CigarBoxGuitars.com  -  How to Tune a Cigar Box Guitar

How to Tune a Cigar Box Guitar

 

You've built your first cigar box guitar.  Now how do you tune it?  Although there are no rules to this instrument, here's a list of different ways you can tune your cigar box guitar. They have been organized by the number of strings on the instrument.

 

Three-String Cigar Box Guitar

The following tunings are for a 3-string cigar box guitar that has been strung up with A, D and G strings from a standard string pack. These tunings are shown low to high string.

  • Open G - G, D, G (the high string is one octave above low string).  Currently, this is the most popular tuning for cigar box guitarists.  The majority of lessons and tutorials online are in Open G.  This is a good tuning to use when you're starting out.  

  • Open A - A, E, A (the high string is one octave above low string)Open F - F, C, F (the high string is one octave above low string)

  • A7 "The Magic Jazz Tuning" - A, E, G

  • A6 "Hawaiian Tuning" - A, E, F#

  • G9 "Tuning in Fifths" - G, D, A

 

The following tunings use different string gauges for 3-string cigar box guitar:

"The Mother Leeds - EEB Tuning." Developed by Shane Speal for the songs, Mother Leeds and Tattoo of Yout.  This gives a 3-string cigar box guitar both the low E string of a standard guitar and two higher strings. In order to use this tuning, string your cigar box guitar with the following strings from a standard pack: Low E string, D string and B string.  Mother Leeds EEB - E, E, B (the middle string is one octave above the low string)

 

Seasick Steve 3-String Trance Wonder Open G: GGB  Created by Seasick Steve for his 3-String Trance Wonder guitar. In order to use this tuning, string your cigar box guitar with the following strings from a standard pack: A string, G string and B string.  

 

Four-String Cigar Box Guitar

The following tunings are for a 4-string cigar box guitar that has been strung up with A, D, G and B strings from a standard string pack. These tunings are shown low to high string.

Open G - G, D, G, B (the third string is one octave above the lowest)

G Straight - G, D, G, D (the two high strings are tuned one octave above the two lowest)

G Minor - G, D, G, Bb (the third string is one octave above the lowest)

G7 - G, D, F, B

Open A - A, E, A, C#

 

Approximated Elmore tuning: Shane Speal has developed a low/high tuning for a 4-string cigar box guitar using the low E string of a standard guitar and the three highest strings. This enables him to play Elmore James style slide on the high strings while still getting the rumbling low string in the mix.

In order to use this tuning, string your cigar box guitar with the following strings from a standard pack: Low E string, G, B and high E strings.

Approximated Elmore Open D - D, F#, A, D

 

Six String Open Tunings

Open D "Vestapol Tuning" - D, A, D, F#, A, D

Open G "Spanish Tuning" - D, G, D, G, B, D

 

Historical fact: The cigar box guitar is an instrument without formal structure. In the past, folks would tune their cigar box guitars however they wanted, usually tightening their strings of screen wire and brake cables until they made an acceptable sound.

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