A Brief History Of The Acoustic Guitar
June 5, 2019
Harland Laguna in Music Gear, acoustic guitar, guitar, music history

Go back through the millennia and you will find stories of stringed instruments of one kind and another being plucked throughout the centuries, so this page has been written provide the reader with a brief history of the Acoustic Guitar.


The Tanbur is possibly the earliest recording of a guitar like instrument, used by the Ancient Egyptians 4000 years ago, defined as long-necked with a small pear-shaped body, there are paintings and carvings that depict these in use. A 3500 year old Tanbur was excavated from a tomb and still exists today, I believe this falls into the vintage category.

Members of the Lute family can be traced back to 3000 BC in Mesopotamia, the Lute was introduced to Spain as the Oud or Ud in 700 AD during the Moorish conquests. The Lute was a long or short necked instrument with a rounded back and strings running parallel to the sound hole.

While my Cithara Gently Weeps

The Greeks had come up with the Cithara (or Kithara which means Guitar), which had seven string attached to a bridge at one end and a sound box at the other and was played with a plectrum. This was then adopted by the Romans who took it with them during their travels across Europe.

By the Renaissance the Italians and the Spanish were leading the way bringing to the world their five double course (meaning five pairs of strings, each pair tuned to the same frequency,) stringed guitarra battente and the four double course stringed Chitarra respectively. Both were starting to look a little more like the guitars of today with tuning pegs and frets. In the sixteenth century the Vihuela came on the scene in Spain, it was larger with six double course strings, a longer neck and more frets. The Vihuela dominated the scene for the next 200 years and whilst Spain was seen as the spiritual home of the instrument it was France who started mass producing them.

In the 18th century guitar alterations crept in with machine heads replacing tuning pegs and six double coarse strings became the norm.

Pickup the Volume

Antonio Torres Jurado is possibly the most significant individual in the evolution of the acoustic guitar, during the 19th century he developed fan bracing under the soundboard, he broadened the neck and increased the size of the body, significantly this created greater bass and volume to enable the instrument to be taken to the stage.

At the end of the 19th century in the USA a German immigrant called Christian Fredrich Martin introduced steel strings to the guitar and developed X bracing in order to support the extra tension put on the instrument by the strings.

Orville Gibson created an arch top guitar, combined with the steel strings this created even greater volume. And when Gibson introduced an electric pickup to his jazz guitar in the 1920s another story began that you will probably find on another website.

 

So that’s pretty much it, 4000 years of the history of the Acoustic Guitar, our obsession with string and wood in a nutshell, I hope you’ve found it interesting and please feel free to leave a comment in the box below or click on the word comment above the title at the top of the page, and let me know your thoughts and of course I’ll do my best to answer any questions.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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