The History of the Guitar
April 19, 2013
Guitars are part of the music we hear every day, but did you ever wonder about the origin of the
guitar? I did, so my report is about the history of the guitar. I will talk about both the evolution of
the guitar from the early guitar to the present and variations of the guitar such as the electric guitar.
Today’s guitar has the following elements: six strings, a wooden body, curved sides, a flat back, a
head, tuning pegs, a nut, a neck, a heel, a soundhole, a rose, and a bridge.
The measurements of a full size guitar are as follows: the whole length is 98cm, the strings are each
65cm, the width of the bottom of the guitar is 37cm, the middle of the body is 24cm, and the top of
the body is 28cm, the length of the body is 48.5cm, from the nut to the body is 30cm, the depth at
the bottom of the body is 10cm, and at the top of the body it is 9.5cm.
The usual tuning is E-A-d-g-b-e.
The electric guitar shares some traits with acoustic and classical guitars, but it also has some unique
characteristics. For instance, the electric guitar has a thin solid body. Unlike the acoustic and
classical guitars, the controls for an electric guitar are situated on the body. However, the electric,
acoustic, and classical guitars all have a fretboard and their six strings are all tuned the same way.
The electric guitar is usually strummed, the acoustic is sometimes strummed and sometimes
fingerpicked, and the classical guitar is usually fingerpicked.
BEFORE THE GUITAR
The origin of the guitar is questionable.
An important part of the history of the guitar is the lute. It is the most well-known predecessor to
One theory is that the guitar came from the Ancient Greek kithara. This theory came about because
the words kithara and guitar sound alike.
For instance, people have found guitar-like instruments with some long-necked lutes in
Mesopotamia and Anatolia. Later, Coptic lutes were found in Egypt. They were carved resonating
instruments that had flat backs and sides.
This is an image of a long-necked lute that was found in an Ancient Egyptian tomb. The long-necked
lute has been dated back to about 2000-1500 B.C.E. It is different from some of the later lutes that
evolved from the ud.
In 250 B.C.E. the ud was invented. The ud was an ancestor of the short-necked lute. It was teardrop
shaped and it had plucked strings. This was considered one of the predecessors of the guitar. It
came before the short-necked lute but was not as popular. That is why it is not often considered in
lists of predecessors.
Short necked lutes appeared much later than the long-necked kind. The first short-necked lutes
with guitar-like bodies came in the first century A.D. In central Asia at this time, there were many
types of lutes. Lutes with guitar-like bodies appeared from 0-300 A.D. Instruments with guitar-like
bodies did not appear again until the 1100’s as a bowed instrument.
There have been arguments about whether the guitar came completely from Europe or if it was
brought into Europe by the Arabs during the Middle Ages (400-1400 A.D). The Moors also seem to
have played a role given that they invaded Spain in 711 A.D, bringing the short-necked lute all the
way from North Africa to Europe.
The European lute comes from the Renaissance Period, beginning in the 1400’s. The lute first had
paired strings then single strings. It had four courses (sets of strings) and in the 1500’s a fifth higher
course was added. After that, a sixth course was added in the bass making the instrument a six
course lute. The word lute comes from the Spanish word for the ud, which is “el ud. If you say “el
There was another predecessor to the guitar called a gittern. Gitterns were mostly in Europe.
The gitterns from southern Europe were...
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