The modern history of the acoustic guitar began in 1850 with the work of the Spaniard Antonio Torres. In fact, Torres’ design is still being used to make classical guitars today.
The word guitar was derived from the Spanish term guitarra. Although Torres’ work helped shape the modern guitar, guitar like instruments had been in existence for a very long time. Early instruments like the Baroque guitar, vihuela and lute played roles in the evolution of the modern acoustic guitar.
There is actually evidence that ancient civilizations had developed something similar. Thousands of years ago, stringed instruments were already being used in India and other civilizations in Asia.
Other instruments that were pivotal in the history of the acoustic guitar were the sitar and tanbur. Archaeologists have discovered a 3,300 year old carving showing a Hittite playing a guitar like instrument.
Other Descendants of the Guitar
The guitar is also thought to be derived from the Roman cithara. This instrument was introduced by the Romans first to Hispania circa 40 AD. Its development would be influenced by the oud, which was popularized by the Moors in the 8th century. Other stringed instruments began appearing in Europe around the same time. One of them was the six string lute, which was of Scandinavian origin.
The history of the acoustic guitar shows that around 1200 AD, the guitarra moresca had emerged. It had numerous holes and was rounded. The guitarra Latina had a single hole and looked more like the modern guitar. By the Renaissance the moresca and Latina were no longer being used and both instruments were referred to as guitars.
The vihuela originated in Spain and had six courses. The instrument was invented in Spain in the 15th century and became popular throughout Europe. This was followed by the Baroque guitar which had five courses. This instrument became very popular especially in France.
The history of the acoustic guitar through the 16th and 17th centuries saw innovations and refinements made to the design. However it was Torres’ work in the 1850s that became the standard.
He was the one who increased the guitar body size. He also came up with the idea of the fan top bracing design. Torres’ modification greatly improved the sound of the guitar.
Around the same time, German settlers in America started making the X brace tops for the guitars. The 1900s saw the invention of the steel strings. The steel stringed guitars were used with the X brace designed by Christian Martin. It was during the 1930s that amplification started being used. This would lead to the invention of electric guitars.
Today guitars are generally divided between electric, acoustic and classical. Some classify acoustic and classical as the same. One difference is that acoustic types are given sub categories like flamenco and folk guitars.
The history of the acoustic guitar has seen numerous innovations. Today’s guitars usually come with six strings but 12 and even 18 string versions are available. While the exact origin may be disputed, there’s no argument about the guitar’s contribution to music.