The Origins of the Guitar

The Origins of the Guitar

Most guitar players can tell you all about chords and making music with their guitar but very few will know the origins of the guitar.  The guitar has been around for thousands of years and it is one of the oldest instruments on earth.  While the exact origins are largely unknown but we do know that there have been similar instruments for over 5,000 years.

Earliest Guitars

Way back in 1400 BC the Hittites were playing a guitar like instrument that had four strings.  The instrument had curved sides making it look very similar to what guitars are today.  During the same era the Greeks and Romans had similar instruments, the Romans referred to their instrument as the cithara.

Fast forward to 1200 AD and we have two different types of guitars, one is the Moorish guitar.  The guitar had a rounded back, wide fingerboard, and there were several sound holes in the body.  The other type of guitar is the Latin guitar and that was even closer to the current style of guitar, with just one sound hole and a narrow neck.

The Middle Ages

The Moorish and the Latin guitar both evolved into the vihuela.  The vihuela had double the number of strings of the other two guitars, but it had a much longer neck and almost a dozen frets.  The instrument was popular in both Spain and Portugal and this would continue for the next 200 years or so.  The vihuela would eventually evolve into the modern guitar.

The 1600’s

During this time the vihuela and the lute were both extremely popular, but the lute was difficult to play with too many strings.  They would eventually be replaced by the guitar but the guitar in those days had 7 strings rather than 6.  One was a high string along with three other pairs of strings.  It is said that the addition of the extra string is what made the guitar so popular.  Here is a closer look at the lute and vuhueala of that era.

1800’s to Now

It was Antonio Torres Jurado that refined the structure of the guitar by allowing for as many as 7 struts to be spread out under the soundboard.  He also increase the body width and neck width of the guitar.  Now the guitar had a more volume and bass, this allowed for the guitar to be used on stage as well as for a solo performer.  This is pretty much the style of guitar that we have today.