History of the Guitar

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History of the Guitar

In this essay I will research:

- The history of the Guitar, from the origins of the instrument, up until the present day - The technological advances of the instrument
- The main practitioners of the instrument and how they changed the way the guitar was used or thought of.

The guitar is possibly the most well known and widely played instrument in modern times. There have been instruments similar to the guitar for at least 5,000 years. The oldest known depiction of a guitar-like instrument is a stone carving of a member of a people known as the Hittites. The beginnings of the design of the modern guitar stemmed from a people called the Moors, who brought an instrument called an Oud into Spain in the 8th century. The oud was a small, four stringed instrument with a small neck and had no frets.

By the 13th century, there were two types of four stringed instruments that were known as guitars; the guitarra morisca, which means “Moorish guitar”, and the guitarra Latina, which means “Latin guitar”. These two guitars have very different features. The guitarra morisca had a wide fretboard and several soundholes, whereas the guitarra Latina had one soundhole and a narrower neck, which was more like the modern guitar. The Spanish Vihuela which was invented in the 15th century and was popular, albeit for a short time, was a big step towards the development of the modern guitar. It usually had 12 strings, tuned in major fourths, like the modern guitar, although the 3rd string was tuned a semitone lower, and also looked similar to a modern acoustic guitar.

It wasn’t until the late 18th century that guitars started to resemble the modern guitar we know today. One of the main reasons for this is that guitar makers added a sixth string to the guitars they made. In the 19th century, a guitar luthier called Antonio Torres Jurado radically changed the design of the instrument, increasing the size of the body to produce more volume. This guitar was the first incarnation of the modern guitar. The next monumental step in the development of the guitar was the electric guitar. The first electric guitar was invented by George Beauchamp in 1931, the famous “frying pan” guitar. George Beauchamp would go on to found the Rickenbacker Electro Stringed Instrument Company in 1934 with his partners Paul Barth and Adolph Rickenbacker. The way the frying pan guitars electronics were built were that they fitted two magnets, which would create a magnetic field that, when a string was played, the magnets would pick up the vibrations of the string and send it to a wire coil. It would then be connected to a PA system. There were some problems however. Most early electric guitars were hollow bodied , and although people initially found the high volume of the electric guitar appealing, some people were put off because of the feedback that was produced. An inventor called Les Paul helped to remedy this problem as he invented a solid body guitar which was made of wood. There were several benefits of this design. It was cheaper to make, lighter than its metal counterparts, and the feedback was almost nullified. The 1950’s marked a changing point for the electric guitar. Leo Fender had produced the Telecaster (it was originally called the Broadcaster but due to a copyright issue with Gretcsh, changed the name) in 1950, a solid bodied guitar with two single coil pickups, which was also affordable. And in 1952 Gibson released the Les Paul model of guitars. Fender then increased competition by releasing the Fender Stratocaster in 1954. These two companies are still the largest companies in the guitar market. Even today there are still modifications to the electric guitar, albeit with a modern twist. In 2007 Gibson released the “Robot Guitar”, which uses a microprocessor that tunes the guitar for you and Fender soon followed in the same year with the “VG Stratocaster”, which featured not only the self tuning feature,...
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