Guitar History, From Beginning to Present

guitar history

Guitar History

1.Guitar History Beginning

2. Development

3. Golden Times

4. Segovia,The Greatest Guitarist in 20th Century

5. Now

1. Guitar History Beginning

Where guitar history begins?

This is the first question comes to our mind.

But it is almost a “mission impossible“.Because wood material is easily rotted.So we can hardly find any evidence of thousands years ago.

1-1. Clews

However, there’s still some clew for us to have an idea of  time-line of music instrument’s development.

Percussion instrument is the first music instrument appeared,then wind instrument.

String instrument appeared at the last.But it is the most important one. 

1-2. String Instruments Begins

The earliest string instrument developed from hunting weapon.That is bow.

Today, some tribes in Africa still use bow as a music instrument.

As pursuing of rich tone-color,string instrument developed follows two directions.

One is to increase number of bow or string.Piano is the typical result of this direction.

Another is to change length of string by finger or tools to achieve a new tone. Violin,mandolin,guitar,etc., are typical music instruments of such development.

Most of historians take Nefer,a string instrument of Egypt of 2000B.C to 3000 B.C  as ancestor of guitar.

Because the instrument has the same inward bending body as guitar.

As Nefer is found in the sculpture of city gate sites of Hittie. The instrument is so called Hittie Guitar.

“8-shaped” body shares the same resonance character with guitar.This also makes guitar different from other string instruments.

So, this is the beginning of guitar history.

guitar history

1-3. Guitar Appearance

In 13th century of Spain, two types of guitar appeared: Guitarra Morisca with oval body and metallic string and Guitarra Latian with 8-shaped body and sheep intestine string.The two types had different music style. Guitarra Morisca is more wilde and Guitarra Latian is more classic and soft.

2. Development

When we talk about the development of guitar history,we need to start at Renaissance times.

In 16th century, performance of 4 pair of complex string guitar and Vihuela achieved to an high level.Both of the instruments were popular and be a palace instrument.

Relatively, 4 pair of  complex string guitar was more popular.

From 17th century to early 18th century, it was times of Baroque.

Vihuela vanished, 5 pair of complex string guitar took place of 4 pair of complex string guitar.

In late 18th century, 5 pair of complex guitar gradually vanished, 6 pair of complex string guitar also finished its history task soon.

Around year 1800, new 6-string in history of guitar appeared. Because of clear sound and convenient adjustment,etc., it is rapidly developed in Europe. Guitar’s golden times is coming.

This is a general clew of the development of guitar history.

3. Golden Times

Generally,golden times of guitar begins from 1775.

3-1.  Revolution of Structure

As mentioned above,new 6-string guitar appeared.

But most importantly, “fan-shaped” beam was applied in building of 6-string guitar.This structure made the instrument to have a thinner solid top to achieve better transmission of vibration.

This structure deeply influenced building of guitar till now.

3-2. Great Composers and Performers

In beginning of 19th century, some main cities of Europe became center of guitar such as Paris,London and Vienna.

Great composers also got high reputation during this period. Boccherini,Italian composer wrote wonderful pieces for 12-string guitar,Schubert said “Only a few knows guitar although it is a wonderful instrument.”. After performance of Giuliani,Beethoven said “guitar is a mini orchestra”.

There’s only a few guitar composers.Most of them were active in 19th century. This is one reason why this period is called golden times.

The most famous performers during this period are Sor and Aguado.

The two masters are friends but stand for two different style playing. Sor was used to play soft sound with finger only. Aguado was used to play more active sound with nail only.

Those great players left us more. Sor wrote many great master pieces and practicing pieces, some of them we still play today. He is also called “Beethoven of Guitar”. Carulli,Carcassi,Jiuliani,and Aguado also wrote a lot of classical pieces for practicing which is still important in today’s guitar lessons.

3-3. Torres and Tarrega

Torres,Father of modern guitar,made indelible contribution in guitar history.

He made innovation in many aspects of building technology,such as metal tuning machine displaced wood tuning machine,developed fan structure with 7 PCS of beam,etc.

But his greatest contribution is enlarging the body size.

Compare with Sor times, the body is 20% larger and greatly enlarge sound volume to improve the performance.

Tarrega gave classical guitar music a new life from innovative performing technology.

In 1874,Tarrega entered Madrid Conservatory of Music to study hermonic and composition.

In early of his concert,Tarrega played piano in half of time and guitar in another. But the audience always prefer classical guitar.Then he choose it as main music instrument and became the most famous performer during the time.

Tarrega’s contribution is in three aspects:completely progressed performing technology;wrote large quantity of master pieces;adapted a lot of master pieces of Bach,Beethoven and Chopin,etc.

guitar history

4. Segovia,The Greatest Guitarist in 20th Century

4-1. Background

Segovia got his first instrument when he was 10 years old.

When he was only 16 years old,he knew classical guitar will be his only career.And hold his first concert.

The performance life last for more than 70 years.This greatly helped popularization of the music.

And today we also call classical guitar as Segovia Classical Guitar.

4-2. Contributions

Segovia has revised many music master pieces includes Bach.

This made the world to re-evaluate the value of the guitar.

Besides,he trained many guitar masters who made a large influence.

Today,almost all music academy take classical guitar as an important major.This is one of Segovia’s contribution.

As we all know in old times, guitar uses string of sheep intestinal.Which greatly limit the volume of acoustic performance.

With Albert Augustin’s assistance,Segovia persuaded Dupont Brothers to produced nylon string from 1947.This is where brand Augustin came from.

Nylon string’s appearance is the greatest revolution for classical guitar in both production technology and performance. This is another Segovia’s contribution.

Segovia was greatly influenced by Tarrega and his student Liobet. He also influenced many musicians in the world includes famous master today David.Russel,John.Williams,etc.

guitar history

5. Now

Now we can see how classical guitar develops.It already get more and more popular in worldwide.

And we can also see many kinds of guitar developed from classical types.Such as folk guitar, jazz,guitar,bass and electric type.,etc.

We are expecting new revolution of the instrument.But what we expect more is the beautiful sound.

Thanks god for giving us such incredible instrument.And thanks to those made great contributions in developing of the instrument.

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