English 17

History of the Guitar

It is amazing how we can all be so familiar with something and not know it’shistory or origin. Anyone who thinks,2 the guitar is a modern invention is wrong. Anyone who thinks that the guitar is a hundred, two hundred, or even a thousand years old is also mistaken. Actually,3most musical historians believe that the guitar was born at least 4000 years ago. Although4 no one really knows for sure.

The only evidence man has of the existence of guitars before the sixteenth century are based5 on artwork. The oldest evidence of the existence of the guitar dates back to 1900–1800 B.C. It was found in Babylonia on plaques that were made of clay.6 It depicts figures – one of which appears to be a king or deity – playing instruments that bear a general resemblance to the guitar. Of course, this is far too early for us to expect these instruments to look exactly like the guitars of today, but they did have strings and a distinct differentiated body and neck.7

Although stringed instruments were quite common in Asia and the Middle East during the first millennium B.C., the8 first known European stringed instrument only dates back to the third century A.D. It was made of dark sapwood, and had an oblong sound box that tapered into a long, wide neck, similar to that of the lute. [9] A second instrument was invented called the Carolingian instrument, getting its name from the time when they thought it up.10 It was a rectangular shaped instrument with strings.

Moving into the seventeenth century, the guitar became popular and particularly valued by the nobility. King Louis XIV of France , who was known as the Sun King,11 considered the guitar to be his favorite instrument. The number of composers, players and, guitar makers12 grew rapidly during that time. Many aristocrats, seeking to curry favor with the king, therefore began to play the guitar as well.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that the guitar fully reached its potential, however.13 Technological advances permitted sturdier, more durable instruments to be manufactured. [14] Consequently, more people were given the opportunity to participate in making music with the guitar, such as musicians, composers, listeners, and those of us who just enjoy picking out a tune for our own enjoyment. [15]