The Guitar

History of the guitar

The acoustic guitar as we know it today is a six stringed instrument with a “long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides”. This can also be said for many electric guitars, which feature a long fretted neck, flat back and incurved sides, but with modern technology and tools guitars can be made into almost any shape imaginable.

The guitar’s history can be traced back to around 4000 years ago with the first illustrations of a guitar like instrument, found in Babylonia, being around 3300 years old. Many chordophones were developed over time some having similar names to the guitar like the Persian chartar or the Indian sitar. Other instruments with similar traits include the European lute, which was a modification of the Arabic oud.

By the beginning of the renaissance era the modern guitar had started to take shape. However, the necks of these guitars were quite short, featuring about 8 frets free of the body, and they possessed 8 strings with 4 pairs of unison-tuned strings. Throughout the renaissance era the guitar changed to have a longer neck and also changing to five and then six course. In the 17th century the six course guitar was modified again to utilize just six single strings thus, somewhat introducing the modern guitar.

Antonia Torres Jurado is credited with creating the first modern classical guitar. He increased the size and dimensions of the guitar and introduced the “fan top” bracing system in 1850, which improved the volume and tone of the instrument.

The “x” brace system was developed around the same time as the “fan” brace but it proved to be much stronger and better for the use of steel strings, which became more readily available circa 1900 and required more tension.

In the early 1900’s guitarists were being drowned out by their band mates and they decided they needed to be louder. George Beauchamp (musician) and Adolph Rickenbacker (engineer) were the two co-manufacturers of the first electric guitar. During the 1940’s Leo Fender and Les Paul were both working on a solid-body electric guitar design. Fender released the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar with a single electromagnet. Soon after Les Paul, in collaboration with Gibson, released a solid-body electric guitar with two Humbucker pickups. Both Fender and Gibson would go on to be two of the most popular guitar manufacturers in the world.

How does it work?

A guitar basically utilizes the vibration of strings to create sound. The thinner strings are tuned tighter than the thicker strings thus vibrating faster and creating a higher pitch whereas the thicker strings are not as tight and vibrate slower to create lower pitches. The tension of the strings can be changed with the tuning pegs, which in turn, alters the pitch.

In acoustic guitars the string’s vibrations travel through the hollow body and are amplified. The sound then exits through the sound hole and that’s the part that you can hear.

In the case of electric guitars there is usually no hollow body for the vibrations to travel through so pickups are placed in the body to pick up the sound. The pickups produce a magnetic field. When a string is plucked it cuts through the magnetic field and an electric current is sent from the pickups to an amplifier and finally to a speaker. The amplifier and speaker together make the guitar louder.

The use of frets in a guitar makes playing particular notes quite easy. Pressing the string down against a fret effectively changes the strings length and changes the speed of the vibrations thus creating a different pitch.

Who uses it?

As the modern guitar has been around for many hundreds of years, it has been utilized in many different styles and genres. The most popular style of music that guitars are used in is rock and its variations. Rock, Metal, Punk and many pop groups are heavily based around the guitar.

Guitars are also vital on country, folk, blues, and flamenco.

Expressive techniques

Expressive techniques are things that a performer will do to add individuality to a piece of music. Some expressive techniques used often on guitar include:

Hammer on/pull off




Pick slide

Palm mute


Pinch harmonic