When Was The Guitar Invented? History of the guitar from ancient to modern.

Stringed instruments have been a part of human existence for thousands of years; however, much of the guitar’s early history is unknown. The history of the guitar began in medieval Spain, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that it became a genuinely unique instrument. Read more to know who invented the guitar, when and where the guitar was invented.

Table of content

1. When was the guitar invented?
2. Who did invent the guitar?
3. When was the guitar invented?
4. History Overview
4.1. Guitar’s ancestors
4.2. First modern guitar
4.3. Modern acoustic guitar
4.4. Electric Guitar
4.5. Electric Guitar with a Solid Body
5. FAQs

1. When was the guitar invented?

Electric guitar: George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker were awarded the patent for the first electric guitar featuring an electric pickup in 1937.

Acoustic Guitar: The first guitar-like instrument dates back 4000 years to 1500 BC. This was discovered in the tomb of Egyptian vocalist Har-Mose.

2. Who did invent the guitar?

George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker invented the first electric guitar. Beauchamp was the first person to patent an electric guitar pickup. Acoustic guitars, however, have a long and rich history dating back thousands of years. The earliest known guitar-like instrument dates back to 3500 BC and belonged to Har-Mose, an Egyptian vocalist.

3. When was the guitar invented?

Electric guitar: California, Los Angeles. Beauchamp and Rickenbacker were employed by the “Electro String Instrument Corporation” in Los Angeles for approximately 5 and a half years before patenting their design.

Acoustic Guitar: The acoustic guitar has a long history, but Antonio Torres Jurado’s invention of the classical guitar form in Spain was a crucial turning point in contemporary history. Many of these guitars were made by Jurado around the 1860s, and we still use this form in our contemporary acoustic guitars today.

4. History Overview

More than 3,000 years of ancient engravings from the Mesopotamian and Babylonian Empires feature representations of stringed instruments. The name “guitar” in use today likely derives from the Greek word “kithara,” and stringed instruments undoubtedly predate written history. Most academics concur that the European lute and an Arabic instrument known as the oud had significant roles in the development of the guitar.

4.1. Guitar’s ancestors

The lute

The lute featured a bent back, varied in size and shape, had four or five strings and was frequently strummed with a quill feather. It was a well-liked instrument for hundreds of years and was brought to Europe by the Romans after being used by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.

The Oud

Invading Southern Spain in 711 AD, the Moors carried the oud with them. Its ancestors were European stringed instruments, and like the lute, it featured a circular body but no frets and a shorter neck. The Moorish guitar itself, as well as the Arabic playing technique, had a profound impact on medieval music and, eventually, the history of the guitar.

Getting Nearer…

The lute had advanced by the end of the Renaissance and commonly had up to 20 or 30 strings, but it gradually lost popularity. Around the 15th and 16th centuries, fretted instruments with the recognizably curved shape of the contemporary guitar started to appear in Spain.

The Baroque guitar eventually supplanted the lute as the most popular instrument. It was simpler to play than its forebears because of improvements in the number of strings and the ability to tune them using moveable frets.

A musical instrument with an hourglass-shaped body that was played with one hand in front of the body hole was invented in Spain. These instruments, one of the last antecedents of the guitar in history, were generally referred to as vihuelas.

Spanish guitars had six courses of strings and a uniform type by the 1790s, looking like contemporary guitars today. The development of innovations begins to pick up speed at this point in guitar history, eventually resulting in the familiar and beloved instruments we use today.

4.2. First modern guitar

Early 19th-century guitars were smaller in size but resembled modern six-stringed instruments in appearance. Spanish musician and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado started developing the kind of guitar that would eventually inspire all modern guitars in the middle of the nineteenth century. He is, in many ways, the guitar’s paternal figure, even if he doesn’t receive the credit he deserves in current times.

His designs gained particular attention for their novel fan bracing and body construction, which gave classical guitars their distinctive voicing and rich, heavy tone. They had a wider body, greater waist curvature, thinner belly, and a machined head that replaced wooden tuning pegs. Another significant Spanish guitarist, Andres Segovia, adopted Torres’ classical guitar and popularized it as a concert instrument. Additionally, he composed intricate musical compositions today regarded as “classical” guitar music by transcribing early polyphonic music.

Meanwhile, European immigrants brought a steel-stringed variation of the remodeled Spanish instrument to America, where the flat top, the archtop, and modern electric guitar would be produced. This is when the history of the guitar truly started to take shape.

4.3. Modern acoustic guitar

Flat top guitar, an acoustic

Nearly 200 years after its creation, the flat top guitar is still the most widely used type of acoustic guitar. It was created by Christian Frederick Martin, an American luthier of German descent who built his first guitar in the country in the 1830s. Modern steel strings provide extra tension that was too much for Torres-style fan-braced Spanish guitars to manage, so Martin developed an X-braced guitar body that could.

Source: Pixabay

Another effect of tightening steel strings was a new, pick-based playing technique. The precise and delicate melodies of the classical guitar were replaced by brighter, chord-driven music, which marked a fundamental shift in the style of music that could be created on steel-stringed instruments. Due to the widespread usage of picks for playing, most flat-top guitar models now have a pickguard below the soundhole.

Archtop acoustic guitar, which later became electric

Orville Gibson is frequently given credit for inventing the arch-top guitar. The arched top and back, F-holes, movable bridge, and arched sound holes contributed to the archtop’s improved loudness and tone.


Source: Amazon

Gibson discovered that creating guitars with bodies akin to a cello allowed the instrument’s top to vibrate freely and generate a louder sound since the bridge had no torque. The archtop would become the chosen design for many renowned American luthiers, notably John D’Angelico and Jimmy D’Aquisto. Jazz and country performers quickly started using guitars, and big bands and swing bands also started using them.

4.4. Electric Guitar

The steel-stringed guitar was improved in the 20th century, and players began using picks, but many modern musical genres still felt the instrument to be excessively quiet. As a result, during the significant band jazz era, the guitar was often reduced to a supporting role in groups. At the same time, brass instruments and the saxophone assumed a more prominent role. At least in mainstream music, the guitar was relegated to the role of a rhythm instrument and was doomed to go extinct as a solo instrument.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, many people attempted to amplify the guitar’s sound using attached microphones or telephone transmitters. Still, it was an electrical engineer named Adolph Rickenbacker, along with Paul Barth and George Beauchamp, a musician who favored the Hawaiian-style lap steel guitar, who in 1932 finally found the solution. At the time, Rickenbacker was the vice president of the National Guitar Corporation.

With Beauchamp’s help, Rickenbacker developed an electromagnetic device that would translate the vibrations of the guitar strings into a clear resonant sound. Rickenbacker founded The Rickenbacker International Corporation with the sole purpose of developing electric versions of musical instruments. The resulting “Frying Pan” instrument became the first amplified guitar with a viable business model.

Hawaiian musicians initially used the new guitars but soon made their way to jazz and Western swing ensembles. Many businesses, including Dobro, National, AudioVox, Volu-tone, Vega, Epiphone, and Gibson, started producing their electric guitars in the late 1930s due to the apparent benefits of the new type of guitar.

4.5. Electric Guitar with a Solid Body

However, the conventional hollow body guitar feedback inspired several musicians and producers to attempt to construct a more acceptable form. To address this issue, both Vivi-Tone and Rickenbacker produced virtually solid-bodied Spanish guitars in 1934 and 1935, respectively. The Rickenbacker Electro Spanish was built of bakelite, whereas the Vivi-Tone variant had a wooden body covered in a piece of plywood.

Who among these individuals and a few other well-known builders and luthiers we’ll discuss shortly deserves credit for being the first to abandon the traditional hollow body guitar and produce a hollow body electric guitar? It’s a dispute that’s almost as frequent and heated as the one about who plays the most delicate electric guitar. We won’t take sides in the argument. Still, we will note that many developments in the history of the guitar appeared to be created virtually simultaneously by several individuals in various places. It almost seems like fate…


Who published the first guitar?

Although steel-stringed acoustic guitars are now played worldwide, Christian Frederick Martin, a German immigrant to the United States, claimed to have invented the first guitars (1796-1867). Catgut strings, made from sheep intestines, were utilized in guitars at the time.

When was the guitar first made?

The first electric guitar was developed in 1937. It uses a pickup and amplifier that makes the guitar loud enough to be heard and makes it possible to manufacture them from a solid block of wood without needing a resonance chamber.

What nation invented the guitar?
Around the fifteenth century, Spain saw the appearance of a plucked string instrument first known as a guitar. The instrument has four double strings and was called a vihuela (paired courses).

That’s all of the guitar inventions. Through constant innovations that continue to alter the shape, sound, and significance of the guitar, as well as its place in popular culture, it appears certain that the essence of the instrument developed in the early twentieth century will continue to play an essential role in the music of tomorrow.

Author: Geraldine Ben

Do you have any idea about what are some popular musical instruments? What about your favorite band? Do you know anything about any particular bands or musicians? There are so many musical instruments available for sale that it would be challenging and time-consuming for customers to compare many items among them and choose the best. I am Ben - a lover of all things musical. I synthesize the best instruments to help anyone with their equipment needs.

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