According to most accounts, the guitar first appeared on the scene more than 5,000 years ago in areas such as Arabia and Persia, eventually migrating to Europe via Ancient Greece and Spain.
According to archaeological discoveries of artwork depicting stringed instruments, its shape was a lot different than it is now, but it still maintained the same basic structure: a body, a neck, and a headstock.
It is now also known that people who were occupying areas of Asia Minor and Syria around the year 1400 B.C., who were known as the Hittites, played a guitar-like instrument. By all accounts, the modern guitar completed its evolution in Spain by the early 1800s, hence the common designation, Spanish guitar.
It was during this Spanish evolution of the guitar that the form and shape of this instrument began to blossom into its own. In many of its previous configurations, while still maintaining the basic design of the guitar as we know it, it resembled lutes and sitars more than its current figure.
In Spain, classical guitar began to flourish with players/makers such as Agustin Caro, Manuel Gonzalez, Antonio de Lorca, and Manuel Guiterrez, as well as other European guitarists, including Rene Lacote and Johann Staufer, helping to develop the guitar’s first genre.
By 1850, the guitar had reached its finally stage of development with the work of Antonio Torres Jurado, who refined the dimension and physical characteristics of the classical guitar, allowing for the durability and playability required for solo performers and live concerts.
Since that time, the basic structure and concept behind the design of the guitar has remained unchanged, except for the introduction of the electric guitar in 1936, invented by George Beauchamp, who co-founded Rickenbacker guitars.
However, it was a company called Danelectro that first mass-produced them for the public, launching the guitar into pop culture, profoundly affecting our modern world in return.
The etymology of the English word, “guitar”, stems from the Spanish word, guitarra, which evolved from the earlier Greek word, kithara. Further etymology stems the guitar’s Persian and Indo-European roots.
The Ins and Outs of Guitars
In this short series of articles, we will be focusing on one of the most popular musical instruments the world has ever seen: the guitar—delving into its history, terminology, components, function, heroes, genres, and manufacturers, while also taking a look at how one can buy a guitar, and eventually, play it.
First, let’s take a look at some background information on this extremely versatile and even ancient means of making melody:
The guitar has been in use since ancient times, when ancient dudes (as Bill and Ted might say) rocked the lands of antiquities in many styles.
However, today, it is primarily known as the driving force in genres such as classical guitar, blues, country, and rock and roll. It is within these genres that the six-string variety became the most popular, and thus, imprinted the popular concept of the guitar in the minds of billions.
Of this versatile six-string type, there are two main subtypes of guitars nowadays, which I am sure everyone is aware of: acoustic and electric. It is mostly either of these two types that one would buy as their first guitar; as was the case for me. Mine was a cheap electric guitar, and, while not one of the best brands, it did the job quite nicely. But we’ll touch on that a bit later.