6 String Cigar Box Guitar

The 6 String Cigar Box Guitar, a captivating instrument with a rich history and distinctive sound, invites us on a journey that explores its origins, construction, and cultural impact. From its humble beginnings in the hands of blues and folk musicians to its contemporary resurgence, this guitar has played a pivotal role in shaping the soundscapes of various genres.

Its construction process, meticulously detailed in this narrative, unveils the intricate craftsmanship involved in creating these instruments. The diverse materials and techniques employed contribute to their unique design elements, setting them apart from traditional guitars. Moreover, the tonal characteristics and playing styles associated with 6 String Cigar Box Guitars are explored, showcasing the versatility and expressiveness they offer musicians.

Historical Evolution of 6 String Cigar Box Guitars

6 String Cigar Box Guitar

The 6 string cigar box guitar, a captivating instrument with a rich history, has its roots in the vibrant musical traditions of blues and folk music. Originating from humble beginnings, this unique guitar has undergone a remarkable journey, evolving into a beloved instrument that continues to inspire musicians today.


The earliest known cigar box guitars emerged in the late 19th century, crafted by African American musicians in the rural South of the United States. Using discarded cigar boxes as resonators, they attached simple necks and strings, creating instruments that produced a distinctive, resonant sound.

Influence of Blues and Folk Music

The cigar box guitar quickly became an integral part of blues and folk music, as its portable nature and affordable cost made it accessible to musicians of all backgrounds. Blues musicians, such as Son House and Robert Johnson, used the instrument to create haunting melodies and expressive solos, while folk musicians like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger employed it to accompany their socially conscious songs.

Construction and Design Features: 6 String Cigar Box Guitar

Cigar string guitar box

The construction of 6-string cigar box guitars involves a unique blend of traditional and unconventional techniques. These guitars are typically built using repurposed cigar boxes, providing them with a distinct aesthetic and resonant character.

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The process begins with selecting a suitable cigar box. The size and shape of the box will determine the overall dimensions and tone of the guitar. Once the box is chosen, the interior is reinforced with bracing to provide structural support and enhance sound projection.

Materials and Techniques

The materials used in building 6-string cigar box guitars vary widely, contributing to their diverse sonic and visual appeal. The soundboard, or top of the guitar, is often made from resonant woods such as spruce, cedar, or mahogany. The back and sides can be crafted from a variety of materials, including plywood, solid wood, or even metal. The neck is typically made from wood, such as maple or mahogany, and is attached to the body using screws or bolts.

The strings used on these guitars are typically steel or nylon, and are tuned in various ways depending on the desired sound. The bridge, which supports the strings and transfers their vibrations to the soundboard, is often made from wood or metal and is adjustable to allow for intonation adjustments.

Unique Design Elements

6-string cigar box guitars are distinguished from traditional guitars by several unique design elements. The cigar box itself serves as the body, giving the instrument a compact and portable form. The lack of a traditional sound hole allows for a more resonant sound, as the vibrations are not restricted by the opening.

The fretboard is typically shorter than that of a standard guitar, with fewer frets. This results in a higher string tension and a brighter, more percussive tone. The use of repurposed materials and unconventional construction techniques further contributes to the unique aesthetic and sonic character of these instruments.

Tonal Characteristics and Playing Styles

6 String Cigar Box Guitar

The 6 string cigar box guitar possesses a unique sonic signature that sets it apart from conventional guitars. Its compact body and resonant materials produce a raw, bluesy tone with a percussive attack. The distinctive sound is often described as “cigar boxy” or “lo-fi,” lending it a vintage and rustic charm.

Playing styles on the 6 string cigar box guitar are diverse and reflect the instrument’s adaptability. Blues and folk fingerpicking techniques are common, utilizing open tunings and slide guitar techniques. Its compact size and portability also make it suitable for lap slide playing, creating ethereal and haunting melodies.

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Notable Players and Contributions

Several notable players have contributed to the popularity and evolution of the 6 string cigar box guitar. Among them is Reverend Peyton, known for his energetic performances and mastery of slide guitar techniques. Another influential figure is Joe Filisko, who has popularized the instrument through his workshops and collaborations.

Variations and Customizations

6 string cigar box guitars exhibit a wide range of variations and customizations that cater to diverse musical preferences and aesthetic sensibilities. These variations encompass different types, pickup configurations, finishes, and decorative elements, allowing players to tailor their instruments to their unique needs and styles.

Types and Variations

  • Traditional: Adhering to the classic design with a rectangular body, single-coil pickup, and simple finish.
  • Modern: Incorporating contemporary features such as ergonomic bodies, humbucker pickups, and advanced electronics.
  • Acoustic: Featuring a hollow body without pickups, relying solely on the natural resonance of the instrument for sound production.
  • Resonator: Utilizing a metal cone to amplify the sound, resulting in a distinctive, metallic tone.

Customization Options

Customizing 6 string cigar box guitars offers endless possibilities for personalization. Players can opt for different pickup configurations, including single-coil, humbucker, or P-90 pickups, to achieve desired tonal characteristics.

Finishes range from classic wood stains and lacquers to intricate artwork and decoupage, allowing players to express their creativity and create visually striking instruments.

Decorations further enhance the aesthetic appeal of cigar box guitars, with options such as inlays, fretboard markers, and custom headstocks.

Innovative Designs

The pursuit of innovation has led to the creation of unique and groundbreaking 6 string cigar box guitars. Some notable examples include:

  • “The Cigar Box Guitar” by Mark Jenny: A compact, single-string instrument with a slide-style playing technique.
  • “The Cigar Box Resonator” by Rob Nickless: A resonator guitar featuring a cigar box body and a unique “spider” bridge.
  • “The Cigar Box Electric” by Scott Baxendale: A fully electric guitar with a cigar box body and a humbucker pickup.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

Cigar guitar

Six string cigar box guitars have played a significant role in the development of blues and folk music. Their unique sound and aesthetic appeal have shaped the identity of these genres and continue to inspire contemporary artists.

In the early 20th century, cigar box guitars were a popular and affordable instrument for rural musicians in the American South. Their portability and durability made them ideal for traveling bluesmen and itinerant folk singers. The raw and resonant sound of these instruments became synonymous with the blues, and many legendary blues musicians, such as Robert Johnson and Son House, used them to create their iconic recordings.

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Role in Blues and Folk Music

Cigar box guitars played a crucial role in shaping the sound and aesthetics of blues and folk music. Their distinctive twangy tone and percussive attack gave these genres their characteristic rhythmic drive and emotional intensity. The portability and affordability of cigar box guitars also allowed musicians to experiment with different tunings and techniques, contributing to the diversity and innovation within these genres.

Contemporary Artists and Movements, 6 String Cigar Box Guitar

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in cigar box guitars among contemporary artists and musicians. These instruments have become popular in genres such as Americana, roots rock, and indie folk. Artists like Jack White, Seasick Steve, and Dan Auerbach have embraced the unique sound and aesthetic of cigar box guitars, using them to create innovative and captivating music.

Concluding Remarks

6 String Cigar Box Guitar

In conclusion, the 6 String Cigar Box Guitar stands as a testament to the enduring power of musical innovation and cultural expression. Its historical significance, coupled with its contemporary relevance, ensures its place in the annals of musical history. The instrument continues to inspire musicians and captivate audiences alike, bridging the past and present through its unique blend of history, craftsmanship, and musicality.

Questions Often Asked

What is the origin of the 6 String Cigar Box Guitar?

The 6 String Cigar Box Guitar traces its roots back to the early 20th century, when African American musicians in the rural South began using discarded cigar boxes as the bodies of their guitars.

What are the unique design features of 6 String Cigar Box Guitars?

6 String Cigar Box Guitars are characterized by their compact size, resonant sound, and often rustic appearance. They typically feature a rectangular body made from a cigar box, with a neck attached to the body and strings stretched over a bridge.

How does the sound of a 6 String Cigar Box Guitar differ from a traditional guitar?

6 String Cigar Box Guitars produce a unique, raw, and often twangy sound that is distinct from traditional guitars. The cigar box body contributes to a resonant and percussive tone, while the shorter scale length and lighter strings result in a brighter and twangier sound.

What are some notable players associated with 6 String Cigar Box Guitars?

Notable players who have embraced the 6 String Cigar Box Guitar include Seasick Steve, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and Jack White. These musicians have helped popularize the instrument and showcase its versatility in various genres.

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