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Final
Research Essay

The
History of Guitar and Its Significance to Music

December
1, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The History of Guitar and Its Significance to Music

            The Guitar,
a plucked stringed musical instrument originated in Spain early in the 16th
century. It was derived from the guitarra
latina, a late-medieval instrument with a waisted body and four strings. The
guitar was first seen in the 1800-1900 B.C. The early guitar was identical to
the vihuela played in Spain in place
of the lute. The guitar is a major
building block in music.

            The
guitar consists of four to eighteen strings. The sound of a guitar is projected
through electrical or acoustic amplification. It is played by plucking or
strumming the strings using the right hand while fretting the strings with the
left hand.

            The beginnings
of the European guitar are unknown. It is impossible to establish the history of
guitar before the Renaissance, but similar plucked-string instruments existed
such as the long neck lute. The lute had a waisted sound box alike the guitar
and survived from third to sixth century. During renaissance and medieval
periods, a wide range of plucked stringed instruments can be found.  The instruments include the citole, cittern,
vihuela, mandore, gittern, the lute and its variants. During the Renaissance, the
guitar’s closest contemporary was the vihuela. The vihuela is larger than the
guitar, with six or seven courses of strings and tuned like a lute. It is
sometimes pictured with a sharply cut waists, like on a violin, and sometimes
with rounded corners like a guitar.  The guitar
and vihuela existed simultaneously until the seventeenth century, when the popularity
of the guitar superseded the vihuela. (Dobney)

            The
Baroque guitar is similar in shape and body to earlier guitars, but is typified
by five double courses of strings (which appeared as early as the late
fifteenth century). From about 1600 until the mid-eighteenth century, its
popularity supplanted both the four-course guitar and the six- or seven-course
vihuela.  The five-course baroque guitar
was a bit larger than the earlier model, averaging approximately 92 centimeters
long, with string lengths of 63–70 centimeters.  Guitars used by players were probably
relatively plain, perhaps typified by many Spanish guitars of the period. Many
decorative guitars survive, including those by the Sellas family of Venice and
Bologna and by Jean-Baptiste Voboam in Paris. (Dobney)

            The
Baroque guitar had a rich repertory of solos and accompanied songs. Some of the
finest seventeenth-century composers for solo guitar were Francesco Corbetta
(ca. 1615–1681), who worked for both Louis XIV of France and Charles II of
England; Angelo Michele Bartolotti (first half of the 17th century–after 1669);
and Giovanni Battista Granata (died after 1684). Vocal works appeared with guitar
accompaniment by such well-known monody composers as Giulio Caccini (ca.
1545–1618), Emilio de’ Cavalieri (ca. 1550–1602), Jacopo Peri (1561–1633), and Claudio
Monteverdi (1567–1643). A characteristic Italian guitar notation called alfabeto,
a letter system representing strummed block chords, was utilized for many solos
and accompaniments, although tablature continued to be used until the
mid-eighteenth century, when staff notation replaced it. Guitarists were also expected
to improvise continuo accompaniments from figured and unfigured bass lines. (Dobney)

            The
repertory of the Baroque guitar required a mixture of techniques, including strummed
or rasgueado chords, punteado (the characteristic pizzicato lute technique),
and the ringing melodic passage-work called campanelas. Fivecourse guitars
featured a variety of tunings; one typical tuning was a/a-d’/d’-g/gb/ b-e’. The
third course is the lowest, a system called “re-entrant” tuning, so that two
fingers could more easily combine the low fifth and third courses with higher
courses in scale passages. Also, without true bass strings, the instrument has
a higher, brighter sound than the modern guitar. The five-course guitar was a
Spanish favorite, but spread to Italy and then to France, England, Germany, and
the Low Countries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (Dobney) (The
Editor)

            Guitar
music from the 16th to 18th century was written in
tablature or chord symbols. The popularity of the guitar grew during the 17th
century as the lute and vihuela declined. The lute and vihuela remained amateur’s
instrument from the 17th to early 19th century.  A few virtuoso guitarists, however, became
known in Europe, among them Gaspar Sanz (flourished 1674), Robert de Visée (c.
1650–1725), Fernando Sor (1778–1839), and Joseph Kaspar Mertz (1806–56). Modern
classical-guitar technique owes much to the Spaniard Francisco Tárrega
(1852–1909), whose transcriptions of works by Bach, Mozart, and other composers
formed the basis of the concert repertory. (The Editor)

            In
the 20th century, Andrés Segovia gave the guitar further prominence as a
concert instrument, and composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos and Manuel de
Falla wrote serious works for it; others (e.g., Pierre Boulez) scored for the
guitar in chamber ensembles. (The Editor)

            The
guitar is widely played in the folk and popular music of many countries.  In jazz ensembles it is part of the rhythm
section and is occasionally played as a solo instrument.  In popular music the guitar is usually
amplified, and ensembles frequently include more than one instrument, a “lead”
guitar for solos, another for rhythm, and a “bass” guitar to play bass lines.

            The history
of the guitar is coined from the form it takes today.  Its beginning can be traced back 3300 years
from an old stone carving of a Hittite bard.  The early guitar were played by carving and had
no means resemblance to today’s guitar.  Guitar
had an image that was curved insides, had a flat top and a long neck which was
filled with frets. (The Editors)

            The
guitar was described and seen as an instrument with a long neck, a wooden flat
back and ribs in the 12th century.  By
the 14th century, there were two types of guitars that is Moorish and Latin
guitar.  Moorish guitar had several sound
holes, wide fingerboard and rounded back as compared to Latin guitar which had
a narrower neck and a single sound hole. In the 15th and 16th century, the
design of guitar was developed more which is the guitar of today.  The modern guitar features were influenced by
Spanish vihuela which are curved structure, hole in the base and the strings. (The Editors)
(Seeger)

            Guitar’s
ancestry has many theories, one of the generally known is kithara theory. The
only evidence is the resemblance of the Greek word kithara and the Spanish word
quitarra.  Even though, both the
instruments were different kithara seven-stringed harp and quitarra four stringed
guitar.  The instruments had more in
common than many could think of. In the beginning, the kithara and quitarra were
invented with four strings and played in the same way. (Guy) (The Editors)

            Tanburs
and bowl harps were the early instruments known to archaeologists. In
prehistoric times, people were not fortunate enough to fabricate a proper
guitar.  People made guitars using
tortoise shells and calabashes as resonators, and the bent stick was meant for
the neck and silk for the strings. (Guy)

            World’s
museums contain many such harps like the bowl harp, from the ancient Sumerian,
Babylonian, and Egyptian civilizations.  Around 2500 – 200 CE the more advanced harps,
like the opulently carve is the 11- Stringed instrument had a nice decoration.
It was just like the one found in Queen Shub-Ad’s tomb, in the Royal Cemetery
in Ur. (Guy) (Seeger)

The
guitar takes opposites pieces and plasters them together to create a harmony.  The strings are E, A, D, G, B, and E; from
these 6 different notes over 10,000 different noisy combinations can be made,
yet they can be put together to make a pure sound.  Playing the guitar is an architectural form
that takes nothing and makes something.  In
another light, guitar is taking complete chaos and turning it to organization;
much like how different blocks are thrown on the floor, get picked up and placed into a location,
and a figure is created
from the mess.  The guitar rightly takes
chaos and noise and molds it into a melody. (Guy) (Seeger)

            Reasons
for playing guitar are many feel serious pleasure, wave away stress, send pain packing,
toughen your ticker, sharpen your mind, seduce total strangers, build more
brain power and record yourself, reward yourself.   Plugging
in your guitar, playing it, and listening to the music you’re creating can make
you feel good—orgasmically so.  According
to a neuroscientific study from McGill University, hearing music triggers the
release of dopamine in the brain, the same chemical that is released during
sex. (10 Reasons) (The Editors)

            People
could relieve stress and anguish by playing the guitar.  A dual study from the Mind-Body Wellness
Center and Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems
found that stress can be reduced on a genomic level by playing an instrument.  Rocking out reverses your body’s response
system to pressure. (10 Reasons)

            Forget
popping pills: If you live with chronic pain, reach for a pick.  According to a study from the University of Utah’s
Pain Research Center, listening to music—and in this case, your own sweet
licks—can take your mind off, and thereby reduce, pain. (10 Reasons)

            Rockers
have killer chops—and cardiovascular systems: Researchers from the Netherlands
found that patients who practiced music for more than 100 minutes a day showed
a significant drop in blood pressure and a lower heart rate than those who
didn’t.  Three of the test subjects?
Guitarists. (10 Reasons) (Seeger)

            Can’t
wail yet? Don’t worry.  Just carrying a
guitar case can seriously boost the odds of someone wanting you—even if they’re
total strangers, finds recent research in Psychology of Music.  How come? Studies show women associate musical
ability with intelligence, commitment, hard work, and physical prowess—and
ladies associate all those qualities with your ability to earn money, the
researchers say. (10 Reasons)

            Stuck
at work without your six-string?  You’re
still giving your brain a workout: According to a Cambridge University study,
musicians continue being creative even when they’re not playing their
instruments.  Researchers found that
performers visualize music in terms of its shape, and then process that as a
form of practice.  Most don’t see it as
such, but it’s a highly creative way of learning.  Oftentimes, guitarists will record their
sessions or demo songs; that way, they can go back and practice them.  But bring your recordings to the gym and you
might see a physical benefit. (10 Reasons)

            Music
is a way of life in the modern world. It is an awesome way for people to express
grief and anguish in their life by listening or playing music.  I think, people should aim to learn and possess
musical instruments in their teens as it would enable them to express and
master the art of playing the instrument later on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works
Cited

“10
Reasons Why Playing Guitar Is Good For Your Mind & Body.”GuitarPlayer.com,
6 Sept. 2016,
www.guitarplayer.com/technique/10-reasons-why-playing-guitar-is-good-for-your-mind-body-video.

Dobney, Jayson Kerr, and
Wendy Powers. “The Guitar.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

New
York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/guit/hd_guit.htm (September 2007)

 

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Guitar.” Encyclopædia
Britannica, Encyclopædia

Britannica, Inc., 21 July 2017,
www.britannica.com/art/guitar.

 

Seeger,
Boden, Mike, ed. Carla. “Smithsonian Music.” Early Southern Guitar
Sounds: A Brief History of the Guitar and Its Travel South | Smithsonian Music,
music.si.edu/essay/early-southern-guitar-sounds-brief-history-guitar-and-its-travel-south.

 

Guy,
Paul. A Brief History of the Guitar,
www.guyguitars.com/eng/handbook/BriefHistory.html.

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