Simple 2-string guitar


I'm conducting a couple of simple-guitar building workshops this year (one at Ohio State University in early April and one in Brussels on June 1), so I designed this fretless, 2-string guitar that requires no glue and just one screw (other than the small screws that come with the tuners). Right know I am calling it a cantar, but I'm hoping a Boing Boing reader can come up with a name that's more fun. Here's what it sounds like.

More photos after the jump.









  1. I didn’t immediately connect the “can” with the literal can. I just figured “cantar” meaning an instrument that sings. It might be a better name than you think. Just tell people that it means “to sing”.

    1. Extactly, my mind immediately goes to Spanish “Cantar (v) – to sing”. I think it’s a great name. I think the other names in here are pretty dull by comparison, honestly.

  2. Doubletub or minitub, if those are bass guitar strings..
    Duo-wop (?)
    doublestring cannything
    tin can band
    canned tuner/twoner [hat tip to drawbot]
    (I could go on….)

  3. Caneck
    Caneck 2 (Caneck 3 for can w/three strings, Caneck 4 and so on)
    Canned beat

  4. This would be super sweet w/ bass strings, or just a standard soprano guitar (I THINK?? The one with four strings).

    Gotta love the fretless action and you should def. make a video playing it, with the right tuning you cant go wrong no matter where you hold it.

  5. yes, the “hobo hammer” befits this creation.
    also, maybe the “dobrocan”, though a little pedestrian.
    OK then, the “stringcan alleyooper”……(tinpan alley & alley oop)

  6. Toothpick.

    Mostly cuz its 95% stick, plus you can use a pick on it. Plus the mental image of rocking out on a toothpick is worth adopting the name alone.

  7. I was going to suggest Tropocaster (one level below the Stratocaster), but I really like Anon’s “Less Paul” suggestion.

  8. I like it! Finally an instrument that I might play. Given that the 6 holes of my penny whistle have me baffled.

    A Canaanite

    Fine job!

  9. Why don’t you just look up what two-stringed plucked and strummed instruments are already called?

    Hint: they aren’t guitars

    Hint: they are found near the Killer of Hindus

    Hint: they are thousands of years old

  10. I am a classical guitarist, and although I say that an open-ended tin can as a resonance chamber is pretty brilliant, I just can’t get over the fact that something with two strings slapped onto a stick does not make a real guitar. Jack White, in “It Might Get Loud”, slapped a pickup and a string onto a board and hooked it up to a battery and a tweeter. He was showing how easy it is to manufacture something to make music. Elapsed time from raw materials to a playable instrument? Who knows? They edit these things, but it wasn’t long in any case. Yeah, I could play this instrument and make it sound nice, but it still isn’t a guitar. I can flamenco strum on an empty 24 ounce beer can and make it musical, but that doesn’t make it a guitar. If this guy wanted to impress me (which I am well aware he couldn’t care less about), then he would Make (capital M) a guitar that he would not feel ashamed to charge $2000 for. There is a reason that these projects lack frets of any sort. That would mean getting it right and not leaving it open ended. Yes, this thing can make music. Is it a guitar? No. The tonal availability of a two-stringed instrument is limited at the very best. Ideally suited for the Pink Panther, though.

    1. Jlgl, y’v gt sss…
      I knew what he meant when I saw the word guitar and I saw the picture.
      Bng rnd y mst b wfl.

    2. “The tonal availability of a two-stringed instrument is limited at the very best.”

      An overstatement, I think. Please check out this video:

      It’s Sean Frenette (lately of the New England Conservatory, a former student of Eliot Fisk). He could make real music on that device, I’m sure. Sean wrote and plays this piece, “Vienna Waterfalls” on a guitar with only three strings, though it was written and played originally on just two strings. FYI, he has also played his “El Class” (classical-electric guitar made by me, a luthier) at Carnegie Hall on his THIRD appearance there. Can’t play on two strings? That’s probably true if one can’t get off the page.

  11. “Canjo” and “Candolin” both make me smile.

    Is there a reason, other than room, not to squeeze a third string in there?

  12. When my son was 13 years old, he was given a project to create an instrument. We made a “canjo” – a kind of two-stringed banjo made with a big coffee can and a wheelbarrow handle. (Everyone else was making drums – he wanted to make something different.)

    There’s no reason to limit the strings – you can add as many as you want – but two strings worked best – one on each side of the wheelbarrow handle.

    You can find instructions on making canjos online. He originally wanted to make a cigarbox guitar, but it proved a little beyond our abilities and tools on hand. My mother (born and raised hardscrabble poor in southeast Arkansas) remembers her father tinkering around and making something like this out of bits and pieces for her little brothers to play.

    By the way, although he never proved to be a musical canjo prodigy, the kid is now 18 years old, and plays violin in the school orchestra – so who knows where the “make your own instrument” thing can lead you and yours.

  13. I’d use a fence picket to score a pre-styled headstock, and stick 3 or 4 string on it.

    Also, another +1 for canjo. You could call it a BC Poor or Less Paul as well ; )

  14. I want a 4 string fretless bass version with a big can on the end.

    One pickup on the stick and a contact mike in the can, two volume pots, and you have a pretty nifty acoustic/electric instrument (whatever you want to call it).

    1. You’re right, I apologize for being nasty. I think it’s ok to still call it a guitar, I should have said just that.

  15. I have an electric six string lap steel that is built to simulate the sound of a resophonic “Dobroâ„¢” guitar. The bridge lays against an actual cat food can as the resonator. Works pretty well to give a dobro sound without the usual feedback problems.

    It’s called a Mars RGS Cat Can.

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