The Diddley Bow & One-String Willie

I’ve loved folk or roots music since back in high school. The older I get it seems the more basic the music the more I enjoy it. Recently I’ve been trying my hand at building and learning to play simple homemade instruments from scrap boards and cigar boxes. My first completed project is a simple cigar box one-string diddley bow.

My first attempt at a homemade cigar box guitar (CBG). This is a simple 1-string diddley bow made from a $2 cigar box and a piece of scrap red oak.

There are many variations of this instrument, the simplest being two nails on a porch rail with a piece of baling wire stretched between them. B.B. King says this is how he began his musical career, plucking on a stretched piece of scrap wire.

Most bows have no frets and are played with a glass or metal slide. the simplest slides are made from the necks of beer bottles and thus this style of playing is often called bottle neck slide guitar. Bows have many names and can be found in many cultures in one form or another. The famous rock legend, Bo Diddley got his name by inverting the name of the instrument.

Normally these instruments are played in a pentatonic or blues scale and the rhythms and melodies are very simple. However, it doesn’t have to be such. Take a look at the included video of what a guy called One-String Willie can achieve using just one string of a standard guitar. Also, check out the second video of six guys playing six one-string guitars together.

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