Do Write Songs On Your Cigar Box Guitar?

Do you write entire songs on your cigar box guitar?

Listen to the spoken version of this blog post here.

Do you write songs to be played with a slide or fingered notes (or both)?

Do you write lyrics?

Do you write multiple parts for the song or one simple three-chord progression throughout?

Most importantly, do you write entire songs on your CBG?

I don't.

Once in a while, I'm inspired to write a little riff that's fun to play.

Kind of like the one in this video...


The riffs I write have a few notes strung together with a beginning and an end, but that's about it.

But writing a song?

Forget about it.

Songwriting is Intimidating

The whole idea of

  • thinking up a story
  • writing lyrics for the story
  • creating a chord progression and melody that fit the story
  • and piecing it all together for an entire song

is bananas to me.

Bananas because of how complicated it all seems.

Plus, as someone who doesn't sing but in the most private moments, the thought of performing a song with vocals for anyone else is terrifying.

And all I really want to do is have fun.

Playing Should Be Fun

Sure, it'd be awful nice if I played like so many of the guys and gals with videos here on the Nation and beyond.

You know the folk (perhaps you're one of them): despite whatever hangups they may have once had, these performers have worked hard to improve their playing, their songwriting, and their singing.

Some of them write their own songs, too.

Since the rest of us enjoy their songwriting, hopefully, the performers enjoy sharing their work. 

Every day, new videos featuring all sorts of players with varying tastes and styles are uploaded to numerous internet platforms. 

While I love seeing what other people are capable of doing -- creating and sharing their own art, even if it's a song they haven't written -- part of me watches the performances with envy.

Envy, as you know, is a slippery slope.

Once on it, tumbling to the bottom where I'm not enjoying the guitars I've built is pretty quick.

For the most part, those performers I envy seem to be having fun.

And isn't that the point? 

Define Fun for Yourself

I mean, isn't the reason why the majority of us cigar box guitar builders and players do what we do is because it's fun?

So, while I sometimes enviously watch a CBG performer, I try not to turn his or her enjoyment into expectations of how I should enjoy playing my cigar box guitar. 

Perhaps my version of fun is exactly what I need:

little riffs, here and there;

little bits of music created as an expression of whatever I felt in a particular moment. 

There's nothing deep about this subject, just an honest admission that perhaps writing entire songs isn't what I need to have fun.

Perhaps all I need is a little riff.

Just a little something to enjoy the guitar I've built.

What about you? 

Do you write entire songs on your cigar box guitar?

Last thing --

here's tablature for the riff played in the above video

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Comment by ILL GREEN on February 17, 2019 at 3:12pm

For me, its where it all begins. I don't think about it or consider it playing, its more of doodling dreams on the strings and recording it when to going gets good. Toss it in the sampler and construct a song in there, then it goes into my 8 track to finish with vocals or whatever until its mastered. 

Its not easy, but I try to maintain that flow. Thats why I agree with Dennis and Anonymous when they say its the guitar. Sometimes, I have played stuff thats just not my lane, but you go with it and see where it goes. Music is music, keep experimenting and dream with it.

Comment by Dennis "Denbo" Goodinson on February 16, 2019 at 1:25pm

I'm with Pick & your thoughts are mine too. It's like mind block when you press record. I can't sing to save my skin so complete songs are out of the question. It's mostly about fun. I like riffs, I like mixing & improvising riffs by everyone else. If I have a long session basically just jamming with myself I might come up with a riff to use a a basis for a full instrumental,. I record it then & there so I'll come back to it or I'll forget it. Like you I admire those who can do their original stuff. Also I admire the few on here that can take a well known song & change it completely making it their own, & develop their own style. One thing's a fact, I've spent 50-odd years playing (copying) mainstream artists' music on 6 stringers but I've had more fun the last few years building & playing home made instruments.

Comment by Donkey on February 13, 2019 at 7:32am

the anonymous pick,

I couldn't agree with you more. 

Unfortunately, every guitar I've played has forced me to spend at least double the amount of time I had planned for recording a riff. 

CBGs, it would seem, enjoy my mounting frustration as I try over and over again to get one serviceable recording.

There must be some sort of black magic involved.

Riffs that seem otherwise effortless pre-recording become Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 immediately after touching the large red "record" button on my phone.

*sigh

Such is life with cigar box guitars. 

That there are players who write their own stuff and successfully record performances of it all never ceases to impress me.

Comment by the anonymous pick on February 12, 2019 at 12:03pm

Wanna make your guitar laugh ,,, tell it exactly what you are going to play  when  you  click   "record" .  ;-)

In  building  as in playing , many times.... the guitar decides . 

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