Build your own Ukulele
-Steps on how to assemble the Cigar Box Ukulele
What a cool show and what an AMAZING city. If ya’ll have never been I highly recommend checking out the scene on Broadway street and around the riverfront. There was live music spilling out of every bar/pub/restaurant. Everyone was so darn friendly and all of the musicians were so down-to-earth and… for lack of a better word, accessible. At one point while standing at the stage at the very crowded Legends Corner one of our new favorite singers, Becki McLeod smiled and pointed and waived right at us during set. She had remembered my partner Eddie and I from her show the day before. I can honestly say I’ve never been waved to from a musician on stage. NAMM did not disappoint and I am already getting excited for the California show!
If you’re in the music scene, you’ve probably realized by now that you need to do everything you can to stand out. If you show up to a gig with just a regular get-up and regular instruments, you can play your heart out and still not get noticed. Why not jazz up your appearance with something old-school and authentic like a cigar box acoustic guitar?
The indie scene today utilizes a lot of unconventional instruments. Among these are “lo-fi” instruments like those you might find in a jugband or even “children’s” instruments like cheap Casio keyboards. Homemade instruments are en vogue as well, so the cigar box guitar, as old-fashioned as it might seem, currently has a certain hip appeal.
Moreover, there’s more to the instrument than you might realize at first. These can produce a really great folksy sound to go along with their look, and the result is what you’ve always been looking for: sheer stage presence. First, however, you need to decide whether you’re going to use an online tutorial and commit to making one on your own or buy one premade from someone with experience.
If you do decide you want to buy a guitar from someone, be sure you look around and find a reputable maker. Because these instruments are fashionable, many people try to pass off low-quality models, and while they may indeed look nice, you’re not going to get a good sound out of them, ever. Others, on the other hand, may look like rubbish but sound like a Martin. You just have to know what you’re going in for, so ask questions.
One thing to take note of is that these are niche items. They are going to be worth the money you pay, so you may as well take the opportunity to inquire about customized models. Most makers probably don’t keep a big stock lying around, so it may not be much trouble on their part to use the wood or cigar box brand that you specify. This way you can have a personalized instrument for not much more in cost.
There’s a lot to be said for making your own instrument, though. This lends a certain spirit to the device that you may be able to bring out in playing. It’ll truly become an extension of you. This, however, is only true if you put the time and labor in. It’s possible to cheap out and finish a complete guitar in an afternoon but it won’t be good for much besides a child’s toy. Still, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, so it’s up to you.
Online tutorials are going to be your best bet when it comes to finding patterns and diagrams for these instruments. The underground scene that supports the cigar box guitar is still relatively new, so you’re going to find better info in the digital realm than in regular books or libraries. Try to find tutorials that teach the basics first, such as firmly attaching the neck, placing and cutting the sound hole, and stringing it.
Well, by now you should be well on your way to acquiring your first cigar box acoustic guitar, whether you decide to buy or build it. But why stop at one? It can be addicting to make others, especially when you consider all the modifications you can use to make it your own, or one you can hook up to an amplifier. Give it your best!