Hi, this is a website about Homemade guitars, Cigar box guitars, 3 and 4 string guitars, Cookie tin banjos, and the history of hand made and homemade musical instruments from around the world.

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Cigar Box Guitar History and Old Time Music

I wanted to post some videos of cigar box guitar music and don't know which one to post first, so how about this one?

I was in Albany Georgia and found this old truck sitting out in a cotton field.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to live and work on a farm back them. 
Here is a photo from the 1880's or 1890's of camp life, check out that homemade guitar.
If you look closely at the tailpiece, you can see it that it looks to be well made and must have played and sounded pretty good. At least the guy holding it thought highly enough of his instrument to have himself photographed with it!

I find many of these old instruments for sale on ebay. In fact as you read along in this website, there are many pages and you'll see a lot of them. Not only photos of the instruments themselves, but I also have a large collection of antique photos of people playing or holding them.


What does that "old time" twangy goodness from long ago sound like?

Funny you should ask!

Have a listen to this cigar box guitar being played. It's a short scale homemade guitar similar to the one above. This video is recorded without electricity, no pickup or amplifier, nothing fancy, just a wooden neck bolted on an old cigar box. It's a honky tonkin' good time.


If you build cigar box guitars, a quick tip to achieve a vintage "twangy" sound is to build a shorter scale neck. If you build in the 21 inch or so range, you can sharpen the instruments tone and it will also give the instrument a bit more pop and volume. It will be a slight bit more crisp in the attack and sustain.
By using a shorter scale on an acoustic instrument without a pickup it will help you achieve a louder natural volume and make the instrument more playable without an amplifier.
It's not so easy to coax a great sound out of a an old used cigar box, but it can be done!

Check out this antique 3 string cigar box guitar, if you look close you will see that it's a 3 string guitar with one of the tuners coming up directly from behind the headstock. Also you will notice that the maker has carefully drawn out the fret markers. Since there is not actual frets, I believe it was probably used as a slide guitar.
I only wish I could hear it. Even though we can't hear that exact guitar we can listen to an acoustic 3 sting played with a slide and we can take a step back into that era. Have a listen to this video.


OK, for the record, I like electricity!....sometimes it's just great.
 I love these mini Vox Amps, they have a great look, plus they are battery powered and I enjoy being able to play outside or where there is no electrical outlet.
What can you do when you plug in a cigar box guitar?  O, I don' know? Let's find out....

How cool is this 1920's homemade guitar below? 
Imagine what the person who made it was trying to achieve, It's the full sha-bang. It's a six-string, screws used as fret dot markers, wrap around tail piece, homemade bridge, homemade tuners, and how cool is that hand crafted metal pick guard?
This must have taken someone both a lot of thought before hand, and a lot of work to complete. I bet it was playable and sounded pretty good.

Hopefully some of these guitars on this website inspire you to dig deeper into the history of the homemade instruments and early American Blues and Folk music. 
 There is a world of great old recordings to listen to and study....and if you'r feeling adventurous, these instruments are both easy to build and easy to play. Get out into you garage and make one, you'll have a blast!