Choosing a Cigar Box Guitar

Choosing an instrument can be a very difficult decision. Do you want something that is shiny and new, or would you rather have an instrument that looks like it has been played at every blues bar across North America over the past sixty years? Do you want something bright and attention-grabbing or would you rather have something less obtrusive, grabbing people’s attention with the melodies you create?

Selecting a Cigar Box Guitar (CBG) is different for everyone, but when you do select a CBG, you have more variety to select from than any other type of instrument. What is important to you in an instrument will be reflected in your selection.

You might want to start with string selection. While 3- and 4-string CBGs are the most common, you can go for a 1-string (commonly called a Diddley Bow), a 6-string, or anything inbetween. Different CBGs use different types of strings; the most common are light steel strings, but they tend to range from medium to extra-light. Nylon strings can also be used instead of the more typical nickel- or copper- wound steel strings.

What type of neck would you like on your CBG? While most use some type of hardwood for the neck, softwood could be used instead. And for smaller CBGs you can find some unique re-purposed items used for the neck (broom handles, hockey sticks, etc.).

In addition to the type of wood used, you can also select the type of fretboard you would like. While almost all CBGs will have the fret positions marked, not all CBGs are fretted. Whether or not you want frets, or what type of pattern or colour you want on your fretboard is entirely up to you.

You should also decide if you want an electric or acoustic CBG. Acoustic CBGs should create enough sound to fill a room, but if you want to get loud you’ll need an electric. And with an electric, you have to decide what type of pickup you’d like: Piezo or Magnetic. You can even choose to add Humbuckers if you’d like.

The body of the CBG is what really sets the instrument apart from all other instruments; after all, it is why they are called Cigar Box Guitars. Despite the name, not all CBGs are made from cigar boxes. They can be made from metal biscuit tins, used oil cans, old license plates, wooden toilet seats…just about anything that you can imagine. And even when selecting among cigar box bodies, the choices are all but limitless. Select a body that speaks to you and you can’t go wrong.

Cigar Box Guitars are as individual and varied as the people who play them. When selecting your CBG, remember that there are no bad choices, it’s whatever you want your instrument to be.

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