The History of the Guitar

The word ‘guitar’ or guitar in English, was originally derived from the name of an ancient plucked instrument in the Persian region around 1500 BC known as citar or sehtar. This instrument later evolved into a variety of ancient guitar models known by the general term tanbur. In 300 BC the Persian tanbur was developed by the Greeks and six centuries later by the Romans (Bellow, 1970:54-55). In 476 CE the instrument was brought by the Romans to Spain and transformed into: (1) the guitarra Morisca which functions as a melody carrier, and (2) the Guitarra Latina for playing chords. Three centuries later the Arabs brought a kind of gambus guitar called the al ud to Spain (Summerfield, 1982:12).

Based on the construction of the Arab al ud and the two Roman guitar models, the Spanish then made their own instrument called the vihuela. As a result, the vihuela became popular in Spain while its predecessors were gradually abandoned. However, al ud was brought to Western European countries and rivaled the vihuela in popularity in Spain. In Europe the al ud was well received and evolved into various European lute models until around the end of the 17th century. Meanwhile the vihuela continued to evolve into various guitars over the centuries until it eventually became the classical guitar used today.



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