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History Of The Guitar Essay, Research Paper

History of the Guitar

Throughout its centuries-old history, the guitar has alternately experienced times of extreme popularity and cultural obscurity. Through the diversity of instruments that now belong to the guitar family and through the diversity of musical styles played upon the guitar, its existence has now been secured.

The guitar originated in Persia about four thousand years ago. Historians think that a resonating body such as a tortoise shell combined with the plucking of the hunting bow created the first plucked instrument, which later developed into such instruments as the sitar of India and the guitarra of Spain.

Although Spain is thought to be the birthplace of the guitar, it has also influenced many other parts of the world greatly. The guitar traveled all over Europe, winning the hearts of the European people and becoming very popular in Paris. From sailor’s ships to European castles, audiences were pleased by the guitar and adopted it into their traditional instrumental ensembles. As the popularity of the guitar spread, it created new and enhanced versions of the traditional musical styles of many cultures.

The guitar was popular for many reasons. It was small and portable; therefore, it was a big hit with the Europeans who were in need of entertainment on their long voyages to the New World. It became an elite instrument and was often played by the well-to-do in the English Colonies. The guitar was also changing. In Europe, a newer, louder guitar was being played. It had six strings and was used for accompanying bowed instruments and woodwinds.

But, the enthrallment with the guitar could not last forever. When the Romantic era came, the infatuation with the guitar was nearly replaced by the pianoforte. In the 1800’s it was Spain, and the two men Francisco Tarrega, and Andres Segovia who rescued the guitar from becoming obsolete. The Flamenco style of music was becoming popular in southern Spain. Showy dancing and singing were combined with the passionate playing of the guitar to create upbeat folk music. Inspired by the passionate style of the Flamenco music, Francisco Tarrega reminded the world that the guitar had it’s place as a concert instrument. Andres Segovia followed his lead, and took the guitar one step farther- into the concert hall. The guitar was slowly making it’s comeback in the musical world.

Factory production of guitar parts and the introduction of steel strings led to the creation of the western guitar. Guitars were now affordable to many social classes. The guitar was especially appealing to lonely cowboys on the trail. When the commercial potential of country music was realized, the recording industry turned cowboy musicians into American heroes overnight. The media brought the cowboy legend to life, enkindling “America’s love affair with the guitar and the West.”

After many years of on and off struggle, finally the guitarist had his chance to be in the spotlight. With the invention of electronic amplification of an acoustic guitar, came the explosion of Jazz and Christian soloists. Many artists were recognized for their accomplishments during this time, including Wes Montgomery who had an unique style of soloing using octaves. Guitarists of the 1970’s “brought a rock sensibility and world music influences into the jazz guitar playing field.” It was a time of inspiration and insight for guitar enthusiasts who were finally receiving the credit they deserved.

The guitar has experienced its ups and downs as the years have gone by. Fluctuating in and out of the popular musical world, the existence of the guitar has, at times, been in great danger. However, with the wide variety of music played today, and the diversity of instruments that now exist in the guitar family, we surely will enjoy the guitar for years to come.


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