Learning how to play

It would be great if you could learn how to play your cigar box guitar in one simple lesson but, despite what you may have been told, that's simply not possible. The promise of a magic solution may be alluring but it is ultimately a false one. There's no tooth fairy and you can't learn to play a cigar box guitar in one lesson or with one finger or any of the other crazy claims that are out there.

It is possible though to learn how to play, not in one lesson perhaps but with a simple philosophy, one skill at a time.


Learning how to play a cigar box guitar is not a whole lot different to learning a regular 6 string guitar. There are a set of skills that you need to develop in order to operate your instrument and the way that we learn those skills hasn't changed in a very long time. It's very simple, you build them slowly, focusing on one thing at a time. You become proficient at simple skills, they sound good and you can hear your progress. As you improve, skills that were once beyond you become second nature and you are ready to develop further.

Left Hand

Left hand skills include using a slide and learning how to fret notes, build chords and move efficiently around your fretboard. First you hit one note cleanly, then two, then you'll play a riff, then you'll add some vibrato and on it goes. After you can fret one note cleanly you learn how to play two, one after the other, in time, so that your hand is still, it's relaxed and the sound is crystal clean. Eventually you'll learn to simply fall into the correct position to play and you're ready to learn simple chords. It's not rocket science but you do need someone to lead you through it.

Right Hand

Right hand fingerpicking skills include playing with your thumb and fingers together and independently across all 3 or 4 strings. If you're using a pick then you better know how to hold it before you do anything else. There are exercises to get started on one string, then two, then strumming, double stops, on it goes. Nothing is left to chance.

Songs to play

Of course it's not all exercises and new skills. Along the way there are songs to learn that target the particular stage of your learning and allow you to develop musicianship skills as well. Your ear is improving without you even knowing it and you're getting some reward for all your hard work, pushing you to learn even more.

The Thing

I'm a teacher, I teach, it's what I do.

I know what skills you need to learn, I know what sequence you need to learn them in, I know what you need to do achieve success. There's no substitute for experience and I've seen this process unfold before my eyes more times than I can remember.

It works.