I'm sure this will bring out an unlimited number of opinions, but that just let's us all learn more.

I've built many CBGs over the past years that had 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 strings. I have enjoyed all of them, but while playing my latest four-stringer, I started wondering how many strings was optimum.

Here is my take.

A one stringer with a piezo is a lot of fun to play and teaches the importance of rhythm, but in the end, it seem a bit limited.

A two strings. Fact is, I haven't built one.

A three stringer: I've built many of of these with piezo and mag pickups. They are easy to construct. Don't need a truss rod and are fun to play aggressively with. Still, I sometimes feel like I would like a few more playing options.

A four stringer Is, for me, close to optimum. Tuned to Open D or Open E, the two bottom strings work very well together for slide blues. The top string can be used to match your tenor run, but an octave lower. This sound good. The third string often seems to get lost in slide blues. Still, a four string doesn't need neck reinforcement and is just about as easy to build as the three stringer.

A five stringer add that important bass string that can be used for the bass walk-down so common in blues. When playing my four stringers, I often miss having that bass string. The five stringer can be built without neck reinforcement if the strings are not too heavy. I tend to add a truss rod just to be sure and to allow the neck to be thinned a good bit.

A six stringer offers all the benefits of a six strings, but it also has all the complexity of a six stringer. I've built at least five six string CBGs and enjoy plying them, but, depending on tuning, the top (bass string) is left out of the action much of the time. Because of the building demands, six strings are not my top pick for the optimum CBG.

I know every string designs has benefits, but I'm starting to think that If I could only have one instrument, the five stringer would provide the greatest bang for the buck. Complexity is about the same as a four stringer, but that added bass string really helps your sound.

So, what do you folks think.

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haha good luck Tom          I play more 4 but is it better?

It was best for me to begin playing with a 3-string slide.  You've got a string for each of your three picking fingers; thumb, 1st and middle finger.  Your solo string is the same note as the bass and doesn't require learning another string's notes at first.  The GDG, diad tuning in not really a chord but sounds Bluesy to me.  Besides going down the neck, there is a minor Blues Pentatonic "Box" similar the 6-string boxes, all strings for; two frets down, key you are in and three frets up.  I tune some of my guitars to GDB a major chord inversion that sounds happier.  There is quite a bit of "music magic" about a 3-string slide guitar.  I doubt I'll stop playing my 3-string slide box guitars.

After learning some skills on a 3-string slide, I am now trying a 4-string slide tuned to GDGB.  This requires some method of muting another string.  For me, this has turned out to not be so simple.  The GDGB tuning does have much more flexibility.  We have the same Diad as the 3-string and now have two inversions of a major chord giving us much more music flexibility.  I can still do my solos on the high "G" string until I learn the notes of the "B" string.

At my age, since I'm not exactly blessed with natural musical talent, I doubt I'll ever mess with more than 4-strings or frets either.

Just my opinion.

Uncle Fred

Well stated, Fred.

I figure everyone is different in age, build and talent. I think the options for 3 to 6 strings gives plenty of room for everyone to find something that fits what they bring to the party. I doubt that one setup fits all, but it;s fun to think about.


I started many years ago on std tuning on a 6 string guitar. I played a 12 string on and off for years as well until it got stolen...

my first build was a 3 string thats tuned DAd (is that the right way to write it? ) then a single string canjo type thing with dulcimer type fretting. 

the canjo is fun but limited due to the fretting. the 3 string in D just screams Irish music and i am having heaps of fun trying to figure it out. i will build a 6 string because i got a neck cheap and its a short scale so will feel different. but i really want to try a 4 string.  so many tuning possibilities. GDGB as said previously but i want to try EADG  or DGBE so i can play some stuff i am used to.. i can now see that i need at least 3 , 4 string CBG's ...ha ha ha will this madness ever end????

There is no CORRECT answer here.  3s and didleys are most historical and classic.  I like them both.  But if I can only have one guitar it would be a four

I can do more on a DGBE - all keys with a capo or love the sound of GDGB with a combo of slide and finger chords and picking.

I can't decide. So if I could have only one guitar it would have a full size, fretted, low or no radius neck and have threaded rod for nut and bridge. That would give me all the stringing options I need. :D

If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. just add/subtract strings as you fell like it.

I'll be happy if I can ever master 3 strings

Yes, I meant to say 6 tuners as well. That's how I built my first two. One is currently strung as a 3-stringer but with unison courses (GG-DD-gg) and the other as a 4-string in mandolin tuning with two octave courses (gG-D-aA-E). Lots of options.

Interesting idea of running dual course on two strings. Why did you pick the G and A strings over the D and E strings?

Those were the only strings available at the Gratiot County String Repository (i.e.my shoebox of strings). And looking it over, the A strings aren't octave, they are unison but with two different gauges, probably 16 and 12. I tried to get a 8 and 9 to up to A but they broke.

I've really love playing on my 25'' 1/2'' scale, 3 string fretted tinjo ,built a few 2 stringer chuggers and diddleys all with piezos they have there place but not for me ,im onto building my first 4 string rig and looking forward to the learning curve again ,but I think the fun and raw bluesy sound im getting from my tinjo will keep me sated till then , great topic and some great replies as well .


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