The Origins of the Guitar
Ever wonder who came up with these?
Stringed “ancestor” instruments to the guitar have been around for thousands of years, but the first modern guitars appeared in Spain around the 16th century. They were transplants from Mesopotamia – the Moors who had conquered (and were eventually forced out) of the Iberian peninsula (what is Spain and Portugal today) brought with them stringed instruments from the rapidly expanding Arab world.
The first modern guitars actually sported four pairs of strings rather than six individual strings. The pairs would be strung and tuned together. Music for these kind of guitars can be traced back to the Renaissance. Early guitars also closely resembled the (at the time) more popular lutes in that they had shorter necks with fewer frets.
Soon the instrument found its way to Italy, where a 5th “course,” or pair of strings, was added. The next 100 years would prove very important in the guitar’s history. Italian guitar makers first added a 6th course of strings, giving us the 6-note guitar, then reduced each course to a single string, creating guitars like the ones we typically see today – although generally still with the short necks. It would take another century for guitar makers to start regularly making instruments with longer necks like we generally associate with modern guitars.
One last major development had to take place, though, credited to Spaniard Antonio Torres, who widened the instrument’s body and gave it its current dimensions. From there, it was off to the races as people made minor alterations here and there to adapt guitars to their own music. Guitars have become some of the most widely-used instruments in the world, lending their sounds to music as varied as classical, rock, pop, country, flamenco, jazz, and many other styles.