A 3 Step Approach to Learning How to Play the CBG (Designed especially for Builders) Step 1

I have been playing Delta Style Bottleneck Blues Guitar in Open Tunings since 1984. Although I am far from an expert in the field, I have learned some very practical methods to understanding music.
I would like to help CBG builders who have no or limited knowledge of music, but are interested in building learn how to play their creations.
So, I have a plan.
Step 1:
Begin by building one string (diddley-bow) CBGs. Initially, this instrument does not need frets, but I would suggest learning how to measure and draw a correct scale onto the fingerboard. Due to the fact there are no frets at this point, I would suggest playing it with a slide. In later 1 string CBG builds, learn how to install frets correctly and then play the CBG with your fingers. (Note: For this 3 Step approach, learn to play the CBG holding it like a standard guitar, not on your lap)

A very fine example:
His creation has a Diatonic scale or aka Dulcimer scale.
For this approach, I would encourage you to use the scale found on a standard guitar. This is aka the Chromatic
scale. This scale will give you more options as we progress.
Use the third string (g) .026 gauge found in a medium pack of strings. You will need a scale length of about 23".
Ask for help and research so you learn how to build functional instruments that play in tune and have a nice tone.

Learn everything you can about that one string. Scales: Major, minor, pentatonic blues, indian, etc.
Explore everything you can do to create different rhythm with your picking hand.
Figure out the melody lines of songs.
There are an amazing amount of 1 string players.
Ask me. I will throw ideas at you too.
Step 2:
Hey, don't be in such a rush. Can you demonstrate your proficiency with 1 string first?

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Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on January 5, 2011 at 3:47pm

You know I should of told you, GDg is of course another key than the video. If you wanted to play it how it sounds in the video, you would need to tune DAD.

For GDg, I use strings ADg from a standard pack. (CD4)

To tune DAD, use EAD from a standard pack. (CD1)


Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on January 5, 2011 at 3:42pm

Thank you Wes for your response. Definitely. Right on the money.

Guitars, especially standard tuned guitars, are not the best instrument for understanding how music works. Moving from string to string does not work out as nice as the notes on a piano keyboard. Your right, starting with a simple one string instrument is a great way to begin. Actually, a great deal of slide is played on the first string on a 6 string guitar too. The 2 bass strings (strings 6 and 4) are alternating and the melody line ( notes on string one) fall either on the bass note beat or in between them. The melody line is actually the lyrics set to music. Please watch this video:


In a nutshell, this is the foundation of Delta Blues. If you get this down, it is easier to move into more complex arrangements and add additional strings. This arrangement can also be played on a 3 string CBG tuned 151 (GDg) Alternate G and D while playing slide on string g. Timing is key. Slow and steady. 

Enjoy, Keni Lee  

Comment by Wes "I'm Baaaaack" Yates on January 5, 2011 at 2:07pm

Keni, I needed some of your advice as per your posts and came across this blog.


Let me second [playing one string] as a method of learning slide and delta blues. One thing that I think early players get frustrated at is 'what notes to what strings' and then find out that the same notes are on different strings. Confusing to say the least, but when you concentrate on a lead or even rhythm line on one string, it does help you learn where the notes are per that string and even help you feel the blues.





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