Cigar Box Guitars are considered to be a roots instrument. They have been built and played for over 150 years in many forms and fashions. The earliest photographic evidence of cigar box instruments was around 1840 where two Civil War Soldiers were pictured sitting by a campfire with one of them playing a cigar box fiddle. Cigars began to be shipped in the smaller size boxes of the optimal size to make a guitar or other stringed instrument around 1840. That coincides with the 1840 Civil War photo. Prior to 1840, cigars were shipped in larger quantities in either large crates or barrels which were too large for instrument making.
During the Great Depression, purchasing a factory-made musical instrument was financially not possible for most Americans, but if you had access to a cigar box for a body, a board or a good strong straight stick for a neck, some wire and the ingenuity to hand fashion a tensioner you had the makings of a crude but very cool sounding Cigar Box Guitar.
In recent years the Cigar Box Guitar has been making a strong comeback. They are being made in varieties from somewhat basic and crude to very elaborate. Many accomplished guitarists and performers are now using Cigar Box Guitars on stage and in their bands. Most of these used by performers are equipped with electronics to amplify their unique and awesome sounds. Cigar Box Guitars are also being used by folks who are just getting started learning to play the guitar.
The Cigar Box Guitar is a good instrument for beginners to start learning on because instead of learning somewhat complicated and difficult finger positions on a standard 6 string guitar, many chords, as well as hundreds of songs, can be played on a 3 string or 4 string Cigar Box Guitar by using only one finger. They are super easy to play. Using a slide is also an extremely popular and cool way to play a Cigar Box Guitar.
Currently, the most popular Cigar Box Guitars are 3 string and 4 string versions however they can be made with any number of strings additionally including 1, 2, and 6 string versions.
Here’s a video of me playing one of my Big Wolfe 6 string acoustic/piezo versions!
At Lawrence Guitars our favorite Cigar Box Guitars are the 3 and 4 string versions however we occasionally make a 6-string version which is very cool. We call our versions Cigar Box Style guitars because we seldom use actual cigar boxes due to their very small size and frailty. Instead, we make our own replica boxes from wood where most actual cigar boxes are either comparatively very thin flimsy wood, cardboard, or cardboard and wood combinations. Our versions are shaped and styled similar to actual cigar boxes but usually considerably larger which makes them, more comfortable to hold and play. Ours is extremely sturdy and will last a lifetime with proper care. Most of our versions will have authentic looking cigar box labels. Check out my selection of cigar box guitars in the store!
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