I'm figuring this all out as I go, for I have never played a guitar or any other plucked string instrument.

1.Diddly Bow.

I mostly built this diddly bow over the weekend. I substituted an eye bolt tuner because I wanted to see how one worked. Otherwise all is the essentially the same.


I am using a string the local guitar shop sold me

D'Addario PL015 Plain Steel Ball End .015 in. (.38 mm) Single String

JJ makes it look very easy to press the string to the "fret board" ( I used a length of 7/8 inch /22 mm dowel rod, likely popular.)

I can coax out an open note easily, but pressing the string down takes a lot of effort, hurts my finger tips, and it only sounds okay when pressing down near the nut.

Is JJ using a more flexible string of some sort? 

Is that what I need, a different string of some sort? If so which type/ gauge/...

Or did I miss something in my assembly?

2. 3-String

With the diddly bow sort of done I want to go after a three string next

For this the guitar shop sold me http://daddario.com/DADProductDetail.Page?ActiveID=3769&ProductId=73&productname=EJ26_Phosphor_Bronze__Custom_Light__11_52

With no experience I am confused which, if any, of these strings will get me to GBG or any other tuning. I understand that GBG the most common tuning so that's where I want to start. Please correct me if this is not square one.

One article here http://www.cigarboxnation.com/group/class101/forum/topics/confused-about-open-g-tuning?xg_source=activity

mentions a preference for the 3, 4, and 5 strings. I have not yet opened the package but I figure they will be marked as to which is which so I should be able to figure out the string names and in turn the sizes

But I am confused as to the top to bottom placements and how I can get a low and high G out of standard set of strings.

The above page gets me the general idea,but I do not how to tune up or down either.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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  • Justin Johnson was NOT pressing it to the fret board, the red thing on Justin's finger and the purple thing on blind Kiwi's finger was a slide.

    With a slide you just LIGHTLY touch/press the string with the slide and you get the same effect as fretting a note at that spot.

    you don't have to go buy a fancy commercial one, lots of other things can work, a 3/4x1.5 spacer from the hardware->washers drawer at home depot or lowes, an empty medicine bottle, a chunk of 3/4" pvc pipe, Shane's favorite is a socket from his socket wrench kit. 

    • Thanks to all for the comments.


      Yes the action is high on the db. I'll try the slide soon. Makes sense. Yes I do have the string  pulled tight. The scale length can be set up to around 34 inches.

      One reason I selected the JJ build was the idea that I could change the scale length easily. I decided to put in a strip of 1x2 popular on top of the dowel with a couple of more hose clamps. That will bring it in line with the top of the box. That should allow for pressing down on the board like on a  guitar.

      The plan is to drop to a 9ish inch scale (piccolo mandolin level) and to the max on the stick My goal. I want to build a feel for the ratios and fret settings. Also I think it could make a nice demo of wave properties. Comments? FYI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5wXqypfXhc

      Nice thoughts on the slides. I will try them all. I mustered what I need for cutting off a bottle neck but not tried it yet.

      Three String.

      The table with the diameters is especially helpful. I read somewhere that the guitar is tuned in fourths. It finally dawned on my that D-G is four scale steps and D to the next highest G is four more. Guess it's the same with other 3-string tunings? Comments?

      So how do I tune the A to low G? Tighter? Looser?

      BTW. I have a Snark tuner.

      Thanks again to all.

    • Most instruments that press down to the finger board are fretted. Pressing a thin string down with no frets won't sound right, as your finger is deadening the string. Slide is the way to go
    • violin, viola, cello, bass...

    • FYI. I had this working in 2006. I have it installed not but have not activated if for other reasons. If you want to have a go at it send me an email or post here.


    • Except...I have a Shane Speal 100-year-old cedar box 3-string slider that can actually fret notes quite well, just by pressing down the strings to the fretboard. You can actually play it microtonally, like an oud.
    • Valid point, much like a fretless bass... still..  hmm... ok, I got nothin. 

    • This may be a stupid observation, but wouldn't it be more accurate to specify tuned notes by frequency, accurate to 1% or so? 

      Many of my friends play Medieval music, and in that world, A=390-420 or so, and their stuff sounds out of tune to other musicians. Getting into Central Asian or African music, the Western scale system doesn't fit. Since the Diddley Bow and many of its relatives don't come from a modern Orchestral tuning system, wouldn't it make sense to take some of the older field recordings, run them through any of the free, downloadable software FFT frequency analyzers and then work out the scale actually in use? 

      Just wondering. 

      Gordon Cooper

      Bremerton WA


    • Gordon,
      Yes, tuning by freq would be better, and is actually much easier on a fretless. When you introduce frets, and because most standard fretted guitars are tuned to equal temperament, scientific frequency notation starts to fall apart just a teensy, but noticeable, bit. Some luthiers have attempted to get around this combined intonation / compensation problem by using individually adjustable bridges, as on many electric gits, or by slanting the bridge / saddle combo to approximate what is needed for each string, as on many acoustic gits. Other luthiers have handled this by creating fretboards with individually adjusted frets, which makes the fretboard look as if it has been invaded by drunken steel earthworms.

      Using my grandfather's old call sign W5QKZ ;-)
    • Hello Gordon,



      Thanks for your reply.

      Interesting comments and observations. If you have other like comments / design details please feel free to pass them back.


      Yesterday I picked up a library copy of:

      Guitar making, tradition and technology : a complete reference for the design & construction of the steel-string folk guitar & the classical guitar / William R. Cumpiano

      It contains many interesting discussions, including one on strings for plucked instruments and another on the physical laws of vibrating strings.

      Eye Bolt Tuners

      Trying to tune my three string build has raised a question about eye bolt tuner placement and vector directions of the force. I'll post some comments in less technical sense separately


      Are you actively licensed under that call sign? On the air?

      One item on my top 1000 projects list is reestablishing Echo Link.

      Otherwise I'm a big Skype fan.


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