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I keep thinking of Greeks playing Lyres - there had to be a point where someone added strings and the modern shape...

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This question is a little broad, and could potentially be turned into a wiki entry--especially if the answerer went through the entire history of the guitar all the way up to electric solid bodies etc. – Jduv Jan 22 '11 at 22:24
Like me! :) I tried to do give a very concise answer, giving a basic summary of where the guitar came from . – Ali Maxwell Jan 23 '11 at 2:36
It is a fair enough question - it could turn into a wiki if it read: Describe the evolution of the Modern Electric Guitar. We should be OK with a simple answer as produced below: Thanks !!! – Anonymous Jan 23 '11 at 19:12
Turning this into community wiki only makes sense if people cover different eras or aspects of the instrument's history; it'll be a muddled mess otherwise. A single comprehensive answer would be best. – neilfein Jun 8 '11 at 1:40

The guitar originated from the lute. What's called a 'kithara,' (a type of lyra) which when pronounced sounds a bit like 'guitar' is why people and historians get mixed up between the two being related.

The lute and the vihuela had their features combined in the 16th Century. The features that were combined were:

  • The body of the vihuela
  • The size the lute
  • The neck of the vihuela

Bass and treble strings were added to give the instrument a good range.

Stradivarius produced some early models of this instrument.

In about the 18th century guitar makers added machine heads the guitars making them easier to tune, and adding struts to the soundboxes of the instruments to increase the sound. Antonio de Torres Jurado is credited with finishing the design and layout of bridge, neck, saddle and body size on the guitar.

George Beauchamp added experimental pickups to a 'frying pan' shaped guitar body in an effort to electronically amplify the sound. This became the first Rickenbacker guitar, and the first produced electric guitar. Inventors kept tinkering with electronics and experimenting with types of pickups on different types of guitars. An example of this is the Gibson ES-150, which is an acoustic guitar with a pickup in the neck.

Fender cemented the popularity of the electric guitar with the original design of the Esquire - later the Broadcaster/Nocaster and finally the Telecaster, which is still one of the most popular guitar designs today. The redesigned Stratocaster introduced a few years later remains equally if not more so popular.

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Good 50,000 mile overview. – Jduv Jan 23 '11 at 2:24
Eh? 50,000 mile overview? Please explain, I am afraid I am not familiar with this term :) – Ali Maxwell Jan 23 '11 at 2:28
It's a flying aphorism :D. Translation: Good high level overview. – Jduv Jan 23 '11 at 2:45
it might interest the forum to know that about the time the first guitars were appearing that resembled modern instruments (late 1600s as I recall...), the "Church" railed against them. They were being used by "Gypsies" to accompany lewd dancing and singing, you see.... Rock-n-Roll in the 1600s.... – M. Werner Jun 7 '11 at 20:41
@M. Werner: Wow, please don't tell that to the five hundred thousand or so Christian rock bands around now. – DRL Jun 7 '11 at 20:50

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