~ Early American Folk & Blues music~

There is a long forgotten fact in America, that is that in the 1880's this type of music was NEVER played on Fenders or Gibson or any of those store bought guitars, not only did they not exist, but at that time if you lived in poverty, there was no way to buy a nice guitar, so most people made there own. In the video above, a simple home made 3 string guitar is recorded with a small amp and nothing more, this is Primal Americana, this is the Blues!

A few words about this site

About this site, my name is John McNair. I love American History and Folk Music. I really enjoy learning about not only the music, but the instruments the people made it on. One thing I've noticed in my research of the 3 string guitar, is that there is a rich and long history in America. It has come in many forms over the years, but there is not much information out there on these guitars. For many years now I have struggled to obtain answers to all my curious questions.

Since there is not much information or any books on the subject about these instruments, I have tryed to gather and record as much as possible of the history of these wonderful and often quirky instruments and its players.

If you would like to learn more on this subject, check out my other site Red Dog Guitars.com

If you are reading this and wondering just "What's all the Hub Bub Bub with a Three string guitar???" I could ramble for days and show you countless photos that would dazzle your senses, but like they say, "If a photo is worth a 1000 words" than surely a video is worth a million???
Like most people, I am sure your first thought is "Why use only 3 strings, isn't adding a 6 string neck better???....You're going through all the effort of building a guitar, why not just put on 6 strings??" Well, when you add a 6 string neck, it sounds like a regular guitar no matter what you do or how you play. You'll never achieve that dirty south, raunchy Delta sound on a 6 string guitar or with a 6 string neck.

If you are bored with playing a regular guitar or tired of the continued invasion of Chinese made products and just can't seem to have fun making music, then what you need is to go back to the roots of how music is made. Try something simpler. This form of guitar will take you back to the lost early days of Blues and Folk music.

If you would like to play Delta Blues it's "airiness" that you hear comes from the music's simplicity, it is STRIPED DOWN, I am sure you have heard you only need 3 notes in a chord???? well, that's not true for Blues, you only need 2 notes! ...they only need to blend well (such as A and E) and most Blues music is based off one note at a time (most often slide guitar is one note ringing, everything else dampened)... Folk music is not suppose to be complicated, over refined, lickity split fretted notes, complicated jazz chords and scales, beefed up or masked with computer effects...it's just strum'n acoustic slide or plug n' play with lite power on a small amp....plus, for the guitarist, what more could be easier than playing simple slide guitar with a pluck here and there??? It's basically one finger guitar! Just connect the dots up and down the strings as you play, add slide and you've got that sound you've been after all those years but just couldn't ever find it no matter what 6 string guitar you've played.

That is the key and link to the Delta Blues that has long been forgotten in the mass market guitar world.

3 string guitars & Early Delta Blues

Many of the legends of early Blues got there start on simple homemade guitars.
This is the oldest know photograph of one "in action"

This photo is dated 1891,
there is similar paintings of them that pre-date this photo
but this is the original photo and is the oldest known. 

more history can be explored at reddogguitars.com


  Over 70 years ago, it's been documented that BB King got his start on guitar when his father made him a cigar box guitar. He was always a fan of them.

  Yep, in those small towns deep in the South, Juke Joints are still open and doin' well. There's a ruckus good time had by all, dancin', drinkin' and best of all the Blues...sometimes they'll put them ol' 45's on those crank driven record players, but sometimes Bluesmen just hop up on a stool and play away the night.
 Check out "Sonny Boy" playing his cigar box guitar 3-stringer.

Now that is good Old' fashioned Americana


This is an all Delta Blues and cigar box guitar album with only 3 sting guitar and Blues music.
  In this album I wanted to delve deeper into strictly authentic Delta Blues and BottleNeck music only played on three string cigar box guitar. The goal with this album was to take the listener back to the 1920's and 30's and relive those Dust Bowl BottleNeck Ballads and Delta Blues Guitar Spirituals only played with a 3 string cigar box guitar with NO SINGING or band, only vintage guitar playing.

If you love raw, primitive and Authentic Delta Blues, American Folk music or Bottle neck slide, you will listen to this CD 100's of times, covering all styles of Americana, from Son House's licks re-written "Red Dog" Style, to Woodie Guthrie's "Dust Bowl Ballads" that will leave your jaw on the floor and your ears weepin' for more. This disc is Old time Blues & Bottleneck slide guitar that will take you back in time.
Recorded with only 3 string cigar box guitars, this is a musical journey into Americas past, imagine walking through an old ghost town in the 1880's, the suspense, the mystery, the whispers that you can barley hear, there is many fantastic songs played in the Ry Cooder style that will take your breath away.
  NO regular guitars, NO singing, just homemade 3 string cigar box guitars. These are ALL NEW NEVER BEFORE HEARD SONGS.

Watch this video to hear some of the music on this CD.


 Whelp, enough chatter from me, the album is for sale anytime,.... if it's not your thing, thanks for your time in reading this and you can enjoy the short trailer of the album below... Thanks again, John

This item checks out for purchase thru Paypal with " Buy It Now." The shipping is a flat rate price and the same cost no mater how many items you buy or where you live. It's 2.15 world wide shipping.
After checkout, Paypal will bring you back to this page.

~Dust Bowl Blues~ CD$14.35 USD
shipping worldwide $2.15 USD
Yes, anywhere in the world same price, 2.15!

Shipping in the USA (8 to 12 days) First Class Mail
Overseas & Worldwide (14 to 21 days) Stamped "Air-Mail

Questions??? email john@reddogguitars.com

Old Timer Model -3-

No matter how fancy they look, It's just a stick running right thru a cigar box, that's what's so fun and neat about it ...and don't get me started on how much fun they are to play, so easy to sound like you just stepped out of the past.

I build and sell these guitars, email me at john@reddogguitars.com

How To Play 3 String Cigar Box Guitar

      Do you want to play really great 3 string Delta Blues guitar?


Anyone can master 3 string guitar....yes, I said it, I said the "M" word!
Even if you have tried learning to play guitar in the past, You CAN master the 3 string guitar in playing BOTH styles of Delta Blues with and without a slide. It is not difficult, It just takes correct explanation of the techniques, patience and practice. Three string guitar is something you can learn, and at any age, even if you are in your 50's, 60's, or 70's and have tried to learn to play guitar before.
This DVD explains American music the way it was played from the 1880's to the 1930's. It teaches you how to "capture" that old time Blues era and sound in your playing.
Watch this short clip to see the easily understood playing techniques to becoming a great 3 string guitar player. 

Most primitive Delta Blues and early American Folk music was created by people who could not read or write music, Nor did they know any music theory or even what an A chord was.
The truth is you DO NOT need to learn what an 'A chord' or what any chords are to play great sounding cigar box guitar.
If the people who created old time Folk and Blues music did not know chords, than neither do you.
This DVD shows you how to get that raw Delta Blues sound without headaches or over-thinking it...all without having to know any, math, chords, theory, or unnecessary garble. All of which what was never meant to be so difficult.

This DVD covers all the sounds from Vintage finger plucking and Delta Bottleneck slide and even Raw Electric Blues.
 Also covered and often overlooked is one of the absolute most important aspects, HOW TO CORRECTLY TUNE a 3 string guitar BY EAR.
 I will show you how to tune without ever using a tuner, or even knowing the names of the notes. I will explain how to tune the guitar with itself to play any style.
We will also cover how to  correctly set up your guitar so you get those early 1920's vintage sounds.
 We will also cover something very important to the overall sound, and that is the different pickups available for electric guitars and most importantly of all, we will cover how the amp itself gives you part of that "Old Timey" sound.
 I also will cover and explain  the strings and various sizes with explanation about their tone and tension, Different slides with in depth explanation about their contrast in your playing and more.
   You will enjoy learning and watching this DVD comfortably on TV. This is a real DVD, you will not need to sit in front of a computer or hunched over a laptop. You will be able to learn more relaxed while watching it on Television. Sitting and learning in a comfortable position is important.This DVD plays in all DVD and Blu-ray players worldwide, both NTSC and PAL encoded TV's will play this DVD on your Television.

 Alright, your still here?

Watch this video below and watch the slide, you will see it is VERY simple.
...Slide guitar is basically ONE FINGER GUITAR!
I am not going to teach you anything you cannot do, so DON'T think you can't learn this or play this type of music, you can, It's easier than you realize.

On this DVD we are going to go over and study the simple things you need to do in order to master this Old Time Delta Blues sound. You can do this. Three string guitar the easiest form of guitar that there is to learn.
 Watch this video and you will see, there is NOTHING complex going on, this is something you to can do after you have been taught the correct building blocks.
Watch this video and meet me below when your done.

Now, in order to be fair, the DVD starts off with fingering the notes, you might or might not want to play the fingered notes and you might prefer to play slide guitar..... but studying where to PUT your fingers is mandatory for us to cover. This is how you will learn slide very fast. There is NOT any complicated chords or structure. There is only three strings, so if you have had a bad experience learning regular guitar in the past, this will not be the same, this is NOT difficult, 3 string guitar is something you can learn, and at any age, even if you are 70. You can do this.
 Once we combine together your knowledge of the fret board and the finger positions and the slide styles, you will see how really simple it is. You can then combine it with the slide, you will then understand the 3 string guitar.
 It really is that simple once the steps are broken down and properly explained. Once again there isn't much to learn this guitar, It is just a three string guitar. Old Blues and Folk music is simple by nature, that is part of the definition of "Folk Music" itself, it's simplicity.
That's what this DVD is about, That is in fact the name of this DVD. It's called "Understanding 3 string guitar."
American Folk music is super easy. That's what defines "Americana," the more you try to learn and the harder you try, the less it sounds like Delta Blues and the more it sounds like contemporary and European music.

Watch this video, we are going to teach you how to play fingering on a 3 string guitar, you can then apply it to "your style" and taste in music.

Put that style together with the slide, and a whole world opens up! You will have fun when you play guitar.
Watch this modern "Electric Slide guitar" ...it's down right Elec-tric!

I will show you ALL of those techniques to play those EXACT styles AND MORE,
 not just those songs...but different styles that make up American music,
you can freestyle and improvise forever on and make up a 1000 songs.

What's better? Learn and copy one song? Or learn how to make your own songs?
You WILL be able to build your own musicnot just play other peoples songs.

Yes, learning songs from other people is fun, but that is no crowning achievement. Open up your own world of music, it is truly is fun and rewarding at heart.

Here is something to think about, if some guy did it in a barn a 100 years ago, you can do it too. Try this,

Clear your mind....
Think of a peaceful time well over a 100 years ago. Think about an old barn or Farm house at the edge of a southern plantation. Imagine an old farmer or field hand who works the crops or in the field, just a person from the past who could not read or write holding his homemade guitar he made with old wood and simple tools.  He's just sitting on the porch or relaxing in front of that barn,
He's just strummin' away a breezy afternoon..... He's having fun and just entertaining himself with music he likes and making sounds that he enjoys.

Now,..... do you think he knew what a D chord was transposed over the major scale???? Do you even think he knew what in the heck a major scale was????

NO way!!!!

OK, so why would you need to know complex chords, scales and keys?

I have seen many how to play Lessons such as "Mel Bay" Resonator Guitar and Blues videos that were completely false and some were so incorrect that it would be impossible to get a truly vintage American sound by studying them.

I am going to be Frank, if someone tries explaining Blues music in this way, "it's a G,...open E.... or D tuning ....or this flat and that sharp," you are heading IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.....THAT is NOT Blues music. 

If many of the great Bluesmen of last century didn't know a G chord from a Flying Saucer or space-ship part... then why on earth do you need to know how to make a 'G chord' on a homemade guitar?

The honest truth is you don't.
That is what is so easy about the 3 string guitar, with proper instruction in learning how to play one, you will understand how to make the guitar make the "sounds" you want it to, you will make your own music. It really is that simple, you do not need to learn math or music theory. 3 string guitar is fun and simple.
Well, thanks for your time, If you want this DVD, it's always available here.
I can mail This DVD anywhere in the world, click below to order a copy
or email me at john@reddogguitars.com if you have any questions.

This item checks out for purchase thru Paypal with "Buy It Now." The shipping is a flat rate price and the same cost no mater how many items you buy or where you live. It's 2.15 world wide shipping.
After checkout, Paypal will bring you back to this page.
Understanding 3 string guitar How To Play DVD
$26.50 USD
shipping worldwide $2.15 USD
yes! anywhere in the world same price, 2.15!
Shipping in the USA (8 to 12 days) First Class Mail
Overseas & Worldwide (14 to 21 days) Stamped "Air-Mail
Questions??? email john@reddogguitars.com
 Thanks again for your time in reading this, John

Fun for all!

Bright smiles and sunny in the land of OZ!
Kate Ceberano on Blind Gee's 3 string
Made n' Played in Australia

The next Blues masters are starting young, but hey you could always build your own 3 stringer and try to catch up, nothing like learning something new.

This guy is like the perhaps the Coolest Grandpa ever. To enjoy family and create a close bond by building a three string cigar box guitar together, man this is cool!

This is an orignal advertisment for Fender Guitars from 1961

It says "the most imitated guitar in the world"

It's a young boy with a 3 string cigar box guitar and someone playing a Fender next to him. I only wonder who's copying who?

Cigar Box Guitars & 3 string Americana

If you enjoy authentic Delta Blues and cigar box guitar music from the late 1800's and early 1900's, this CD album is full of long lost sounds from Americas past. This is old time Delta Blues and Southern Bottleneck cigar box guitar that has been recorded on 3 and 4 string homemade guitars. If you liked the movie Crossroads or the guitar playing from Ry Cooder, you will enjoy the vintage cigar box guitar playing that has been recorded on this album.

   To record this album, I've played 3 string Resonators, Acoustic cigar box guitars, Electric 4 string cigar box guitars and old and vintage tube amps from the 1950's and 60's that were naturally overdriven.....and of course, I've used the legendary "Pignose" amp to record several songs to get that old time Southern BottleNeck gritty sound.
 I also recorded several songs with some old Retro "Radio Guitar Amps." They were antique radios from the 30's, 40's and 50's that have been converted and turned into guitar amplifiers that record with a really unique and vintage tone. The music and songs are all sounds that are southern in flavor, perfect for study if your trying to learn early Americana Bottleneck slide guitar, or just enjoy it as a relaxing way to step back in time.

Trying to 'explain' what something sounds like is like trying to describe a color....so, instead of me trying to explain music, you can hear some of the music that is covered on this Disc.

  This item checks out for purchase thru Paypal with " Buy It Now." The shipping is a flat rate price and the same cost no mater how many items you buy or where you live. It's 2.15 world wide shipping.
After checkout, Paypal will bring you back to this page.

~Cigar Box Americana CD~

$14.35 USD

shipping worldwide $2.15 USD
yes! anywhere in the world same price, 2.15!
Shipping in the USA (8 to 12 days) First Class Mail
Overseas & Worldwide (14 to 21 days) Stamped "Air-Mail
Questions??? email  john@reddogguitars.com

1919 Fair Maiden on her 3 string thing

Here is a photo that is almost a 100 years old. I can't tell what it is?  Looks like some kind of breadbasket box harp thingamajig. I bought it off of ebay from some lady in Iowa. One thing is for sure, It's a three string!

This is a photo of a young woman who immigrated to America, it shows her playing some kind of 3 string instrument. It looks to be fretless and also have dulcimer string spacing with the top string used as a drone and the bottom 2 as melody lines. I wonder what this Fair maiden sang?

Ragtime Omar 1909

Here is a photo of  "Ragtime Omar" as the people of Charleston called him, he was so famous for playing his home made 3 string banjo in front of the court house for "pennies and nickels" that the town's paper decided to do a front page story in the local newspaper on his "jubilant and festive music."
 His family said "it was the best thing to happen to Omar"...what a wonderful story.


Homemade Resonator cigar box guitar

Check out this super creative cigar box resonator guitar. This is all found stuff from around the house, this is what the hobby is all about.

This guitar was made by my friend Brain Romero.
Look how cool this is, It's a three string reso something or another, but coolest part is it's all stuff you have lying around in your kitchen or garage. Study this photo and head out to your garage or kitchen spare drawer. I'll bet you already have everything. Try to build one, there is lots of easy to do cigar box guitar plans out there, you'll have a blast.
 How cool is that center cover cut out from the actual cigar box lid itself. That is homemade Americana!

How to Build a Cigar Box Guitar

This is the Ultimate How to Build a Cigar Box Guitar DVD.

From beginner to advanced, everything is completely covered.

Hi my name is John, I have spent well over several hundred hours filming and editing the most complete How to Build a cigar box guitar DVD available. If you would like to take your guitar making not only to the next level but far beyond to get that old time and really unique sound you have always wanted in a cigar box guitar, I will show you how and what to do, everything is covered from start to finish. It doesn't matter if this is your first time building, or your 10th. I am going to show you how to build great sounding cigar box guitars.

 This DVD is from A to Z, the complete start to finish with advanced building of cigar box guitars. Full of many secrets that can only be found on a Red Dog Guitar. When you have time listen to some of the videos of my guitars on my website or Youtube. You will hear why they have a sound that is iconic and original ...BUT...the best part is you too can build a guitar just like the ones on my website with this DVD.

I cover from simple and clean,

To something more artistic. I will help you understand what I do, so you can create what inspires you. Here below is a 3 string guitar. The parts are different, but it really is the same guitar. I follow the same recipe no matter what I do. If you would like to know what I do this DVD will show you how to build your own just like mine.

I will show you how and what to do Exactly, all the steps completely broken down, from start to finish.

In this DVD you will learn how to construct a Red Dog Cigar Box Guitar...ALL OF THE SECRETS to making the neck and guitar a true tonal machine, what to do about the body, fret-boarding and fretting like a pro, headstocks of all types... BOTH 3 and 4 strings.

And YES, I do have a Chapter on the DVD that explains how I build my Cigar Box Resonator guitars. Instead of me making 2 separate DVDs, I just went ahead and compiled both standard cigar box guitar and homemade resonators on the same disc.
Everyone has been asking for resonator how to info, so yes, I explain how I build them, it is much easier than you think!...it's still a neck thru guitar, yes this reso is neck thru body. The neck is just a stick running right thru a cigar box!

  Go to you-tube and search "cigar box guitar" and check out many of the great and talented makers and have a listen, then do a comparison and search and then listen to videos made by me at Red Dog Guitars....however, this is not a contest, with this DVD you too will have all of the secrets to incorporate in your own guitar making. It doesn't matter if its your first time, or you want to start a guitar making business or club, this will give you the ability to make really awesome guitars and take them to the next level.

This is not a basic or introductory DVD, but full on ultimate Cigar Box Guitar building... the wood, boxes, deferent styles of necks and so much more is covered for building a great playing full of tone one of a kind guitar.

This DVD is made for standard Television players and is 96 minutes (1&1/2hours) of cigar box building. Everything is explained, the tools, the parts, the woods, neck heels, finishing, fretting, the pickups and so much more is explained, all the mysteries explained in one fun to watch DVD...within it there is a world of unknown tips, tricks and secrets used on Red Dog Guitars that you can use on your guitar to make the ultimate cigar box guitar.

This item checks out for purchase thru Paypal with " Buy It Now." The shipping is a flat rate price and the same cost no mater how many items you buy or where you live. It's 2.15 world wide shipping.
After checkout, Paypal will bring you back to this page.

$28.50 USD

shipping worldwide $2.15 USD
yes! anywhere in the world same price, 2.15!

Shipping in the USA (8 to 12 days) First Class Mail
Overseas & Worldwide (14 to 21 days) Stamped "Air-Mail
Questions??? email john@reddogguitars.com

3 string Banjo ~ Old Lowe's Hubcap Dulcijo

I guess you'd say its a three string banjo? only thing is it's made from a Ford Hubcap!

made to look rustic, this is a very real instrument and very capable of playing great sounding music...from the creater of the "Lowebro" Old Lowe has out done himself with this super cool 3 stringer

if you would like to order parts for cigar box resonators and guitars
email Mike at

This is an old photo from the mid 1920's. Check out the kid on the right holding what looks to be some kind of homemade coffee tin banjo 3 string thing?

Here is another and similar example below, It's from 1965.

 It's only got three strings...and you know what? That's all you need!

This is a Three string guitar type instrument called the Domra. It is tuned in 4ths.

It is marked inside

"1965 B. USENKO. Highland Park, New Jersey, USA"
Not much is know but I bet its both fun and easy to play and get a great sound. It has frets with standard fret distances so it will most likely sound and play like a regular small parlor sized guitar.

3 string guitars

Check out this video, Pignose amps make the best cigar box guitar and 3 string guitar amplifiers.
The have the "old time" blues sound, have a listen and see if this is the style of guitar you would like to play?

I can't express in words how great these amps sound!....and on top of that, they are super cheap.
A brand new one is only about 75 dollars in just about any music store.