Once upon a time in the dark, mystical forest there lived a wizard called Jim. Some say this Jim created a musical instrument out of magic, to keep himself company during the long days and nights in the enchanted woods as he was a bit lonely. This musical instrument or so legend would have it, was the humble guitar.
Ha ha, ok maybe not, I think I may have made that up, although that would have been great if it was true, lol.
Ok, let’s get back to it, here is the serious bit. Let’s start from the beginning.
It is said that the oldest surviving guitar-like instrument is said to come from Egypt. History has it that it was used by a singer to entertain one of the Pharoahs. The guitar is currently on show in a museum based in Cairo.
One of the many evolutions of the guitar, the Lute, came to Europe (watch out this bit is contentious) between the 6th and the 9th century, it was brought to the Byzantine Empire and called a Barbat. It then later resurfaced in Spain. This instrument became the Lute and was a really popular instrument in the European Middle Ages.
One of the predecessors to the modern day classical guitar was the Baroque guitar. It was played during the European Renaissance in the 1600s. The Baroque guitar had a lot of strings 9, 10 maybe even 11 strings with 2 strings generally tuned to the same course or note.
It then made a shift towards becoming more similar to the modern guitar when a lower E string was added later to it.
Antonio Torres Jurado
This guy was incredible and often hailed as the grandfather of guitars. In the 1800’s a guy called Antonio started building guitars very similar to our modern classical/acoustic guitars. This means that most of today’s guitars are derived or slight variations from Antonio’s original design.
In the 1930s the electric guitar was invented in the United States. By all accounts there was a race to get the first patent on this as lots of people were simultaneously working on this.
The first guitar patent went to George Beauchamp he made this guitar in partnership with Adolph Rickenbacker in 1931. A lot of other inventors and guitar makers were working on electric guitars at the same time. There are so many famous electric guitar makers but one of the most famous was Les Paul who pioneered the solid body guitar made by Gibson Guitars. This guitar is still popular with rock stars around the world.
A fact I thought was quite interesting is the English word “guitar” comes from the Spanish word guitarra. I always thought the word originated somewhere else, so for those of you like me, I just wanted to clear that up.
Ok, so yes I appreciate this is a ‘potted’ history of the guitar, and there may not have been any enchanted forests or dragons (or that we know about) but the guitar is pretty cool. Although the stories of its origins somewhat differ, most agree the estimated time of its invention and its evolution through the ages. From Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath to Coldplay; Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Slash they all used/use the guitar to make beautiful music and actually make the guitar sound like one of the coolest instruments on the planet.