More About Cigar Box Guitars
Cigar box guitars for the rest of us.
If you're not familiar with cigar box guitars, I hope you’ll jump in with us here and start to get acquainted. If you're already familiar, but have been frustrated because perhaps you're not a delta blues player and you don’t find gritty slide-playing the be-all and end-all, then get ready for a little relief. We’re here to strum chords!
I started Through Three Lenses because I’m excited about what’s happening here and about the potential for building community. The structure provides me with an opportunity to gather all of my creative pursuits under one umbrella.
As long as I've played guitar, I’ve played to accompany my own singing. When I built my first fretless cigar box guitars, strung them with heavy, wound strings and then took a slide to them, I thought the sound was amazing! It made me laugh out loud. Smoke on the Water in four easy moves!!
But when I tried playing the kinds of songs I like to sing along with, I found that most didn’t fit into that style. I’d been strumming acoustic six-string guitars ever since my angst-filled teens. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens and Woodie and Arlo Guthrie.
Drawn to stories, then as now, I was more likely to be listening to music where lyrics mattered most. Once I’d learned a few six-string guitar chords and someone clued me in about the magical (and ubiquitous) 1-4-5 chord progression, I taught myself to decipher the songs I liked so I could play along with my LPs of Cat, Leonard and Bob.
That’s what I wanted to be able to do with my CBGs, and the fretless builds weren’t cutting it. I dug a little deeper into conventional guitar building and learned to make cigar box guitars with frets. Thanks to a fortuitous guitar class experience at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and with the help of several bright tutors, I developed a strategy using chord inversions to strum a broad and colorful spectrum of chords on my simple three-stringed instruments.
That’s the background for this newsletter. What’s the foreground look like?
We shall see. I have ideas, but I’d prefer we build this thing together. I’ve recently learned the word sandboxing, so this is our sandbox. I’m going to try a little bit of this and that, you’ll tell me what you like, I’ll line your feedback up with what I can offer and it will all evolve.
I like the idea that this strand of Through Three Lenses can be a place to try new ideas, see what people like and discover more of what we enjoy.
So… I want to hear from you. If you like something you see, and you want to see more of it, let me know! If you’re not seeing what you’d like to see, ask for it, and if I can help, if I can work it in, I surely will.
Once I get my workbench cleared off again, I plan to step-by-step build a guitar or two, right before your very eyes, with photos, like I did in my books, but enhanced, if all goes well, with audio and/or video.
I thought it might also be fun to introduce you to the small family of cigar box guitars I’ve built and kept for myself. Even the more conventional guitars and ukuleles I keep around are quirky and come with stories in tow. Some have names. If you’d like to see some of those, let me know.
In my workshop, I’ll also be showing off some of my favorite and most useful hand tools, talking about why I like them and how I use them.
As soon as I can offer them a decent-sized audience, I’d like to introduce you to some of the people I’ve met who play cigar box guitar much better than I ever will.
Finally, beginning next year, you can expect to see the serialized appearance of my next book about cigar box guitars, this one more comprehensive than the first two, and revealing itself section by section, exclusively here on Through Three Lenses.
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