SOOO many people feel useless, afraid of failing and so intimidated by building any sort of musical instrument (not to mention trying to learn how to play one) that they quit before they even start.
For some money seems to be the deciding factor. It’d be easier to learn to play if they had the loot to purchase a guitar- but can’t gather the cash and so nada!
I got solutions!
If one would consider the “lowly” cigarbox (or found-object) guitar… and start with 1 or 2 or even 3 strings… if one could figure out how to dumpster-dive or otherwise gather a few parts… these “can’t do” bugs would be squashed in a hurry.
Consider “what to do” with a very basic “slide” guitar:
You could create a guitar with no actual “frets” -those thingees made of metal that guitarists press the strings down in between in order to create the sound of individual notes or or chords.
All you gotta do to play a 1, 2 or 3 stringer is to tune it. How? Turn your computer on and do a web-search for “online guitar tuner”, turn your computer speaker volume up and find any one, two or 3 notes that work with the strings you have on the guitar. Better still, look at Shane Speal’s YouTube videos on tuning cigarbox guitars.
All you gotta do after building and putting the string(s) on the guitar is to find or create a “slide” (keep reading…), figure how much pressure to put on the string(s) with that slide, and either pluck the string over the body of the guitar or bang on the strings (percussively, like a drummer, with a short wooden dowel or closed magic marker or whatever…) while you move the slide up and down the neck while lightly pressing the slide against the strings. You don’t press the
strings all the way down onto the top of the neck as you would when playing a typical guitar. When using a slide you don’t have to build up calousses either (one -sore- reason why some budding guitarists never become guitarists at all).
But of course, I’m getting ahead of myself.
WHAT, you may ask, are the most essential ingredients of such a guitar?
Body, Neck, bridge, nut, tuners, strings.
Just six (6!) essential parts for you to build your own basic slide guitar!
Guitar picks and pickups are optional. Strap optional. Case optional. Lots of decorations (or not) optional. TONS of options
So what’s the detailed list for building?
You need a few 1/2 inch and maybe 1 or 1 1/2 inch screws and if need be, wood glue (not essential for many of my builds).
Tools? That depends, but basically some sort of saw, screw gun (drill with a phillips head bit) and a couple wood drill bits (I use 1/4 inch for the tuner holes and another bit just large enough for the strings to -not- pop through the bottom of the neck. When the holes are small enough strings make it through but not the little round “string nut” at the bottom of each string. Small enough holes keeps each string from popping through.
The string holes are drilled at the bottom of the neck, strings fed through them, over the “bridge”, then over the “nut” and into the “tuners”.
You tighten the strings up, then stretch the strings, begin tuning them, and then begin learning to play!
A tape measure and small triangular or T square helps to measure the neck, and also to place the bridge and nut in place for your guitar.
You of course need guitar strings (a whole ‘nother discussion) which you can buy at any music shop or online.
You can add (or make) guitar picks, a string or strap and if you like, one or more pickups and a
1/4 inch jack (input) so you can plug your guitar into an amplifier or p.a. system and freak out the neighbor’s dog
The body can be fashioned from a cigarbox (cardboard or wooden or a mix of both) or any number of other “body” forms such as cookie tins (round, square, etc.) or even an empty soda or empty tin can. Yard sales, junk stores or garage sales anyone?
Necks can be made from a length of wooden broomstick or mop handle, a 1×3 inch 3 foot or less piece of wood. These can be had at any building supply or most hardware stores for a few dollars U.S.. Or found in your garage or local dumpster.
The “bridge” and “nut” can be as simple as a thick enough bolt with a nut placed on the end… or just the bolt itself with a slight V notch groove made in the neck (one groove and bolt for the bridge, one for the nut). The tightened strings hold both in place.
Using 1/4 inch eyebolts for tuners with only a wingnut on the end are by far the simplest, cheapest and most easy-to-install “tuners” I’ve ever tried.
Granted, they often take a screwdriver shaft or handle (through the eye) once screwed in and the wingnut is tightened with a string firmly in place… because once you get them tuned they TRULY hold their place amazingly well. They are also a tad harder to get the string in place as you have to basically knot the string around and through itself -through- the inside of the eye of the eyebolt, but if you take the slack out and wind in in and onto itself properly, these things are amazingly effective as tuners.
“Uncle” Crow Richardson has amazing video and written tutorials on how to build what in my view is the best and easiest “build”, that being with the neck screwed in place -on TOP- rather that within the body of a cigarbox or cookie tin. When the neck is firmly attached this way, the resonation is truly good- that meaning that the vibrations of strings vibrate through the neck and box off of the top of the box or tin well enough to sound out.
Some boxes and tins may require the more typical through-the-box/tin build, but that’s a matter of discovery.
If you add a pickup (that’s another matter) whether the neck is on top or inside and through makes little difference.
PLEASE have a look/read/listen at http://www.cigarboxnation.com and via YouTube for Shane Speal and Crow Richardson’s videos, writings and pics as well as online forum exchanges on these topics… there’s plenty of information and help to get you started and far down the road.
But trust me- this ain’t rocket science and it’s amazingly fun and rewarding to try… and I can tell you from several years and workshop experience with people of all ages using many different kinds of items as a guitar necks and body, etc.,: you CAN build and learn to play guitar this way even if trying on a “real” guitar with more strings has somehow mystified you! I’ve seen and heard the results it over and over again.
Give it a go!
And thanks for stopping by CigarBoxGuitar.Com