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Who Invented the Guitar?

Just as with the history of other musical instruments, there is no one person who invented the guitar. According to ancient documents, people were already playing string instruments thousands of years ago. Most people would assume the guitar was invented from the Greek harp-like instrument - the lyre.

Ancient String Instruments

In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia, there is evidence of the existence of string instruments that resembled the guitar. These string instruments can be seen in old Egyptian paintings dated 3500 years ago. It consists of three strings, a long thin neck, and a cedarwood body.

This instrument is known as the Oud. The Oud is a short neck string instrument without frets that existed in Persia. Once the Arabs came, they modified it, making it more versatile with 11 to 13 strings. This instrument was brought to the Iberia Peninsular in the 8th century, where it remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

Arabian conquest of Spain

Most people would think that the guitar originated in Spain, which isn’t wrong. The Moors brought the Oud to Spain and the Europeans began to modify it. The Spanish played the vihuela then, in place of the lute. Nevertheless, the lute had a critical influence on the instrument we know as the guitar today.

The guitar originally had four courses of strings that ran from a violin-like pegbox to a tension bridge glued to the soundboard, or belly. The bridge sustained the direct pull of the strings and the belly contained a circular sound hole, ornamented with a carved wooden rose. The 16th-century guitar was tuned to C-F-A-D - it followed the tuning centre of the lute and the vihuela.

From the 16th to 19th century, several changes were made to the instrument. A fifth course of strings was added, and by the 18th century, a sixth course was added. Before 1800, these strings were replaced by single strings tuned E-A-D-G-B-E, which remains the standard tuning today.

The Modern Guitar

Metal screws were substituted for the tuning pegs in the 19th century, and the tied-on gut frets were replaced by built-on ivory or metal frets in the 18th century. The fingerboard was raised slightly above the level of the belly and was also extended across to the edge of the sound hole.

In 1800, guitar makers were still experimenting with different sizes and bodies. One of the first designs that resembled today’s guitar was made by George Louis Panormo in 1832. The modern guitar got its form in 1850 when Antonie Torres Jurado came up with a revolutionary fan top design and a bigger body. Since then, the overall design of the classical guitar has not changed to this day.

The guitar came into prominence in the 20th century thanks to Andre Segovia, who performed with it as a concert instrument. Iconic guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, and George Harrison all helped to make the guitar a popular and indispensable instrument for modern musicians.

If the brief history of the guitar has piqued your interest in the instrument, come on down to Ritmo Music Studio and take our trial class for playing the guitar.

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