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 Strings & Tunings

Cigar Box Guitar Resources

We tune our Cigar Box Guitars and Vintage Tin guitars to an Open D tuning (D a d) which is a simple and easy to play set up (sometimes referred to as a 1-5-1 system, D Modal or D Power Chord Tuning). 

Cigar Box Guitar Open D Tuning | Spatchcock and Wurzill

The 1st string refers to the thinnest (or trebble), the 2nd is the middle, and the 3rd to the thickest (root note).  The root note determines the key (in this case the key of D), the middle or 2nd string is the 5th note in the scale and the 1st string is an octave above the root note).

     B   C   D    E    F    G    A    B    C    D    E    F    G

              1      2    3     4     5      6     7     1

If you wanted to change tuning to Open C for example, the Root Note would be C, the middle would be G (the 5th note from the root) and the 1st string would be C (an octave above the root).

Changing Strings

The strings supplied with your guitar are the 1st (E), 3rd (G) and 4th (D) from a standard set of ball ended light gauge electric guitar strings.  With these strings you could retune up to Open E or down to Open C. If you wanted to tune to Open G we recommend changing strings to 0.042 (G), 0.036 (D) and 0.024 (G) gauges.

We use a 'Floating Bridge' system on our guitars which means the bridge is not fixed to the guitar body but held in place by string tension, as with a banjo.When changing all three strings we therefore recommend that you change them one at a time rather than removing all three at once.  To check if your guitar is set up correctly after changing a string simply tune the string open (without fretting) and then  check again whilst fretting the 12th. For example, the top D string should be D open and also D at the 12th fret (but an octave higher).  If it is flat, very slightly move the bridge towards the nut and check agian.  If sharp, move it the other way.  Repeat for all 3 strings and do not be concerned if the bridge is at angle as this is normal.

Chord & Scale Diagrams

Open D (D a d)
Open G (G d g)

Video Links

Although our open tuned 3 string Cigar Box Guitars and Vintage Tin Guitars are intuitively fun to play, there is a wealth of video lessons on line to help you get the most from your instrument and to demonstrate just how versatile they are.  By simply typing  'Cigar Box Guitar' in the YouTube search facility you'll discover hundreds of videos covering all aspects of playing styles, techniques and lessons.  Here's a few to get you started.

Just remember that although the video lesson may be using a Cigar Box Guitar or Vintage Tin Guitar tuned to Open G (G-d-g),  the fingering on your guitar will be EXACTLY THE SAME, you'll just be playing in the key of D rather than G.

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