Guitar is a musical instrument whose origins are shrouded in antiquity. The very word “guitar” seems to have evolved from “Kithara” which comes from the ancient Persian “Ki-tar” simply meaning three strings”. Later Latinize as “ chitara”, this was further corrupted to chorotta, rotta, etc., but in Spain it became “ guitarra”, with similar names in many other languages.
Probably the earliest known indication of an instrument having strings that were to be plucked is a stone curving from the lluyuk settlement of the New Hittite Empire (circa 1400 B. C.) which may be considered an ancient ancestor of the classic guitars; the stone relief showed the typical long neck and Frets, incurved side on flat body, and soundholes on each sides of the neck. The Egyptians, with whom the Hittites had contact, had a similar instrument, their “long lutes”.
The Italians developed a guitar whose silhouette approached that of a contemporary classic guitar. It had an open soundboard, with five pairs of strings instead of six in the case of the vihuela.
In 1820 Fernando Carulli, a famed composer and a guitar virtuoso, presented a guitar to his son, this may not have been his own design. While it also had double strings, tuning was that of the present standard six string tuning. Wether used in the classic, flamenco or folk guitar.
The most significant contributions to the development of the classic guitar were made by Antonio Torres Jurado, a great Spanish Luthier (1817-1892). He established a string length of 650mm which became the standard for the modern guitar. This natural set the size proportions of the guitar body as well as the length of the fingerboard. Torres, guitars had extreme softness of touch and ease of action, with a mellow yet robust tonal quality, practically all classic guitars now being made closely follow the simple but beautiful lines of the Torres design.
The History of the guitar must necessarily include mention of its virtuosi. The evolution of guitar technique achieved great progress during the nineteenth century, often to as a Golden Age of the Guitar. Spaniards Dionisio Aguado (1781-1849) and Fernando Sor (1778-1839), together with Italians Mateo Carcassi (1792-1853), Mauro Guilliani to concert performance level.The great Spanish guitarist Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) continued the achievements of Aguado and Sor laying the foundation of modern playing technique with his important studies.
Famous Classical Guitarists
Famous guitar pieces
Libertango – Piazzolla
Recorded and published in 1974 in Milan, this sultry tango marks a change in style for composer Astor Piazzolla from classical tango to nuevo tango. Spicy rhythms and a fiendish melody have kept this one at the forefront of modern Tango, with countless brilliant interpretations to explore.
Recuerdos de la Alhambra – Tárrega
Despite the seeming simplicity of its enchanting melody, Recuerdos de la Alhambra really stretches the soloist to the limit with this piece. The left-hand positions required of the guitarist are rather awkward, involving all sorts of unusual stretches – plus, the use of tremolo is a technical challenge for any performer. But at its best, Recuerdos is passionate, charming and beautifully tender.
Bourrée in E minor – Bach
One of the most famous pieces among guitarists, Bach's popular ‘Bourrée’ was originally written for lute. Although it owes its name to a French dance, Bach by no means intended his Bourrée to be for dancing. However, its slick tempo and its switch from minor to major in the last chord of each verse gives it a wonderfully jaunty feel.
Plus, the Bourrée was apparently Sir Paul McCartney’s inspiration for ‘Blackbird’…