Monday, December 16, 2013

Why I make Cigarbox Guitars

So I've talked a lot about making my instruments and even posted video of me playing my own homemade instruments here but maybe you've never even heard about these remarkably primal instruments or wonder why someone would ever choose to make their own instruments from scratch and play them.  So here are some of the reasons why I choose to make and play diddley bows, cigarbox  guitars, and other homemade instruments.

I may not have smoked them but I'm sure as heck gonna smoke on them.



  • They're cheap: The cigarbox guitar is at it's heart a poverty instrument. You make your own guitar because you can't afford to buy one in the first place. With the tools I have in my shed (tools anyone can get at a hardware store) I can make a workable cigar box guitar out of scrap for  less than $50. A used student level guitar (that means the cheap ones) is at least $200.
  • They're easy: Shane Speal posts a wonderful series of videos on youtube to teach people how to play diddey bows and cigarbox guitars. But if you've played a guitar at all and even if you haven't you can be playing a recognizable song within 30 minutes of getting your hands on one. There's little instruction needed to get playing. In fact most of rock and blues' greatest musicians started on one.
  • They help you play better: There's no better teacher for learning how to play the guitar than making it yourself. You learn that by using this box over that one and these strings over those what sounds come out of it. It's like the strings are telling you, "you need a slide to play us" or "this is how we want to sound." By making the instrument it teaches you how to play it.
  • They sound wretched: When you want a sound that sounds like blues coming from the deepest inner screeches of the abyss you want a cigar box guitar. These instruments aren't supposed to sound like the high quality instruments that cost thousands of dollars. These guitars are meant to sound nasty and the sound is so nasty it's good. 
  • They can be personalized: I take sharpies, stickers, and paint to my guitars. They can be a full expression of my style. You wouldn't dream of doing this to a Gibson Les Paul because it would ruin the value. Cigar box guitars are basically folk art you can play. 
  • They're durable: You can beat on these things as you play them and they take the abuse. After all all what are you going to do, wreck the value of an instrument that cost nothing to make and can be fixed in your own house in little time? I think I'll take the risk. 


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