Acoustic guitars are descendants of stringed instruments that were found in a variety of cultures thousands and thousands of years ago. As civilizations merged and the world became smaller, the guitar began taking on a unified shape and style. Since then, there has been a lineal evolution of several hundreds of years of instruments that can be directly compared to today’s acoustic guitars.
The Medieval Period
During the Medieval Period of European history, there were several different forms of guitars. These guitars had between three and five strings and were much smaller than the guitars we know today. There were variations of these instruments which had pairs of strings, known as courses. The popular guitars of this period were commonly separated into two groupings. The first, the Guitarra Latina was likely developed from Spain, while the Guitarra Morisca was brought to Spain by the Moorish culture.
The Renaissance and Beyond
While in the Middle Ages, the guitar instruments were not terribly popular, being overshadowed by other contemporary instruments, in the Renaissance the guitar began to take a real hold. It was in Italy in 1779 that the first six string guitar was created. Gaetano Vinaccia created this instrument in Naples. Following that, the man known as the “Father of Modern Guitar” made his permanent mark on the course of the guitar and how it would be designed and played.
Antonio de Torres Jurado made many key changes that in essence from the creation of what is known today as the modern classical guitar. Among these changes were the design elements that are recognizable as an acoustic or classical guitar today. The body was made larger and wider to help make sound travel farther and be louder, while the construction was also sturdier, more complete and more technically savvy.
The Acoustic Guitar
The instrument that Antonio de Torres created and made popular was the Classical guitar. The acoustic guitar is commonly misinterpreted as being the same as the Classical guitar. This is not true, there are many key differences in the design of these two separate guitars. The most important of which is that the acoustic guitar has steel strings, while the Classical guitar is strung with nylon strings.
The body was also made larger and sturdier still. The acoustic guitar was much better for performing in larger areas as it was increasingly louder than the Classical guitar; the two guitars also produce different ranges and textures of sounds which various styles of music correspond to.
The acoustic guitar was actually developed in America from European immigrants. The last major development of the acoustic guitar is the electrical-acoustic guitar. These acoustic guitars can be plugged into an amplifier for increased volume or can be left unplugged and played as is.
So next time you pick up an acoustic guitar, remember the history you hold in your hands.