The History of the Guitar begins thousands of years ago. Since ancient times, the guitar has gone through numerous changes, from its origins until it reaches the form it currently has; This is a stringed musical instrument that has spread all over the world.
The origin of the guitar is not very clear, as some scholars say the instrument that preceded the guitar arrived in Spain in the 8th century during the invasion of the Arabs. Others say that its origins belong to the time of the Greeks, who designed an instrument with some similarities to the current guitar but straight edges. It had four strings, but in reality, there is no detailed history of the guitar.
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History of the Guitar
The Guitar comes from the classical instrument called the lyre used in classical antiquity, invented by the Hittites around 1500 BC. The Greek poets used it to accompany their verses with this instrument. On some occasions, they used picks to play it, the same way with guitars.
Around 3,400 years ago, the first signs of a guitar-like instrument appeared in Asia Minor and the Middle East. Later, in the year 1000 a. C in Syria, the kettarah was born, a stringed musical instrument made up of a wooden box with an oval shape, but it did not have a neck.
In India, this instrument was called sitar, and it originated the term guitar. Around the 13th century, the first version of the guitar appeared, which had three pairs of strings and an additional one responsible for providing a little more acute sounds.
By the 14th century, medieval musicians of French origin, such as Eustache Deschamps and Guillaume de Machaut, did musical works using the term Guiterna, which when translated was the guitar.
In the 16th century, especially in Spain, many compositions for guitar started to show up. In addition, this instrument became popular and widely used by musicians as an accompaniment to other musical instruments.
Around this time in history, the Arabs added the neck to it and called it Laúd, which means “wood,” and then the Spanish turned it into a lute. Next, they developed the guitar strumming technique, straightened the neck to give way to the vihuela.
The guitar did not participate in classical music concerts because it was unsuitable for that musical genre, unlike the vihuela, played throughout the Spanish empire, in chapels, taverns, and royal courts.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Jacob Otto made a critical modification to the guitar model that existed, adding one more string. For this reason, this instrument has six strings; in addition, there is a change in the modern tuning and in the way of playing it, as well as changes in the structure that made it the classical guitar.
In 1850, Antonio Torres Jurado created the first Spanish guitar; Torres Jurado based its design on the mandolin´s modification made by Gaetano Vinaccia in 1779. The instrument created by Jurado served as building blocks of the modern guitar as it is known today.
In the 19th century, the guitar was adapted for the plucking and strumming technique, becoming a concert instrument. It also arrived in the United States, introducing changes to its structure and the flamenco guitar emerged.
At the turn of the 20th century, it became one of the most important and most used instruments globally because it adapts to any environment and is very easy to use.
Thanks to technological advances, in this part of history, the American Leo Fender created the first electric guitar, becoming the protagonist of jazz, rock & roll, blues, funk, punk, pop, and metal.
Through the years, the guitar has suffered variations in its shape and the number of strings. It has been adapted to the needs of the interpreter until it reaches its current form.
The instrument has been made almost entirely of wood. Different types of wood are used today, including mahogany, Indian rosewood, spruce, Canadian cedar, cypress, ebony, and pine.
The Spanish Guitar
The Spanish guitar, classical guitar, or Creole guitar, known in some Latin American countries, has a very ancient origin that begins to have importance from the Renaissance. This musical instrument belongs to the chordophone family.
During the Renaissance, the contrapuntal repertoire of plucked string instruments appeared; the vihuela was used in Spain and America, and the lute in Europe. According to history, these would be the origins of the classical guitar.
In the fourteenth century, the Spanish guitar prototype appears; people played this instrument in Spain to accompany popular dances and songs. By this time, the vihuela became the favorite string instrument of court musicians.
The rise of the Spanish guitar occurred during the 15th century, when the first books of music for vihuela, trendy for that time, began to be printed. After that, this instrument was played in many locations, such as in the Christian kingdoms of Europe and Spain.
In this century, an instrument known as a guitar appeared with four pairs of strings, a rounded shape, and a dome-shaped soundbox, very similar to the vihuela.
In the Muslim kingdoms of Spain, musicians used the Moorish guitar or guitar, which had three pairs of strings and is considered the direct precursor of the Spanish guitar.
By the 16th century, a fifth string was added by the Andalusian poet Vicente Espinel for being a scholar and a fan of this instrument. During this century, the guitars of four and five orders were present.
The five-order guitar was established as a model throughout Europe by the work “Spanish five-order guitar” by the Catalan Joan Carles Amat, published in 1596. This musical piece teaches strumming and tempering.
Throughout the 16th century, the heyday of the vihuela in Spanish instrumental music was intense. Still, at the end of this century, the vihuela was replaced in the courts by the famous guitar, a time when Renaissance culture gave way to the Baroque.
In the 17th century, the Spanish guitar became the most used instrument in the different musical circles of almost all of Europe, and the use of the guitar began to strengthen right from this moment.
In the 18th century, a series of physical changes were made to the Spanish guitar improving its sound and technical conditions, acquiring many of the essential characteristics that the guitar currently has.
At this time, a sixth string is added by replacing the double orders with simple ones, the size of the instrument increased while the notches in the case are reduced.
The metal headstock is attached, and the frets are extended down to the soundhole of the guitar. All these changes happened progressively during this century and the beginning of the 19th century. Finally, at the end of this century, the Spanish guitar began to be used in chamber music.
As it is known today, the Spanish guitar began to be manufactured in 1874 in Seville by Antonio Torres workshop, who manufactured them following the regulations established for this instrument.
The Flamenco Guitar
Guitar experts had determined that the history of flamenco guitar begins in the 19th century, when flamenco singing emerged, which had discarded any musical accompaniment until then.
The definitive growth of the flamenco guitar was in the twentieth century when it innovatively merges with flamenco singing. Its use has grown from that moment on, developing flamenco singing until it reaches what we know today.
With the inclusion of flamenco guitar in this art, flamenco singing was structured and regulated, creating entrances and exits; gaining new tunes.
The History of the Electric Guitar
The history of the electric guitar begins in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. In 1920, the American Lloyd Loar created the first microphone adapted to the guitar, and in 1935, the American guitar manufacturer called Rickenbacher manufactured the first electric guitar.
The electric guitar is created out of the need of the jazz bands of the United States in the 1920s because the acoustic guitars emitted little sound, which made the instrument of no importance. It only worked as an accompaniment.
At the end of the 1920s, John Dopyera and Beauchamp elaborated a guitar with a metallic body. Inside it, they placed an aluminum disc that produced a sound five times greater than average. They applied the “slide guitar” technique, which consists of sliding a metal or glass tube through the strings to achieve a tearful sound like country, blues, and Hawaiian music.
Leo Fender designed the first electric guitar with solid and removable parts to make it easier to replace, and musicians would not have problems when they had to change the pieces of the guitar that were broken or worn out from so much use.
In 1922 the first amplified guitar entered the market, the Gibson model L-5; This was not an electric guitar, but it had two microphones and buttons to control the volume attached to the box.
In 1931, the Electro String Company began to market the first electric guitars, known as “pans,” and were built with aluminum and cast steel.
From this point on, the goal was to try not to make the guitar vibrate when the amplifier’s volume was too high because it created a very annoying noise known as feedback.
Les Paul designed one of the first electric guitars, and sometime later, Paul Bigsby made another design that has been maintained in some current models. Still, we can affirm that the first electric guitar to hit the market was in 1950, designed by Leo Fender, called The Fender Broadcaster, achieving outstanding sales success. They liked it so much that in 1954 a second model went on sale, called the Fender Stratocaster, which is one of the most famous in electric guitar history.
The creation of the electric guitar originated new musical styles such as Heavy Metal and Rock. It was quickly adopted by Blues and Jazz groups, making it the symbol of these new musical genres.
In 1990 the Line 6 factory created the Variax line of guitars. A microphone was placed on the bridge that communicates with a modeling system that provides the different sounds of the best electric and acoustic guitars. In addition, you can edit sounds and tune on a computer with the use of a simple cable.
This type of guitar has an appearance to that of any electric guitar, and it only differs in that it does not have a microphone in sight. In 2007, the Gibson brand launched a new guitar called Gibson Robot Guitar, which is tuned using a complicated electronic system without the need for the guitarist to intervene.
Since it was created until today, the electric guitar has become a fundamental instrument for popular music, and its image is used even in advertising campaigns.
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