or worse! ...and though there are still many more songs to explore i'm pleased with the results from my builds, especially Hobo, closer to that "real" basic Blues sound and have got some positive responses. Some players on the 'Nation are naturals and make it look so easy!
So historical accuracy and being able to create my own "Homegrown" music is a great motivation, long may it last! (-;
i couldn't possibly sell any of my CBG's, they have far too many mistakes and chisel slips, but they're mine!
I think it's the inconsistencies and uniqueness that makes them so interesting to build and play. I build and sell as many as I can, but my customers really seem to like the fact that 2 guitars never come out the same...and I'd hate to start making each one the same.
I really enjoy being able to build, design and measure by eye and hand, planning and adjusting it as I go. If (when) I make a mistake, it's just another challenge to work round to get it to work better and look right. I tend not to try and cover up mistakes, but rather transform it into something that looked like it's meant to be that way anyhow.
I hear what you're saying about seeing Bo Diddley live. I wish I had seen him These guys are passing away before our eyes, and we need to see them before they go. Don't put it off until the next tour because they're won't be one, I was talking to a friend recently about some of the concerts we've seen. He reminded me of when we saw Johnny Winter with Muddy Waters at Painter's Mill music hall, that reminded me that I saw Muddy three times before he died and I'm so glad I did. Muddy Waters! And i saw him, thrice, I think that's pretty cool.
Two years ago right here in Johnson City I got to see Doc Watson play. He's getting kind of forgetful on the lyrics and all but who cares? Still got to see him. When these old guys come by your town...go see 'em
All of these guys are getting old, very old. When you see these men on the line up for some show...go see them. You'll be glad later that you did. Once they're gone....
Oh BTW today would be the 96th birthday of Les Paul. He passed away about two years ago. He was an inventor as well as an innovator of many things we take for granted about guitars today.
I grew up on a family farm so being able to put something together from what's not supposed to be is sort of in the blood. Finns don't spend money on new parts all that often.
I played around with guitar, piano and all the brass instruments as a kid in school then left music for a 20 year lapse. I hadn't played guitar since I was 12 or so. My wife got me an acoustic for my birthday 2 years ago and I was more hooked than ever, but I wanted an electric which I'd never owned or played. My desire for quality was in direct conflict with the amount of money I'd allow myself to spend on it. Then I saw a YouTube vid of smojo playing his guitar through a tobacco tin amp. Maybe it was the bowler hat, maybe it was the music. I don't know, but I was hooked before I started.
I like the fact I can make something to play and enjoy and can tell Guitar Center and HOG to stuff it. I don't even care what they think of my humble efforts. Let them look down their nose at me having a great time. I haven't been much of an artistic type, but CBGs are bringing that out of me and I enjoy it.
The last thing that keeps me building, learning and enjoying are the great people here. I've had other hobbies and activities with forums for sharing information, technical info, community, etc and none are equal. Seems most people here have their ego deflated to a comfortable level where we all can enjoy, comment, share, and have some great fun.
Still building. On number 6. No end in sight. There's a stack of 20 boxes waiting for me to see the guitar in them.
Interesting thoughts from folks. I too was also intrigued with being able to build a musical instrument in my shop from found items and a 8 dollar pack of guitar strings. It is rather like your thumbing your nose at a world that tells us all day long that you can't build things with out years of training, a 100,000 dollars worth of equipment or fifteen permits from various government agencies.
I think it's neat when you share your guitars with friends and watch their reactions of "Wow. That really sounds just like a store bought electric guitar playing through that amplifier." Then tell them I built the thing for about 20 dollars in materials. I built every piece of furniture in my home too except for the couch and no one knows it unless I point that fact out. That's been fun in the same vein. It's like someone, somewhere decreed that you can't build guitars or furniture yourself and you must purchase these things on layaway or with credit card payments and we all fell for it. Now I find myself thinking in the back of my mind when I visit friends homes "Wow, I bet they paid 10 or 15,000 dollars for all this furniture and it's not really any nice than mine."
I too agree that so far reading folk's comments here on this forum compared to other hobby forums I've been on that there doesn't seem to be any "I've got more/better toys than you do" or looking down on 'newbies' like they have some superior knowledge. Everybody seems kind of in awe of what each other builds, almost like we can't believe we're making stringed instruments that sound good ourselves.
Well, I was out taking a walk one evnin
and along about dark I found myself lost
I was at this crossroads, and into fear I was tossed
I tried to flag down a ride but nobody stopped
Then around midnight one did
and into his car I hopped
A big ugly man with mean eyes burning red
I felt I made a mistake and soon would be dead
he said I'd be home safe if only this I would do
start building cigar box guitars then tell this story to you
I do for tradition, love and superstition
grass roots from a crossroads,a box and a nation.