The evolution of the guitar through history

Although we do not know the exact origins of the guitar, we can say that countries like Greece, India and Egypt were some of the most influential in its evolution. Likewise, Spain helped a lot regarding the final finishes of the instrument, providing it with the design that we know today internationally as a Spanish guitar.

An ancient instrument

According to historians, in 1500 years BC there was already a string instrument called a lyre. This was used in ancient Greece, although it is also believed that it came from the Hittite empire. Perhaps it is one of the most important theories regarding the origin of the guitar.

The lyre originally had 3 strings, but over time it evolved, until it had 12 strings. Her musicality led her to become an important part of Greek culture. In that nation they created different types of lyres, some were made of wood, others were made of tortoise shells. The 3 strings of the ancient lyre had their respective names, Nete, Mese and Hípate. It is about the 3 muses of Delphi, the place of the omphalos or center of the universe.

In terms of aesthetics, this instrument had gold and white decorations, as well as luxury finishes, since the lyre was very important in Greek mythology and culture.

Similarly, in India there was the Sitara, which means musical chord. This instrument is from 4 millennia ago and did not have a neck either. In its evolution it passed through Persia until it reached Greece, where it obtained the name of Khitara.

This other instrument is similar to a lyre, but the soundboard is much larger. Due to its good sound properties, it spread throughout Greece and was even played in ancient Rome and Corsica. Limenio and Terpandro were some of the most outstanding professional interpreters of this instrument.

Theories about the guitar neck

At first, plucked string instruments lacked a neck. It was probably the Arabs who created the first instrument with a neck, since they made the Avalanche. This had a soundboard and neck, but no frets.

Over the centuries, musicians and manufacturers from various parts of the world influenced its design, thus creating the famous lute that still exists today. Of course, some countries have made changes to it, so there are many kinds of Lutes.

The lute’s neck was not flat, however, it was straightened over time, giving rise to the Vihuela, an instrument used in sacred and pagan music.

On the other hand, according to the Spanish luthier Manuel Rodríguez, the shape of the guitar comes from an Egyptian instrument dating from 300 BC. It is the Cotic Lute, a flat instrument with a soundboard and neck.

medieval guitars

In the Middle Ages there were various instruments similar to the guitar that we know today. Among them, we highlight the Latin guitar, which had a flat front top, dropped shoulders and a long neck with a pegbox. It was made up of 5 strings and was played with a plectrum or the fingers.

Similarly, we mention the mandora, whose origin we find in the pantur, a Sumerian instrument. In the fourteenth century it was also called Moorish guitar. It has an oval soundboard, as well as a sickle-shaped neck and headstock.

It should be noted that during the 13th and 15th centuries, guitars were carved from a single piece of wood, that is, neck, body and headstock together. Likewise, they closely resembled a compact lute.

Later, two plucked string instruments were born from the Latin guitar, the double-stringed vihuela and the 4-course guitar. The latter was more popular, but the nomadic character of many medieval musicians made both instruments famous throughout Europe.

The main Spanish guitars

In Spain, the design that we currently know of this instrument was created. It was specifically in the city of Seville, in 1874. This happened in the workshop of the famous craftsman Antonio Torres, since this character manufactured them respecting the standard canons of design. And we cannot forget the main types of guitar that are manufactured in this nation. With this we are basically talking about two models, the Spanish and the flamenco guitar.

The first one is also known internationally as classical guitar and is used to play almost any musical genre. On the other hand, the flamenco guitar usually has a smaller body and a thin neck, so that the plucks are easy to make and they emit very bright sounds.

The most outstanding types of guitar

Before making a comparison of Spanish guitars , you must bear in mind that we have at our disposal various types of guitars, each one with a unique purpose. For example, there are acoustic guitars with metal strings. These models almost always have a reinforced mast inside, thanks to a rod called a soul. In this way, the mast will withstand the tension of the metal strings and will not split.

There are also electro-acoustic guitars, which have the same design as the previous ones, but have a built-in preamplifier with a sound sensor under the bone. In other words, you will be able to connect this guitar to a mixer or external sound equipment. This is an advantage for people who are going to play in gigantic auditoriums and need to be heard by the entire audience.

Similarly, there is the electric guitar, which normally does not have a soundboard. The only way to make it sound is by connecting it to an amplifier or an active speaker.

The Spanish guitar has continued to be taught professionally in conservatories, universities and art academies throughout the world. Likewise, guitar learning continues to advance empirically, thanks to web pages, online tutorials, self-taught books, etc. As if that were not enough, the manufacture of guitars continues to evolve, with new designs and materials.

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