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History of Guitar: Medieval to Modern

The history of the modern guitar. Presented to CHS Guitar students.

Dr. Nishimoto

on 28 August 2016

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Transcript of History of Guitar: Medieval to Modern

History of the Guitar:
Medieval to Modern

Presented by Dr. Nishimoto
Coronado High School, Henderson, NV

This presentation is a continuation. Please see the previous presentation: "Ancient Ancestors to the Modern Guitar"
The text in
is for your notes. Other text is supplementary but should not be ignored.
The etymology of the word guitar is debatable, believed by some to be an adaptation of kithara
because of the similar soundbox of the pandura and the adapted necked kitharas.
by the end of the Medieval Era “guitars” appeared.
In 1280, French poets mentioned “quitarres”. In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer discussed gyternes as an instrument for rowdy youth who frequent taverns at all hours.
French poets describe "Quitarres"
Guitarra Latina & Guitarra Morisca
The guitarra latina (Latin Guitar or European Guitar) was most likely a descendant of the pandura and cithara and considered indigenous whereas the guitarra morisca was brought over with the Moors.
1450 - 1600 (Renaissance )
Renaissance Lute, Vihuela, and 4-Course Guitar
The vihuela had a flat back, curved waist

and six courses (sets of doubled strings; 12 strings)
tuned E-A-D-F#-B-E which is
extremely close to the guitar tuning today.
The word vihuela came from the Roman word “fidicula” (harp) which is the root for other modern instruments of the viol family and the English word fiddle. This etymology provides further argument for kithara or cithara being the root of guitar.
The four course guitar was a smaller version of the vihuela
. Because of the size and therefore weaker volume and tone,
the guitar was not as popular as the lute or vihuela in the Renaissance.
1600 - 1750 (Baroque)
Baroque Lute and 5-Course Guitar
During the Baroque, a musician was a trained profession. Lutenists (lute players were in high demand (unfortunately guitar was not) and competition among lutenists was fierce.
This competition led to luthiers (lute builders) building lutes with more and more strings until
at one time the lute had not less than 24 strings standard.
Let's imagine a scenario....
Let's pretend that instead of "Beginning Guitar Class" we have "Beginning Lute Class"
On the first day, I show you this instrument....
This is a 12-course lute, it has 25 strings
Would you tune it?
Or would you go see your counselor and switch to another class....
The same thing happened to the popularity of the lute
Because lute became so difficult to perform it lost its popularity and many lutenists turned to guitar
as it was the closest instrument
Around 1600, lutenists (lute players) begin playing five course guitars as well and used fingers instead of a plectrum
The 18th Century Guitar
Sixth string added
Neck lengthened
19 metal frets
Body enlarged
Treble strings made of gut
Bass strings: metal on silk
The 19th Century
Standardized Classical Guitar & Martin Guitars
By 1860 - Antonio Torres, a Spanish luthier standardized guitar dimensions
Standardizes size, shape, number of strings (6), and the nut-to-saddle distance of 65 cm.
These standards are still used today for Classical Guitars
At the same time as Torres was perfecting the classical guitar, a luthier in New York City named
C.F. Martin was experimenting with an internal X-brace pattern that increased soundboard strength and projection. By 1840 he perfected it.
For the remainder of the century the Martin family carried on the tradition of building guitars.
The Early 20th Century
Dreadnought, Archtop Guitar, Electric Guitar
The Martin guitars increased to a size larger than the classical guitar and incorporated steel hardware
including a truss rod in the neck.

In 1916, the Martin Guitar Company named these guitars “dreadnoughts”
after the huge battleships of the time.

In 1922, they were strung with steel strings
and finally in 1934 a model with 14 frets clear of the body.
1929 Martin "Dreadnought"
In 1894, Orville Gibson started building and selling mandolins
that were innovative in shape and design.

His design was inspired by violin crafting
rather than lute building.

He also built a guitar based in this design, the archtop guitar.

In 1922, the L-5 was released by Gibson
. The rising blues and jazz community flocked to this type of guitar because of its piercing volume and sleek appearance.
Traditional Mandolin
(built like a lute)
1907 Gibson Mandolin
(flat back, arched top)
With rise of jazz and big band, there was an increasing need for guitars that could deliver volume.
1927 – George Beauchamp invented TriCone Resonator
, a guitar made comp-letely of aluminum. Did not sell well at the time.
1932 – George Beauchamp invented the first commercially sold electric guitar, the Rickenbacker A-22, nicknamed the “Frying Pan”
. Again, did not sell well.
1936 – Gibson released ES-150, an archtop fitted with a pickup.
Embraced by musicians and sold very well.
Still a problem with feedback.
The 1950s
Solid-Body Electric Guitars
Between 1945 and 1948
, a radio shop owner in California named
Leo Fender began manufacturing and selling electric lap steel guitars and amplifiers
. In 1949, he built prototypes for the first successfully sold solid-body electric guitars, the Esquire and the Broadcaster
In 1950, the Esquire released
to a poor consumer reaction.
By late 1950, the problems with the esquire were remedied and the new Broadcaster (Telecaster) was released.
In 1954 the Stratocaster was released.
It is the most imitated of solid-body guitar designs.
The Gibson Guitar Company
, not wanting to lose business to Fender
released the Les Paul in 1952
(a solid body electric guitar with a faintly arched top)
and the ES-335 in 1958
, an electric semi-hollow body with archtop styling and f-holes.
Take out a piece of scratch paper. Write your name, the date, class period, and “Discussion” on it. When you raise your hand to participate in the discussion, hold up your piece of paper. When Mr. Nishimoto takes it, it is your turn to speak.
Guitar has had a turbulent past in regard to its social stature. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was seen as a lowly common man’s instrument. During the Baroque and Classical it was highly regarded in stately company. In recent times it has several personalities: as a folk instrument, a classical instrument, and as a symbol of youthful rebellion. How do you personally view the guitar as a cultural symbol? What past period reflects its current stature?
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