The Evolution of Classical Guitar
by Natalie Landecker, guitarist and webmaster at The Guitar Pal
The modern classical guitar is a marvelous instrument that is able to produce some of the sweetest notes. Of course, what you hold in your hands when you play is a perfected descendent of the guitars from long ago. The truth is that while many enjoy the music of the classical guitar, few are aware of its history and how it has evolved across time.
Fortunately, this article will take a closer look at the humble beginnings of the instrument you know and love so well. However, if you prefer a more graphical representation of this history, you should check out theguitarpal.com. For now, though, let’s take a step back in history:
As you can imagine, the classical guitar didn’t simply spring into existence – it developed over time. In fact, no one has actually laid eyes on the first ever guitar. This is because it was only ever depicted on clay tablets unearthed in Babylon. Of course, these only had a passing resemblance to the guitar you play today.
After this, the actual history of the guitar gets a little hazy. See, the Romans played an instrument that looked a great deal like a guitar. However, this implement passed down from the Egyptians to Greeks and finally to the Romans is actually the forerunner of the lute.
The backstory of the guitar gets further muddled as people tend to confuse it with earlier versions of the oud. This was a stringed instrument that was brought by the Moors into Spain. So, while the oud isn’t necessarily an ancestor of the modern classical guitar, it certainly influenced its eventual design.
It was perhaps the Baroque guitar that had the greatest impact on the design of the modern classical guitar. The guitar was first created in Spain and encouraged the leap into a fewer-stringed instrument. Up until then, a number of different countries played on instruments that had up to thirty strings at a time! Another trait the Baroque guitar shared with the classical guitar was that it could also be tuned.
Another design sprung from the form of the Baroque structure and was known as the vihuela. It has the same hourglass curves as the current classical guitar. Furthermore, it was played with hand strumming in front of a hole in the instrument’s body. In short, it was one of the final ‘early versions’ of the modern guitar.
When the 1790s rolled around, the guitar had more or less taken on a standard form. This instrument has six strings and the overall shape of the body was rather uniform. It also denotes the periods where guitars took a real leap into the instruments played today.
If you had to thank one man for the final step in creating the modern classical guitar, it would probably be the Spaniard, Antonio de Torres Jurado. During the 1800s, he created a blueprint for what modern guitars would look like. This guitar had a broader body, thinner belly, greater waist curve, and a machined head.
It was these features that lent classical guitars their distinct sound. Of course, it was Andres Segovia, yet another Spanish guitarist who used it as a concert instrument. To this day, this particular instrument is considered a classical guitar.
As you can see, the evolution of the classical guitar is fascinating and is steeped in history and culture. So, the next time you play your instrument, stop to think of all the transformations it has undergone to become your prized possession.
Author Bio:Natalie’s love for music and guitars began at a very young age. She grew up in a household surrounded by instruments and melodies so it wasn’t surprising that she decided to pursue a career in this field. Today, she spends her time researching music and collecting as many guitars as she can.
Copyright François Faucher 1998-2023