Guitar – A Brief history

I don’t know how and why I got a interest in Guitar. But I love to hear and play guitar though I haven’t went to any class on how to play a guitar. Just started playing guitar by watching and reading some tutorials which are flooded in the Internet. This post is about the History of Guitar. Just scroll down and read to know more about my favorite  musical instrument.

The guitar is an ancient and noble instrument, whose history can be traced back over 4000 years. Many theories have been advanced about the instrument’s ancestry. It has often been claimed that the guitar is a development of the lute, or even of the ancient Greek kithara.

The name “guitar” comes from the ancient Sanskrit word for “string” –“tar”. (This is the language from which the languages of central Asia and northern India developed.) Many stringed folk instruments exist in Central Asia to this day which have been used in almost unchanged form for several thousand years, as shown by archeological finds in the area. Many have names that end in “tar”, with a prefix indicating the number of strings.

The modern “classical” guitar took its present form when the Spanish maker Antonio Torres increased the size of the body, altered its proportions, and introduced the revolutionary “fan” top bracing pattern, in around 1850. His design radically improved the volume, tone and projection of the instrument, and very soon became the accepted construction standard. It has remained essentially unchanged, and unchallenged, to this day.

Guitar by Antonio Torres Jurado, 1859

Steel-string and electric guitars

At around the same time that Torres started making his breakthrough fan-braced guitars in Spain, German immigrants to the USA – among them Christian Fredrich Martin – had begun making guitars with X-braced tops. Steel strings first became widely available in around 1900. Steel strings offered the promise of much louder guitars, but the increased tension was too much for the Torres-style fan-braced top. A beefed-up X-brace proved equal to the job, and quickly became the industry standard for the flat-top steel string guitar.

At the end of the 19th century Orville Gibson was building archtop guitars with oval sound holes. He married the steel-string guitar with a body constructed more like a cello, where the bridge exerts no torque on the top, only pressure straight down. This allows the top to vibrate more freely, and thus produce more volume. In the early 1920’s designer Lloyd Loar joined Gibson, and refined the archtop “jazz” guitar into its now familiar form with f-holes, floating bridge and cello-type tailpiece.

The electric guitar was born when pickups were added to Hawaiian and “jazz” guitars in the late 1920’s, but met with little success before 1936, when Gibson introduced the ES150 model, which Charlie Christian made famous.

With the advent of amplification it became possible to do away with the soundbox altogether. In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s several actors were experimenting along these lines, and controversy still exists as to whether Les Paul, Leo Fender, Paul Bigsby or O.W. Appleton constructed the very first solid-body guitar. Be that as it may, the solid-body electric guitar was here to stay.

Knowing and appreciating the history of the guitar may not be essential to being a great guitarist. For some, it may not even be of interest. But, understanding and being familiar with the history of music, and its musicians, gives one a broader perspective, and a more comprehensive philosophy on what it means to be a musician.

History & Picture Source : Paul Guy.





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