History of the Guitar

Going back through the history of the guitar, there have been guitar like instruments that did exist during ancient times; however, we find the first written account of a guitar in the 14th century. When it was first mentioned, it had three pairs of strings as well as a single string. Most historians believe that the guitar came from Spain, since by the 16th century in Spain, an instrument that was almost the same was found in lower classes, and it had six pairs of strings.

If you take a close look, you’ll find that the English word, “guitar,” was actually adapted from the word “guitarra,” which is Spanish and was taken from the Greek word, “kithara.” The first part of the word “guit” means music, and the second part “tar” means string or chord. So, you can easily see how the instrument got its name.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the guitar would then go on to become popular all throughout Europe. It was not until the middle of the 18th century that the guitar finally reached the modern form that we know of today. The pairs of strings, known as double courses, were then made single and there was a sixth string added as well. During the 19th century, guitar makers began to broaden the body of the guitar; they thinned out the belly, increase the waist curve, and also totally made a change with the internal bracing. They also replaced the wooden tuning pegs with a modern machine head as well.

While the guitar was around during the Renaissance, the lute was the instrument of choice during this time. In fact, the guitar was not even considered a serious instrument during this time. However, it was in this time period that the first music for the guitar was thought to have been written. It was called the “Tres Libros de Musica en Cifras para Vihuela” and was written by Alonso Mudarra. After this, the guitar began to attract more people and more music was written for the guitar as well.

During the Classical period the guitar became more poplar as a variety of people wrote music and performed in live concerts, such as Mauro Guilliani, Fernando Carulli, and Fernando Sor. Sor even played his guitar as a soloist with the London Philharmonic back in 1817, and during this period Stradivarius was making guitars as well as making violins.

By the end of the 19th century, once again the guitar had lost popularity; however, Francisco Tarrega, who composed, did public performances, and even wrote his own method for teaching people how to play guitar, would soon revive it again. Tarrega also transcribed a variety of different musical pieces so they could be played by the guitar and he had a huge influence, including influencing the famous Segovia. It was Segovia who would help to bring the guitar to the popularity that it now has today. In fact, Segovia was the one who actually brought world recognition to the guitar by performing on the guitar all across the world.

The father of the modern guitar is considered to be Antonio de Torres, since until his time the guitar was quite small and very narrow. He worked on the design of the guitar and made it bigger, also working on making it louder and on improving the sound of the guitar as well.

Of course it was not until the early part of the 20th century that the first electric guitar was developed. It was George Beauchamp that got the first patent in 1936 for an electric guitar. Beauchamp later went on to help found the Rickenbacker Company that produced electric guitars. This company became well known during the 60’s when John Lennon used one of their guitars for their debut performance in 1964 on the Ed Sullivan show. Paul McCartney also would use a Rickenbacker bass guitar when he was recording, and throughout their careers, the Beatles were known for using this brand of guitars.

The other two pioneer companies that dealt in electric guitars included Gibson Guitar Corporation and Fender Musical Instruments Company. Today, most of the electric guitars that are made are still based on the designs of some of the best companies in the history of the guitar… Fender, Gibson, and Rickenbacker.