Chords and Tunings for 3 and 4 String Cigar Box Guitar
Below are some common tunings for your cigar box guitar. You will need a tuner.
The most common tuning for Cigar Box Guitar is open G: if you check out YouTube, you’ll find numerous examples of cbg’s played in the key of G. Usually these are 3 string, tuned GDG , but sometimes 4 String, tuned GDGB or DGBD. Open G is a really good place to start. Most of Junkbox Guitars are tuned to Open G.
3 String cigar box guitars are normally tuned Root – 5th- Root (or octave again). There are three notes in this chord (technically not a chord as it only contains 2 different tones, not 3 or more, but let’s call it a chord for now, ok?) and this tuning using the root, the fifth note and the octave is also known as a power chord – familiar to most guitarists, and used lots in Rock….you’ll know the sound when you hear it. A power chord produces a great sound for blues, punk and rock. This is your GDG tuning …. or FCF, DAD, CGC whatever…
Main thing is , it is formed by using the Root (lowest pitch, and the 1st note of the scale that you are playing in) – 5th of scale (count up 5, counting starting note as “1” , e.g. GABCD : 12345) – and Root again, up one octave.
For a song in the key F, tune to F C F. (I-V-I) (Or 1-5-1)
For a song in the key D, tune to D A D (I-V-I) (Or 1-5-1)
For a song in the key E, tune to E B E (I-V-I) (Or 1-5-1) etc.
Then experiment with other tunings, such as a G7 tuning – G D F. This will give you a more jazzy sound.
Or, on a 4 string: change the tuning from, say, GDGB (G Major chord) to a GDGBb ( now a G minor chord, and a totally different vibe) – To do this, just tune your B note half a step or a semi-tone to make it Bb now.
One of the coolest things about cigar box guitars is that there really are no hard and fast rules. This is just a starting point. If it sounds good to you, play it.
I have included a chord book containing some useful chords and info: this is free for you to look at online or please ‘right-click’ and print it off for yourself.
I hope that it gives you some help starting off. If you have any questions, please contact me and I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible.
Most importantly, ENJOY!
OPEN G: GDG The strings on each cigar box guitar will be A (5) D (4) and G (3) from an electric light gauge set (10s to 46s or similar). This will enable you to play in the range from down in D (D A D) and up as far as C (C G C). For Open G, 4 string cigar box guitar, add the B (2nd string).
OPEN D, OPEN E If you are looking for a ‘fatter’ bass sound and regularly play down in D and E, I recommend using E (6) A (5) and D (4) strings from an electric light gauge set. With these strings, I recommend not tuning up past G (G D G). It’s all about experimenting to see what works for you and the sound you’re after.
Acoustic strings can be used but won’t sound as good through an amp.