When Was the First Guitar Made and Who Invented It?
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the first acoustic guitar was invented, but an engraving from the region of Mesopotamia in Iraq shows a woman playing the oud, which is a type of lute with a short neck and strings. This engraving dates back to between 3500 BCE and 3200 BCE, showing that some type of stringed instrument resembling a guitar was being used during this timeframe.
In around 1500 BCE, a guitar-like instrument called a tanbur was created in Egypt, and it was pear-shaped and came with three strings and a long neck. But it wasn’t until around 700 BCE that the kithara was created, which most people consider to be the predecessor of the modern-day acoustic guitar.
What Are the Differences Between Acoustic and Classical Guitar?
Before going any further, it’s good to know the differences between an acoustic and classical guitar, and the main difference lies in the type of strings used. Acoustic guitars use steel strings and classical guitars use nylon strings, and the difference in the sound is huge. Because nylon strings are thicker than steel strings, they produce a much warmer and more mellow sound.
It doesn’t take long to learn the sound differences between these two types of guitar. All you have to do is listen to them and you’ll automatically notice the difference. Steel and nylon strings produce two completely different sounds, which you’ll notice instantly.
The Origins of the Guitar
The instrument that we call a guitar is very likely a combination of the oud and the kithara, and throughout the ages the instrument changed and had different physical features. The main differences were in the number of strings included on the instrument and the layers of strings used. Gaetano and Gennaro Vinaccia are usually credited with creating the instrument that we think of today as a six-string acoustic guitar.
The Vinaccia brothers’ guitar debuted around 1776 and immediately gained in popularity. But other instrument builders were also influential in this development. For example, Antonio Torres Jurado is credited for creating a design that is the basis for the modern-day classical guitar. Today, original Vinaccia guitars are still being sold, but they are rare and very expensive.
But before the mid-1700s, the instrument we now call a guitar went through several changes. Moorish ouds and European lutes were both hollow boxes that amplified sound and were plucked or strummed by hand in order to create that sound.
In the Middle Ages, the lute was especially popular. In addition, it wasn’t until around 711 CE that the fretboard was officially added to this instrument, as only some designs had fretboards up to that point.
The Renaissance and Classical Periods
Around 1488, a German book was published that contained 38 prints by an unknown author. Each of the prints consisted of various figures holding stringed instruments in various designs. In the 16th century, a Spanish stringed instrument was developed that contained either five or six doubled strings, and it was called the vihuela. The vihuela was used mostly by the aristocracy and is a direct relative of the modern acoustic guitar.
There were actually three forms of the vihuela, but its usage declined quite a bit by the late 16th century. At this time, the instrument evolved into what was called the baroque guitar, which is what we now call a classical guitar. But it was the Classical period that is considered the most important when it comes to the modern guitar’s design. Until around 1750, 5-course guitars were the norm, but that changed to 6-course guitars by the late 1700s.
In the early 1800s, the world exploded with guitar performers and composers, especially in Spain. Two of the most-famous guitarists at this time were Fernando Sor and Dionisio Aguado y Garcia. By this point in time, the guitar was becoming a very popular instrument indeed.
While the Vinaccia brothers and Antonio Torres Jurado are known as being significant designers of the instrument that we now know as the acoustic guitar, it is the latter who made some very important alterations. First, he made the body of the guitar bigger in order to increase the volume, and he made lighter and thinner soundboards that arched in both directions. He also invented a fan-braced pattern that made it easier for the tension of the strings not to cause problems when certain notes are played.
Around this time, Christian Frederick Martin established his own guitar company, known as C.F. Martin & Company, which is still in existence today. Martin further developed the instrument’s tension capacity by creating the first X-braced guitar, which became a very important feature of acoustic guitars starting in the early 20th century. This was especially true for acoustic guitars because they use steel strings.
Since then, other well-known artists have improved the guitar that we use today, including Orville H. Gibson, John Dopyera, L.R. Baggs, Takamine, Adolph Rickenbacker, and DiMarzo, to name a few. Each company improved upon the acoustic guitar to make it what it is today, and this is why the instrument is so high in quality and sounds as good as it now does.
Conclusion – When Was the First Guitar Made and Who Invented It?
If you look at the modern-day guitar, the one thing you’ll notice is how different it looks from the stringed instruments from many centuries ago, but it is those alterations and changes that make the instrument what it is today. Each era added or changed something to make the guitar a little better, and while it went through numerous changes when it comes to strings, frets, and overall size, it wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for those changes.
The guitar continues to be a very popular instrument for millions of musicians all across the globe. For centuries, stringed instruments considered to be predecessors of the modern-day guitar were developed and enjoyed, with many improvements along the way. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the very first guitar was created, most people consider Antonio Torres Jurado and Gaetano, and Gennaro Vinaccia to be the people whose contributions to the guitar are the most important.
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