Why make and
play a homemade traditional instrument?
Curiosity from the musician's point of view
What does the instrument sound like?
Since these tended to be beginner instruments:
Not many people have heard of diddley bows or cigar box guitars
Fewer have seen one
Fewer still have heard one
played--very few recordings exist
Fewer still have built one and played it
What can a musician (i.e. guitarist) learn from:
Working with fewer
with no frets—ear training?
Working with different tunings (if more than one string)?
Curiosity from the audience point of view
Unusual—attracts attention—what the heck is it???
Audience expectations are low—it is therefore extremely
entertaining to hear one in the hands of a good player.
Working within musical tradition and extending it
Some of the very best players started
on Cigar Box Guitars
Or diddley bows:
Blind Willie Johnson
Electric instruments for modern performers
Very little recording of these primitive instruments
Amenable to experimentation
and innovation—number of necks, strings, DIY pickups, playing techniques, etc, etc.
Enjoyable to make music on an instrument
you made yourself for less than the list price of a CD.
It is incredibly satisfying to make your own instrument and make music
with it. To me, people that buy a diddley bow or cigar box guitar without having made one are missing some
of the magic.
Is it the instrument or the player?
The cigar box guitar or diddley bow answers this question—you
can make good music from junk. This makes every subsequent trip to the guitar store much more amusing,
because it breaks the gear-habit.
Inexpensive, egalitarian, rugged, and portable
A person that gets up in front of an audience with
a diddley bow or cigar box guitar has to some degree discarded pretentiousness. This is just me doing this—this
is not my $3000 guitar.
The guitarist does not worry about leaving his guitar in the car on a hot day, or taking to the
You can take it anywhere.
Except for the board, you can
carry the stuff you need to build a diddley bow in a grocery bag, and you can build one in 5 minutes.
Artists are always self-taught:
Remember that the
music is in your head—it is up to the musician to bring the music in their head out of their instrument.
The cigar box guitarist
must teach himself—there are very few instructional materials. This is doubly true for diddley bow.
The guitarist can bring his "regular" guitar chops but they must be adapted. This is a fun
and interesting challenge.
The music is hard to label—the player will likely not sound like anyone but himself, and
should not expect to.
The player is forced out of his normal musical pathways (rut). Again, this
is doubly true for diddley bow.
Frees up creativity—the logical progression is that if you make your own instrument, you
might as well write your own songs.
There are no rules to playing a homemade instrument—you must work out your own way to play