History of Guitar

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 September 2016

History of Guitar

Music has always been a part of the world’s culture throughout the history. Way back thousands of years ago, people utilized their body parts such as their mouth, hands and feet, in order to create sounds. However, due to people’s inventiveness and resourcefulness, they have begun to use different materials that are part of their everyday life so the creation of musical instruments has begun. One of those discovered and invented instruments is guitar. This paper endeavors to present detailed information with regards to the history of guitar. First, it will provide a definition of the term ‘musical instrument,’ and its types.

Then, it will also provide a definition of the musical instrument ‘guitar. ’ Second, it will trace and narrate its history. And lastly, it will reveal its benefits to the society. Furthermore, it will give a brief knowledge its contemporary status in the society. Musical instrument, traditionally, is any sound-producing material that comes from any culture, activated in any means, and is utilized for making what is universally and frequently known as “music. ” It encompasses automatic or mechanical however it also includes recording or playback device (Rice).

It is classified into different types namely: (1) idiophones, which consists of cymbals, triangles, gongs, castanets, bells, xylophones; (2) membranophones, which consists of drums, a skin or membranes is extended and stretched across a reverberating cavity; (3) chordophones or instruments that produce and make sounds by way of vibration of one or more strings stretched amidst two fixed points. It can be a guitar, lupe, harp, violin, cello; (4) aerophones which are blowing devices that use vibration of the air.

These include trumpets, clarinets, flutes, bagpipes, whistle (qtd. n Wade 10). Guitar is a stringed instrument, which looks like the lute or the violin, however, it is bigger in size and has six strings: three of them are silk-covered silver wire and the other three are catgut (“Guitar”). It is a globally mobile instrument by which form, tonal textures and playing strategies and techniques are result of its appropriation. It is utilized in various locally specific musical contexts (Bennett and Dawe 1). It is made of wood, akin with lute, however, it has a more box-shaped resonator—the general characteristic of the instrument.

All through the history, its strings are played by either a plectrum or a finger. It possesses a circular soundhole in its center (Wade 12). The modern English terminology for ‘guitar’ came from the Spanish term ‘guittara’ and was derived from Arabic and Latin terms ‘qitara’ and ‘cithara,’ respectively. These terms were derived from ‘kithara,’ and earlier Greek word, and from the Persian term ‘sithar’. “‘Sithar’ itself is related to the Indian instrument, the sitar” (“History of Guitar”). The history of guitar is traced hundred of years ago.

It has been established along with other ancestor instruments known as lyres and harps, which are mentioned in the Old Testament, Mesopotamian long-necked lutes, string instruments delineated in ancient Babylonian and Egyptian art (Wade 13). The oldest famous representation of the instrument that displays all its important features is on a 3,300-year old stone carving of Hittite bard (“History of Guitar”) found at Alaca Hoyuk (Wade 13). Throughout the Middle Ages, three, four, five-string guitars do exist.

The Guittara Latina, which has curved sides, is said and thought to have originated in Spain (“Acoustic Guitar History”). It is a product per se of a long and multifaceted history of various influences (“History of Guitar”). Renaissance is the chosen period that is said to be the suitable starting point of guitar because it is during this epoch that the instrument is already in relation to music (Turnbull 2). During this period, composers wrote most of the time in tablature (“Acoustic Guitar History”), a musical notation relatively different from the modern ones.

Its page usually looked flamboyant, ornate and complicated but for musicians and instrumentalists, it has been a very practical, useful and a straightforward method and manner of transforming symbols into sounds (Wade 18). Nevertheless, in this period, the guitar never possessed the respect that the lute has because it has not been regarded as a serious instrument. The first publication for guitar was recognized to have come from Alonso Muddara’s “Tres Libros de Musica en Cifras para Vihuela. ” Finally, the guitar commenced to attract instrumentalists hence; there had been an increase in publication and music (“Some Guitar History”).

Italy became the center of guitar in 17th century. In the late 18th century subsequent to the addition of the sixth string, the Spanish school of guitar making flourished. In the era of 19th century, there was already an enhanced and improved communication and transportation that allowed the performers to journey around the world, thus, the guitar evolved to become a widely known musical instrument (“Acoustic Guitar History”). The aspects and dimensions of the modern classical guitar were established and founded by Antonio Torres, who works in Seville in 1850 (“History of Guitar”). Guitar music then became popular in Spain.

The development in guitar that was done by Torres signified alterations in appearance. The modern guitar took the form of a broadened body, the waist curve was increased and the belly was thinned. An improvement with regards to its internal bracing was designed; single string courses were replaced by double courses and the machine head replaced the wooden tuning pegs (“Acoustic Guitar History”). By the end of the 19th century, the guitar has fallen out of favor. However, it was revived by Francisco Tarrega, who was known for his “Receurdos de la Alhambra. ” He performed in public and chose to perform for his friends at his home.

He wrote a technique on how to teach guitar. He also transcribed a myriad of musical pieces for guitar. He was also considered as the pioneer of playing guitar with fingernails; which evolved into a tradition (“Some Guitar History”). Most of the credit and recognition regarding the development of guitar was carried on to the Europeans. Today, steel-string acoustic guitars are developed by the Americans. In the early 20th century, when European emigrants arrived in America, a number of them are highly skilled musical instrument makers, which includes those specialists in the steel-stringed guitar.

There are two kinds of production that have evolved—the flat-top guitar and the arch-top guitar (“Acoustic of Guitar History”). When guitar technology has finally led and made its way to the United States in the early 19th century, it was Charles Friedrich Martin, a guitar maker who migrated in New York in 1833, who initiated it. In early 1900s, the Martin Company produced and made larger guitar instruments yet still adhered and abided with the classic model designs, especially the Spanish guitar (“How a Guitar is Made: Background”).

The lineage of the guitar is huge and arduous to trace especially because there is a partial misconception that the guitar is a direct successor of the lute. The lack of reputation and prominence of guitar in history is aptly due to the fact that it attracts little heed from good composers and musicians until the 20th century (“A Contextual Background”). The creation of guitar has been of vital importance in the field of music. It is a representation and embodiment of discovery, inventiveness, imagination and expression of performing intelligence and skill. The early guitar bestowed significant contributions during the Baroque period.

The guitar and guitar ancestors took hold of the attention of folk culture and the middle class way back the Baroque era as well as the Classical period (“A Contextual Background”). The instrument represents an abstract idea, a mode of thinking with regards to sound and a mode of identifying and recognizing cultures. The guitar is a fundamental icon in American culture and other cultures around the world. There are several versions of stringed instruments that are crafted and created as distant away from Japan, and are developed into the orchestra. It also forms unique variations like the Sitar of India (“The Linage of Guitar Construction”).

The growth of the guitar in the course of history is in a two-fold path. The technical progression and developments have been enthralling, fascinating and fundamental. Nevertheless, nourishing and developing that evolution and development has been the social element of guitar’s reputation and recognition. The mechanical alterations that have been demanded socially contributed to its better and louder instrumentation. Thus, there have been documentations on its development and journey. The guitar’s progression in the course of time is one of the mirrors that culture indeed changes over time.

It evolves just like how the guitar evolves (Kentor and Michaels 10). The guitar is not just an embodiment of one’s culture and time. It is also a representation of the status of whoever owns it especially during the ancient times because most people in the middle class owned a guitar. Its development serves a reflection that people’s ingenuity, thinking and creativity do enhance and progress, alongside with the culture that they belong. The creation of guitar has helped a lot in the music industry because it accompanies and produces sound even without the use of electricity.

It is purely mechanical because only the fingers or a pick is used in playing. However, the invention of electric guitar has contrasted that fact. Compared to the classic mechanical guitar, it produces louder and better sound. On the other hand, the discovery and creation of electronic music, music that can be created even without musical instruments at hand—purely digital, has given way to the somewhat “death” of guitar industry. It is now being taken for granted little by little even though there are still some who take hold of its importance and still utilize it in composing and crafting new musical pieces.


  • Subject:

  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 September 2016

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