|Classification||String instrument (plucked, nylon stringed guitars usually played with fingerpicking, and steel-, etc. usually with a pick.)|
(a regularly tuned guitar)
|Plucked string instruments|
The guitar is a string instrument which is played by plucking the strings. The main parts of a guitar are the body, the fretboard, the headstock and the strings. Guitars are usually made from wood or plastic. Their strings are made of steel or nylon.
The guitar strings are plucked with the fingers and fingernails of the right hand (or left hand, for left handed players), or a small pick made of thin plastic. This type of pick is called a "plectrum" or guitar pick. The left hand holds the neck of the guitar while the fingers pluck the strings. Different finger positions on the fretboard make different notes.
Guitar-like plucked string instruments have been used for many years. In many countries and at many different time periods, guitars and other plucked string instruments have been very popular, because they are light to carry from place to place, they are easier to learn to play than many other instruments. Guitars are used for many types of music, from Classical to Rock. Most pieces of popular music that have been written since the 1950s are written with guitars.
There are many different types of guitars, classified on how they are made and the type of music they are used for. All traditional types of guitar have a body which is hollow. This makes the sound of the strings louder, and gives the guitar its quality. This type of guitar is called "acoustic". (An acoustic instrument is one that makes its own dynamics.)
From the 1930s, people started making and playing guitars that used electricity and amplifiers to control the loudness. These guitars, which are often used in popular music, are called electric guitars. They do not need to have a hollow body. This is because they do not use acoustics to amplify the sound.
Most guitars have six strings, but there are also guitars with four, seven, eight, ten, or twelve strings. More strings make the instrument sound fuller. The neck of a guitar has bars or marks called frets. Frets help a guitarist know where to put his or her fingers to get the right pitch when playing. Standard tuning defines the string pitches as E, A, D, G, B, and E, from lowest (low E2) to highest (high E4). Standard tuning is used by most guitarists, and frequently used tunings can be understood as variations on standard tuning.
Alternative Titles: guitar, acoustic Guitar, plucked stringed musical instrument that probably originated in Spain early in the 16th century, deriving from the guitarra latina, a late-medieval instrument with a waisted body and four strings. The early guitar was narrower and deeper than the modern guitar, with a less pronounced waist. It was closely related to the vihuela, the guitar-shaped instrument played in Spain in place of the lute.
Guitar QUICK FACTS KEY PEOPLE Bruce Springsteen Hector Berlioz Neil Young Prince Francisco Tárrega Stevie Ray Vaughan Curtis Mayfield Frank Zappa Heitor Villa-Lobos Hank Williams RELATED TOPICS Slide guitar Vihuela Chordophone Classical guitar Machada Lute family Bragha Hawaiian guitar Electric guitar The guitar originally had four courses of strings, three double, the top course single, that ran from a violin-like pegbox to a tension bridge glued to the soundboard, or belly; the bridge thus sustained the direct pull of the strings. In the belly was a circular sound hole, often ornamented with a carved wooden rose. The 16th-century guitar was tuned C–F–A–D′, the tuning of the centre four courses of the lute and of the vihuela.
A woman wearing a hanbok plays the traditional Korean musical instrument kayagum (gayageum). BRITANNICA QUIZ Another Musical Instruments Quiz Do you know who invented the clarinet? What is Korea’s national instrument? Test what you know about the devices that make music with this quiz. From the 16th to the 19th century several changes occurred in the instrument. A fifth course of strings was added before 1600; by the late 18th century a sixth course was added. Before 1800 the double courses were replaced by single strings tuned E–A–D–G–B–E′, still the standard tuning.
Venetian guitar Venetian guitar Guitar with mother-of-pearl inlays from Venice, 17th century. AdstockRF
The violin-type pegbox was replaced about 1600 by a flat, slightly reflexed head with rear tuning pegs; in the 19th century, metal screws were substituted for the tuning pegs. The early tied-on gut frets were replaced by built-on ivory or metal frets in the 18th century. The fingerboard was originally flush with and ended at the belly, and several metal or ivory frets were placed directly on the belly. In the 19th century the fingerboard was raised slightly above the level of the belly and was extended across it to the edge of the sound hole.
Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now In the 19th century the guitar’s body also underwent changes that resulted in increased sonority. It became broader and shallower, with an extremely thin soundboard. Internally, the transverse bars reinforcing the soundboard were replaced by radial bars that fanned out below the sound hole. The neck, formerly set into a wood block, was formed into a brace, or shoe, that projected a short distance inside the body and was glued to the back; this gave extra stability against the pull of the strings.
The 19th-century innovations were largely the work of Antonio Torres. The instrument that resulted was the classical guitar, which is strung with three gut and three metal-spun silk strings. Nylon or other plastic was later used in place of gut.
lyre-shaped guitar lyre-shaped guitar A lyre-shaped guitar from the 1800s. AdstockRF View a demonstration to understand the physics behind the working of an electric guitar View a demonstration to understand the physics behind the working of an electric guitar A demonstration of how electric guitars work. © Your Life (A Britannica Publishing Partner) See all videos for this article Among variant forms of the guitar are the 12-stringed, or double-course, guitar, and the Mexican jarana and the South American charango, both small five-course guitars. Lyre-shaped guitars were fashionable in 19th-century drawing rooms. Other forms of the guitar include the metal-strung guitar played with a plectrum in folk and popular music; the cello guitar, with a violin-type bridge and tailpiece; the Hawaiian, or steel, guitar, in which the strings are stopped by the pressure of a metal bar, producing a sweet, gliding tone; and the electric guitar, in which the instrument’s sound and tone depend almost entirely on the electronic detection and amplification of its vibrating strings.
electric guitar electric guitar An electric guitar. © Petr Malyshev/Fotolia
Guitar music from the 16th to 18th century was notated either in tablature (showing the position of the fingers on the frets and the strings to be plucked) or in a system of alphabetical chord symbols. Jazz-guitar tablature shows chord symbols on a grid representing strings and frets.
The guitar grew in popularity during the 17th century as the lute and vihuela declined. It remained an amateur’s instrument from the 17th to early 19th century. A few virtuoso guitarists, however, became known in Europe, among them Gaspar Sanz (flourished 1674), Robert de Visée (c. 1650–1725), Fernando Sor (1778–1839), and Joseph Kaspar Mertz (1806–56). Modern classical-guitar technique owes much to the Spaniard Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909), whose transcriptions of works by Bach, Mozart, and other composers formed the basis of the concert repertory.
In the 20th century, Andrés Segovia gave the guitar further prominence as a concert instrument, and composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos and Manuel de Falla wrote serious works for it; others (e.g., Pierre Boulez) scored for the guitar in chamber ensembles.
Clapton, Eric Clapton, Eric Fender Stratocaster electric guitar being played by British rock musician Eric Clapton in London, 2008. Majvdl The guitar is widely played in the folk and popular music of many countries. In jazz ensembles it is part of the rhythm section and is occasionally played as a solo instrument. In popular music the guitar is usually amplified, and ensembles frequently include more than one instrument, a “lead” guitar for solos, another for rhythm, and a “bass” guitar to play bass lines.
Word origin[change | change source]
The word guitar was adopted into English from Spanish word guitarra in the 1600s. In the Middle Ages the word gitter or gittern was used in England. Both guitarra and gitter came from the Latin word cithara. The word cithara came from the earlier Greek word kithara. Kithara could have come from the Persian word sehtār[source?]. seh meaning "three" and tār meaning "string". There is also a similar but two-stringed Persian instrument named dotār. do means "two" in Persian. The Indian sitar instrument was named after the Persian sehtār. The sihtar itself is related to the Indian instrument, the sitar.
A person who plays a guitar instrument is called a guitarist. A person who makes or fixes guitar instruments is a luthier, which comes from the word "lute". The word "lute", comes from the Arabic "Al-Uud", a stringed instrument from the Middle East. The guitar appears to be derived from earlier instruments known in ancient central Asia as the Sitara. Instruments very similar to the guitar appear in ancient carvings and statues recovered from the old Iranian capitol of Susa. The modern word, guitar, was adopted into English from the Spanish word guitarra, which came from the older Greek word kithara. Possible sources for various names of musical instruments that guitar could be derived from appear to be a combination of two Indo-European roots[source?]: guit-, similar to Sanskrit sangeet meaning "music", and -tar a widely found root meaning "cord" or "string". The word guitar is a word that the Iberian Arabic language took from the Persian language. The word qitara is an Arabic name for various members of the lute family that preceded the Western guitar. The word guitarra was introduced into Spanish when such instruments were brought into Iberia by the Moors after the 10th century.
History[change | change source]
There have been instruments like the guitar for at least 5,000 years. The guitar may have come from older instruments known as the sitara from ancient India and central Asia. The oldest known picture of a guitar-like instrument is a 3300 year old stone carving of a Hittite bard. The oldest guitar-like instrument that is still complete is the "Warwick Gittern" in the British Museum. It belonged to Elizabeth I of England and probably to her father Henry VIII before it was given to her. It is about 500 years old.
The design of the modern guitar began with the Roman cithara. The cithara was brought by the Romans to Hispania (Spain) around 40 AD. In the 8th century the Moors brought the four-stringed oud into Spain. The introduction to the oud caused changes to the design of the cithara. In other parts of Europe, the six-string Scandinavian lut (lute) became popular wherever the Vikings had been. By 1200 AD, there were two types of the four string "guitar": the guitarra morisca (Moorish guitar) from Spain which had a rounded back, wide fingerboard and several soundholes, and the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) which was more like the modern guitar with one sound hole and a narrower neck.
The Spanish vihuela, of the 16th century, was another instrument similar to the guitar. It had lute-style tuning and a body that was like a guitar. The vihuela was only popular for a short amount of time. It is not known whether it was simply a design that combined features of the oud and lute or a transition from the Renaissance instrument to the modern guitar.
The Vinaccia family from Naples, Italy were famous mandolin makers. It is thought that they also made the oldest six-string guitar that still exists. There is a guitar built that was signed and dated 1779 on the label by Gaetano Vinaccia (1759 - after 1831) Although there are many fakes that have dates on them from that time, this guitar is believed by experts to be genuine (real).
The electric guitar was made by George Beauchamp in 1936. Beauchamp co-founded a company called Rickenbacher to make guitars. However, Danelectro was the first to produce electric guitars for the public to use.
Different kinds of guitars[change | change source]
A guitar was described by Dr. Michael Kasha as an instrument that had "a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides".
Modern guitars come in four main types. The classical guitar is used for classical music. The term acoustic guitar is generally used for a guitar used for popular music, even though a classical guitar is also an acoustic instrument. There are many other different types of acoustic guitars from different parts of the world.
A electric guitar can be flat, hollow, or semi-hollow (solid with hollow pockets on the sides), and produces sound through its pickups, which are wire-wound magnets that are screwed onto the guitar. Some guitars combine the hollow acoustic body with amplified sound. Bass guitars are designed to make a low bass rhythm.
A special electric folding travel guitar called the Foldaxe (briefly manufactured by Hoyer in 1977) was invented for Chet Atkins (in Atkins' book "Me and My Guitars") by inventor and guitarist Roger Field, featuring a built-in way to keep the string tension and tuning the same even when folded, and ready to play when unfolded. Atkins demonstrated his several times on US television, and also on The Today Show with Les Paul, who was with him as a guest.
Guitar music[change | change source]
Guitars are used in many different genres of music, such as traditional, regional, and folk to modern punk, rock, metal or pop. Guitars are used as rhythm instruments, lead instruments, and sometimes both.
Capo[change | change source]
A capo is a device which can be placed on any of the guitar's frets which don't lie on the body itself. This enables the user to change key without changing the tuning of the guitar strings. There are multiple types of capos, some latch around the whole guitar neck and some just clamp onto the back and fret board.
Related pages[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-09-21. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- A Brief History of the Guitar
- A "richly carved gitter" is listed in King Henry VIII's Inventories.
- Summerfield, Maurice J. (2003). The Classical Guitar, It's Evolution, Players and Personalities since 1800 (5th ed.) Blaydon on Tyne: Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 1-872639-46-1.
- [A Look At The History Of The Guitar http://www.thejazzfestival.net/showarticle?id=109580 Archived 2007-12-11 at the Wayback Machine]
- The Classical Mandolin by Paul Sparks (1995)
- Early Romantic Guitar
- The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era by James Tyler (2002)
- Evans, Tom and MaryAnne (1977). Guitars: Music, history, Construction and Players from the Renaissance to Rock. p. 42. ISBN 0-448-22240-X.
- Kasha, Dr. Michael (August 1968). "A New Look at The History of the Classic Guitar". Guitar Review 30, 3-12
Other websites[change | change source]
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