I was going through some of the posts over at cigarboxguitar.com looking at the historical articles and pictures and it seemed to me that most of the old instruments are either diddleys, or they're homebuilt versions of traditional instruments like ukes, banjos and violins. Are there any period examples of 3 stringed guitars out there?
I know there are plenty of 3 string instruments from around the world, but as far as American roots instruments are concerned the only thing I could think that would compare is the Appalachian dulcimer with its 3 strings and 151 tuning. Maybe they are cousins, but especially as it relates to the blues and how we generally approach these things today, I'm beginning to think 3 stringers might be a more modern idea than I thought.
Are there any historians out there that could shed some light?
Thanks turtlehead for your research, I think you are fully right. Remains the question about the predominant GDg-type tuning. I tried to check the video about the tuning used on the two gas can guitars
Some left-hander around who checks how Mac Arnold has his gas can guitar tuned? I get crazy watching and mirroring his finger work... hear and watch:
Blues in a Holler: Jam Session with Mac Arnold
Mac Arnold & Plate Full O'Blues: Cackalacky
Mac Arnold Live: Sweet Home, Chicago
Mac Arnold's musical journey began in the 1950s when he and his brother Leroy fashioned a guitar from a steel gas can, wood, nails, and screen wire.
Wow! Thanks for all that great information turtlehead. Thanks to Moritz as well for your informative comments. This is pretty interesting stuff to us CB instruments nerds and maybe to a few non nerds as well.
Maybe you've seen this Egyptian wall painting from 1420 BCE. I don't know what they called it but it will be hard to find an older example I think. And I am glad to hear Mac Arnold's name mentioned. He still tears up that 3 string 'gas can'. He is an amazing player (and lives about 90 miles from me).
It seems to me that a few people here are from the Dulci world so 3 and 4 strings nothing new. But the number of strings game is a endless search, I think some of you people get wrapped up in the 3 string thing because of the challenge . 1-5-1 you can play a simple rhythm fairly easy but some of you guy's take it to the next level and that's addictive. Everything I do on 3 string is innovative to me because I have no clue of what I'm doing. If it sounds good with 1 string it will probably sound better with 2
Maybe we have to ask another question: how a two- or three-string box was played? Early country bluesmen typically played the melody part on the high string and used the lower ones mostly as drone strings. An archaic example is Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Jack O' Diamonds", two takes from 1926, which could be played on a diddley bow with a drone string:
A drone is most often placed upon the tonic or dominant, or on both, so not only a box tuned Gg, but also tuned GDg, could be considered as a diddley bow with a drone string or drone strings: same tunings, but totally different instruments, depending from how the box is played...