The History Of The Guitar

THE HISTORY OF THE GUITAR The guitar is a fretted, stringed instrument, and is a member of the lute family. It originated in Persia and reached Spain during the twelth-century, where its versatility as both a solo and accompanying instrument were established. The theory of the guitar was discovered in the early centuries. They found that the sound of a bowstring could be enhanced by attaching a resonating chamber -most like a tortiseshell- to the bow. From the bow came essentially three main types of stringed instruments: the Harp family, which was the sound of plucked strings indirectly transmitted to an attached sound box.

The second was the Lyre family, which was strings of a fixed pitch are attached to the directly to a sound chamber. And the third was the Lute family, this was were the pitch of strings was altered by pressing them against a neck that is attached directly to a sound chamber. Within the Lute family came two groups. The lutes proper which had rounded backs and the guitar type instruments with their flat backs. Guitar-shaped instruments appear in stone bas-relief sculptures of the hittites in northern Syria and Asia Minor from as far back as 1350 B.C. The word guitar also has origins in the middle and far east, deriving from gut, is the Arabic word for four, and tar, the Sanskrit word for string. The earliest European guitars did have four courses of gut strings.

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A 2 course is a pair of strings tuned in unison. These early guitars were distinguished from lutes by body sides that curved inward to form a waist and by four courses of strings. Some but not all early guitars had a flat back, while lutes always had a flat back. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the lute was the dominant fretted instrument. The lute with was pear-shaped and had five or more courses of strings was generally regarded as a higher class of instrument.

By 1546 the guitar had gained enough popularity to merit the publication of a book of guitar music. By this time guitars had added another course, and modern tuning had come into existence. Chord positions were the same as they are today. The frets of the early guitars were made of gut and tied around the neck. This made placement of frets very difficult.

The early guitars were also much shorter in length than todays guitars. The second most popular instrument during the Middle ages was the cittern. It was more like the modern guitar than any other during that time. It had metal strings, fixed frets, a fingerboard that extended onto the top, a flat back, and a movable bridge with strings anchored by a tailpiece; and it was played with a quill or plectrum(pick). But this modern instrument soon lost its popularity and disappeared by the late 1600s.

Through the 1600s and 1700s the guitar design changed very little, although interest increased around luthiers. In the 1770s the first guitars with six single strings appeared, 3 blowing the evolutionary lid off the instrument. Within the next few decades, numerous innovations followed: body waists became narrower and body bouts changed shape, becoming circular in northern Europe and more oval shaped in southern Europe. Inlaid frets of brass or ivory replaced the tied on gut frets and the neck was extended one full octave(12 frets) clear of the body. Metal tuners with machine heads began to replace friction pegs, and strings were anchored by bridge pins, replacing the method of tying strings to the bridge. By the 1820s most of the fingerboard extended all the way to the soundhole. As rapidly as the guitar changed so did its acceptance.

By the 1800s the Lute had all but disappeared. One of the best known makers of this new-style of guitar was Johann Georg Staufer of Vienna. Staufer and another maker Johann Ertel in 1822 designed a fingerboard raised off the top of the guitar, and experimented with different fret metals, settling on an alloy of brass,copper,silver, and arsenic. The first half of the 19th century was a time of great experimentation for the guitar. And many of the innovations that were credited to 20th century makers were actually tried a century earlier. Some of them included: The peghead with all six tuners on one side and scroll shape at the top, which is now common of the fender guitars was tried in the 1800s by Staufer.

Gibson came out with the raised 4 fingerboard in 1922. Actually it was done exactly 100 years earlier by Staufer and Ertel. In 1988 Fender introduced a scalloped fingerboard on one of its models. Again this had been done in the first half of the 1800s. Artist endorsement models like the Les Paul, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Chet Atkins models, which were of huge success had already been thought of and done like the Luigi Legnani model by Staufer in 1820.

In the early 20th century guitars began to develop into what we know today. In 1903 the first Gibson catalog assured that instruments would be made of woods with the most durable, elastic and sonorous qualities such as maple, mahogany, vermilion, and suitable woods. They settled on maple but only the high-end mandolins were made of maple. It wasnt until the mid-to-late1920s, when they finally began to make them with maple wood. During the early 1900s Gibson and a company out of Chicago, the Larson brothers were the only ones whose instruments were built for steel strings.

The others were still made for gut. From the 1850s to the 1920s , a variety of new guitar designs surfaced, some were outlandish and some were ideas whose time would not arrive until decades later like the Gibson carved top guitar and the Larson Brothers steel-stringed flat top which were both turn-of-the-century innovations. The guitar rested on an evolutionary plateau from the 1850s into the 1920s, at least in part to the perfection of C.F Martins design. This was partly because the guitar was secondary instrument, and was not 5 subject to the competition like the banjo or mandolin. The closest the guitar came to challenging them was in Hawaiian music from 1915 into the 1920s.

But in the 1920s a demand for greater volume began to revolutionize the banjo and continued to be the strongest driving force for new fretted instrument design for the next three decades. At the same time two new innovations in related fields were changing the musical instrument dramatically. The first advance the phonograph, actually dates back …


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