Since I discovered the world of homemade guitars, I've been struggling a bit with what is the best tuning for a cigar box guitar. I've tried various open tunings, but they seem very limiting, for myself of course. I've finally gravitated to 4-strings or six strings, and use the standard guitar tuning for the top four strings. E-B-G-D for 4-strings. 3-string guitars I tune to E-B-G. Six-string guitars I keep with the standard E-B-G-D-A-E.

But I'd be interested in hearing from those who use open tunings, and why you do. 

Views: 1487

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Definition of a musician:
Someone who puts $5000 worth of gear into a $500 car to drive 100 miles to a $50 gig.

How do you know if there's a bad drummer at your door?

Knocks get faster.

What is the difference between a violin and viola? Violas burn longer. 

An oboist and violist get into a fight during orchestra rehearsal. After they break up the fight, the conductor demands an explanation. The oboist says the violist broke my reed. The violist says yes I did, because be broke on of my strings, but won't tell me which one. 

Use an accordion, go to jail. 

The best bass clarinet ever. 

drummer  dig at the   end  ;-} 

So, you admit you stalk each customer. And in the sequel, you really should end up being the Devil. 

you  sound like a   drummer .

Ahhh, Dane I hesitate to get into a music theory discussion with a Berklee alumni. But I've found that all the chords are there on 3 string instruments. You have to do like Tommy E. advised and go for the sound in your head. I don't know if you caught my recent vid of God Bless the Child with my daughter singing. Done in 1,5,1 tuning, and this old Billy Holliday song has some interesting chords to find on 3 string. I came from "normal" 6 string playing and had to figure out many of these chords on my own but they are most definitely playable. One other note of interest - a sax and flute player I know who has a doctorate in Music Ed wondered aloud to me "How much could you really do with one of your one string instruments?" I responded to him asking how many notes can you play at one time on a sax or a flute? One at a time. You can arpeggiate chords to let the ear know what the chord is or you can let the listener's ear decide. I sometimes do that on 3 string but I've also found ways to play Maj7, dim, add6, as well as minor chords. It's a lot less work if you play it on a tuning like standard 6 string if you're already are familiar with that but I remember struggling hard to first learn these chords on 6 string! Already knowing how the chord is supposed to sound actually made it easier on 3 string. Not saying there's anything wrong with standard tuning but even on 6 strings many alternate tunings are used to wonderful effect by great guitarists.      Just in case you care to listen!

Wow! Good thread...

I've read from beginning to end, but it sounds like y'all are mostly using frets. I guess I'll learn frets someday. I hear some guy named Martin makes fretted guitars with either 6 or 12 strings. Until I can get the money and get to town to buy one, I pretty much need an open tuning so that I can grin and barre it.

(NOTE: Out of habit, I list pitches from low pitch to high pitch.)

My builds so far have been pure slide instruments--looking to understand what could be accomplished using only junk found on the back porch. My action is so far above the woodburned fretboard that fingering a pitch is not a real possibility.

After about 3 years of practice, I've gravitated to Dad (or Gdg or Ebe or whatever 1-5-1) as the best for simplest beginning strumming and for the most complex melody-and-accompaniment cross picking.

Somewhere in between those two extremes, you might try tuning the top 3 strings of a 6-string set to a triad with the third on the bottom. I first used G#be and then F#ad. You miss having the low root of the chord (That's why you might prefer Dad.), but when I'm sitting in with a group, there are already people playing the bass and it's nice to be able to play a full major chord up high--either strummed or, more likely, finger picked banjo style.

For minor chords, just pick the 2 highest strings and leave the 3rd out of the harmony. Any other kind of chord is probably not bluegrass! To form a dominant 7th, I've learned to slide up 3 fret markers from the main chord and pick only the lower 2 strings.

If you're a blues or country rock fan, this tuning is the top half of the open E tuning used by Duane Allman and Bonnie Raitt. At least portions of their published slide solos can be played on these 3 strings. Or, if you're more into Elmore James, the minor third between the lower strings can be used for all sorts of bluesy wails--some of which "fit" the harmonies and some of which don't.

I've been aware of Keni Lee's Dgb tuning from day one. If I were a "real" guitar player, I'd probably prefer it because it's already on the standard 6-string. I've tried it, but so far it's not working for me. Guess I'll keep practicing!

Meanwhile, I've veered off into 1-string diddley bows. They're all tuned to "R," because, wherever you go, there you "R."

Good stuff TN Twang. I have a bass player friend and when I aked him to play his D string he said which one is that? I said "don't you know your string names? He said well yes, this one's Fred, this one's George, here's Joe, and this one's Tom. I said OK, play an open Joe for me. We were on the same page after that!


Now, this is the type of discussion I was hoping to see. Lots of food for thought, so thanks with much gratitude to everyone who is adding their insights, and perhaps will in the future. 


The Essential Pages

New to Cigar Box Nation? How to Play Cigar Box GuitarsFree Plans & How to Build Cigar Box GuitarsCigar Box Guitar Building Basics

Site Sponsor

Recommended Links & Resources


Look what I picked up

Started by John B Treutlein in Performances, How to Play, Lessons, Concerts. Last reply by John B Treutlein Jul 2. 12 Replies

Blog Posts

Spammer Alert, Beware!!!

Posted by BrianQ. on September 11, 2023 at 6:30am 0 Comments

Montana Mandoline

Posted by CaptnCatfish on August 27, 2023 at 6:26am 3 Comments

Banjo 2

Posted by Ian Boyd on August 26, 2023 at 10:58pm 1 Comment

Latest Activity



© 2023   Created by Ben "C. B. Gitty" Baker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

\uastyle>\ud/** Scrollup **/\ud.scrollup {\ud background: url("") no-repeat scroll 0 0 transparent;\ud bottom: 25px;\ud display: inline !important;\ud height: 40px;\ud opacity: 0.3 !important;\ud position: fixed;\ud right: 30px;\ud text-indent: -9999px;\ud width: 40px;\ud z-index: 999;\ud}\ud.scrollup:hover {\ud opacity:0.99!important;\ud}\ud \uascript type="text/javascript">\ud x$(document).ready(function(){\ud x$(window).scroll(function(){\ud if (x$(this).scrollTop() > 100) {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeIn();\ud } else {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeOut();\ud }\ud });\ud x$('.scrollup').click(function(){\ud x$("html, body").animate({ scrollTop: 0 }, 600);\ud return false;\ud });\ud });\ud \ua!-- End Scroll Up -->