The History of the Guitar starts with the history of the String.
Before recorded history early humans discovered that by stretching a string between sticks you could make all kinds of useful thing like a Catapult, a Bow, a Drying rack, a Bed, a Fire starter and a Music Maker.
Early humans made string from many kinds of natural materials including Plant Fiber, Horse Hair, Intestines, Silk, Linen and Rawhide.
When you fire an Arrow the Bow string makes a cool sound. At some point early humans saw the potential for a stringed instrument by adding a resonance box to amplify the sound of the taught Bow string.
In western Europe, animal Intestines became the material of choice to make strings for musical instruments. Using a lengthy process of cleaning, drying, tanning and polishing, the gut of common animals like pigs and sheep were turned into thin, long-lasting strings. Commonly called “Catgut” strings, Cats are generally not used to make strings. "Catgut" was replaced by a type of plastic called "Nylon" in the 1940's.
Early Stringed instruments were probably very similar to the African Bow Harp or the Greek Lyre.
The word “Guitar” comes from an old Persian word “Chartar” that means four strings.
At the Archeological Museum in Egypt they have a Guitar like instrument complete with a Pick that was found in a 3500 year old tomb.
European immigrants to American brought their instruments with them. One German Immigrant called Christian Fredrich Martin experimented with stronger construction techniques that allowed for the use of Steel Strings. Steel Strings were a relatively new invention in 1900, they were louder then Catgut strings and allowed the Guitar to keep up with popular, louder instruments like Banjo and Violin.
Mine goes to 11..
Volume was still a problem when it came to live performance. Dance bands of the 1920’s used loud instruments like Trumpets and Drums to get the crowd moving. Guitars were still too quiet.
Many inventors devised ingenious ways to amplify the Guitar. One of those people was a Slide Guitar Player from Texas called George Beauchamp. By 1931 Beauchamp had joined up with the National Guitar Company to produce his magnetic devices that "Pickup" the sound of the metal strings vibrating in front of them.
Magnetic "Pickups" produce a very small electrical current when the metal Guitar strings move near them. This current is made loud enough to hear by the "Amplifier" connected to a Speaker.
As the Guitar got louder, feedback became a problem. Feedback is greatly reduced if you have a Guitar with a Solid Body.
When the Sound from the Amplifier causes the Guitar strings to vibrate by themselves. Feedback can be a low groan or a shrieking sound that will gradually get louder as it “Feeds Back” on itself. Acoustic/Electric Guitars are more prone to Feedback because the air inside the Guitar will begin to vibrate at relatively low volumes. Most Electric Guitars have a Sold Body to reduce unwanted Feedback.
Feedback can be awesome, you can learn to control it.
Listen to the third verse of “Smells Like teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
Click the Photo or Button to Listen
Jimi Hendrix is famous for his musical use of Feedback.
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Here are the birth dates of other well known Guitars.
Rickenbacker “Electro String” 1935
Les Paul “Log” Guitar 1941
Fender “Telecaster” 1951
Gibson “Les Paul” 1952
Fender “Stratocaster” 1954
Gretch “White Falcon” 1954
Gibson “Flying V” 1958
Paul Reed Smith 1985
Parker “Fly” 1993
Ibanez 7 String 1994
Ibanez 8 String 2007
Gibson “Robot” 2007
Boosey & Sons 6 String Guitar
By 1830 the Spanish “Guitarra” had six strings, metal frets and geared tuning pegs like a modern Classical Guitar.
"....sometimes you wanna give up the Guitar, you'll hate the Guitar.
But if you stick with it, your gonna be rewarded..."
A Greek Style "Lyre"
1930 Martin OM-28
Rickenbacker Frying Pan. Circa 1934
The modern Nylon String Guitar looks much like the 4 course (4 string) “Chitarra” that was popular in Italy and Spain by 1500
A Jean-Baptiste Voboam, 5 String Guitar. France Circa. 1690
Gibson "Les Paul"
Pierre Rene Lacote 6 String Guitare
"The Lute Player" by Theodoor Rombouts Circa. 1620
Gretch "White Falcon"
Combining George Beaucamp’s Pickups with a solid Aluminum body, the National Guitars “Frying Pan” is considered the first production "Solid Body" Electric Guitar. National Guitars became Rickenbacker in 1934
Over thousands of years in Europe, many stringed instruments were invented that look like Guitars including Lutes, Hurdy Gurdys and Zithers.
An African Style Bow Harp
Les Paul's "Log" Guitar
It is commonly agreed that Martin Guitars invented the American Style Steel String Acoustic Guitar we are familiar with today.
Fender "Stratocaster" a.k.a. "Strat"
"Cat Gut" strings made from animal intestines were replaced by plastic strings made from Nylon in the 1940's
Ibanez "M80M" 8-String