The guitar is a well-known string musical instrument. A central rosette, 6 strings, integrated tuning pegs, a handle with frets, a central sound hole: these are the characteristics that all guitars share (at least when speaking of the acoustic guitar!).
But who knows where she comes from? When did we start learning to play guitar?
From the myths and legends to the true history of the guitar, let yourself be lulled by its sweet melody. The bets are open: is the guitar of Indian, Uzbek, Arabic or Spanish origin?
In a remote time, even very remote, under the reign of Queen Hatshepsut – that is to say 3,500 years ago – lived an Egyptian singer named Har-Mose. She used a primitive type of 3-stringed guitar made of a polished cedar box surrounded by leather.
The Egyptians began to use this instrument that became quickly very popular. It was then introduced into Europe by the Mesopotamians. The teaching of this instrument and the first guitar lessons appeared around this time.
Guitars can be traced way back to Egyptian times
This “original guitar” was successively embellished with a fourth (to reach unison) then a fifth string (in Europe), and finally a sixth in the 17th century. Unfortunately for her, the guitar sounded better.
The guitars as we know it, even the ones of the greatest guitarists, is therefore of Egyptian origin!
The lute has a semi-pear soundboard, a small bridge like a guitar, a fretboard and many strings. There are a number of commonalities.
The dôtar, a two-stringed lute with a long neck was also seen as the origin of the modern guitar, to which more and more strings were progressively added.
At first a shepherd’s instrument it became a noble instrument in the scholarly music of the nineteenth century in Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan.
In reality, the lute is a string instrument among many others and the idea that the guitar is its evolution does not convince specialists … Not anyone is allowed to be called a guitar!
In Antiquity, we used of an instrument called the cithara (from the Greek “kithara”), a musical instrument with plucked strings. It consists of a soundboard on which are fixed strings of decreasing size and increasingly finer.
With the right hand, one pliers chords while the left hand serves to pinch the choruses.
For a long time this string instrument (like the others) was made out of animal casings.
Guitars came in many different forms
For your information, it was not until 1940 that the strings went from those of animal origin to nylon.
It is said that the zither would have been imported into Spain by the Moors, and that it’s on this instrument that a neck would have been added to form the guitar as we know it.
Well why not?
The movie The Third Man largely contributed to his international knowledge thanks to the music of Anton Karas.
It remains used in Austrian and Germanic folklore.
Dr. Kasha, a researcher in molecular physics and a guitar enthusiast, defines the guitar as “a plucked string instrument played with fingers or a plectrum, having a long fretted neck, a flat wooden soundboard, a head and a flat back, with, most of the time, curved flanks.”
He’s the first researcher to have wondered about the following question: how to play the guitar?
Although the lute and the guitar have common ancestors, the guitar is not a derivative of the lute.
According to him the Greeks themselves would have borrowed the term “zither” from the Persians who had a 4-string musical instrument called the “chartar”.
The guitar evolved with new engineers working on a better model
The Romans have often been criticized for saying that they stole everything from the Greeks; in the end, the Greeks may have also looked around in their neighbor’s home at some point.
Michael Kasha studied the vibratory behavior of soundboards and Gibson used his research to develop the dear Series Mark with an asymmetric bridge and a special dam, quickly abandoned.
At the time of its elaboration, the Middle Ages guitar is characterized by the following elements:
At this time, two forms of guitar are know:
The Renaissance marks the appearance of a family of small string instruments (cordophones) in Spain, under the name of vihuela.
Some guitars are extremely rare and can be found in musuems only
The guitarra, relatively small, has 4 double strings while the vihuela of mano has 6.
To date, only 4 authentic vihuelas of mano have been preserved because of their great fragility, including 2 in Paris (Musée Jacquemart-André and Musée de la musique).
In the sixteenth century, the vihuela eventually gave way to the Spanish guitar.
It was at this time that the 5-string instrument made its entrance with a standard tuning in La, Ré, Sol, Si and Mi. As we composed these instruments, we began to look for more variations which led to an increasing number of frets: from 8 to 10 and then to 12.
In the 17th century, it was the Italian luthier Antonio Giacomo Stradivari who added a sixth string to the guitar. His competitors and successors will do the same, while opting for 6 single strings rather than 6 pairs of strings.
The count is good for the strings: Mi, La, Ré, Sol, Si et Mi!
During the 19th century the shape of the soundbox evolves and makes a huge leap in the evolution of this magical instrument. Around 1850, the Spanish manufacturer Antonio Torres decided to change the proportions of the soundbox and to renew the materials he used. This made it possible to improve the sound as well as its projection.
One can say that he is the inventor of the classical guitar. Therefor a Spanishman! They are not quite wrong to declare that the guitar is Spanish then. Another preconceived idea on the guitar!
The guitar is an instrument that has often been “snobed” by the high sphere of classical music.
The first college guitar course in the UK was given by John Williams (outside of his classic book, Williams played for the following: Kate Bush, David Bowie, and many, many others). This guitar lesson was given for the first time in 1965.
Therefore, and contrarily to popular belief, most older guitar heroes have a classical training.
The birth of electric guitars
In the 1900s we started to use steel ropes. They offer a better resonance but also have too much tension on the neck. It allows you to play the guitar faster.
Christian Fredrich Martin, a German who settled in the United States, developed the technique of “brace” in X. From there on end, other luthiers and artists have made their own contribution:
The solid body (full body of the electric guitar) appeared around this time at Audiovox, Rickenbacker and Epiphone, but the descendants of the inventors always shoot themselves in the legs to know which of Les Paul or Leo Fender, to name only them, were first developed.
It was in 1950 that the general public discovered the first solid body guitar by Leo Fender, the Fender Telecaster.
Nowadays, Les Paul (a solid body with two humbuckers) and Stratocaster with its two horns (on which you can change the parts as much as you wish) remain the main forms of electric guitar. Want to know more about how to buy your first guitar?
The guitar was considered inferior to the lute at the time of its appearance in the fifteenth century.
However, geniuses of composition have succeeded in making this instrument an object of lust and fantasy! What’s more, playing guitar is good for the health of guitarists!
Thank you Rock, Jazz and Blues and different guitar styles.
Just take a look at the pricing of some artists’ guitars:
We bet that the lute, now seldom used and relayed to the rank of museum piece, has not finished vibrating with jealousy!
You get the idea, the history of the guitar is vast, because it counts a crazy number of distant relatives which you can mainly discover in this article. Building on its success, it has also integrated classrooms in the 20th century. The long awaited recognition of guitar lessons?
The good news is that if this text made you want to scratch off the pick, Superprof helps you find a private teacher whenever you want!