Header

HomeProductsSupportSatisfied CustomersBuyNews

The term "Support" sounds too corporate, but that is effectively what this page is about. Included are writeups, tips, and instructions for people who have purchased a guitar or other item from me, and are looking for some help. I provide this information because I care about your experience with my stuff and don't want to leave you high and dry. But in the end, you bought it, and "its yours now."

Tuning
Intonation
Return policy
String selection
Changing the Action
Mounting a Magnetic Pickup
How to Get in Touch With Me

 

divider

Tuning

A cigar box guitar can be tuned in any number of ways. The most common style of tuning is to tune the strings such that you get a chord when strum all strings without any strings fretted. One of the most common tunings for a three string CBG is GDG commonly called "Open G", and that is the tuning your guitar came to you with. Below are three tuning methods, ranging from the simplest (and crudest), to the best (involves an electronic tuner). They assume you will be tuning to GDg, but the approach can be applied to many other scales. For a little background, Keni Lee has a great video introduction to chord theory, strings, and tuning here.

The specific key you tune your guitar to is a personal preference. The most common factors are
* Availability tutorials - which key are they tuned to"
* Your voice - if you enjoy singing while you play, you will sound better in one key over another.
* Other preferences - Songs you know, friends you play with, chords you grew up with. Whatever. The good news, is there is no "correct" key to tune your CBG to.

 

Tuning Method 1 - Just make the bad sounds go away.
This method assumes that you really don't care what note the guitar is tuned to, but you want a good sounding note when all strings are strum at the same time. Lets assume you like the tone of the largest top string. Finger the 7th fret (between the 6th & 7th fret). Then tune the middle string to that note. To tune the smallest lower string, finger the middle string at the 5th fret.

Tuning Method 2 - Just watch a video and follow along
This method assumes you have access to the internet. The following links provide step-by-step instructions on tuning your cigar box guitar.

Open G Tuning for a Cigar Box Guitar - by smojomusic
Open E Tuning for a Cigar Box Guitar - by smojomusic
Open A Tuning for a Cigar Box Guitar - by smojomusic

Tuning Method 3 - Buy an electronic tuner.
There are a number of good electronic tuners on the market. This devices either plug into the guitar, or clip on and provide a metered indication of the note of the currently played string. I personnally like a unit called the "Snark" because it just clips onto the headstock near the tuners; no cable required. You can pick one up on eBay for about $10-15.
snark tuner


<return to top>

divider

Intonation

Intonation refers to the accuacy of notes played on the different frets of a guitar. Intonation is set by adjusting the location of the bridge. Even with bad intonation, you can tune a guitar to the correct notes when not fretted. The problem comes in when you are expecting to get a particular note, say, on the 7th fret, or a chord played on the 7th and 9th frets of different strings. If the intonation is off, the notes will not sound right. Most cigar box guitars have what is called a floating or movable bridge, so the intonation needs to be adjusted from time to time.

For beginners... The bridge is the piece on the guitar where the strings touch the top surface of the CBG. The nut is the piece on the guitar where the strings touch the neck, up near the tuning heads. The term "open" refers to a string being played, well, open, with no fingers touching.

When the intonation is correct on a CBG tuned to open G, the note played on the largest top string at the 12th fret will sound the same as smallest bottom string played open.

The simplest way to dial in the intonation of a CBG is to use an electronic tuner. Some people can adjust the intonation by ear, but I prefer using a tuner. The theory is the same regardless of what tuning you choose, but the instructions below assume an open G tuning.

1) Attach the tuner to the head stock of the guitar.

2) Without touching any strings, tune the large top string to G.

3) Pressing down on the large top string WITH THE AMOUNT OF PRESSURE THAT YOU TYPICALLY PLAY WITH, strum the string and notice where on the tuner scale the note is. If the note is flat (too low, or to the left or lower end of the scale on the tuner), the bridge needs to be moved closer up toward the nut. If the note is sharp (too high, or to the right or uppend end of the scale on the tuner) the bridge needs to move farther away from the nut. Adjust the bridge up or down ~ 1/8".

4) Repeat steps 2 & 3 until the note played open and on the 12th fret are very close to G. You will get some minor variations depending on how hard you press down, but get it as close as you can within 5 or 6 tries.

5) Repeat steps 2 & 3, but this time with the small bottom string. Also tune to G, but one octave higher than the first string. It should be very close, but will likely require some adjustment. Be careful to try to keep the location of the first string the same, by rotating the bridge, not sliding the whole thing.

When you think you are done with step 5, go back and double check the tune and intonation of the larger top string. Repeat the process until you have it dialed in, or have it close enough and your patients is fading.

When complete, the bridge will most likely be slanted a bit with the bottom end slightly closer to the nut than the top end. The difference is related to the change in pitch a string has as it is stretched (fretted), and the different amount of stretch you get with small diameter vs. large diameter strings.

<return to top>

 

divider

Return Policy

My return policy depends mostly on two factors. Why are you wanting to return the item, and is it still under warranty.

I warranty all of my products for 60 days from the date of delivery.

If you decide within the warranty period that you just don't want it FOR ANY REASON (lost your job, spouse is upset you bought it, wild hair), but the item is in good working order, I will refund your purchase price of the item, but you are responsible to pay the to/from shipping charges. Payment will be made after I receive the item.

If the item is within the warranty period, and has a manufacturer defect (something caused by me, not you), and:

1) You just want your money back: return the item, and I will refund all shipping costs and the original purchase price

2) You want it fixed or replaced: we have a few options. I will contact you and see if it is something that can be resolved without shipping it back. If not, then I will pay postage both ways.

If the item is not within the warranty period, get in touch with me and lets see what we can work out.

<return to top>

divider

String Selection

Let me start of by saying that string selection is a personal preference. Lots of people have their opinions of which brands they prefer and which strings to use within a set. The following is my advice/guidance. Take it with a grain of salt.

1) Don't buy no-named strings. You might save a buck or two, but you will very likely be breaking a lot more strings. Probably not something you want happening on a camping trip or in the middle of a hot jam session on your back porch.

2) Use larger diameter strings if you are playing a lot of slide. Larger diameter strings will require more tension to obtain the same note relative to a smaller diameter string. One caution, higher tension strings will warp a neck quicker.

3) Use smaller diameter strings if you are playing a lot of fast, low action riffs, and/or like to really stretch the notes a lot.

For the guitars I build, I typically use Ernie Ball Regular Slinkies, and use the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings (36, 26, & 17 gauge). For customers requesting a guitar primarily for slide use, I use the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings (46, 36, & 26 gauge).

<return to top>

divider

Changing the Action

The action of a CBG refers to the distance between the strings and the frets. A guitar with low action is very easy to finger and takes very little downward force to fret a string. Unfortunately, the lower the action, the higher the chance of getting "fret buzz". High action takes more force to fret a string, but is easier to play slide with. Unless specifically requested, I try to tune most of my guitars to a medium action, at around 1/16" at the nut to around 3/16" at the last fret.

In general, the action is adjusted by changing the bridge.

To lower the action, loosen the strings, pull the bridge off, sand off a little wood from the bottom, put it back on, and tighten the strings back up. This can also be done without loosening the strings, but you will likely scratch the face of the guitar a little. Be careful not to remove too much material, or the strings will buzz against the frets. If this happens, you have two options: 1) Create a small shim from a piece of card stock, wood veneer, or other very thin material, and place it under the bridge or... 2) Get in touch with me and I will make you another free of charge, just pay the shipping.

To raise the action... (see the last part of the paragraph above).

After adjusting the action, you will likely need to dial in the intonation and re-tune the guitar.

<return to top>

divider

Mounting a Magnetic Pickup

High level Instructions

  1. Center the pickup under the string
  2. Drill the holes
  3. Mount the pickups and switch
  4. Wire the 2 pickup outputs to the two switch inputs.
  5. Wire the switch output to the volume pot or output jack.

 

Mounting Instructions:

1) Place a couple of pieces of masking or painters tape roughly at the center of where the pickup will go.

2) Determine where along the neck you want to mount the pickup.  I usually center mine ~ 3 inches from the front of the box (where the neck goes in).

3) Identify the center of the neck, where the middle string will pass over the pickup.  The intersection of these two lines will be the center hole of the pickup.

4) Using a T-square or other 90 degree straight edge,  measure off the two remaining holes, 1/2 inch from the center hold.

5) Drill the holes using a bit slightly larger than the provided screws.

6) The pickup mounts to the underside of the box lid, with the main wire pointing down or into the box. 

7) Cover the mating surface of the pickup with a generous coating of rubber cement or contact cement.

8) Thread the center screw from the outside of the box, through to the center hole of the pickup.  Do not tighten yet.  Thread in the other two remaining screws.

9) Tighten down the screws until the screw head just barely starts to bend or crush the top surface of the box.

10) Wipe off excessive cement.

If the pickup is not centered over the strings, remove the pickup, scrape off the cement, drill the holes in the box slightly larger (not larger than 2/3 the diameter of the screw heads), and mount again.

11) Mount the 3 way switch

12) Install the piezo pickup using your favorite technique.  I prefer to use hot glue... one large 1/8" thick blob... let set for 2 minutes, then another 1/8" blob, then press piezo in while second set of glue is still hot.  Do not press in too deep, and do not burn yourself.  I then coat the top surface of the piezo with another thin coat of hot glue.

Wiring Instructions
The pickup comes prewired with approximately 8 inches of shielded wire.  The outer mesh is the ground, and the inner copper core is the signal or hot lead.

1) Install volume and/or tone pots as desired, and the output jack. 

2) Cut the pickup wire to the desired length.  Strip off approximately 3/4" of the black coating, then unwrap the mesh, twist it into a single strand, then strip back approximately 1/4" of the inner coating to expose the center copper wire.

3) The 3 way switch is has two "inputs" and one "output".  The inputs are the red wires, and the output is the black wire.   The red wires from the switch go to the hot leads of the pickups, and the black wire goes to ground.

4) Solder one of the red wires to the red wire of the piezo. 

5) Solder the other red wire to the center copper wire of the pickup. 

6) Solder the black wire of the piezo to the outer mesh of the pickup wire.  At that joint, also solder in another length of black wire as the ground for the pickups.

7) Solder the new ground wire (from step 6) to the ground of the system.  If no volume or tone controls are being used, solder the black wire to the center contact of the output jack.  If volume and/or tone controls are involved, solder the black wire to the ground wire of one of the controls, or to the center contact of the output jack.

8) Solder the black switch wire (output) to the output of the system.  If no volume control is being used, solder this wire to the outer lug (large bent piece) of the output jack.  If a volume control is being used, solder this wire to the input side of the pot.  This is "usually" the right lug on the pot when looking at the metal back side.  

9) Cover all solder joint.  I prefer to use shrink wrap tubing, but electrical tape works as well.

<return to top>

divider

How to Get in Touch With Me

I am usually pretty responsive to email and phone calls. For the most part I am available daily from 7am to 11pm Central Standard Time. Also, if you have purchased from me, you will have my phone number either at the bottom of one of my emails, or on one of the business cards I include with each package. I do have a "day job", and may not be in a position to respond during regular working hours, but I will do my best to get back to you quickly.

<return to top>

 

 

divider

Goto Store For Custom Orders or Info Contact: Larry<at>MeadGuitars.com