SOAPBOX - Rants & Raves

A sounding board for the CBG Revolutionary

Location: No Rules.
Members: 94
Latest Activity: May 19, 2018

caution: contents may boil over.

Cigar Box Fire & Brimstone.
A place to spout off with your tirades, your manifestos, your calls-to-arms. (all the stuff that made the "old forum" great).
What are you passionate about?
What makes your blood boil?
Don't pull any punches.
. . no touchy-feely support group bullshit here.

Discussion Forum


Started by Susan Hunt. Last reply by Mama Mojo Dec 11, 2009. 8 Replies

I just have to say, this site is so damn much fun. There's always something interesting going on, in addition to the river of information inside. It's impossible to look at CBN for just a few…Continue

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Comment by Thomas "Duck" Petry on May 19, 2018 at 2:56am

Well put, Kevin.  I'll agree with that 100%.  Love to see the look when people first hear one play and realize how good the sound can be from a box and a stick.  

Comment by Kevin Sprague (Knotlenny) on May 19, 2018 at 2:44am

I still get a rush of excitement when I hear a newly strung instrument and it's unique voice.

For me, the passion of this is in the simplicity and the historical connection to musical expression that wouldn't be silenced. Makeshift ingenuity.

The magic isn't it the box, it's in the human spirit.  When I demonstrate, show or play a cigar box guitar to somebody who's never seen or heard one . . . that's the essence the of gift I want to pass on to them!   What I live for is that moment of wonder and delight in their face.  "That sound came out of THAT?"  It's just a priceless connection with a stranger that I hope everyone here get's to experience.

I just have a personal way of looking at it, I guess.  We're all different, I can't expect folks to share my view.  It's just that there's something special in these things that I don't want to be lost.  It's something you don't find in making wood carvings, bird  houses, ships-in-a-bottle, ukuleles, or whatever. 

I'm probably not expressing myself adequately, and my intent is not to come acrossed as "holier-that-thou" or to put anybody down.  I guess I just feel the occasional need to rally against the homogenization here.    Love you all.  Peace

Comment by Matthew Borczon on May 18, 2018 at 2:34am

this is an interesting conversation. I think there is no wrong answer here. Just different perspectives. I often miss the old days when I first found the old group. Most built to play with few people doing it exclusively to sell. Still I have no problem with either. I usually just build for myself and I am somewhat ferocious about keeping mine acoustic so looking for the right sound out of the box is an ongoing thing for me. That being said I also have some great instruments made by people with more expertise and better workshops than mine that I play often especially in public. I think no one way is superior but I think the builders who do not play sometimes miss out on some really satisfying moments with their instruments. I like the jet analogy though. I also think it can be harder to sell them if you can not pick out a tune on one. I will be at a fair this week end and there is a builder there some years who does not play. I usually help him out and get to play some great guitars, it helps draw people to his stand but if he could do this himself I think it might help. Sorry if this is so middle of the road I know this is supposed to be a place for strong opinion, but my only strong opinion about CBG's is that thereshould be no rules.

Comment by smilingdog1 on May 17, 2018 at 6:40pm

I use to collect comic books after they became an addiction, I read them and at one point collect some just for the cover art. Now, should another reader feel sorry for me because I collect for art or sell them at a collectors value? I don't care, they're my comic books and I'll do as I please. I'm not doing it to gain recognition or approval. Although the comparison is adequate to explain my view that joy can come from building and not playing. I've built an upright piano from the ground up and can't play worth a dame. Should I feel the soulfulness, Hell no! I enjoyed building it immensely although my wife didn't share that view. I stand my ground when I say, we do ourselves a serviced when we limit the building of these just because our panties get wadded over profits. I give more to charity and have manged to raise literally thousands each year from these builds as well as other members of our club here in St. Louis MO. Some builders which are ether shy of playing or failed but love to build and socialize. There are a few here that come to the fest just for the money but I'm not going to throw darts at that and risk friendships. The only requirement I lay down for vendors is that they must be homemade and not some commercially manufacture item off an assembly line. But if a guy makes an ugly guitar, I'm going to be the first to play it. 

Comment by Thomas "Duck" Petry on May 17, 2018 at 6:10pm

My main point is that when people get into these things with their whole idea being to sell them and have no interest in playing them, something gets lost in the process.  As Ben says, "Build what you play.  Play what you love."  If you aren't putting part of yourself into each build, you're missing the purpose.

Comment by turtlehead on May 17, 2018 at 5:13pm

Crafters for Prophet sounds like a good band name or album title Duck ;)

I feel sorry for the "I'm a builder, not a player" types because they will never feel that pure joy and satisfaction that comes with plunking out a tune on an instrument they made from a pile of junk.  Same goes for the non-builders out there.  You're missing out on half the fun if you don't build it and play it yourself.

As far as art/craft/tech, the great thing about instrument building is that it's a balance of all three. It should look good, be built good and sound good. To do all of that, you need to be an artist, a craftsperson and an engineer all at the same time.  And to make sure you got it right, you need a player to put it through it's paces. I try to shoot for all of the above and hope for the best because it's easier to learn how to play than it is to try to get people to test pilot your prototypes.

To your point Kevin, could a non-player build a good neck? Probably with a good eye and some woodworking skills, but what's the point?

The bigger issue to me and I think what you're getting at is that the hobby has become more about building and selling and less about building and playing.  The only person that can build the perfect CBG for me is me and I'm happy to go through all the iterations until I get to "perfect". 

Comment by smilingdog1 on May 17, 2018 at 5:06pm

To Kevin & Duck, I believe in the no rules approach to building these CBG's. I'd not relish being the one who tells up coming builders that they had better learn to play or their level of effort will be cutesy at best. I don't particularly embrace the mass produced but I do embrace everyone's attempts to build from things found around the house. I would only use the word soulless under-breath. I feel more the need to encourage rather than discourage and it has been my experience here and around our club that others feel the same way. So I'm a little concerned with your backhanded comments. You can read what you want in my comments but I fail to see where they have reinforced your philosophy, however they did illustrate a flaw. Some folks have made a little money at this with no harm done but most of us do it for a wide variety of other reasons. CBG's and it's culture have connected me with folks around the world and work as a catalyst in making hundreds of friends. I will close with, I could hand Eric Clapton a stick with a string attached and he's entertain the masses. Give a master built guitar to a mediocre player and most the crowd would probably fade away quickly. So it's really about our attitudes and how much fun we can derive from building them. I let Justin Johnson play my venues and I open mic where my friends rarely care.  

Comment by Thomas "Duck" Petry on May 17, 2018 at 11:17am

Kevin...Soulless is the problem.  I too have seen some that built clones of their designs with no attempt to create other than mass produced instruments for the masses.  So far my builds have all been of different boxes that have been given to me and though I have a couple of duplicates, even with the same box they will be different.  The great part of building "one off creations" is that each one has a different voice and you will never know what it sounds like until it's done. 

I have built a few that were "junk box tech" that sounded great and had a couple of fancy builds that made me scratch my head and do a rework to get acceptable sound.  I put pickups in most, but like them to sound good acoustically, but had one that even though the box passed the "knock test" had a weak voice without the pickup.

Only scrapped one so far (a canjo with terrible feedback)  and managed to save enough out of it to build another using a small box that sounded great.

I don't build for sale, but do gift them to friends who enjoy them and play them on stage now and then.  That way I have room to build more when the urge hits me.

Half the fun of building these things is that there aren't "specs and dimensions".  Art, yes.  The crafters for prophet will wean themselves when they discover that they can't make a living building things that need soul to properly exist.

Comment by Kevin Sprague (Knotlenny) on May 17, 2018 at 10:52am

Well with all due respect, Smiling Dog - your example illustrates my point exactly.  In my humble view: building a cigar box guitar is different than following the specs and dimensions of building a cabinet or a piano - or a fighter jet.  I prefer to approach it as "Art" rather than a cutesy "Craft".

I am obviously Out of Time, because it is a hobbyist cottage industry now (ho hum) - and that's what makes me a little sad.  I just personally think we have lost something when we have forgotten to channel the spirit of where these things came from . . .

They come from a poor share cropper's kid in Mississippi without a pot to piss in - that just has to find a way to get his music out.  They come from a soldier in a lonely outpost just trying to chase away the blues.  These are the traditions of the cigar box guitar.  Working it - experimenting with it, tapping the box to test the resonance.  Finding just the right feel that fits.

I was at a show last weekend - a couple of booths down from ANOTHER cbg builder (first time ever).  Nice guy, and an awesome craftsman with lovely, lovely looking instruments.  He'd been building for years but doesnt play (really).  Almost no angle on the strings over the nut or bridge, big clunky (beautiful) box tops.  Somewhere along the line he'd given up even worrying about any kind of acoustic response from the instrument, but equipped them all with identical humbuckers.  No disrespect but each one was "cookie-cutter" and would have sounded the same if made from a 2 X 4. 

Totally devoid of soul.  Is that really what we're about?

No thanks, I'll just do my own little thing.

Comment by smilingdog1 on May 17, 2018 at 5:18am

Amen to that Thomas "Duck" Petry. I laughed under my breath when a friend brought me a 2x4 4 string electric and he wasn't going for pretty, but what floored me was that it sounded so good to everyone not just me. Now to be fair, there is a lot of appreciation for those who master the neck. The skills needed for tapering, radius, dressing frets/ leveling, setting up and intonation.

These things are learned and developed and if you're lucky to meet someone who shares their savvy, all the better.

Kevin, you're not arguing hard enough!!! But you did manage to contradict yourself a little. Where you go?  


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