Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Taming Piezo Pickups

Piezo pickups  can often be found in "normal" store bought six string acoustic guitars. They are more susceptible to feed back in high gain environments such as the stage than a electric guitar.  They have been used successfully on stage by thousands of musicians over the years so they can defiantly do the job if treated in the correct way

You can easily and cheaply purchase some piezo disks and a jack connectors and fashion you own pick up and it can produce some very good results.Resulting in a guitar that will act very similar way to a normal acoustic guitar when amped. More likely to feed back than an electric on stage but still very possible when approached in the correct way. They can also be used for recording http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LzNnatRBIY This track uses two guitars fitted with home piezo pickups

There are a few things too think about, firstly a piezo disk of approximate diameter of 20mm will have a quite  a high output, certainly more that a electric pick up. Also they will have a higher output impedance than an electric pick up.

In most "normal' acoustic guitars that have a pickup there will also be a small amplifier installed this helps to resolve the impedance matching problem by acting as a buffer between the pickup and amp. Most cigar box guitars do not have a pe-amp installed so we can suffer from a high output and impedance mismatch which will also contribute to feed back.

That combined with pick up placement can create a real hot rod of a guitar ready to disintegrate in a explosion of feedback when unleashed on an amplifier

After trying a few different ways of soldering the pickup in I came the conclusion wiring in parallel improves the impedance matching greatly but output is still quite hot. I have found covering the ceramic of the one of the pick ups with hot glue improves the tone. The piezo covered in hot glues will provide a more bassy tone and the other one will be more toppy. Together they make a better all round fuller sound.


Finally the placement must be considered after trying a few places I would say the nearer you can get to the bridge the better. Ideally right under it or on the opposite side as show above. I have found the signal to be too much if the pickups are mounted to the actual guitar top but you may have more Joy.
 Good luck !

You can buy my Guitars on line http://www.ecrater.co.uk/p/13233791/cigar-box-guitar

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Basic Slide Technique

Cigar box guitars kinda come in two flavors fret-less and fretted
Fret-less guitars may be a a little daunting if you have only experience of “normal” six string guitars
The purpose of this post was just to cover some very basic things about playing a fret-less cigar box guitar.
The ones I make are build just for slide work with a high action, the note is arrived by placing the slide on the string with enough pressure to make the note.
Some thing like this.

You don,t want to be trying to do some thing like below though. The the action is too high. Some fret less guitars will have a low action and you may be able to hammer down. With  a high action like this though the note will be out of tune and it will probably sound terrible.

Another thing to know is that notes can be picked and made to sound very much like it would on a six string by simply placing the slide on the position of the note and plucking.Think of it as replacing the fret with the slide. With a bit of practice this sounds just like it would if you had fretted a note. If you mix this up with sliding you can can some very good sounds.

To  demonstrate check this video out from sea sick Steve. 

You get some quick close ups of the neck, first thing to see is the action is about two weeks from the neck second its a broom stick, so not much chance of fretting the strings right down.
Listen to the verses there played with just the slide picking out the notes as I described above
Close you eyes as listen to the sound, quite like a rif being played on a six string right ?
Now check the chorus here Steve changes to slide style.
This is a really good example of how you can use these two techniques to make some really good sounds

Buy my guitars on line 


Monday, 16 April 2012

Strings and things

Most people will end up using guitar strings for their cigar box guitar. I think its worth spending some time looking at the types of strings that are an available. There are basically three types of guitar strings. Electric, acoustic and classical

You can put any on you cigar box guitar but there are a few things to know about them. Electric and acoustic strings are metal, Classical strings are nylon. metal strings have more sustain and are louder, they may be harder to fret though but if you’re planning on using the guitar for slide style playing this may not be an issue. Nylon or classical strings are usually slightly cheaper and will have less volume and sustain
Buying a pack of six strings maybe a good place to get your hands on some strings for your guitar. 

If you buy a set of six strings in any of the types discussed you will notice the manufacture of the strings will be different for different strings. The E A D strings will be wound meaning they have a core and then another string is wound round this core to make the string diameter bigger. The G B E strings will be unwound. This means they will just be a string made out of the relevant material.

So what does that mean to the cigar box guitar player? Well for me I do not like wound strings because of the noise or sensation they make when sliding from note to note. The unwound strings do not make this noise. This is just personal taste but may be worth considering.

Finally another approach is to use this site http://www.strothers.com/string_choice.htm
If you know you scale length (distance from bridge to nut) you can calculated the correct gauge for you guitar depending on how you want it tuned
Buy my guitars on line 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Setting the intonation

Setting the intonation on a cigar box guitar or any guitar usually makes a big difference. Many “normal” bought guitars may not have had their intonation set. Setting this up can make a lot of different to how the guitar plays and feels.

Differences in the string width result in slightly different lengths needed so most bridges allow you to change the length on the nut to bridge. Most cigar box guitars have a floating bridge, these are typically things like bolts or tubes, as these don’t allow individual string adjustment you will only need to do the top and bottom strings. If you have sensible string gauges the strings or string in the middle will be fine.This is a good site for getting your gauges right 

First tune the string to the desired note required for you particular tuning played open, secondly fret (or place your slide) at the twelfth fret and check your tuning. As this is one octave height you will have to move the bridge until you get the same note as when the string was played open.

It as good idea to check the open tuning every time you move the bridge, eventually you will arrive a  position where by you have the same note open as the twelfth fret. Once you have done this for the top and bottom strings you have set you guitar intonation

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Getto resonators

Resonators on guitars have been around for a long time. As well as making a guitar louder they give it a different tone.Drobro resonators are a classic example. I had been wanting to incorporate a resonator into one of my cigar box guitars for a long time.

I started to look at other peoples designs and builds and although they all looked very good and often sounded awesome to I was always put off by was having to sacrifice the straight through neck to achieve this. After a while I gave up on the idea.

Then one day while watching a video by Shane Speal I noticed he was playing a guitar with a simple resonator made out of a tin can lid under the bridge. I really like the sound of this guitar. So I made my own

 You can hear the guitar  being played hear  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUKbU7DMvrU&list=UUSMQga379wsMnh_AR0Zvo_g

I guess the conclusion is you can make a simple resonator out of a tin can lid and you dont need to lose the straight through neck.

Buy this guitar and other on line hear http://www.ecrater.co.uk/p/14271423/cigar-box-guitar-resonator