The History of the Guitar – Ancestors & Evolution

Following the history of the guitar, you will come across some interesting characters like the Vihuela – Check out this Vihuela player, the video takes a few seconds to get “moving”, but it’s worth the wait 🙂


Music from all sorts of musical genres use the guitar. In recent musical history it has been a very popular choice in instrumentation. Even today, nearly every song we hear on the radio or in popular culture involves some use of the ever-versatile guitar.

In addition to the guitar, many bands will use the piano and drums, or percussion, to make a song that is very popular as of late. The guitar instrument is widely versatile. Almost anyone can play it and it is capable of producing a very large range of sounds and styles of music. The guitar is truly a feat of musical invention.

The electric guitar, lately, has become popular in musical performance and production. Electric guitars have what is called an effects box which allows for the guitar along with its player to create a variety of sounds. Nowadays guitars can even make the exact sounds of other instruments, instruments like the piano or violin. The guitar is an amazing instrument but also an amazing piece of technology. The modern guitar continues to improve on itself.

The guitar has a unique back story. As someone curious about learning how to play this popular instrument, you might find the history of guitar helpful and at the very least interesting to know. How did the modern guitar get its start? In this article, we will get into a brief look at the history of this amazing instrument.

There wasn’t just one person who created or invented the guitar. The guitar was a testament to evolution and the modern guitar can traced back to a variety of steps in its creation. Nowadays, the guitar can be seen as a sort of status symbol. In modern culture we idolize those who can play guitar with prowess and expertise. This however wasn’t always the case. During the first years of the guitar, it was not a symbol of prowess but rather a sign of poverty. Many classical musicians of the time did not see the guitar as a true musical instrument.

History of the Guitar: Predecessors

Like mentioned earlier, the modern guitar wasn’t just born exactly how we know and see it today. Instead there were many instruments that resembled the guitar in history that dates back 5 thousand years. These instruments are found in statues traced back to the Iranian region called Susa and were found during official archaeological digs. This is what archaeologists have seen, but the first mention of use of the guitar dates back as far as the 1500s. Documents explain a type of guitar-ancestor which had three, double course strings in addition to one single string which produced the highest tone.


The modern guitar as is seen and revered it today is believed to have originated in Spain. As we know the latest guitar before this had three set or pairs of playing strings, in Malaga, Spain, it is said that the three-paired stringed guitar transitioned to four pairs of the strings. After that it evolved to what we know today, that being six strings.

history of the guitar - the vihuela guitar

Throughout the 16th century, the guitar gained in popularity. First is was mostly played by peasants as a counterpart to the vihuela, that was played by the aristocrats. The vihuela, similar to a lute, was tuned as such but had more ascetically in common with that of the modern-day guitar.

It was in the 1700s when the guitar took on major changes. Instead of the double stringed ways of the past, it was during this century that the guitar adopted the single string method in addition to adding the sixth string. Antonio Torres de Jurado was a pivotal figure in the evolution of the look of the classical guitar. He enlarged the body size of the guitar. Still, during this time many musicians did not yet appreciate the value of the guitar and the guitar was kept as an “instrument for use in the taverns.” The guitar’s popularity grew in Spain because of their dislike for the piano. But, the guitar did continue to struggle because of its already established reputation for the lower social classes.

Electric guitar

In 1931, the electric guitar we know today was invented and arguably the music industry has never been the same. The vibrations of the strings of the electric guitar are converted into what are called “pick-ups.” These pick-ups then make electric signals. There are two different designs of modern-day guitars: semi-solid and the solid. With the invention of the electric guitar, the structure of the guitar made some advances as well. Now guitars did not rely so much on the structure of the guitar’s body to produce the sound, but the focus was instead placed on the sound quality afforded by the pick-ups.

The effects box is the electric guitars most useful function. With this capability, the guitar is able to produce such a wide variety of sounds. This is extremely useful in all types and kinds of music and it gaining in popularity because of its versatility.

From its more meager beginnings to its rampant success in more recent history, the guitar has certainly had a great impact on both musical history and the current music scene. It continues to improve on itself and will no doubt remain dominating the music industry in the years to come.

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