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The History of Classical Guitars

Historians think that the classical guitar may have originated in ancient Egypt. This assumption is based on a depiction of a plucked string instrument that closely resembles a guitar; it appears in a piece of ancient Egyptian art that dates back to around 3,000 B.C. It’s thought that the depicted instrument existed in some form and later spread around the world. Around the turn of the 15th century, a different plucked string instrument appeared in Spain; it was called the vihuela and featured four double-strings. A five double-string version of the instrument appeared around 1600 and a six single-string version showed up in Europe in the 1800s. This six-stringed instrument is considered the direct ancestor of today’s classical guitar and is often referred to as the “19th-century guitar.” These 19th-century guitars varied in shape and size but were generally on the smaller side and designed to be played quietly. Spanish guitar maker Antonio de Torres became the father of the modern guitar when he created a larger version capable of producing a louder sound. He also extended the length of the strings and both widened and extended the body, creating the very first version of the modern classical guitar. Other guitar makers then copied Torres’ modifications and the new instrument spread and became quite and popular. Over time, additional updates were made, giving rise to the classical guitar that we are familiar with today.

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