The physics and making of a cigar box guitar

Faculty Advisor

Jolene Johnson



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The physics and making of a cigar box guitar

The link between physics and music is undeniable. Every instrument is specifically designed to put physics properties to use to produce a pleasant, harmonic sound. The different shapes and materials used in making instruments are very deliberate. As a result, specific sound waves guided by physics properties are produced giving what we call music. Guitars are an example of this. The strings of a guitar can vibrate, causing disturbances in the air which produces sound waves. Frets on the neck of the guitar create consistent nodes to obtain regular notes or sounds. The objective of this research project is to examine the relationship between physics and the structure of an instrument. This was done by constructing a guitar. The guitar was built from a cigar box, a piece of poplar wood, and steel strings using various power tools and hand tools. The building process was difficult. A limited number of strings could be used due to the tension created on the neck and body of the guitar. There were also complications in adding frets. A tuned and fully functioning guitar was constructed, including four strings, frets, and cigar box body. The work of this research project increases our understanding of physics by demonstrating its direct link to music. In addition, the building of an instrument provides a real life example of how physics is present in our daily lives.