About the Guitar
The guitar is a musical instrument with ancient roots that is used in a wide variety of musical styles. It typically has six strings, but four, seven, eight, ten, and twelve string guitars also exist. Guitars are recognized as one of the primary instruments in blues, country, flamenco, rock music, and many forms of pop. The guitar is also used as a solo classical instrument.
Guitars may be played acoustically, where the tone is produced by vibration of the strings and modulated by the hollow body, or they may rely on an amplifier that can electronically manipulate tone. Such electric guitars were introduced in the 20th century and continue to have a profound influence on popular culture.
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.
The guitar appears to be derived from earlier instruments known in ancient India and Central Asia as the Sitara. The oldest known iconographic representation of an instrument displaying all the essential features of a guitar being played is a 3300 year old stone carving of a Hittite bard. The modern word, guitar, was adopted into English from Spanish guitarra, derived from the Latin word cithara, which in turn was derived from the earlier Greek word kithara, which perhaps derives from Persian sihtar. Sihtar itself is related to the Indian instrument, the sitar.
The Spanish vihuela or "viola da mano", a guitar-like instrument of the 16th century, appears to be an aberration in the transition from the renaissance instrument to the modern guitar. It had lute-style tuning and a guitar-like body. Its construction had as much in common with the modern guitar as with its contemporary four-course renaissance guitar. The vihuela enjoyed only a short period of popularity; the last surviving publication of music for the instrument appeared in 1576. It is not clear whether it represented a transitional form or was simply a design that combined features of the Arabic oud and the European lute. In favor of the latter view, the reshaping of the vihuela into a guitar-like form can be seen as a strategy of differentiating the European lute visually from the Moorish oud.
The modern 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. Elsewhere in Europe, the indigenous six-string Scandinavian lute, had gained in popularity in areas of Viking incursions across the continent. The Vinaccia family of luthiers (guitar makers) is known for developing the mandolin, and may have built the earliest extant six string guitar. Gaetano Vinaccia has his signature on the label of a guitar built in Naples, Italy for six strings with the date of 1779.
The electric guitar was patented by George Beauchamp in 1936. However, it was Danelectro that first produced electric guitars for the wider public.
An acoustic guitar is one not dependent on an external device to be heard but uses a soundboard which is a wooden piece mounted on the front of the guitar's body. The acoustic guitar is quieter than other instruments commonly found in bands and orchestras so when playing within such groups it is often externally amplified. Many acoustic guitars available today feature a variety of pickups which enable the player to amplify and modify the raw guitar sound.
There are several notable subcategories within the acoustic guitar group: classical and flamenco guitars; steel string guitars, which include the flat top or "folk" guitar; twelve string guitars and the arch 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.
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 electrical 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, and rock and roll, and was commercialized by Gibson in collaboration with Les Paul, and independently by Leo Fender of Fender Music."Guitar." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 25 Apr 2008, 19:00 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Apr 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Guitar&oldid=208167194>.
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