A brief history of guitar

The guitar is the result of an evolution of centuries and originates from the Arabic oud or lute.
After various changes regarding the shape, the materials, the number of strings; between the end of the 1700s and the first decades of the 1800s, among the various, there is an instrument that mounts 6 single strings: the first strings made with animal guts and the coated bass like the current ones. These guitars were small and, in particular, the Italian ones, very decorated.
The most important builders of the time were: Antonio Vinaccia and Gennaro Fabbricatore in Italy, Josè Pages and Josè Martinez in Spain, Renè Lacote in France, Louis Panormo in England and
Johann Georg Staufer in Austria.

Renè Lacote guitar / Lorenzo Pagans and Auguste de Gas, painted by Edgar Degas, 1871 circa

Antonio De Torres (1817-1892) is considered the father of modern guitar. In the second half of the 19th century he built revolutionary instruments very different from those of his predecessors. His guitar differs, from those of previous luthiers, in that it is made up of a wider spruce soundboard, to have a new ergonomics and to be very light, also it is characterized by a warmer and deeper sound: a new sound. It was the birth of what we now call now “Spanish guitar”.
His guitars were played by guitarists such as Tarrega, Arcas and Llobet and have been the subject of study by all the successive generations of luthiers.

Antonio de Torres / Francisco Tarrega with a Torres guitar

Christian Frederick Martin (1796-1873) was trained in Austria in the workshop of Johann Georg Staufer and in 1833 he moved to New York where he opened his first US workshop. Martin moved away from Spanish influences and marked an important point in the evolution of the guitar: the introduction of the cross chain and, at the hands of his successors, around 1922, the introduction of the metal strings, giving life to a sound new, to new music, thanks to this new version of guitar that we know today as “folk”.

A Martin Parlor / Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with Martin guitars in late ’60

Hermann Hauser (1882-1952) was a German luthier who started building Spanish-style guitars after his meeting with Andres Segovia. He developed his own project which was the result of years of study of the instruments of the past (Antonio de Torres, Manuel Ramirez) and built in 1937 what was described by Segovia as “the greatest guitar of our time”, an instrument that the maestro will play constantly for almost 30 years.
This guitar was born with gut strings and only after the Second World War, will it be played with the new nylon strings, which will break into the market after the conflict.

Hermann Hauser label / Andrès Segovia with an Hauser guitar

Over the years the needs change, the concert halls become larger and consequently also the guitars. In the 60s the use of a is very popular
wood other than spruce for the construction of soundboards: red cedar.
The guitar built with this new wood is characterized by a sound, less delicate but more explosive, the most famous red cedar top guitar is the Josè Ramirez of Madrid.

Spruce and cedar compared / John Williams with a red cedar top guitar

The guitar has followed different paths in its evolution and nowadays we know two instruments that despite the similar characteristics have independent lives: the guitar with metal strings, a symbol of folk music, blues and rock and the guitar with nylon strings devoted to classical music to flamenco and popular music.
In recent times the search for better performance in terms of projection and sound volume has led to the introduction of new materials and new techniques (double soundboards, nomex, carbon fibers). At the same time many luthiers continue to work with traditional materials, studying the sound of the glorious guitars of the past.