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How To Tune A Cigar Box Guitar (CBG)

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Introduction To the Tuning a Cigar Box Guitar

The cigar box guitar (CBG), with its rustic charm and portability, is a delightful instrument for both beginners and seasoned players. But unlike its six-string cousin, cigar box guitars often sport unique tunings. Fear not, though! Tuning a cigar box guitar is a breeze. This guide will walk you through popular tunings and get you strumming in no time.

Choosing Your Tuning

Cigar box guitars, due to their simpler construction, often have 3 or 4 strings. This opens up a world of interesting tunings, each offering a distinct sound and playing style. Here are a few popular options:

P-Bass Cigar Box Guitar Tuning a Cigar Box Guitar

Three-string Tuning Options:

  • Open G (G D G): This is the undisputed king of cigar box tunings. With a deep G bass note and a bright, high G string, it’s perfect for bluesy riffs and slide playing.
  • Open D (D A D): Offering a brighter sound than Open G, Open D is great for folk and jug band tunes.
  • Open A (A E A): This tuning is sunshine in sonic form! Ideal for open chords and fingerpicking, it evokes a happy, relaxed vibe.
  • A7 (A E G): Craving a jazzy touch? A7 tuning lets you play those cool 7th chords with ease.

Four-String Tuning Options:

In addition to the above tunings, here are some interesting options specifically for 4-string cigar box guitars:

  • GDGB (Chicago Tuning): This tuning is similar to Open G but with a B string added on top, offering more tonal possibilities.
  • ADGB (Double Course G): This tuning features two G strings in unison, creating a richer, fuller sound. Great for blues and roots music.
  • E A D G (Standard Tuning): You can also use a standard guitar tuning on your 4-string cigar box. This allows you to play familiar chords and riffs.
  • Elmore Tuning (Low E, G, B, E): Inspired by slide player Elmore James, this tuning combines a low E string for deep bass with higher strings for smooth slide playing.

These are just a taste of the possibilities. Experiment and find a tuning that speaks to you!

Tuning Tools

There are two main tools for tuning a cigar box guitar:

  • Electronic tuner: This is the most accurate and beginner-friendly option. Clip-on tuners are readily available and easy to use.
  • Tuning fork: If you’re going for a

    vintage vibe, a tuning fork set to A-440 can be used as a reference pitch.

Tuning Up

Here’s how to tune a cigar box guitar:

  1. Identify your strings: If your strings aren’t already labelled, use a reference chart or online tuner to figure out which peg corresponds to which string.
  2. Choose your tuning: Decide which tuning you want to try (refer to the options above).
  3. Pick a reference pitch: If using an electronic tuner, follow its instructions. With a tuning fork, strike the tuning fork on a surface and match the pitch of your A string (usually the middle or second string) to the vibrating fork.
  4. Tune each string: Using the tuner or reference pitch as a guide, slowly turn the tuning peg until the corresponding string reaches the desired pitch. Be gentle and avoid overtightening the strings, which can damage them.
  5. Fine-tune: Once all strings are roughly in tune, make small adjustments to achieve perfect pitch. You may need to repeat this process a few times as the strings settle.

Tips and Tricks

  • New strings tend to stretch, so you might need to retune frequently during the first few days.
  • Invest in a good quality capo. This handy tool allows you to temporarily change the pitch of all strings at once, opening up new musical possibilities.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment! There are countless tunings out there, so have fun exploring and finding your own unique voice on the cigar box guitar.

With a bit of practice, you’ll be tuning your cigar box guitar like a pro in no time. Now grab that box, crank it up to twang, and get ready to make some beautiful music!

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