It is believed that the history of the guitar began in the ancient Near East (Babylonia). In Egypt and Rome, instruments had features that could be the predecessor of the guitar. The “Guitarra Morisca” was brought by the Moors in their conquest of Spain. However, the “Guitarra Latina” is thought to be the type that undoubtedly developped into the modern guitar.
In the Middle Ages, the co-existence of three, four and five string guitars was noted. By the fifteenth century, the four-double strings instrument excelled in popularity. In the sixteenth century, it in turn was gradually replaced by the five double string guitar.
Sixteenth century guitars are described as “vihuela” from the time
of Luis Milan, “Rizzio guitar” from France, “chitarra battente” from Italia, some are still in existence. Composers for these instruments wrote mostly in tablature notation. Italy was the capital of the guitar world of 17th century.
In France, the guitar became the instrument of the nobility but the
Spanish school of guitar making did not begin to flourish until the end of the eighteenth century. Italians composers wrote a substantial number of works and, like the guitarists and even guitar makers, traveled widely. The most important factor in the development of the guitar was the addition of the sixth string during the middle of the eighteenth century.
During the 19th century, changes in social conditions and improved means of transportation contributed to a growing knowledge of the guitar and enabled performers to travel widely. Guitar music flourished in nineteenth century Spain.
A.Torres gave the basic form of the guitar in which it is now known. During 20th century, the revolutionary technological progress and the development of mass media communications and faster, more efficient modes of transportation are responsible for the tremendous
popularity of the guitar.
At the end of the 19th century Orville Gibson was building archtop guitars with oval sound holes. He married the steel-string guitar with a body constructed more like a cello, where the bridge exerts no torque on the top, only pressure straight down. This allows the top to vibrate more freely, and thus produce more volume. In the early 1920’s designer Lloyd Loar joined Gibson, and refined the archtop “jazz” guitar into its now familiar form with f-holes, floating bridge and cello-type tailpiece.
The electric guitar was born when pickups were added to Hawaiian and “jazz” guitars in the late 1920’s, but met with little success before 1936, when Gibson introduced the ES150 model, which Charlie Christian made famous.
With the advent of amplification it became possible to do away with the soundbox altogether. In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s several actors were experimenting along these lines, and controversy still exists as to whether Les Paul, Leo Fender, Paul Bigsby or O.W. Appleton constructed the very first solid-body guitar. Be that as it may, the solid-body electric guitar was here to stay.