Did you know that the term ‘guitar’ is derived from the cithara, an ancient Greco-Roman instrument similar to the lyre? Or that the first instruments to bear the name guitar date back to the 13th Century?
Unless you’re a history buff, or perhaps learned this from your guitar teacher, you probably were unaware of this little-known fact, along with countless others. Below are 10 facts you probably didn’t know about the guitar that will likely surprise you:
1. Play Like an Egyptian
Did you know that the first guitar-like instrument is over 3,500 years old? It was discovered in the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, in the Valley of Kings, near the body of its player, Har-Mose. Constructed of cedar, this instrument features 3 strings attached by a cord to the neck and was likely used by Har-Mose to entertain the royal court.
2. Baroque Karaoke
Although it took shape in the 13th century, the classical guitar most of us are familiar with had a predecessor: the Baroque guitar. This style is a smaller bodied, light, and ornate instrument with five pairs of gut strings. It grew in popularity in Early Modern (1400-1800) European courts.
3. Spanish Inspiration
Despite its Greco-Roman root, the word “guitar” was actually adopted in England from a Spanish word. The Spanish pre-cursor to the modern guitar, the “guitarra”, is where the English were inspired to name the instrument how it’s known today. No one expected that.
4. Spain, Spain Go Away
Keeping with the topic of Spain, did you know that the modern guitar as we know it was designed and built by a 19th century Spaniard? A guitarist and luthier (someone who builds and repairs string instruments), Antonio de Torres Jurado, constructed today’s version of the instrument. Most acoustic guitars in use today are derivatives of his designs.
5. The Piano Isn’t Always Preferred
When imagining the classical composer, one typically thinks of a grey-haired musician hunched over a piano, scribbling notes and testing keys. Austrian composer Franz Schubert went against the grain in this respect, reportedly using his guitar—not a piano—as he composed, as it was his preferred instrument.
6. It’s Electric!
One typically thinks of the 1950s as the time of the electric guitar’s arrival, but the first partially-electric guitars were introduced in the 1930s! The early models used an amplifier to manipulate the sound of guitar tones. The first fully electric guitar was created in 1940.
7. One King to Rule Them All
The landscape of modern rock music has been credited by many to musician BB King, who introduced his extraordinary style of playing in 1949. The American blues singer, songwriter, and record producer was a sophisticated electric guitarist, inspiring musicians still to this day.
8. A Guitar Worth Saving For
The world’s most expensive guitar was sold for $2.8 million at a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Created by Fender, the one-of-a-kind ‘Reach Out To Asia’ Stratocaster is rumored to have cost Fender $20,000 to produce, and included the autographs of 19 guitar icons, including Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Sting.
9. Someone Is Number 0001
Iconic British guitarist David Gilmour of Pink Floyd reportedly owns Fender Stratocaster #0001, featuring a white finish, gold pickguard, three single-coil pickups and a rare three-way selector switch. However, it appears this Strat is more of a showpiece than the first actual production model. The actual first model was sold at an auction in 2014 for $250,000, although the current owner has remained anonymous.
10. They Keep Adding Strings!
Ibanez introduced the world to the mass production of seven-string guitars in 1990, and eight strings in 2007. The seven-string was originally planned to have a high-A string instead of the low-B string it is known for today, much to the appreciation of metal fans around the world.
Is your child passionate about the guitar? At Lesson In Your Home, we offer fun, in-home music lessons that inspire students to reach their musical potential! Contact or call us today at 1-800-826-0988, so your child can begin mastery of the instrument introduced in Egypt, modified in Spain, and perfected in Britain and the United States!