Trash To Music?

20151201_153924Yep, a bro has already written a book you can find via called “One Man’s Trash”, but here is a short list for you if you wish to consider it.


I have found any small piece of pipe regardless of conduit, copper or of course socket wrench pieces as well as any small enough glass bottles that fit your finger and are long enough to cover the string or strings on your cigarbox or found-object guitar are all around… IF you look for them or notice them. Sometimes you must clean them up, hit them with sandpaper or steel wool to smooth them out, or use a brass wheel on a screwgun (wear a glove or hold the metal slide with a needle-nose pliers or n.n. vicegrips while you evenly work the wheel around it to smooth out. You can also use a sanding head in a screwgun that will nicely smooth out the sharp edges inside both ends of a metal slide. At worst, you may need a hacksaw (buy a couple extra metal blades) to create slides that fit your particular git. You can recycle hot sauce or other bottles for slide playing if you are using a guitar in your lap, on a table top, keyboard stand or the like. which brings me to:


Dowel rods, pencils, sharpie markers, a hacksawed section of discarded arrows (bow and arrow type) or fishing rod, light bits of copper or other pipe material, even a good solid stick from a tree branch all work to beat rather than pick the string of a 1 stringer diddley bow, but as long as the strings are high enough off the body and neck the same can be done on more strings if you like. I find it very cool to get that rhythmic/percussive thing going that way rather than use a pick or my fingers on every song in a set or recording. And now that you mention it:


Well when I was 13 in my first band, we often broke guitar picks so went to using doubled-up bits of matchbooks as we all smoked at that point. They would fray and shred and made a mess on our guitars. Over time as a cigarbox guitar player I realized picks can be made of nearly any of the right thickness plastic, even sanded at the edges to whatever shape one prefers. Thick enough plastic from bottles, drink mix containers, even cds/dvds will yield picks and you can simply use a “real” pick of whatever shape you favor as a template, using a marker to outline, then a cheap dollar store scissors to cut it out, sand and shape. The truth is I often don’t bother sanding the one’s I make for myself as I just don’t care so much if I am not going to give it as a gift or sell it. I gave up buying picks long ago and rarely use store-bought ones. I happen to prefer a bit larger triangular picks. But wait- old credit cards, gas cards and such work great. Yes, some shred as they are just too thin or not made of material that will hold up but many work great. Now- I am not about snatching stuff from companies, but I have been to plenty of gas stations who thrust their credit/gas/points cards and applications into my hands. So when I get home I either cut them into picks or… some have added one or more very small cards for your keychain along with the larger wallet size card, and I have taken to using them. No time to make ’em? Pre-made and free!


So if you are into soldering pickups, volume and/or tone controls and inputs into cigarbox, found-object or canjo guitars, why not pay attention to your or other’s discarded computer, monitor, or other cables/cords that have been tossed? You now have an endless supply of free, useful wire, often already decent quality and shielded. Why pay for a few inches of quality wire if you are trying to do-it-yourself and/or want to make music or build for others on the cheap? Grandma’s fried radio or a neighbor’s trashed boombox might be your ticket to wiring and possibly other parts or even cosmetic coolness you can then screw into or epoxy to your work-of-art guitar or bass… and the price was right.

See to me, the imagination and creativity, the artfulness as well as “what can I do for free or very cheaply but still make quality stuff to play” is a massive part of the fun and joy I get out of doing cigarbox and found-object instruments.


Now over at you can find an amazing load of info. on buying wire in bulk, etc., especially if you are doing the 1 or 2 stringer route. You can get LOTS cheap. has an amazing assortment of strings and more than you will ever dream of re. all things cigarbox music- and no, nobody’s pays me to say this, I just dig the folks and what they offer and do. Having said this, what about each time you change strings on a store-bought acoustic or electric guitar or bass for that matter? You will often find -especially if you are only going to use them for slide playing… that you can get many more months of life out of those old strings by putting ’em on your newly built cbg. IF you clean them well with a cloth and  perhaps a bit of polish, stretch them well, then tune and don’t do a ton of re-tuning way up or down, it is absolutely amazing the life you can get out of repurposing those strings on a cbg. I would not sell or even give such away on a build of mine, but again, for myself, especially when running them through an amp or just playing acoustically for myself I find the nuances of new strings don’t “send me over the rainbow” all that often on such gits and in such applications. You don’t NEED to always put brand new strings on an older, funky cigarbox git or diddley bow.


Hope this helps and encourages someone to have a go -and as always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn


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