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How to play a fretless cigar box guitar

 

A fretless cigar box guitar can be played just like a slide guitar but with the fingers instead of a slide. It can also be played with a slide.

When playing with the fingers, keep in mind that without frets, each note will be somewhat muffled with very little sustain. The frets will make the note sound full and round and it will sustain much longer. This is normal so don't be surprised when your notes are very short on a fretless cbg.

Many people play fretless instruments such as basses, however the heavier strings make the notes sustain much longer and they will be louder. The smaller strings on a fretless guitar will have lower volume and not as much sustain. This will force the player to modify their style. For example, playing long sustaining notes will not be possible and shorter notes will be played.

Many people play blues on a fretless cigar box guitar, sliding up and down the strings with their fingers to create melodies. However, you cannot slide on more than one string at a time with the fingers, you'll need to use a glass or metal slide. I use my fingers to play walking bass lines on a fretless cbg and the slide is used to barre across the strings which makes a chord.

Because of the nature of a fretless guitar, many people tend to play in the lower register with their fingers, and a slide in the upper register. Because the guitar is generally tuned to a chord, only one finger is used to fret the walking bass line, the other strings resonate along with the fretted notes creating a full sound.

Chords are only possible when either using open strings or just a few notes. Barre chords are not possible because there are not frets for the strings to resonate against. This is where you use the slide to make barre chords. Simple 1 or 2 finger open chords can be used as well.

How do you know where the notes are? By ear. The mor you play, the better you'll get. Some people who've never played guitar before have toruble starting off on a fretless guitar because it's difficult at first to know where the note are. it took me about 2 hours to be able to blindly slide to the proper not and hit it every time. it took about 2 weeks to get good enough to play a gig. Keep in mind that I've been playing guitar for nearly 30 years but 'veterans' of say 5 years or more should have no problem nailing slide notes on a fretless. Also many fretless cigar box guitars have fret markers on the side of the neck.

The best way to get good and a fretless cigar box guitar is to busk, that is play on the street for tips. Sure you may hit some bum notes but it's not boring like practice can be at home :)
Two or three 3 hour busking excursions and you should have it down pretty well.