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Guitar 1.jpg
A classical guitar (nylon string)
String instrument
Classification String instrument (plucked, nylon-stringed guitars usually played with fingerpicking, and steel-, etc. usually with a pick.)
Hornbostel-Sachs classification 321.322
(Composite chordophone)
Playing range
Range guitar.svg
(a standard tuned guitar)
Related instruments
The guitar is a musical instrument of the chordophone family, being a stringed instrument played by plucking, either with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number but sometimes more, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with either nylon or steel strings. Some modern guitars are made of polycarbonate materials. Guitars are made and repaired by luthiers. There are two primary families of guitars: acoustic and electric.
Acoustic guitars (and similar instruments) which have hollow bodies, have been in use for over a thousand years. There are three main types of modern acoustic guitar: the classical guitar (nylon-string guitar), the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar. The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the vibration of the strings which is amplified by the body of the guitar, which acts as a resonating chamber. The classical guitar is often played as a solo instrument using a comprehensive fingerpicking technique. Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, rely on an amplifier that can electronically manipulate tone. Early amplified guitars employed a hollow body, but a solid body was found more suitable. Electric guitars have had a continuing profound influence on popular culture. Guitars are recognized as a primary instrument in Genres such as flamenco, Rock music, Reggae, blues, country, mariachi, Jazz, Soul, and many forms of pop.



Illustration from a Carolingian Psalter from the 9th century, showing a guitar-like plucked instrument.
Before the development of the electric guitar and the use of synthetic materials, a guitar was defined as being an instrument having "a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides".[1] The term is used to refer to a number of related instruments that were developed and used across Europe beginning in the 12th century and, later, in the Americas.[2] These instruments are descended from ones that existed in ancient central Asia and India. For this reason guitars are distantly related to modern instruments from these regions, including the tanbur, the setar and the sitar, among others. The oldest known iconographic representation of an instrument displaying the essential features of a guitar is a 3,300 year old stone carving of a Hittite bard.[3]
The modern word "guitar" was adopted into English from Spanish guitarra (German Gitarre, French Guitare),[4] loaned from the medieval Andalusian Arabic قيثارة qitara,[5] itself derived from the Latin cithara, which in turn came from the earlier Greek word kithara (κιθάρα),[6] a descendant of Old Persian sihtar ( سی تار) (Tar means string in Persian).[7]
The guitar is descended from the Roman cithara brought by the Romans to Hispania around 40 AD, and further adapted and developed with the arrival of the four-string oud, brought by the Moors after their conquest of Iberia in the 8th century.[8] Elsewhere in Europe, the indigenous six-string Scandinavian lut (lute), had gained in popularity in areas of Viking incursions across the continent. Often depicted in carvings c. 800 AD, the Norse hero Gunther (also known as Gunnar), played a lute with his toes as he lay dying in a snake-pit, in the legend of Siegfried.[9] By 1200 AD, the four-string "guitar" had evolved into two types: the guitarra moresca (Moorish guitar) which had a rounded back, wide fingerboard and several soundholes, and the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) which resembled the modern guitar with one soundhole and a narrower neck.[10] In the 14th and 15th centuries the qualifiers "moresca" and "latina" were dropped and these four course instruments were simply called guitars.[11]
The Spanish vihuela or (in Italian) "viola da mano", a guitar-like instrument of the 15th and 16th centuries, is often considered a major influence in the development of the modern guitar. It had six courses (usually), lute-like tuning in fourths and a guitar-like body, although early representations reveal an instrument with a sharply-cut waist. It was also larger than the contemporary four course guitars. By the late 15th century some vihuelas began to be played with a bow, leading to the development of the viol. By the sixteenth century the vihuela's construction had more in common with the modern guitar, with its curved one-piece ribs, than with the viols, and more like a larger version of the contemporary four-course guitars. The vihuela enjoyed only a short period of popularity in Spain and Italy during an era dominated elsewhere in Europe by the lute; the last surviving published music for the instrument appeared in 1576. Meanwhile the five-course baroque guitar, which was documented in Spain from the middle of the 16th century, enjoyed popularity, especially in Spain, Italy and France from the late 16th century to the mid 18th century.[12][13] Confusingly, in Portugal, the word vihuela referred to the guitar, whereas guitarra meant the "Portuguese guitar", a variety of cittern.

Types of guitars

The guitar player (c. 1672), by Johannes Vermeer
Guitars can be divided into two broad categories, acoustic and electric:

Acoustic guitars

There are several notable subcategories within the acoustic guitar group: classical and flamenco guitars; steel-string guitars, which include the flat-topped, or "folk," guitar; twelve-string guitars; and the arched-top guitar. The acoustic guitar group also includes unamplified guitars designed to play in different registers, such as the acoustic bass guitar, which has a similar tuning to that of the electric bass guitar.

Renaissance and Baroque guitars

These are the gracile ancestors of the modern classical guitar. They are substantially smaller and more delicate than the classical guitar, and generate a much quieter sound. The strings are paired in courses as in a modern 12-string guitar, but they only have four or five courses of strings rather than six. They were more often used as rhythm instruments in ensembles than as solo instruments, and can often be seen in that role in early music performances. (Gaspar Sanz' Instrucción de Música sobre la Guitarra Española of 1674 constitutes the majority of the surviving solo corpus for the era.) Renaissance and Baroque guitars are easily distinguished because the Renaissance guitar is very plain and the Baroque guitar is very ornate, with ivory or wood inlays all over the neck and body, and a paper-cutout inverted "wedding cake" inside the hole.

Classical guitars

Eminent South American guitarist, Agustin Barrios
These are typically strung with nylon strings, plucked with the fingers,[14] played in a seated position and are used to play a diversity of musical styles including classical music. The classical guitar's wide, flat neck allows the musician to play scales, arpeggios and certain chord forms more easily and with less adjacent string interference than on other styles of guitar. Flamenco guitars are very similar in construction, but are associated with a more percussive tone. In Mexico, the popular mariachi band includes a range of guitars, from the tiny requinto to the guitarrón, a guitar larger than a cello, which is tuned in the bass register. In Colombia, the traditional quartet includes a range of instruments too, from the small bandola (sometimes known as the Deleuze-Guattari, for use when traveling or in confined rooms or spaces), to the slightly larger tiple, to the full sized classical guitar. The requinto also appears in other Latin-American countries as a complementary member of the guitar family, with its smaller size and scale, permitting more projection for the playing of single-lined melodies. Modern dimensions of the classical instrument were established by the Spaniard Antonio de Torres Jurado (1817-1892).

Extended-range classical guitar

An Extended-range classical guitar is a classical guitar with more than 6 strings, usually up to 13.

Flamenco guitars

The flamenco guitar is similar to the classical guitar, but of lighter construction, with a cypress body and spruce top. Tuning pegs like those of a violin are traditional, although many modern flamenco guitars have machine heads. A distinguishing feature of all flamenco guitars is the tapping plates (golpeadores) glued to the table, to protect them against the taps with the fingernails that are an essential feature of the flamenco style.
Many modern soloists (following the lead of Paco de Lucía) play what is called a flamenca negra, a hybrid of the flamenco and classical guitar constructions

Portuguese guitar

A twelve stringed instrument which in spite of the name, it is not a guitar, but rather a cittern.
Sarah Blasko playing a Maton acoustic steel-string guitar

Flat-top (steel-string) guitars

Similar to the classical guitar, however, within the varied sizes of the steel-stringed guitar the body size is usually significantly larger than a classical guitar and it has a narrower, reinforced neck and stronger structural design. The robust X-bracing typical of the steel-string was developed in the 1840s by German-American luthiers of whom C. F. Martin is the best known. Originally used on gut-strung instruments, the strength of the system allowed the guitar to withstand the additional tension of steel strings when this fortunate combination arose in the early 20th century. The steel strings produce a brighter tone, and according to many players, a louder sound. The acoustic guitar is used in many kinds of music including folk, country, bluegrass, pop, jazz and blues. Many variations are possible from the roughly classical-sized OO and Parlour to the large Dreadnought and Jumbo. Ovation makes a modern variation, with a rounded back/side assembly molded from artificial materials.

Archtop guitars

These are steel-string instruments in which the top (and often the back) of the instrument are carved from a solid billet in a curved rather than a flat shape; this violin-like construction is usually credited to the American Orville Gibson (1856-1918). Lloyd Loar of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co introduced the violin-inspired f-hole design now usually associated with archtop guitars, after designing a style of mandolin of the same type. The typical archtop guitar has a large, deep, hollow body whose form is much like that of a mandolin or violin family instrument. Nowadays, most archtops are equipped with magnetic pickups and are therefore both acoustic and electric. F-hole archtop guitars were immediately adopted upon their release by both jazz and country musicians and have remained particularly popular in jazz music, usually with flatwound strings.

Selmer-Maccaferri guitars

These are usually played by those who follow the style of Django Reinhardt. It is an unusual-looking instrument, distinguished by a fairly large body with squarish bouts, and either a "D"-shaped or longitudinal oval soundhole. The strings are gathered at the tail like an archtop guitar, but the top is formed from thin spruce (like a flat-top or classical) forced into a shallow dome. It also has a wide fingerboard and slotted head like a nylon-string guitar. The loud volume and penetrating tone make it suitable for single-note soloing and it is frequently employed as a lead instrument in gypsy swing.
An 8-string baritone tricone resonator guitar.

Resonator, resophonic or Dobro guitars

All three principal types of resonator guitars were invented by the Slovak-American John Dopyera (1893-1988) for the National and Dobro (Dopyera Brothers) companies. Similar to the flat top guitar in appearance, but with a body which may be made of brass, nickel-silver or steel as well as wood, the sound of the resonator guitar is produced by one or more aluminum resonator cones mounted in the middle of the top. The physical principle of the guitar is therefore similar to the loudspeaker. The original purpose of the resonator was to produce a very loud sound; this purpose has been largely superseded by electrical amplification, but the resonator guitar is still played because of its distinctive tone. Resonator guitars may have either one or three resonator cones. The method of transmitting sound resonance to the cone is either a "biscuit" bridge, made of a small piece of hardwood at the vertex of the cone (Nationals), or a "spider" bridge, made of metal and mounted around the rim of the (inverted) cone (Dobros). Three-cone resonators always use a specialized metal bridge. The type of resonator guitar with a neck with a square cross-section – called "square neck" or "Hawaiian" – is usually played face up, on the lap of the seated player, and often with a metal or glass slide. The round neck resonator guitars are normally played in the same fashion as other guitars, although slides are also often used, especially in blues.

12-string guitars

The twelve-string guitar usually has steel strings and is widely used in folk music, blues and rock and roll. Rather than having only six strings, the 12-string guitar has six courses made up of two strings each, like a mandolin or lute. The highest two courses are tuned in unison, while the others are tuned in octaves. The 12-string guitar is also made in electric forms.

Russian guitars

These are seven-string acoustic guitars which were the norm for Russian guitarists throughout the 19th and well into the 20th centuries. The guitar is traditionally tuned to an open G major.

Acoustic bass guitars

Prime and bass acoustic guitars
These have steel strings or gut strings and often the same tuning as an electric bass guitar.


The guitarrón is a very large, deep-bodied Mexican 6-string acoustic bass played in mariachi bands. It is fretless with heavy gauge nylon strings, and is usually played by doubling notes at the octave, which is facilitated by the unusual tuning of A D G C E A.

Tenor guitars

A number of classical guitarists call the Niibori prime guitar a "Tenor Guitar" on the grounds that it sits in pitch between the alto and the bass. Elsewhere[citation needed]the name is taken for a 4-string guitar with a scale length of 23" (585 mm) – about the same as a Terz Guitar. The tenor guitar is tuned in fifths, C G D A, as is the tenor banjo and the cello. It is generally accepted[citation needed] that the tenor guitar was created to allow a tenor banjo player to follow the fashion as it evolved from Dixieland Jazz towards the more progressive Jazz that featured guitar. It allows a tenor banjo player to provide a guitar-based rhythm section with little to learn. A small minority of players (such as Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio) close tuned the instrument to D G B E to produce a deep instrument that could be played with the 4-note chord shapes found on the top 4 strings of the guitar or ukulele. The deep pitch warrants the wide-spaced chords that the banjo tuning permits, and the close tuned tenor does not have the same full, clear sound.

Harp guitars

Harp Guitars are difficult to classify as there are many variations within this type of guitar. They are typically rare and uncommon in the popular music scene. Most consist of a regular guitar, plus additional 'harp' strings strung above the six normal strings. The instrument is usually acoustic and the harp strings are usually tuned to lower notes than the guitar strings, for an added bass range. Normally there is neither fingerboard nor frets behind the harp strings. Some harp guitars also feature much higher pitch strings strung below the traditional guitar strings. The number of harp strings varies greatly, depending on the type of guitar and also the player's personal preference (as they have often been made to the player's specification).[15] The Pikasso guitar; 4 necks, 2 sound holes, 42 strings] and also the Oracle Harp Sympitar; 24 strings (with 12 sympathetic strings protruding through the neck) are modern examples.

Extended-range guitars

For well over a century guitars featuring seven, eight, nine, ten or more strings have been used by a minority of guitarists as a means of increasing the range of pitch available to the player. Usually, it is bass strings that are added. Classical guitars with an extended range are useful for playing lute repertoire, some of which was written for lutes with more than six courses. A typical example is the modern 11 string archguitar, invented and played by Peter Blanchette.[16]

Guitar battente

The battente is smaller than a classical guitar, usually played with four or five metal strings. It is mainly used in Calabria (a region in southern Italy) to accompany the voice.

Electric guitars

Glen Campbell playing a Fender electric guitar with three single-coil pickups
Electric guitars can have solid, semi-hollow, or hollow bodies, and produce little sound without amplification. Electromagnetic pickups convert the vibration of the steel strings into signals, which are fed to an amplifier through a cable or radio transmitter. The sound is frequently modified by other electronic devices or the natural distortion of valves (vacuum tubes) in the amplifier. There are two main types of pickup, single and double coil (or humbucker), each of which can be passive or active. The electric guitar is used extensively in jazz, blues, R & B, and rock and roll. The first successful magnetic pickup for a guitar was invented by George Beauchamp, and incorporated into the 1931 Ro-Pat-In (later Rickenbacker) "Frying Pan" lap steel; other manufacturers, notably Gibson, soon began to install pickups in archtop models. After World War II the completely solid-body electric was popularized by Gibson in collaboration with Les Paul, and independently by Leo Fender of Fender Music. The lower fretboard action (the height of the strings from the fingerboard), lighter (thinner) strings, and its electrical amplification lend the electric guitar to some techniques which are less frequently used on acoustic guitars. These include tapping, extensive use of legato through pull-offs and hammer-ons (also known as slurs), pinch harmonics, volume swells, and use of a tremolo arm or effects pedals.
The first electric guitarist of note to use a seven-string guitar was jazz guitarist George Van Eps, who was noted as a pioneer of this instrument. Solid body seven-strings were popularized in the 1980s and 1990s in part due to the release of the Ibanez Universe guitar, endorsed by Steve Vai. Other artists go a step further, by using an eight-string guitar with two extra low strings. Although the most common seven-string has a low B string, Roger McGuinn (of The Byrds and Rickenbacker) uses an octave G string paired with the regular G string as on a 12-string guitar, allowing him to incorporate chiming 12-string elements in standard six-string playing. In 1982 Uli Jon Roth developed the "Sky Guitar", with a vastly extended number of frets, which was the first guitar to venture into the upper registers of the violin. Roth's seven-string and 33-fret "Mighty Wing" guitar features an altogether six-octave range.
The electric bass guitar is similar in tuning to the traditional double bass viol. Hybrids of acoustic and electric guitars are also common. There are also more exotic varieties, such as guitars with two, three,[17] or rarely four necks, all manner of alternate string arrangements, fretless fingerboards (used almost exclusively on bass guitars, meant to emulate the sound of a stand-up bass), 5.1 surround guitar, and such.
Some electric guitar and electric bass guitar models feature piezoelectric pickups, which function as transducers to provide a sound closer to that of an acoustic guitar with the flip of a switch or knob, rather than switching guitars. Those that combine piezoelectric pickups and magnetic pickups are sometimes known as hybrid guitars.[18]

Guitar construction and components

Acoustic guitar parts.pngElectric guitar parts.jpg
  1. Headstock
  2. Nut
  3. Machine heads (or pegheads, tuning keys, tuning machines, tuners)
  4. Frets
  5. Truss rod
  6. Inlays
  7. Neck
  8. Heel (acoustic) – Neckjoint (electric)
  9. Body
  10. Pickups
  11. Electronics
  12. Bridge
  13. Pickguard
  14. Back
  15. Soundboard (top)
  16. Body sides (ribs)
  17. Sound hole, with Rosette inlay
  18. Strings
  19. Saddle
  20. Fretboard (or Fingerboard)


Guitars can be constructed to meet the demands of both left and right-handed players. Traditionally the dominant hand is assigned the task of plucking or strumming the strings. For the majority of people this entails using the right hand. This is because musical expression (dynamics, tonal expression and colour etc) is largely determined by the plucking hand, while the fretting hand is assigned the lesser mechanical task of depressing and gripping the strings. This is similar to the convention of the violin family of instruments where the right hand controls the bow. Left-handed players generally choose a left-handed (mirror) instrument, although some play in a standard right-handed manner, others play a standard right-handed guitar reversed, and still others (for example Jimi Hendrix) play a right-handed guitar strung in reverse. This last configuration differs from a true left-handed guitar in that the saddle is normally angled in such a way that the bass strings are slightly longer than the treble strings to improve intonation. Reversing the strings therefore reverses the relative orientation of the saddle (negatively affecting intonation), although in Hendrix' case this is believed to have been an important element in his unique sound.


The headstock is located at the end of the guitar neck furthest from the body. It is fitted with machine heads that adjust the tension of the strings, which in turn affects the pitch. Traditional tuner layout is "3+3" in which each side of the headstock has three tuners (such as on Gibson Les Pauls). In this layout, the headstocks are commonly symmetrical. Many guitars feature other layouts as well, including six-in-line (featured on Fender Stratocasters) tuners or even "4+2" (Ernie Ball Music Man). However, some guitars (such as Steinbergers) do not have headstocks at all, in which case the tuning machines are located elsewhere, either on the body or the bridge.


The nut is a small strip of bone, plastic, brass, corian, graphite, stainless steel, or other medium-hard material, at the joint where the headstock meets the fretboard. Its grooves guide the strings onto the fretboard, giving consistent lateral string placement. It is one of the endpoints of the strings' vibrating length. It must be accurately cut, or it can contribute to tuning problems due to string slippage, and/or string buzz. To reduce string friction in the nut, which can adversely affect tuning stability, some guitarists fit a roller nut. Some instruments use a zero fret just in front of the nut. In this case the nut is used only for lateral alignment of the strings, the string height and length being dictated by the zero fret.


Also called the fingerboard, the fretboard is a piece of wood embedded with metal frets that comprises the top of the neck. It is flat on classical guitars and slightly curved crosswise on acoustic and electric guitars. The curvature of the fretboard is measured by the fretboard radius, which is the radius of a hypothetical circle of which the fretboard's surface constitutes a segment. The smaller the fretboard radius, the more noticeably curved the fretboard is. Most modern guitars feature a 12" neck radius, while older guitars from the 1960s and 1970s usually feature a 6-8" neck radius. Pinching a string against the fretboard effectively shortens the vibrating length of the string, producing a higher pitch. Fretboards are most commonly made of rosewood, ebony, maple, and sometimes manufactured or composite materials such as HPL or resin. See below on section "Neck" for the importance of the length of the fretboard in connection to other dimensions of the guitar.


Frets are metal strips (usually nickel alloy or stainless steel) embedded along the fretboard and located at exact points that divide the scale length in accordance with a specific mathematical formula. Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings' vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. The pitch of each consecutive fret is defined at a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. Standard classical guitars have 19 frets and electric guitars between 21 to 24 frets (though Caparison Guitars issue guitars with as many as 27 frets).[19]
Frets are laid out to a mathematical ratio that results in equal tempered division of the octave. The ratio of the spacing of two consecutive frets is the twelfth root of two. The twelfth fret divides the scale length in two exact halves and the 24th fret position divides the scale length in half yet again. Every twelve frets represents one octave. In practice, luthiers determine fret positions using the constant 17.817, which is derived from the twelfth root of two (17.817 = (1-2-1/12)-1). The scale length divided by this value yields the distance from the nut to the first fret. That distance is subtracted from the scale length and the result is divided in two sections by the constant to yield the distance from the first fret to the second fret. Positions for the remainder of the frets are calculated in like manner.[20] Actual fret spacing does not use this exact value; the fret spacing on the fretboard was also done by trial and error (testing) method over the ages.
There are several different fret gauges, which can be fitted according to player preference. Among these are "jumbo" frets, which have much thicker gauge, allowing for use of a slight vibrato technique from pushing the string down harder and softer. "Scalloped" fretboards, where the wood of the fretboard itself is "scooped out" between the frets allows a dramatic vibrato effect. Fine frets, much flatter, allow a very low string-action but require other conditions such as curvature of the neck to be well maintained in order to prevent buzz.
On steel-string guitars, frets are eventually bound to wear down; when this happens, frets can be replaced or, to a certain extent, leveled, polished, recrowned, or reshaped as required.

Truss rod

The truss rod is a metal rod that runs along the inside of the neck. It is used to correct changes to the neck's curvature caused by the neck timbers aging, changes in humidity or to compensate for changes in the tension of strings. The tension of the rod and neck assembly is adjusted by a hex nut or an allen-key bolt on the rod, usually located either at the headstock, sometimes under a cover, or just inside the body of the guitar underneath the fretboard and accessible through the sound hole. Some truss rods can only be accessed by removing the neck. The truss rod counteracts the immense amount of tension the strings place on the neck, bringing the neck back to a straighter position. Turning the truss rod clockwise will tighten it, counteracting the tension of the strings and straightening the neck or creating a backward bow. Turning the truss rod counter-clockwise will loosen it, allowing string tension to act on the neck and creating a forward bow. Adjusting the truss rod affects the intonation of a guitar as well as the height of the strings from the fingerboard, called the action. Some truss rod systems, called "double action" truss systems, tighten both ways, allowing the neck to be pushed both forward and backward (standard truss rods can only be released to a point beyond which the neck will no longer be compressed and pulled backward).
Classical guitars do not require truss rods as their nylon strings exert a lower tensile force with lesser potential to cause structural problems. However their necks are often reinforced with a strip of harder wood, such as an ebony strip running down the back of a cedar neck. There is no tension adjustment on this form of reinforcement.


Inlays are visual elements set into the exterior surface of a guitar. The typical locations for inlay are on the fretboard, headstock, and on acoustic guitars around the soundhole, known as the rosette. Inlays range from simple plastic dots on the fretboard to intricate works of art covering the entire exterior surface of a guitar (front and back). Some guitar players have used LEDs in the fretboard to produce a unique lighting effects onstage.
Fretboard inlays are most commonly shaped like dots, diamond shapes, parallelograms, or large blocks in between the frets. Dots are usually inlaid into the upper edge of the fretboard in the same positions, small enough to be visible only to the player. These usually appear on the odd numbered frets, but also on the 12th fret (the one octave mark) instead of the 11th and 13th frets. Some older or high-end instruments have inlays made of mother of pearl, abalone, ivory, coloured wood or other exotic materials and designs. Simpler inlays are often made of plastic or painted. High-end classical guitars seldom have fretboard inlays as a well trained player is expected to know his or her way around the instrument.
In addition to fretboard inlay, the headstock and soundhole surround are also frequently inlaid. The manufacturer's logo or a small design is often inlaid into the headstock. Rosette designs vary from simple concentric circles to delicate fretwork mimicking the historic rosette of lutes. Bindings that edge the finger and sound boards are sometimes inlaid. Some instruments have a filler strip running down the length and behind the neck, used for strength and/or to fill the cavity through which the trussrod was installed in the neck.
Elaborate inlays are a decorative feature of many limited edition, high-end and custom-made guitars. Guitar manufacturers often release such guitars to celebrate significant or historic milestones.


A guitar's frets, fretboard, tuners, headstock, and truss rod, all attached to a long wooden extension, collectively constitute its neck. The wood used to make the fretboard will usually differ from the wood in the rest of the neck. The bending stress on the neck is considerable, particularly when heavier gauge strings are used (see Tuning), and the ability of the neck to resist bending (see Truss rod) is important to the guitar's ability to hold a constant pitch during tuning or when strings are fretted. The rigidity of the neck with respect to the body of the guitar is one determinant of a good instrument versus a poor one. The shape of the neck can also vary, from a gentle "C" curve to a more pronounced "V" curve. There are many different types of neck profiles available, giving the guitarist many options. Some aspects to consider in a guitar neck may be the overall width of the fingerboard, scale (distance between the frets), the neck wood, the type of neck construction (for example, the neck may be glued in or bolted on), and the shape (profile) of the back of the neck. Other type of material used to make guitar necks are graphite (Steinberger guitars), aluminium (Kramer Guitars, Travis Bean and Veleno guitars), or carbon fiber (Modulus Guitars and ThreeGuitars).
Double neck electric guitars have two necks, allowing the musician to quickly switch between guitar sounds.

Neck joint or 'Heel'

This is the point at which the neck is either bolted or glued to the body of the guitar. Almost all acoustic steel-string guitars, with the primary exception of Taylors, have glued (otherwise known as set) necks, while electric guitars are constructed using both types. Most classical guitars have a neck and headblock carved from one piece of wood, known as a "Spanish heel."
Commonly used set neck joints include mortise and tenon joints (such as those used by CF Martin & Co. guitars), dovetail joints (also used by CF Martin on the D28 and similar models) and Spanish heel neck joints which are named after the shoe they resemble and commonly found in classical guitars. All three types offer stability. Bolt-on necks, though they are historically associated with cheaper instruments, do offer greater flexibility in the guitar's set-up, and allow easier access for neck joint maintenance and repairs.
Another type of neck, only available for solid body electric guitars, is the neck-through-body construction. These are designed so that everything from the machine heads down to the bridge are located on the same piece of wood. The sides (also known as wings) of the guitar are then glued to this central piece. Some luthiers prefer this method of construction as they claim it allows better sustain of each note. Some instruments may not have a neck joint at all, having the neck and sides built as one piece and the body built around it.


The standard guitar has six strings but four-, seven-, eight-, nine-, ten-, eleven-, twelve-, thirteen- and eighteen-string guitars are also available.
Classical and flamenco guitars historically used gut strings but these have been superseded by polymer materials, such as nylon and fluorocarbon.
Modern guitar strings are constructed of metal, polymers, or animal or plant product materials. Instruments utilising "steel" strings may have strings made of alloys incorporating steel, nickel or phosphor bronze. Bass strings for both instruments are wound rather than monofilament.

Body (acoustic guitar)

In acoustic guitars, string vibration is transmitted through the bridge and saddle to the body via sound board. The sound board is typically made of tone woods such as spruce or cedar. Timbers for tone woods are chosen for both strength and ability to transfer mechanical energy from the strings to the air within the guitar body. Sound is further shaped by the characteristics of the guitar body's resonant cavity.
In electric guitars, transducers known as pickups convert string vibration to an electric signal, which in turn is amplified and fed to speakers, which vibrate the air to produce the sounds we hear. Nevertheless, the body of the electric guitar still performs a role in shaping the resultant tonal signature.
In an acoustic instrument, the body of the guitar is a major determinant of the overall sound quality. The guitar top, or soundboard, is a finely crafted and engineered element made of tonewoods such as spruce and red cedar. This thin piece of wood, often only 2 or 3 mm thick, is strengthened by differing types of internal bracing. The top is considered by many luthiers to be the dominant factor in determining the sound quality. The majority of the instrument's sound is heard through the vibration of the guitar top as the energy of the vibrating strings is transferred to it.
Body size, shape and style has changed over time. 19th century guitars, now known as salon guitars, were smaller than modern instruments. Differing patterns of internal bracing have been used over time by luthiers. Torres, Hauser, Ramirez, Fleta, and C.F. Martin were among the most influential designers of their time. Bracing not only strengthens the top against potential collapse due to the stress exerted by the tensioned strings, but also affects the resonance characteristics of the top. The back and sides are made out of a variety of timbers such as mahogany, Indian rosewood and highly regarded Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra). Each one is primarily chosen for their aesthetic effect and can be decorated with inlays and purfling.
The body of an acoustic guitar has a sound hole through which sound is projected. The sound hole is usually a round hole in the top of the guitar under the strings. Air inside the body vibrates as the guitar top and body is vibrated by the strings, and the response of the air cavity at different frequencies is characterised, like the rest of the guitar body, by a number of resonance modes at which it responds more strongly.
Instruments with larger areas for the guitar top were introduced by Martin in an attempt to create louder volume levels. The popularity of the larger "dreadnought" body size amongst acoustic performers is related to the greater sound volume produced.

Body (electric guitar)

Most electric guitar bodies are made of wood and include a plastic pick guard. Boards wide enough to use as a solid body are very expensive due to the worldwide depletion of hardwood stock since the 70's, so the wood is rarely one solid piece. Most bodies are made of two pieces of wood with some of them including a seam running down the centre line of the body. The most common woods used for electric guitar body construction include maple, basswood, ash, poplar, alder, and mahogany. Many bodies will consist of good sounding but inexpensive woods, like ash, with a "top", or thin layer of another, more attractive wood (such as maple with a natural "flame" pattern) glued to the top of the basic wood. Guitars constructed like this are often called "flame tops". The body is usually carved or routed to accept the other elements, such as the bridge, pickup, neck, and other electronic components. Most electrics have a polyurethane or nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Other alternative materials to wood, are used in guitar body construction. Some of these include carbon composites, plastic material (such as polycarbonate) and aluminium alloys.


This Fender Stratocaster has features common to many electric guitars: multiple pickups, a vibrato unit/tremolo bar, volume and tone knobs.
Pickups are transducers attached to a guitar that detect (or "pick up") string vibrations and convert the mechanical energy of the string into electrical energy. The resultant electrical signal can then be electronically amplified. The most common type of pickup is electromagnetic in design. These contain magnets that are tightly wrapped in a coil, or coils, of copper wire. Such pickups are usually placed right underneath the guitar strings. Electromagnetic pickups work on the same principles and in a similar manner to an electrical generator. The vibration of the strings causes a small voltage to be created in the coils surrounding the magnets; this signal voltage is later amplified.
Traditional electromagnetic pickups are either single-coil or double-coil. Single-coil pickups are susceptible to noise induced from electric fields, usually mains-frequency (60 or 50 hertz) hum. The introduction of the double-coil humbucker in the mid-1950s did away with this problem through the use of two coils, one of which is wired in a reverse polarity orientation.
The types and models of pickups used can greatly affect the tone of the guitar. Typically, humbuckers, which are two magnet–coil assemblies attached to each other are traditionally associated with a heavier sound. Single-coil pickups, one magnet wrapped in copper wire, are used by guitarists seeking a brighter, twangier sound with greater dynamic range.
Modern pickups are tailored to the sound desired. A commonly applied approximation used in selection of a pickup is that less wire (lower DC resistance) = brighter sound, more wire = "fat" tone. Other options include specialized switching that produces coil-splitting, in/out of phase and other effects. Guitar circuits are either active, needing a battery to power their circuit, or, as in most cases, equipped with a passive circuit.
Fender Stratocaster type guitars generally utilize three single-coil pickups, while most Gibson Les Paul types use humbucker pickups.
Piezoelectric, or piezo, pickups represent another class of pickup. These employ piezoelectricity to generate the musical signal and are popular in hybrid electro-acoustic guitars. A crystal is located under each string, usually in the saddle. When the string vibrates, the shape of the crystal is distorted, and the stresses associated with this change produce tiny voltages across the crystal that can be amplified and manipulated.
Some piezo-equipped guitars use what is known as a hexaphonic pickup. "Hex" is a prefix meaning six. In a hexaphonic pickup separate outputs are obtained from discrete piezoelectric pickups for each of the six strings. This arrangement allows the signal to be easily modified by on-board modelling electronics, as in the Line 6 Variax brand of electric guitars; the guitars allow for a variety of different sounds to be obtained by digitally manipulating the signal. This allows a guitar to mimic many vintage models of guitar, as well as output alternate tunings without the need to adjust the strings.
Another use for hexaphonic pickups is to send the output signals to a MIDI interpretation device, which determines the note pitch, duration, attack and decay characteristics and so forth. The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) interpreter then sends the note information to a sound bank device. The resulting sound can closely mimic numerous types of instruments.


On guitars that have them, these components and the wires that connect them allow the player to control some aspects of the sound like volume or tone. These at their simplest consist of passive components such as potentiometers and capacitors, but may also include specialized integrated circuits or other active components requiring batteries for power, for preamplification and signal processing, or even for assistance in tuning. In many cases the electronics have some sort of shielding to prevent pickup of external interference and noise.

Lining, Binding, and Purfling

The top, back and ribs of an acoustic guitar body are very thin (1–2 mm), so a flexible piece of wood called lining is glued into the corners where the rib meets the top and back. This interior reinforcement provides 5 to 20 mm of solid gluing area for these corner joints. Solid linings are often used in classical guitars, while kerfed lining is most often found in steel string acoustics. Kerfed lining is also called kerfing (because it is scored, or kerfed to allow it to bend with the shape of the rib).
During final construction, a small section of the outside corners is carved or routed out and then filled with binding material on the outside corners and decorative strips of material next to the binding, which are called purfling. This binding serves to seal off the endgrain of the top and back. Purfling can also appear on the back of an acoustic guitar, marking the edge joints of the two or three sections of the back.
Binding and purfling materials are generally made of either wood or plastic.


The main purpose of the bridge on an acoustic guitar is to transfer the vibration from the strings to the soundboard, which vibrates the air inside of the guitar, thereby amplifying the sound produced by the strings.
On all electric, acoustic and original guitars, the bridge holds the strings in place on the body. There are many varied bridge designs. There may be some mechanism for raising or lowering the bridge to adjust the distance between the strings and the fretboard (action), and/or fine-tuning the intonation of the instrument. Some are spring-loaded and feature a "whammy bar", a removable arm which allows the player to modulate the pitch moving the bridge up and down. The whammy bar is sometimes also referred to as a "tremolo bar" (see Tremolo for further discussion of this term – the effect of rapidly changing pitch produced by a whammy bar is more correctly called "vibrato"). Some bridges also allow for alternate tunings at the touch of a button.
On almost all modern electric guitars, the bridge is adjustable for each string so that intonation stays correct up and down the neck. If the open string is in tune but sharp or flat when frets are pressed, the bridge can be adjusted with a screwdriver or hex key to remedy the problem. In general, flat notes are corrected by moving the bridge forward and sharp notes by moving it backwards. On an instrument correctly adjusted for intonation, the actual length of each string from the nut to the bridge saddle will be slightly but measurably longer than the scale length of the instrument. This additional length is called compensation, which flattens all notes a bit to compensate for the sharping of all fretted notes caused by stretching the string during fretting.


The saddle of a guitar refers to the structure on or parallel to the bridge. The saddle is most commonly found on acoustic guitars, but some models of hollow-bodied electric guitars have it. Its basic purpose is to hold the strings above the bridge and guitar, and to mute the vibration of the string so the strings do not buzz and/or damage themselves or the bridge. It is comparable in size and function to the nut, and variations in its design are not uncommon.


Also known as a scratchplate. This is usually a piece of laminated plastic or other material that protects the finish of the top of the guitar from damage due to the use of a plectrum or fingernails. Electric guitars sometimes mount pickups and electronics on the pickguard. It is a common feature on steel-string acoustic guitars. Vigorous performance styles such as flamenco, which can involve the use of the guitar as a percussion instrument, call for a scratchplate to be fitted to nylon-string instruments.

Whammy Bar (Tremolo Arm)

Many electric guitars are fitted with a vibrato and pitch bend device known as a "tremolo bar (or arm)", "sissy bar", "wang bar", "slam handle", "whammy handle", and "whammy bar". The latter two terms led stompbox manufacturers to use the term 'whammy' in coming up with a pitch raising effect introduced by popular guitar effects pedal brand Digitech.
The tremolo arm is common enough that there is a technical term, hard tail, for a guitar without one.
Leo Fender, who did much to create the electric guitar, also created much confusion over the meaning of the terms "tremolo" and "vibrato" by the naming the "tremolo" unit on many of his guitars and also the "vibrato" unit on his "Vibrolux" amps. In general, vibrato is a variation in pitch, whereas tremolo is a variation in volume, so the tremolo bar is actually a vibrato bar and the "Vibrolux" amps actually had a tremolo effect. However, following Fender's example, electric guitarists traditionally reverse these meanings when speaking of hardware devices and the effects they produce. See vibrato unit for a more detailed discussion, and tremolo arm for more of the history.
Another type of pitch bender is the B-Bender, a spring and lever device mounted in an internal cavity of a solid body electric, guitar that allows the guitarist to bend just the B string of the guitar using a lever connected to the strap handle of the guitar. The resulting pitch bend is evocative of the sound of the pedal steel guitar.

Guitar Strap

Strip of fabric with a leather or synthetic leather piece on each end. Made to hold a guitar via the shoulders, at an adjustable length to suit the position favoured by the guitarist.

Self-tuning guitars

Self-tuning guitars are computerized guitars programmed to tune themselves. The Gibson Robot Guitar, released in 2007, is often mistaken as the first of this kind, but was preceded by the Transperformance system by at least 20 years. Gibson has also released a second, self-tuning model called the Dark Fire.[citation needed] [21]


The guitar is a transposing instrument. Its pitch sounds one octave lower than it is notated on a score.
A variety of different tunings may be used. The most common tuning, known as "Standard Tuning," has the strings tuned from a low E, to a high E, traversing a two octave range – EADGBE. When all strings are played open the resulting chord is an Em7/add11.
The pitches are as follows:
String Scientific pitch Helmholtz pitch Interval from middle C Frequency
first E4 e' major third above 329.63 Hz
second B3 b minor second below 246.94 Hz
third G3 g perfect fourth below 196.00 Hz
fourth D3 d minor seventh below 146.83 Hz
fifth A2 A minor tenth below 110 Hz
sixth E2 E minor thirteenth below 82.41 Hz
The table below shows a pitch's name found over the six strings of a guitar in standard tuning, from the nut (zero), to the twelfth fret.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
E F F♯ G A♭ A B♭ B C C♯ D E♭ E
B C C♯ D E♭ E F F♯ G A♭ A B♭ B
G A♭ A B♭ B C C♯ D E♭ E F F♯ G
D E♭ E F F♯ G A♭ A B♭ B C C♯ D
A B♭ B C C♯ D E♭ E F F♯ G A♭ A
E F F♯ G A♭ A B♭ B C C♯ D E♭ E
A guitar using this tuning can tune to itself using the fact, with a single exception, that the 5th fret on one string is the same note as the next open string; that is, a 5th-fret note on the sixth string is the same note as the open fifth string. The exception is the interval between the second and third strings, in which the 4th-fret note on the third string is equivalent to the open second string.
Standard tuning has evolved to provide a good compromise between simple fingering for many chords and the ability to play common scales with minimal left hand movement. Uniquely, the guitar's tuning allows for repeatable patterns which also facilitates the ease in which common scales can be played.[22] There are also a variety of commonly used alternate tunings – most of which are open tunings that create entire chord voicings without fretting any strings. Many open tunings, where all of the strings are tuned to a similar note or chord, are popular for slide guitar playing. Alternate tunings are used for two main reasons: the ease of playing and the variation in tone that can be achieved.
Many guitarists use a long established, centuries-old tuning variation where the lowest string is 'dropped' down a whole tone. Known as Drop-D (or dropped D) tuning it is, from low to high, DADGBE. This allows for open string tonic and dominant basses in the keys of D and D minor. It also enables simple fifths (powerchords) to be more easily played. Eddie Van Halen sometimes uses a device known as a 'D Tuna,' the patent for which he owns. It is a small lever, attached to the fine tuner of the 6th string on a Floyd Rose tremolo, which allows him to easily drop that string's tuning to a D. Many contemporary rock bands retune all strings by several semi-tones, making, for example, Drop-C or Drop-B tunings, However this terminology is inconsistent with that of "drop-D" as "drop-D" refers to dropping a single string to the named pitch. Often these new tunings are also simply referred to as the "Standard" of the note in question e.g. – "D Standard" (DGcfad').
Some guitarists tune in straight fourths, avoiding the major third between the third and second strings. While this makes playing major and minor triads slightly more difficult, it facilitated playing chords with more complicated extended structures.[citation needed] One proponent of the straight fourth tuning (EADGCF) is Stanley Jordan.
As with all stringed instruments a large number of scordatura are possible on the guitar. A common form of scordatura involves tuning the 3rd string to F to mimic the standard tuning of the lute, especially when playing renaissance repertoire originally written for the lute.

Guitar accessories

Though a guitar may be played on its own, there are a variety of common accessories used for holding and playing the guitar.


A capo (short for capotasto) is used to change the pitch of open strings. Capos are clipped onto the fret board with the aid of spring tension, or in some models, elastic tension. To raise the guitar's pitch by one semitone, the player would clip the capo onto the fret board just below the first fret. Its use allows players to play in different keys without having to change the chord formations they use. Because of the ease with which they allow guitar players to change keys, they are sometimes referred to as "cheaters" or the "hillbilly crutch." Classical performers are known to use them to enable modern instruments to match the pitch of historical instruments such as the renaissance lute.


A slide, (neck of a bottle, knife blade or round metal bar) used in blues and rock to create a glissando or 'Hawaiian' effect. The necks of bottles were often used in blues and country music. Modern slides are constructed of glass, plastic, ceramic, chrome, brass or steel, depending on the weight and tone desired. An instrument that is played exclusively in this manner, (using a metal bar) is called a steel guitar or pedal steel. Slide playing to this day is very popular in blues music and country music. Some slide players use a so called Dobro guitar.


A variety of guitar picks
A "guitar pick" or "plectrum" is a small piece of hard material which is generally held between the thumb and first finger of the picking hand and is used to "pick" the strings. Though most classical players pick solely with their fingernails, the "pick" is often used for electric and steel-string acoustic guitars. Though today they are mainly plastic, variations do exist, such as bone, wood, steel or tortoise shell. Tortoise shell was the most commonly used material in the early days of pick-making, but as tortoises and turtles became more and more endangered, the practice of using their shells for picks or anything else was banned. Tortoise-shell picks made before the ban are often coveted for a supposedly superior tone and ease of use, and their scarcity has made them valuable.
Picks come in many shapes and sizes. Picks vary from the small jazz pick to the large bass pick. The thickness of the pick often determines its use. A thinner pick (between .2 and .5 mm) is usually used for strumming or rhythm playing, whereas thicker picks (between .7 and 1.5+ mm) are usually used for single-note lines or lead playing. The distinctive guitar sound of Billy Gibbons is attributed to using a quarter or peso as a pick. Similarly, Brian May is known to use a sixpence coin as a pick. David Persons is known for using old credit cards, cut to the correct size, as plectrums.
Thumb picks and finger picks that attach to the finger tips are sometimes employed in finger-picking styles on steel strings. These allow the fingers and thumb to operate independently, whereas a flat pick requires the thumb and one or two fingers to manipulate.


  1. ^ Kasha, Dr. Michael (August 1968). "A New Look at The History of the Classic Guitar". Guitar Review 30,3-12
  2. ^ Wade, Graham A Concise History of the Classic Guitar Mel Publications, 2001
  3. ^, A Brief History of the Guitar .
  4. ^ "Guitar Origins". Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  5. ^ Farmer, Henry George (1988), Historical facts for the Arabian Musical Influence, Ayer Publishing, p. 137, ISBN 040508496X 
  6. ^ Kithara appears in the Greek New Testament four times (1 Cor. 14:7, Rev. 5:8, 14:2 and 15:2), and is usually translated into English as harp. Strong's Concordance Number: 2788
  7. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  8. ^ Summerfield, Maurice J. (2003). The Classical Guitar, Its Evolution, Players and Personalities Since 1800 (5th ed.) Blaydon on Tyne: Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 1-872-63946-1.
  9. ^, Viking Art & Architecture.
  10. ^, A Look At The History Of The Guitar.
  11. ^ Tom and Mary Anne Evans. Guitars: From the Renaissance to Rock. Paddington Press Ltd 1977 p.16
  12. ^ "The first incontrovertible evidence of five-course instruments can be found in Miguel Fuenllana's Orphenica Lyre of 1554, which contains music for a vihuela de cinco ordenes. In the following year Juan Bermudo wrote in his Declaracion de Instrumentos Musicales: "We have seen a guitar in Spain with five courses of strings." Bermudo later mentions in the same book that "Guitars usually have four strings", which implies that the five-course guitar was of comparatively recent origin, and still something of an oddity". Tom and Mary Anne Evans Guitars: From the Renaissance to Rock. Paddington Press Ltd 1977 p.24
  13. ^ "We know from literary sources that the five course guitar was immensely popular in Spain in the early seventeenth century and was also widely played in France and Italy...Yet almost all the surviving guitars were built in Italy...This apparent disparity between the documentary and instrumental evidence can be explained by the fact that, in general, only the more expensively made guitars have been kept as collectors' pieces. During the early seventeenth century the guitar was an instrument of the people of Spain, but was widely played by the Italian aristocracy." Tom and Mary Anne Evans. Guitars: From the Renaissance to Rock. Paddington Press Ltd 1977 p.24
  14. ^ the classical guitar is well-known for its comprehensive fingerpicking technique
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Peter Blanchette, Composer & Archguitarist". Peter Blanchette. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  17. ^ The Official Steve Vai Website: The Machines
  18. ^ Hybrid guitars
  19. ^ Caparison Horus-HGS
  20. ^ Mottola, R.M.. "Lutherie Info – Calculating Fret Positions". 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "One Pattern To Rule Them All". Between the Licks. 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 

See also

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

The guitar is a fretted and stringed musical instrument. Guitars are used in a wide variety of musical styles, and are also widely known as a solo classical instrument. They are most recognised in popular culture as the primary instrument in blues, country, and rock music. The guitar usually has six strings, but guitars with five, seven, eight, ten, twelve, and eighteen strings are also found.
There are also various kinds of guitars: classical guitar with soft nylon strings and a soundboard, acoustic Guitar with steel strings and a soundboard, or electric guitar with magnetic pickups to amplify the strings(pictured). There are variations like the Lap Steel guitar, Dobro, and Hawaiian guitars.

Learning materials

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GUITAR (Fr. guitarre, Ger. Guitarre, Ital. chitarra, Span. guitarra), a musical instrument strung with gut strings twanged by the fingers, having a body with a flat back and graceful incurvations in complete contrast to the members of the family of lute, whose back is vaulted. The construction of the instrument is of paramount importance in assigning to the guitar its true position in the history of musical instruments, midway between the cithara and the violin. The medieval stringed instruments with neck fall into two classes, characterized mainly by the construction of the body: (i) Those which, like their archetype the cithara, had a body composed of a flat or delicately arched back and soundboard joined by ribs. (2) Those which, like the lyre, had a body consisting of a vaulted back over which was glued a flat soundboard without the intermediary of ribs; this method of construction predominates among Oriental Instruments and is greatly inferior to the first. A striking proof of this inferiority is afforded by the fact that instruments with vaulted backs, such as the rebab or rebec, although extensively represented during the middle ages in all parts of Europe by numerous types, have shown but little or no development during the course of some twelve centuries, and have dropped out one by one from the realm of practical music without leaving a single survivor. The guitar must be referred to the first of these classes.
The back and ribs of the guitar are of maple, ash or cherrywood, frequently inlaid with rose-wood, mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell, &c., while the soundboard is of pine and has one large ornamental rose sound hole. The bridge, to which the strings are fastened, is of ebony with an ivory nut which determines the one end of the vibrating strings, while the nut at the end of the fingerboard determines the other. The neck and fingerboard are made of hard wood, such as ebony, beech or pear. The head, bent back from the neck at an obtuse angle contains two parallel barrels or long holes through Notation. which the pegs or metal screws pass, three on each side of the head. The correct positions for stopping the intervals are Real Sounds. 7 ridges called frets. The modern guita has six strings, three of gut and three of silk covered with silver wire, tuned as shown. To the thumb are assigned the three deepest strings, while the first, second and third fingers are used to twang the highest strings. It is generally stated that the sixth or lowest string was added in 1790 by Jacob August Otto of Jena, who was the first in Germany to take up the construction of guitars after their introduction from Italy in 1788 by the duchess Amalie of Weimar. Otto 1 states that it was Capellmeister Naumann of Dresden who requested him to make him a guitar with six strings by adding the low E, a spun wire string. The original guitar brought from Italy by the duchess Amalie had five strings, 2 the lowest A being the only one covered with wire. Otto also covered the D in order to increase the fulness of the tone. In Spain six-stringed guitars and vihuelas were known in the 16th century; they are described by Juan Bermudo s and others. 4 The lowest string was tuned to G. Other Spanish guitars of the same period had four, five or seven strings or courses of strings in pairs of unisons. They were always twanged by the fingers.
The guitar is derived from the cithara 5 both structurally and etymologically. It is usually asserted that the guitar was introduced into Spain by the Arabs, but this statement is open to the gravest doubts. There is no trace among the instruments of the Arabs known to us of any similar to the guitar in construction or shape, although a guitar (fig. 2) with slight incurvations was known to the ancient Egyptians.' There is also extant a fine example of the guitar, with ribs and incurvations and a long neck provided with numerous frets, on a Hittite bas-relief on the dromos at Euyuk (c. moo B.C.) in Cappadocia. ? Unless other monuments of much later date should come to light showing guitars with ribs, we shall be justified in assuming that the instrument, which required skill in construction, died out in Egypt and in Asia before the days of classic Greece, and had to be evolved anew from the cithara by the Greeks of Asia Minor. That the evolution should take place within the Byzantine Empire or in Syria would be quite consistent with the FIG. I. - Spanish traditions of the Greeks and their veneration Guitar with seven for the cithara, which would lead them to adapt S t r i n g s. 15 5 5. the neck and other improvements to it, rather Vihuela da Mano. than adopt the rebab, the tanbur or the barbiton from the Persians or Arabians. This is, in fact, what seems to have taken place. It is true that in the 14th century in an enumeration of musical instruments by the Archipreste de Hita, a guitarra morisca is mentioned and unfavourably compared with the guitarra latina; moreover, the Arabs of the present day still use an instrument called kuitra (which in N.Africa would be guithara), but it has a vaulted back, the body being like half a pear with a long neck; the strings are twanged by means of a quill. The Arab instrument therefore belongs to a different class, and to admit the instrument as the ancestor of the Spanish guitar would be tantamount to deriving the guitar from the lute.' By piecing together various indications given by Spanish writers, we obtain a clue to the identity of the medieval instruments, which, in the absence of absolute proof, is entitled to serious consideration. From Bermudo's work, quoted above, we learn that the guitar and the vihuela da mano were practically identical, differing only in accordance and occasionally in the number of strings.' Three kinds of vihuelas were known in Spain during the middle ages, distinguished by the qualifying phrases da arco (with bow), da mano (by hand), da penola (with quill). Spanish scholars 10 who have inquired into this question of identity state that the guitarra latina was afterwards known as the vihuela da mano, a statement fully supported by 1 Ober den Bau der Bogeninstrumente (Jena, 1828), pp. 94 and 95.
See Pietro Millioni, Vero e facil modo d'imparare a sonare et accordare da se medesimo la chitarra spagnola, with illustration (Rome, 1637).
Declarat i on de instrumentos musicales (Ossuna, 1555), fol. xciii. b and fol. xci. a. See also illustration of vihuela da mano. 4 See also G. G. Kapsperger, Libro primo di Villanelle con t' infavolutura del chitarone et alfabeto per la chitarra spagnola (three books, Rome, 1610-1623).
5 See Kathleen Schlesinger, The Instruments of the Orchestra, part ii. "Precursors of the Violin Family," pp. 230-248.
' See Denon's Voyage in Egypt (London, 1807, pl. 55).
7 Illustrated from a drawing in Perrot and Chipiez, "Judee Sardaigne, Syrie, Cappadoce." Vol. iv. of Hist. de l'art dans l'antiquite, Paris, 1887, p. 670. Also see plate from a photograph by Prof. John Garstang, in Kathleen Schlesinger, op. cit. $ See Biernath, Die Guitarre (1908).
° See also Luys Milan, Libro de musica de vihuela da mano, Intitulado Il Maestro, where the accordance is D, G, C, E, A, D from bass to treble.
1° Mariano Soriano, Fuertes Historia de la musica espanola (Madrid, 1855), i. 105, and iv. 208, &c.
= marked on the fingerboard by little metal From Juan Bermudo.
other evidence. As the Arab kuitra was known to be played by means of a quill, we shall not be far wrong in identifying it with the vihuela da penola. The word vihuela or vigola is connected with the Latin fidicula or fides, a stringed instrument mentioned by Cicero 1 as being made from the wood of the plane-tree and having many strings. The remaining link in the chain of identification is afforded by St Isidore, bishop of Seville in the 7th century, who states that fidicula was another name for cithara, "Veteres aut citharas fidicula vel fidice nominaverunt." 2 The fidicula therefore was the cithara, either in its original classical form or in one of the transitions which transformed it into the guitar. The existence of a superior guitarra latina side by side with the guitarra morisca is thus explained. It was derived directly from the classical cithara introduced by the Romans into Spain, the archetype of the structural beauty which formed the basis of the perfect proportions and delicate structure of the violin. In an inventory 3 made by Philip van Wilder of the musical instruments which had belonged to Henry VIII. is the following item bearing on the question: "foure gitterons with iiii. cases they are called Spanishe Vialles." Vial or viol was the English equivalent of vihuela. The transitions whereby the cithara acquired a neck and became a guitar are shown in the miniatures (fig. 3) of a single MS., the celebrated Utrecht Psalter, which gave rise to so many discussions. The Utrecht Psalter was executed in the diocese of Reims in the 9th century, and the miniatures, drawn by an AngloSaxon artist attached to the Reims school, are unique, and illustrate a b c d FIG. 3. - Instrumentalists from the Utrecht Psalter, 9th century: (a) The bass rotta, first transition of cithara in (C); (b, c, d), Transitions showing the addition of neck to the body of the cithara.
the Psalter, psalm by psalm. It is evident that the Anglo-Saxon artist, while endowed with extraordinary talent and vivid imagination, drew his inspiration from an older Greek illustrated Psalter from the Christian East,' where the evolution of the guitar took place.
One of the earliest representations (fig. 4) of a guitar in Western Europe occurs in a Passionale from Zwifalten A.D. I 180, now in the 1 De natura deorum, ii. 8, 22.
2 See Etymologiarium, lib. iii., cap. 21.
See British Museum, Harleian MS. 1419, fol. 200.
4 The literature of the Utrecht Psalter embraces a large number of books and pamphlets in many languages of which the principal are here given: Professor J. O. Westwood, Facsimiles of the Miniatures and Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish MSS. (London, 1868); Sir Thos. Duffus-Hardy, Report on the Athanasian Creed in connection with the Utrecht Psalter (London, 1872); Report on the Utrecht Psalter, addressed to the Trustees of the British Museum (London, 1874); Sir Thomas Duffus-Hardy, Further Report on the Utrecht Psalter (London, 1874); Walter de Gray Birch, The History, Art and Palaeography of the MS. styled the Utrecht Psalter (London, 1876); Anton Springer, "Die Psalterillustrationen im frahen Mittelalter mit besonderer Rt.icksicht auf den Utrecht Psalter," Abhandlungen der kgl. sachs. Ges. d. Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, Bd. viii. pp. 187296, with 10 facsimile plates in autotype from the MS.; Adolf Goldschmidt, "Der Utrecht Psalter," in Repertorium fiir Kunstwissenschaft, Bd. xv. (Stuttgart, 1892), pp. 156-166; Franz Friedrich Leitschuh, Geschichte der karolingischen Malerei, ihr Bilderkreis and seine Quellen (Berlin, 18 94), pp. 321-330; Adolf Goldschmidt, Der Albani Psalter in Hildesheim, &c. (Berlin, 1895); Paul Durrieu, L'Origine du MS. celbbre dit le Psaultier d'Utrecht (Paris, 1895); Hans Graeven, "Die Vorlage des Utrecht Psalters," paper read before the XI. International Oriental Congress, Paris, 1897. See also Repertorium fiir Kunstwissenschaft (Stuttgart, 1898), Bd. xxi. pp. 28-35; J. J. Tikkanen, Abendlcindische Psalter-Illustration im Mittelalter, part iii. "Der Utrecht Psalter" (Helsingfors, 1900), 320 pp. and 77 ills. (Professor Tikkanen now accepts the Greek or Syrian origin of the Utrecht Psalter); Georg Swarzenski, "Die karolingische Malerei and Plastik in Reims," in Jahrbuch d. kgl. preussischen Kunstsammlungen, Bd. xxiii. (Berlin, 1902), pp. 81-ioo; Ormonde M. Dalton, "The Crystal of Lothair," in Archdologie, vol. lix. (1904); Royal Library at Stuttgart.' St Pelagia seated on an ass holds a rotta, or cithara in transition, while one of the men-servants leading her ass holds her guitar. Both instruments have three strings and the characteristic guitar outline with incurvations, the rotta differing in having no neck. Mersenne writing early in the 17th century describes and figures two Spanish guitars, one with four, the other with five strings; the former had a cittern head, the latter the straight head bent hack at an obtuse angle from the neck, as in the modern instrument; he gives the Italian, French and Spanish tablatures which would seem to show that the guitar already enjoyed a certain vogue in France and Italy as well as in Spain.
Mersenne states that the From Dr H. proportions of the guitar Malerei. demand that the length FIG. 4. - Representation of a European of the neck from shoulder Guitar. A.D. 1180.
to nut shall be equal to the length of the body from the centre of the rose to the tail end. From this time until the middle of the 19th century the guitar enjoyed great popularity on the continent, and became the fashionable instrument in England after the Peninsular War, mainly through the virtuosity of Ferdinand Sor, who also wrote compositions for it. This popularity of the guitar was due less to its merits as a solo instrument than to the ease with which it could be mastered sufficiently to accompany the voice. The advent of the Spanish guitar in England led to the wane in the popularity of the cittern, also known at that time in contradistinction as the English or wire-strung guitar, although the two instruments differed in many particulars. As further evidence of the great popularity of the guitar all over Europe may be instanced the extraordinary number of books extant on the instrument, giving instructions how to play the guitar and read the tablature. ? (K. S.)


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

The aim of this book is to introduce beginners to the basic concepts of the guitar and to provide further stimulus for intermediate players. Important techniques are given their own sections with exercises and examples provided. It includes an extensive section on amplifiers and numerous tips and advice on all aspects of the guitar. Music theory concepts are clearly presented and explained.
An Ibanez 440-RS1, with three pickups and a tremolo bar.


Getting Started

Playing the Guitar

For Beginners

Lead Guitar

Rhythm Guitar

Playing Styles

General Guitar Theory




About this Book

External Links

Music Theory Wikibook: The Basics

Guitar Resources

  • On-line guitar community, tabs, reviews, and interactive lessons.
  • Wiki based guitar resource with lessons, chord library, music theory, a gear section and tabs.
  • The Stringery Guitar Site with printable references, videos, and more.

Guitar Lessons

Guitar Software and Hardware

  • Useful guitar tab editor named Powertab that lets you play back the song as MIDI.
  • Guitar effects software for PC.
  • TuxGuitar Open-source tablature editor for Linux, Windows and Mac.

Guitar Tablature & Chords

  • Chord Finger Over 1800 guitar chords, organized by type of key. As well 8 Chord Inversions for each chord
  • Learn to play any song, by learning basic guitar chords
  • Comprehensive scale, chord, progression database, with a very good interface. Also includes a jamming machine allowing you to practice with backing tracks.

Strategy wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Template:Guitar article)

From StrategyWiki, the free strategy guide and walkthrough wiki

This page has been transcluded from Template:Guitar/Documentation.

.This template is used to display button images in regards to a guitar controller used for such games as Guitar Hero and Rock Band.^ PM bobbyderf123 says: this is for all the guitar-hero and rock-band addicts: all the time and money you guys spend on those video games, you could actually be descent guitar players, and actually do something good in your life, instead of wasting your life sitting around your tv.

^ How to make a PS2 Guitar Hero controller out of scratch So this is my second instructable, thanx for clicking on it!

^ Guitar Hero The first Guitar Hero video game was released on the 8th of November 2005, since t… by =SMART= .

Simple English


String instrument (plucked, nylon stringed guitars usually played with fingerpicking, and steel-, etc. usually with a pick.)

Playing range
(a regularly tuned guitar)
Related instruments

Bowed and plucked string instruments

The guitar is a string instrument which is played by plucking the strings. The main parts of a guitar are the body, the fretboard, the headstock and the strings. Guitars are usually made from wood or plastic. Their strings are made of steel or nylon. The guitar strings are plucked with the fingers of the right hand (or left hand, for left handed players), or a small pick made of thin plastic. This type of pick is called a "plectrum" or guitar pick. The left hand holds the neck of the guitar while the fingers press the strings to the fretboard. Different finger positions on the fretboard make different notes.

Guitar-like plucked string instruments have been used for many years. In many countries and at many different time periods, guitars and other plucked string instruments have been very popular, because they are light to carry from place to place, they are easier to learn to play than many other instruments. Guitars are used for many types of music, from Classical to Rock. Most pieces of popular music that have been written since the 1950s are written with guitars.

There are many different types of guitars, classified on how they are made and the type of music they are used for. All traditional types of guitar have a body which is hollow. This makes the sound of the strings louder, and gives the guitar its quality. This type of guitar is called "acoustic". (An acoustic instrument is one that makes its own dynamics.)

From the 1930s, people started making and playing guitars that used electricity and amplifiers to control the loudness. These guitars, which are often used in popular music, are called electric guitars. They do not need to have a hollow body. This is because they do not use acoustics to amplify the sound.

Most guitars have six strings, but there are also guitars with four, seven, eight, ten, or twelve strings. More strings make the instrument sound fuller. The neck of a guitar has bars or marks called frets. Frets help a guitarist know where to put his or her fingers to get the right pitch when playing.


Word origin

The word guitar was adopted into English from Spanish word guitarra in the 1600s. In the Middle ages the word gitter or gittern was used in England. Both guitarra and gitter came from the Latin word cithara. The word cithara came from the earlier Greek word kithara. Kithara could have come from the Persian word sehtār[needs proof]. seh meaning "three" and tār meaning "string". There is also a similar but two-stringed Persian instrument named dotār. do means "two" in persian. The Indian sitar instrument was named after the Persian sehtār. [1]. The sihtar itself is related to the Indian instrument, the sitar.

A person who plays a guitar is called a guitarist. A person who makes or fixes guitars is a luthier, which comes from the word "lute". The word "lute", comes from the Arabic "Al-Uud", a stringed instrument from the Middle East. The guitar appears to be derived from earlier instruments known in ancient central Asia as the Sitara. Instruments very similar to the guitar appear in ancient carvings and statues recovered from the old Iranian capitol of Susa. The modern word, guitar, was adopted into English from the Spanish word guitarra, which came from the older Greek word kithara. Possible sources for various names of musical instruments that guitar could be derived from appear to be a combination of two Indo-European roots[needs proof]: guit-, similar to Sanskrit sangeet meaning "music", and -tar a widely found root meaning "cord" or "string". The word guitar is a word that the Iberian Arabic language took from the Persian language. The word qitara is an Arabic name for various members of the lute family that preceded the Western guitar. The word guitarra was introduced into Spanish when such instruments were brought into Iberia by the Moors after the 10th century.


File:Jan Vermeer van Delft
The guitar player (c. 1672), by Johannes Vermeer

There have been instruments like the guitar for at least 5,000 years. The guitar may have come from older instruments known as the sitara from ancient India and central Asia. The oldest known picture of a guitar-like instrument is a 3300 year old stone carving of a Hittite bard.[2] The oldest guitar-like instrument that is still complete is the "Warwick Gittern" in the British Museum. It belonged to Elizabeth I of England and probably to her father Henry VIII before it was given to her.[3] It is about 500 years old.

The design of the modern guitar began with the Roman cithara. The cithara was brought by the Romans to Hispania (Spain) around 40 AD. In the 8th century the Moors brought the four-stringed oud into Spain. The introduction to the oud caused changes to the design of the cithara. AD.[4] In other parts of Europe, the six-string Scandinavian lut (lute) became popular wherever the Vikings had been. By 1200 AD, there were two types of the four string "guitar": the guitarra morisca (Moorish guitar) from Spain which had a rounded back, wide fingerboard and several soundholes, and the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) which was more like the modern guitar with one sound hole and a narrower neck.[5]

The Spanish vihuela, of the 16th century, was another instrument similar to the guitar. It had lute-style tuning and a body that was like a guitar. The vihuela was only popular for a short amount of time. It is not known whether it was simply a design that combined features of the oud and lute or a transition from the Renaissance instrument to the modern guitar.

The Vinaccia family from Naples, Italy were famous mandolin makers. It is thought that they also made the oldest six-string guitar that still exists. There is a guitar built that was signed and dated 1779 on the label by Gaetano Vinaccia (1759 - after 1831) Although there are many fakes that have dates on them from that time, this guitar is believed by experts to be genuine (real).[6] [7][8]

The guitar's design was improved (made better) by the famous Spanish luthier, Antonio Torres Jurado (1817-1892) and by Louis Panormo of London.[9]

The electric guitar was made by George Beauchamp in 1936. Beauchamp co-founded a company called Rickenbacher to make guitars. However, Danelectro was the first to produce electric guitars for the public to use.

Different kinds of guitars

A guitar was described by Dr. Michael Kasha as an instrument that had "a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides".[10]

Modern guitars come in four main types. The classical guitar is used for classical music. The term acoustic guitar is generally used for a guitar used for popular music, even though a classical guitar is also an acoustic instrument. There are many other different types of acoustic guitars from different parts of the world.

A electric guitar can be flat, hollow, or semi-hollow (solid with hollow pockets on the sides), and produces sound through its pickups, which are wire-wound magnets that are screwed onto the guitar. Some guitars combine the hollow acoustic body with amplified sound. Bass guitars are designed to make a low bass rhythm.

A special electric folding travel guitar called the Foldaxe (briefly manufactured by Hoyer in 1977) was invented for Chet Atkins (in Atkins' book "Me and My Guitars") by inventor and guitarist Roger Field, featuring a built-in way to keep the string tension and tuning the same even when folded, and ready to play when unfolded. Atkins demonstrated his several times on US television, and also on The Today Show with Les Paul, who was with him as a guest.

Guitar music

Guitars are used in many different genres of music, such as traditional, regional, and folk to modern punk, rock, metal or pop. Guitars are used as rhythm instruments, lead instruments, and sometimes both.


  1. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  2. A Brief History of the Guitar
  3. A "richly carved gitter" is listed in King Henry VIII's Inventories.
  4. Summerfield, Maurice J. (2003). The Classical Guitar, It's Evolution, Players and Personalities since 1800 (5th ed.) Blaydon on Tyne: Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 1-872639-46-1.
  5. [A Look At The History Of The Guitar]
  6. The Classical Mandolin by Paul Sparks (1995)
  7. Early Romantic Guitar
  8. The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era by James Tyler (2002)
  9. Evans, Tom and MaryAnne (1977). Guitars: Music, history, Construction and Players from the Renaissance to Rock. p. 42. ISBN 0-448-22240-X. 
  10. Kasha, Dr. Michael (August 1968). "A New Look at The History of the Classic Guitar". Guitar Review 30, 3-12

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