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History of the Guitar

Learn more about the history of the guitar


If you're like me, your knowledge of the role guitar played in pre-20th century music is shaky at best. It is a question I get asked all the time, though... by people doing essays on the history of the guitar, and by others with just a general interest. Fortunately, there are lots of sites on the web that deal directly with this question, although no one can be totally accurate about when the guitar, in it's present form, was first introduced. The Guitar Salon International website relays an overview of the evolution of the guitar, up until the 20th century. The Lute and Guitar site deals with a similar topic, coming up with some slightly different details, and includes a quick and handy timeline for the evolution of the guitar.

That's fine for learning about the ancient history of guitar, but most people with a general interest really only want to know about the electric guitar; when was it invented, and when it was popularized, who popularized it, etc. The Lemelson Center site provides an excellent analysis, in a feature entitled "From Frying Pan to Flying V: The Rise of the Electric Guitar".

And, what about the individual guitar companies? Some of them (Fender for example) haven't gone through the trouble of providing a detailed online history of their guitars, which is a shame. Others, though, like Gibson, have provided on their site a more in depth study of the place in history their guitars had. In a four part document entitled Gibson History: The Early Years, the folks at Gibson provide us with a glimpse on how important their company was to the development of the electric guitar.

One of the first musical genres that the guitar really became integral to was the blues. It's very hard to picture the blues developing without the presence of the guitar. Bluesman Harry has put together an excellent Blues History site that includes explanations of the role of the guitar in the music, and the effect that the creation of the electric guitar had on the blues.

Knowing and appreciating the history of the guitar may not be essential to being a great guitarist. For some, it may not even be of interest. But, I've always believed that understanding and being familiar with the history of music, and its musicians, gives one a broader perspective, and a more comprehensive philosophy on what it means to be a musician. I hope you'll find something on these sites that will spark a similar sentiment.

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