Easiest String Instruments to Build

Welcome to the easiest string instruments to build. Planning to build your own guitar or string instrument, but don’t know where to start? I’ve got you mate!

This post will get you up to speed on exactly what your options are, what tools you need, how the finished instruments will sound like, and if you’re looking for schematics/ kits/ more details, that’s exactly what I intend to cover here.

Why build your own guitar?

For me, it started because I wanted to build my own instrument that looked and sounded exactly how I wanted it to sound like. As musicians, we tend to want instruments that are uniquely customized to our playing styles and preferences. Guitars are fun, but there are tons of medieval musical instruments that might be even more fun to build and play. You can find rich influences from these instruments and incorporate the elements you admire into your own creation – that’s the magic of DIY instruments!

Some musicians I know made their own instruments because they couldn’t find the sound they were looking for in many market electric guitars. Some found their necks too uncomfortable and built a custom neck while others wanted a shiny acrylic body to go with a maple neck!

Building your own guitar is the perfect way to learn more about how sound is produced in string instruments. You get to learn about string tunings, how tuning pegs work, how sound chambers and pickups work, and how exactly you might mess up while making your first few instruments so you don’t make the same mistakes in later builds!

That said, let’s not bore you to death and let’s get straight to the point.

Building from Kits vs Custom Instruments

If you’re up for the challenge, building one from scratch is also rewarding albeit very time-consuming and tricky if you don’t have the necessary tools. If you want something that’s performance-grade in, say, a week – don’t waste your time. Craftsmanship and satisfaction are personal things, but let me warn you.

Luthiers have years of experience – they know what woods warp where, which construction techniques provide best sounds, what goes into a perfect instrument setup, and how to make things that last and look amazing. You can research a lot and end up discovering the wisdom but if you’re too confident (like I used to be) and have little time (like me), you’ll be disappointed by the results (also me). It won’t be perfect, have good action or intonation, but it will be something you built.

that’s the warning.

If you just want something quick and easy, you can find a kit that caters to your needs and assemble the parts. We’ve listed some kits down below. I’m not dissing on you if you go this route. You can start with kits, learn the ins and outs, and try building one from scratch someday.

Stew Mac 336 electric guitar KitMartin Dreadnought acoustic guitar kit
Pickups, hardware, and F-holes come pre-routed for easy assembly, pre-slotted bridge for hassle-free intonationPre-cut molds, 2-way truss rod, shaped saddle
Dual humbuckers, chrome hardware, 2-way adjustable truss rod, tune-o-matic bridgeSpruce top with mahogany neck and frets
Pros
Customizable and a great learning experience – for building a professional instrument.
Pros
The result is a beautiful acoustic worth several grands.
Cons
Instruction for wiring available but can be tricky
Finishing the wood just the way you want can be tricky
Cons
Takes a lot of time to finish and needs setting up before the intonation is just right.

Want an honest opinion?

I think building an acoustic is way harder than building an electric. I find the process of bending the sides and gluing everything mesmerizing but doing it myself isn’t as easy as you might expect. If you don’t have much experience working with wood, you’ll find the electric build much easier.

Whichever you pick, we suggest StewMac kits as they are top quality and come with good instructions.

StewMac Build Your Own DIY 335-Style Electric Guitar Kit
StewMac Build Your Own DIY 335-Style Electric Guitar Kit
StewMac Build Your Own Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Kit
StewMac Build Your Own Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Kit

Easiest String Instruments to Build

You can always build classic Strats and Les Paul-style guitars out of kits. But where’s the fun in that!

By easiest, I mean the easiest playable instruments that will still make decent sounds. That’s why I’ve put lutes and rebec instead of a Dan bau that has only a single string. This is technically an instrument, but I don’t think this is very exciting, at least compared to something that has a few more strings.

Dan bau is an easy instrument to build, instrument at Vietnam Museum of Ethnology by Daderot on Wikipedia
Dan bau is an easy instrument to build, instrument at Vietnam Museum of Ethnology by Daderot on Wikipedia

I think this is also quite easy to make.

easy string instrument, from a reddit post by user u/AtomicFaun
easy string instrument, from a reddit post by user u/AtomicFaun

Just add a tuner or two to this and call it a day! That’s exactly what the diddley bow does.

In all fairness though, instruments also need to be easy to tune, restring and play – and should be easy to build for somebody not very familiar with wood-working techniques or advanced soldering skills. Ah, and look nice- that’s a solid requirement. All you need is some determination, scrap wood, and a curious mind, and you’ll be able to build something you like that sounds nice.

Here’s a quick overview of medieval (or common) instruments that look and sound beautiful.

  1. Diddley bow | Learn blues on a DIY neck

The diddley-bow is a blues instrument popular in the South built with hay wire stuck between two nails over a glass board. The construction is super simple, but you can come up with your own slick variations.

Here’s Justin Johnson showing how the Diddley bow can be used

brief words | Difficulty: 3 stars

This section is under construction! I’ll get to it once I get the time. 🙂

Lutes

Vielle

Bass Rebec (Ribeca)

| Difficulty: 𓇼𓇼𓇼𓇼

The Ribeca basso is the tiny cousin of the modern-day violin with three strings and a much simpler construction. Traditionally, it is bowed but you can always install your own pickups and amplify the sounds.

harp

you can try your hands at an Arpa corde metallo which is just a metal-strung harp with a hollow resonating chamber

Arpa corde budello (gut-strung harp)

Lyre

Psaltery (Salterio)

beautiful – can customize your own rosette

7 Hammered Dulcimer (Dulcimer martellato)

29 Mandora – Chanson “Amours Que Porra”

30 Long-necked Lute – “Aquel Que De Voontade” From The “Cantigas De Santa Maria”

31 Gittern – Virelai “Quant Je Sui Mis”

32 Citole (Citola)

33 Rebec – ‘La Septime Estampie Real’

34 Fiddle – Ballata “Poi Che Da Te Mi Convien”

36 Tromba Marina – Improvised Fanfare: Motet “Quant Ie Le Voi – Bon Vin Doit – Cis Chans Veult Boire” From The “Roman De Fauvel”

What’s Next?

I hope that was a nice read – it was certainly fun for me to write this post. Though it’s taking me a long time to finish.

2 Comments

  1. Hello, you used to write great, but the last several posts have been kinda boring… I miss your great writings. Past several posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!

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