Hello Nation-ites

Tonight while searching around I discovered the Diddley Bow. Awesome!  Gotta make one now.  I'm in the middle of a 3-string CBG build  waiting on hardware (estimated arrival Thursday) but why wait. I need some info though. Looks like a CBDB is about the same construction as a CBG just with a narrower neck and one string. Am I right?  Main questions:


1) What kind of neck Length and Width are we looking at?

2) Will the standard piezo pick-up suffice for the CBDB?

3) What size guitar string is ideal and what is the ideal tuning for that string?

4) Any secrets on getting the best sound out of these things (box size, pick-up placement)

5) Are there any fret markings or anything or is this a good solid fretless project?


I've got a couple of buddies who say they can't play anything. Maybe I'll build them both one. I figure anybody body can learn to play a one stringed instrument (well, I guess almost anyone).


Thanks for the help!



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Well JD, this ones about as wide open "no rules" as it gets.

Study the pics and you will find d-bows in various sizes and materials, the variety boggles the mind.

Some use piezos, a piezo in an Altoid can seems popular. Others use mag pups of every type, style and fit them in many unusual ways.

Every string known to man seems to have been used. Coat hangar to weed whacker string. Try just using what you have around. Tuning? Tighten the string until it sounds good, or feels right. Unless you are trying to accompany another instrument its irrellevent.

Best sound? well thats in the ear of the beholder. Soft acoustic twang, or raucous screaming distorted loud, up to you. Box, no box, 2X4, metal pipe, be creative and show us what ya got!

Fretless, no marks, just a string stretched between two points. Most of the time. Or you can build it more as a one string lap steel with a marked "finger board" if that pleases you. I kind of like the single string out in space banged on with a stick while attacking  it with a beer bottle for a slide style thing myself, but thats just me. Or not.

Yeah, anyone can play one. Just try to play like some of the guys you hear. Go ahead. Sounds easy. Looks easy. Can be quickly humbling I can tell you. First you have to have an ear for tone, because thats what you really rely on, Ear and feel.

Build one! Or three! Attack it! Shred it!

And have fun! (And share!)

I made a diddley bow with one of those "Wonderful Copenhagen" shortbread biscuit tins you get for xmas and a piece of 1" aluminium channel bolted on top for a neck.It has a 57 cm scale length,with 2 octaves worth of fret marks.I am thinking about putting in a piezo as it's not very loud,though this is good at night when I don't want to annoy the ''chief executive",but need to play something.I marked the frets on mine with a hacksaw in a mitre box and filled the cuts in with permanent marker for visibility.If your friends don't know how to play,this could be a big help.

Lap style DB.


License Plate Reso DB


A regular cbg style DB is similar to the LP , just with a cigar box.


I prefer bass strings on a lap style, they can be tuned just about anywhere. On cbg type, low E from a regular six string set. Regular piezos work great.

BUT, a bass E string tuned low E on a lap style with a bass mag pup played thru a 100 watt bass amp is a religious experience.




two words. true dat.



Hi JD-

For a cigar box diddley bow I would suggest a string length similar to a regular guitar and a heavy acoustic guitar string ( low E or A) to start with. Piezos are okay while your friends are learning to play. For public performances they may need a pre-amp that can act as a volume control/EQ.

For a lap style diddley, you might want to look at my website www.onestringwillie.com . When you have all the material lined up you can build one in 10 minutes that will sound great. For the lap style made with a broom wire string, I strongly recommend an electromagnetic pickup. That said, I have a lap style DB with a guitar string and Altoids can bridge with apiezo inside (all made by Willard) and it sounds great.

If you are going to be serious about playing, I would put some position markers on with blue painter's tape. Take a look at my website for what I do.

Best regards, Willie

even i can make a DB sound half good lol!

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!


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