History of the Guitar

Throughout history the guitar has evolved gradually into the form it takes today. Its evolution can be traced back to an old stone carving of a Hittite bard that dates back to over 3,300 years ago. The instrument being played in the carving, while not identical by any means to today’s guitar, contains the basic and essential features of a guitar. The image showed an instrument with a flat top, long neck complete with frets, and curved in sides. In the 12th century, the guitar was seen and described as an instrument with a wooden flat back, ribs, and a long neck.

By the 14th century, the Latin and Moorish guitars being used were being referred to as guitars. The Moorish guitar was called the Guitarra Moresca and had a wide fingerboard, rounded back, and several sound holes. The Latin guitar, known as the guitarra latina, differed in that it had a single sound hole and the neck was much more narrow.

By the 15th and 16th centuries the design of the guitar was evolving more and more into the guitar as we know it today. The development of the Spanish vihuela is believed to have been a large influence in the style of modern guitars, with the hole in the base, the strings, and its curved structure.

American Guitar: The guitar came to America in the mid 1500s and was brought to the country by the early Spanish explorers and missionaries.

Arch-Lute: This lute has a long neck, which was designed to accommodate two types of strings, and was used during the Renaissance period in Italy and Britain.

Archtop Guitar: The archtop guitar is a guitar used frequently in blues and jazz music. The guitar is strung with steel strings and falls into the acoustic guitar category. This guitar can be traced as far back as 1896.

Bandora: This strung instrument was most likely build in England by John Rose in the 1560s. This guitar instrument has six or seven string pairs. The Bandora was sometimes compared to the folk instrument from the Ukraine known as the bandura.

Baroque Guitar: The Baroque Guitar is a guitar from the baroque era (1600-1750) that is smaller than the modern classical guitar which is similar in style.

Chitarra Battente: The name of this guitar means the “beating guitar.” This guitar is larger than the classical guitar and uses four strings made of steel.

Cittern: Also known as the Cither, this instrument emerged during the Renaissance and is believed to be descended from the Cytole. This guitar contains metal strings which come in four courses containing one two or three strings each.

Classical Guitar: The classical guitar became popular in the 19th century and was regarded as the National instrument in Spain. This guitar contains six strings and falls into the instrument category known as “chordophones.”

Cytole: The Cytole dates back to the 13th century. It is somewhat boxlike in shape compared to modern guitars but has been known to have been modified by Queen Elizabeth I so that she could use it as a violin.

English Guitar: The English guitar evolved in the second half of the 18th century. The guitar had a pear shape, a short neck, ten strings, and a flat base.

Five-Course Guitar: A five course guitar is a guitar that contains five sets of strings (courses of strings). These strings come can be single, paired, or tripled.

Four-Course Guitar: The four course Guitar dates back to the 15th century and was believed to have been created by the people of Malaga.

Guitarra Latina: This stringed instrument evolved from hunting bows and gained popularity around 200 B.C.

Guitarra Moresca: This four course instrument has an oval shaped structure and was used around the 13th century.

Guiterrn: The Guitern dates back to the 13th century and was brought to Europe by the Spanish.

Latin American Guitars: This large guitar was used during the 1600s and was believed to have evolved from the Americas, and later was found in the Spanish colonies.

Lute: The lute’s history dates back to the Arab Oud. It has a pear-shaped structure with a curved back.

Oud: The Oud can be traced to the biblical age. It was first used somewhere around1600- 1150BC and had an oval shaped structure.

Parlor Guitar: The parlor guitar was believed to have evolved during the 19th century and early 20th century. It was compact in structure and was usually played in homes.

Six (Single) String Guitar: This form of guitar was used around the 1650s; its features include tuning heads and multi-level rosettes.

Theorbo: This form of guitar evolved during the 1580s in Florence. It was designed with a long neck.

Twelve-String Guitar: This guitar arrived in the United States from Mexico. It has 6 courses containing a total of twelve strings.

Vihuela De Mano: The Vihuela De Mano is a 16th century stringed instrument. The instrument usually contains 12 strings and is popular with mariachi bands.