Ancient Near East The Eighteenth Century
Egypt and Rome The Nineteenth Century
Medieval Europe Guitarists of Spain
The Sixteenth Century
The Seventeenth Century The Twentieth Century

Ancient Near East

It is believed that the history of the guitar began in the ancient Near East. There, the archeologists found instruments and representations of them that served as landmarks or guideposts in the relatively uncharted territory of the guitar's beginning.

Among the artifacts excavated from Babylonia, the most relevant were the clay plaques dated (1900-1800 B.C.). These showed nude figures playing musical instruments, some of which bear a general resemblance to the guitar. Close examination of the instrument on the plaque shows it to have a distinctly differentiated body and neck. Its back is undoubtedly flat; the manner in which it rests against the priest's chest precludes the possibility of its being bowl-shaped. It is clear that the right hand pluck the strings. The number of strings is unfortunately not clear but on another plaque, at least two strings are shown on the instrument. Evidence of guitar-like instruments has been noted in Assyria, Susa (an ancient city north of the Persian Gulf: capital of the Persian Empire), and Luristan.

Egypt and Rome

In the earliest days, the only plucked string instrument in Egypt was the bow-shaped harp. Later, a necked instrument with carefully marked frets, probably made of gut, wound about the neck. Eventually, some of the features and characteristics would combine in a later instrument, one would be the predecessor not only of the guitar but of all necked string instruments, both plucked and bowed. Further developments made this instrument even more similar in form to the guitar.

The instrument from the Roman period (30 B.C. - 400 A.D.) is made entirely of wood. The rawhide soundboard is replaced with wood on which five groups of small sound holes are visible. This arrangment persisted up to the 16th century. On an instrument found in Coptic tomb in Egypt, the curves along the sides are already quite deep and the basic guitar shape is apparent. The back has become completely flat instead of it curving upward to meet the soundboard, the two surfaces are now attached to each other by strips of wood that form the sides of the soundbox. These features remain to the present day.

Medieval Europe

The first known European string instrument that might have had its origins here dates back to the third century A.D. Examination of the third century instrument shows it to have a round soundbox which tapers into a wide neck. This type of instrument continued to be in use for many years.There is description also of instruments dating from the time of the Carolingian Dynasty which could be either French or German.

The Carolingian instrument is rectangular, approximatively equal in lenght to its neck, the upper end of which is a wider rounded area containing small pegs for the attachment of strings. In some illustrations, these pegs appear to be four; on others, five. The strings are of a corresponding number and are plucked in two ways: either with a plectrum or with the fingers. The Carolingian instrument retained its form up to the 14th century.

At the same time, another instrument began to exist side by side with the Carolingian type. This change affected the soundbox of the instrument, its straight sides now giving way to slight curves. Representatives of this new instrument can be found in a number of English cathedrals. Depictions of guitar-shaped instruments have been found in French and Spanish cathedrals prior to the fourtheen century.

Guitarra Latina and Guitarra Morisca

There was a distinction made between Guitarra Latina and Guitarra Morisca. The latter has been brought by the Moors, hence, its name. Its soundbox was oval and it had many sound holes on its soundboard. The Arabs, passing through Egypt on their way to complete the great Muslim conquest of North Africa and Spain, may well have transmitted the cardinal features of this design to the instrument makers of Western Europe. It is equally possible that the first Spanish guitars were a European development. Certain is only that the Arabic influence in Spain prepared the ground for the advent of the guitar.

The Guitarra Latina however, did have curved sides and was thought to have come to Spain from some other European country. It was this type that undoubtedly developped into the modern guitar.

The popularity achieved by the guitar can be attributed to the nomadic nature of the troubadours. The guitar could have arrived in Spain from Provence by way of Catalonia. Once there, the guitar could have crossed to Spain in the hand of itinerant Spanish troubadours. Those troubadours in medieval Europe, whose incessant travels and performances, enriched musical culture in general and gave great impetus to the spread of the guitar on the continent.

The Sixteenth Century

Until the Middle Ages, a significant information on the guitar and its lineage has had to be drawn from paintings, sculptures, bas-reliefs. Heavy reliance on indirect evidence is unavoidable.

Beginning with the sixteenth century, however, we find much more direct evidence in the form of instruments that exist to the present day. Sixteenth century guitars are described as vihuela from the time of Luis Milan, Rizzio guitar from France, chitarra battente from Italia.

The Vihuela

From Spain, occured another instrument: the vihuela.(see fig.1-2). Originally, the vihuela was associated to a small four and five-string guitarra. At the same time, the sixteenth century saw the lute (fig.3) emerge as the favorite instrument of the aristocracy in nearly all of Europe. Spain was a notable exception. In this country, the lute had become associated with the Moors and their oppressive rule. The Spaniards did not readily take to the instrument. They did, however, appreciate the music that was written for it, hence the search for a means by which the music could be performed on an instrument other than the lute. The aristocrats turned to the popular guitarra with its four double strings. However, a guitar with only four strings did not have resources adequate to meet the requirements of complex, polyphonic music. In addition, the nobles of Spain were disdainful of the guitar as it was then an instrument of the common people. To solve these problems, the four-string guitar was enlarged and given six double strings, turned in the same manner as the present six-string guitar with the exception of the third string, turned a half tone lower. This was the instrument that came to be known simply as vihuela.

In its final form, the vihuela was a guitar with six double strings made of gut. The large type of vihuela was some four inches longer than the modern guitar. The neck had twelve frets.

One of the first vihuela players, whose publications are known to us was Luis Milan born in 1500. In 1535, he published a book, Libro de Musica de Vihuela de Mano Intitulalo "El Maestro". This was probably Milan's most important work.

The last known vihuela is dated 1700 and represents the instrument's final stages of development. Its frets are metal, the curves along the sides have deepened and the sound hole is oval type. The popularity of the instrument is evident from the large quantity of music still extant written to it. Music for the vihuela was written in tablature: in this system, each line of the staff represents a string of the instrument. In Spanish and Italian tablatures, the top string is represented by the bottom line, while in French and English tablatures, the reverse would be the case. The numbers on the lines indicate the fret to be stopped on that particuliar string. Notes values are indicated by various notes types placed above the staff. These are similar to our present day notes.

The first to publicate works of Spanish tablature for the vihuela were Luis de Milan in 1535, Luis de Narvaez in 1538, Alonso de Mudarra in 1546.This collection of tablatures contains the finest instrumental compositions of the Renaissance. The sixteenth century was golden age of Spanish vihuela music.

The Four-string guitar

The four-string Egyptian guitar, once arrived in Europe, underwent a considerable change in form. The number of strings became variable, passing from three, four, and five strings. However, the four-string guitar (fig.4) emerged as the most popular by the end of the medieval period.

In the 15th century, the terms chitarra and chitarino (Italy), guitarra (Spain), quitare, quinterne (France), and gyterne (England) referred to a round-backed instrument that later developed into the mandolin. Only in the 16th century did several of these terms come to be used for members of the guitar family. [Tyler James, 1997]

All of its four strings were double in most of Europe with the exception of Italy, where the first string remained single, and the tuning of the Italian instrument differed from the standard system. Whereas, the general practice was to tune the lowest course in octave, with the remaining three each tuned in unisson, the Italians tuned the two lowest courses in octave, the remaining double course in unisson, the first string being single. Both systems used the tuning G, C, E, A most frequently.

In Spain, there appeared to have been two main tuning systems for the four-string guitar. The first tuning was G, D, F#, B. This tuning was more suitable for old ballads and musica golpeada (strummed music) than for music of the present time. The other tuning is identical to the tuning of the first four strings of the modern guitar.

The first of the Spanish tablatures to include serious music for the four-string guitar were those of Alonso Mudarra. It included four fantasias, a pavana and the romanesca "Gárdame las Vacas". The second work to include four-string guitar was Miguel de Fuenllana's Orphelina Lyra. The last work containing music for this instrument was Juan Carlos Arnat's Guitarra Española y Vandola de cinco Ordenes y de Quatro, in 1586.

As these Spanish tablatures were being published, the popularity of the four-string guitar was rising in France and Italy. In Italy, a collection of guitar music was published in Venice under the title Libro de tabolatura de chitarra, by Paolo Virchi. The growing number of publications was paralleled by the number of noted guitar players.

In France, the effects of music printing became manifest. From 1551 to 1555, five books of guitar tablatures were issued in Paris by Adrian Le Roy and Robert Ballard. These books contain fantasias and pieces in dance such as branles, galliards; music for voice and guitar: psalms, chansons. These compositions came from many masters. It gives the proof that a true school of guitar playing existed in France in the sixteenth century.

From Germany, we have the name of two guitar players: Michael Janusch and Michel Mulich.

There must have existed a great many number of guitarists, in those countries, who will remained anonymous whose music never reached the press as it was nearly impossible to publish without royal sanction.

Five-string guitar

In the Middle Ages, the co-existence of three, four and five string guitars was noted. By the fifteenth century, the four-double strings instrument excelled in popularity. In the sixteenth century, it in turn was gradually replaced by the five double string guitar (fig.5).

The first evidence of a true five-string guitar is an Italian engraving in the fifteenth century. The instrument, itself is at least as large as its modern counterpart, the soundbox appears to be larger than that of the present day guitar. Its fine construction draws our attention to the excellent craftmanship for which Italian luthiers of this period were known.

The five-string guitar had a derivative known as the chitarra battente (fig.6). It is characterized by a soundbox the back of which curves gently outwards (fig.7) instead of being simply flat. It has a bridge with foliage designs at each end. It had tied-on gut frets and a lute-like bridge glued to the soundboard. The back of the soundbox is decorated with white stripes. These motives were to become very popular later on. In its earlier days, the chitarra battente was primarly a strummed instrument. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, it became a plucked in addition to being a strummed instrument. The popularity of the chitarra battente is attested to by its frequent representation in paintings.

The same observation on the taste for decoration holds true for the French Rizzio guitar. It is decorated with tortoise shell, ivory, mother of pearl and ebony.

In Spain, the most comprehensive work on the five-string guitar was published in 1586 in Barcelona. Written by Juan Carlos Amat, it has a section on the five-string dealing with a new method of playing and contains several compositions for this instrument.

In conclusion: the five-string guitar came to being as a result of the development and transformation of the four-string guitar. The tuning of the five-string instrument was A-D-G-B-E as on the five first strings of the modern guitar. Since the tuning of the four-string guitar was the same as that used on the first four strings of the modern guitar, the low A string was the later addition. The five-string guitar emerged from Italy to its acceptance and increasing popularity throughout sixteenth century Europe.

The Seventeenth Century

The patronage of the European nobility had brought to the guitar, first, recognition and then a measure of indispensability. The number of composers for the instrument, along with guitarists and guitar makers, grew to staggering proportions. Improvements in methods of documentation have allowed their names and accomplishments to come down to us.

It is known that king Louis XIV of France himself played the guitar and regarded it as his favorite instrument. He had for his teacher one of the most important French guitarists known to us - Robert de Visée (1650-1725). Jean Baptiste Lully was a great composer of that time. He played guitar and composed for the instrument.

The names of several guitar makers during the Baroque period in France have been recorded. René Voboam represented the heigh of French instrument building (fig.8) in the seventeenth century. He made a guitar dated 1641. It is an example of the more ornate style of instrument making. Alexandre Voboam and his son Jean made also guitars representative of seventeenth century.

German influence

There was a considerable number of works containing guitar music published in seventeenth century Holland. The work of Isabel van Laughenhove is representative. But it was in Germany that the instrument achieved its greatest popularity among Northern Europe. Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654) and Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630) were important.

Among the number of German guitars still in existence, the first known German-made guitar was built by Jacobus Stadler in 1624. It is typical curved, stripped back and shows strong Italian influence. A seventeenth century guitar of an entirely different type was made by a priest, father John of Apsom. The back of the instrument is decorated with a crucifixion scene.

The most outstanding guitar maker of all Europe was Joachim Tielke of Hamburg (1641-1719). His striking guitars were made and decorated with materials such as ivory, tortoise shell, ebony, gold and silver, mother-of-pearl, jaracanda wood. The workmanship was consistently of the highest quality. On one of them, the sides are made of ivory with pictures engraved on them. These pictures represent scenes from Genesis. His other guitars are covered with Tielke-type floral decorations surrounding mythological scenes, a characteristic of his handiwork. This tendency toward elaborate decoration, as manifested in Tielke instruments, represents the heigh of German craftmanship; it is comparable to that of the masters of the Italian Renaissance.

Eastern Europe influence

Apparently, the guitar found its way into Eastern Europe as early as the mid-seventeenth century. In Czechoslovakia, Czech luthiers attempted to adapt the battente type of guitar. In addition to the five double-strings which the chitarra battente originally had, the Czech had another single string that was used to play the melodic line. Guitars by Andrees Ott, instrument maker from Prague show the impact of Italian influence.

Poland is represented in guitar history by Jakob Kremberg, poet, singer and composer from Warsaw who wrote music for the instrument. The importance of Kremberg's work lies also in the information it gives us on the tuning of the instrument: the tuning of the guitar would be one tone lower than the tuning of our present day instrument.

Spain and Portugal

Although the guitar was less popular in Spain than in Italy and was not as popular as the vihuela was in the previous century, some important works were established and a number of fine guitarists became known in that country.

One of the prominent Spanish guitarists of the time, Francisco Corbera, dedicated his work Guitarra Española y sus differencias de sonos to Philip IV, king of Spain from 1621 to 1665. But the most notable Spanish guitarist of the seventeenth century was Gaspar Sanz.

Sanz studied the guitar in Italy and also organ and music theory. He became an organist at the King's Chapel in Naples. Upon his return in Spain, he published three books of guitar music in 1674,1675 and 1697. The books contain the author's extensive instructions for improvisation and performance, using the two methods of playing: strumming and plucking. He believed the former technique was most suitable for dance music. The tuning he used was A-D-G-B-E.

In addition to being a guitarist and organist, Sanz was also an accomplished composer. Solo music occupies a large part of his book. Also included are many dances and passacaglias. Much of his writing is in tablature but there are several short passages in modern notation.

The next significant publication after that of Sanz appeared in Madrid in 1677. It was written by Lucas de Ribayaz. It contains dances based on folk melodies.

Perhaps the most important Spanish composer of the seventeenth century was Don Francisco Guerau, a priest and musician in the court of Carlos II. His book, Poema harmonico compuesto de varias cifres por el temple de la Guitarra Española, published in 1694, contains fifteen passacaglias and ten dances of various types including a pavana and a galliard. Inside the book, he gives a series of instructions on tablature and ornamentation in addition to some very valuable comments on hand position and guitar technique which are interesting for historic and pedagogic reasons. He showed the utilization of the barré and had a great concern with the right hand position and the position of the thumb of the left hand. He contributed in the development of a considerably advanced technique.

In Portugal, the monarch John IV (1603-1656) founded the most comprehensive music library in seventeenth century Europe. One of Portugal's most outstanding guitarists was Doisi de Velasco. His first book was published in Naples in 1640. A second work appeared five years later. Many Spanish and Portuguese works were published in Italy during the seventeenth century. It indicates that the greater popularity of the guitar in Italy led Spanish and Portuguese masters to feel that they could realize higher profits if their works were printed in Italy rather than at home.

The guitar in Italy

The guitar was of considerable significance in Italian musical life at this time. The great number of composers and guitarists living during the Baroque period in Italy, and the many surviving instruments of this period there than in any other country, prove that this country was the center of the guitar world

The most important factor which led to the popularity of the guitar in Italy and to the enrichment of its literature was the introduction from Spain of the plucked style of playing the instrument. For that reason, the guitar in Italy came to be called chitaria spagñuola. The plucked style of playing the instrument eventually replaced the strumming of chords that dominated the sixteenth century Italian practice. The plucking technique was in turn derived from the vihuela technique that the Spaniards adapted for their guitar. Once the Italians had adopted the term chitarra spagñuola, they seem to have gradually widened its meaning so that for the rest of the seventeenth century it became a general term. The designation "Spanish guitar" persists to the present day as an extension of the seventeenth century usage.

The two essentially different techniques of guitar playing (strumming and plucking) co-existed in seventeenth century Italy. The plucking technique was expressed in tablature notation. The strumming of chords was indicated by a special notation developed by sixteenth and seventeenth century composers. This consisted of a chart of standard chords, each identified by capital letters.

Seventeenth century Italian composers were numerous, can be mentionned: Girolamo Montesardo which work is an illustration of guitar music early in the seventeenth century. Benedetto Sanseverio composed pieces in the form of passacaglias, chaconnes, sarabandes.

The most famous guitarist-composer of the century was Francisco Corbetta (Corbetti). Corbetta traveled through Italy as a concert guitarist and toured the rest of Europe with great success, his travels bringing him to many royal courts. He was a great virtuose. Corbetta used different types of tablatures to notate his music. The forms of his compositions varied - toccatas, passacailles, sinfonias, etc.; but the most significant are his suites, which consisted of the Almanda, Courrente and Sarabande. They were the earliest suites of the Baroque period and Corbetta grouped his pieces and indicated they were to be played as a set.

Giovanni Battista Granata was the most prolific of the seventeenth century masters. His compositions were published in seven volumes each of a substantial size. The pieces for solo guitar include preludes, toccatas, correntes and others, and were complex.

Other important Italian composers: Domenico Pelligrini, Ludovico Roncalli. These composers wrote in tablature systems as the other composers previously in the seventeenth century. Many oh these composers travelled throughout Europe carrying with them the guitar and its music. Aside from composers and their music for the guitar, there were scholarly works written about the instrument and its performers.

The plethora of Italian seventeenth century manuscripts and published works is matched by a large number of surviving guitars found in museums throughout the world. Unlike the guitars from the north with their rather uniform designs and patterns, the Italian guitars displayed a great variety of ornamentation. The distinctive artistry of various makers gave rose to great prominence in the course of the seventeenth century.

Antonio Stradivarius (1644-1737) of Cremona, the most famous Italian instrument maker of the seventeenth century, is best known for his matchless violins, violas and cellos, but he was also known to have built harps, ceteras and guitars (fig.9-10). Two of his guitars are known to us.

The Eighteenth Century

In the seventeenth century, Italy was the undisputed center of the guitar world and retained this position of leadership until the succeeding century. By this time, however, a challenge began to come from the north. Germany, where the guitar had had a measure of popularity in the 1600s, became increasingly active in this particular musical field, and before long it had accumulated an impressive number of guitarists and composers for the instrument whose achievements rivaled those of the Italians.

The guitar in Germany

German baroque music had reached a culminating point with masters such as Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), Vincentius Lübeck (1654-1740) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). This century saw a great revival of interest in the lute. Bach himself, in addition to his numerous cantates, Passions, orchestral suites, concerti and others, composed for the lute.
This revival enriched the literature for the lute and caused developments in the instrument that eventually led to the rise in popularity of the guitar. The lute, increasingly, became a complex instrument arriving at a point where it had not less than 24 strings. As it accordingly required more skill and training for performance, and as the problems involved in the technique of playing it increased, it became less and less accessible. People who realized it turned to the guitar.

The growing number of guitarists was matched by an increasing number of composers for the instrument. A number of composers wrote for solo guitar: Johann Arnold (1773-1806), Friedrich Baumbach (1753-1813) and Johann Christian Franz (1762-1814) were some of them. But the most important aspect of German guitar music of the eighteenth century is the use of the instrument in a variety of chamber ensemble combinations, for example: guitar and flute; guitar and bassoon; guitar, viola and bass.

An important theoretical publication about the guitar Neu eröffneter theoretischer und praktischer Music-Saal by Joseph Friedrich Bernhardt Kaspar Majer, may be singled out because it contains the earliest known reference to a six-string guitar. Its tuning, according to Majer, was D-A-D-F#-A-D.
The Duchess Amalia von Weimar brought a five-string guitar from Italy to Weimar in 1788. This instrument served as model for some of the early efforts of the celebrated guitar maker Jacob August Otto (1760-1829). The resulting instrument became very popular in southern Germany. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, Otto was ordered by a certain conductor from Dresden (named Naumann) to add to his five-string guitar a sixth string - the bass - in accordance with Italian practice.
The guitar, having gained popularity in Germany, moved to the countries farther north. In Denmark, Peter Schall (1762-1820) cellist, composed songs and choruses with guitar accompaniment.

The guitar in Belgium and Holland

Belgium, produced a number of fine guitarists among whom was François Le Cocq, a violonist with the Brussels Court Orchestra. He wrote numerous guitar works in French tablature (Recueil de pièces de guitare). Later, he published an anthology of guitar music by seventeenth century masters.

In Holland, the Cuypers family of renowned instruments makers was also making guitars. They became a flourishing house with representatives at The Hague and Amsterdam.

The guitar in Eastern Europe

The interest shown in the guitar in the northern countries was equaled to that in the countries of the eastern part such as Bohemia, Czechoslovakia and Russia. Johann Baptist Wanhall (1739-1813), a Bohemian, composed for chamber ensemble which included the guitar.
In Czechoslovakia, the tradition of guitar playing continued to be reaffirmed by composers like Heinrich Dringeles and by guitar makers like Jean Bourgard, who worked in Prague, producing, in addition to guitars, mandolins, basses, lutes, English guitars and a "mechanical guitar".
In the late eighteenth century, the guitar began to establish itself firmly in Russia. The pioneers in guitar building began their work in that time. One of these was Ivan Andreyevitch Batov. His workshop was establish in Ulm in 1780. From it flowered a variety of musical instruments including guitars, balalaikas, violins and cellos.

The guitar in France

While it is true that many of the guitarists thus far mentioned were members of court orchestra, it was in France that the guitar attained the status of instrument par excellence for the nobility. Here, the tendency to associate the guitar with elegance in sound became especially marked and was subsequently reflected in the many charming works of art which picture the instrument. The most celebrated are the paintings of Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) in which young men and women stroll about in sweeping pastoral settings and are shown playing the guitar. Other French artists who pictured the guitar were Jean Baptiste Pater and Ollivier.
The French also produced art work on their guitars. They continued to develop their art following the same methods of construction used earlier and represented by the sixteenth century René Voboam instrument (see fig.8). The continuity is demonstrated by a number of eighteenth century instruments.
An example of the eighteenth century six-string guitar is an instrument made by Francisco Lupot, it is dated 1773. The Salomon guitar is another example. It was build by Salomon in Paris around 1760 (fig.11).

A more unusual variety of guitar seems to have been developed at this time: the bass guitar. This instrument had a series of extra strings off the neck attached to a separate tuning box. A bass guitar, made by Gérard J. Deleplanque, in 1782, has six single strings on the neck and four bass strings outside the neck. This type of ten-string guitar was later to become extremely popular in the second half of the nineteenth century when it became known as the chitarra decachorda. It survived to the early part of the twentieth century.

The French revolution of 1789 forced into exil many nobles but fortunately did not lead to obscurity for the instrument. On the contrary, in time it climbed to a higher level of popularity as a result of its adoption by the masses. Of course, the instrument could hardly have attained the degree of favor it enjoyed before and after the revolution without the efforts and accomplishments of the musicians-performers and composers.

Performers and composers of the eighteenth century

One of these was Trille Labarre, a virtuoso on the guitar. He wrote music for guitar solo, for guitar and violin, guitar and voice.
Another was Antoine Marcel Lemoine (1763-1877) a famous virtuoso who also played the violin and composed.
B. Vidal filled the functions of performer, teacher and composer. He wrote a Nouvelle Méthode for guitar.
Perhaps the most outstanding figure in the history of the guitar in eighteenth century France is Charles Doisy. He played both the five and six-string guitars and wrote a treatise, Principes généraux... for both instruments. A prolific composer, he left about two hundred works for solo guitar, guitar and piano, guitar and strings, and guitar and brass instrument.
Folia d'Espagna was a very popular theme known throughout Europe. Doisy wrote not less than fifty variations on it. The Italians Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti wrote variations, too, for this theme.

The developments taking place in the various countries of Europe were reflected rather faintly in Spain. The number of Spanish guitarists, composers, and guitar makers was less formidable in comparison to what it had been in the previous century and what it was to be in the following century.

Probably because in the preceding centuries the guitar had been overshadowed by the vihuela, the Spanish school of guitar making did not begin to flourish until the end of the eighteenth century. By this time, José and Juan Pages' workshops were active from 1790 to 1819 in Cadiz, a center for the construction of musical instruments (fig.12).
José Benedict and Francisco Sanguino had exerted considerable influence in the evolution of the modern guitar.
Juan Matabosch, who worked in Barcelona, counts among the important guitar makers in the late eighteenth century Spain. Fernando Sor's first guitar was built by Matabosch.

Santiago de Murcia was one of the most important guitarists of eighteenth century Spain and one of the last to employ tablature.
Fernando Ferandière enjoyed a high rank as guitarist in the eighteenth century and was spoken of in glowing terms by Dionisio Aguado. This remarkable prolific composer wrote two hundred and thirty-five works which were published from 1785 to 1799. Ferandière's most important contribution, however, was his Arte de tocar la guitarra española por musica, a method in modern notation for the six-string guitar, published in Madrid in 1799.

Appearing almost simultaneously with the work of by Ferandière was another method entitled Principios para tocar la guitarra de seis ordenes by Don Frederico Moretti, a composer of Italian origin. Moretti's method established the fundamental principles of modern guitar technique and formed the basis for further development. Moretti was highly praised by F. Sor and Aguado for his work and innovations.

The love of the Spaniards for the guitar was made apparent by the frequency of its appearance in the works of artists such as Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Bravissimo, one of Goya's etchings, attracts attention both for its depiction of the guitar and for its backward glance at age-old themes.
Other works of art in Spain reflect the waning popularity of the guitar in aristocratic circles and its emergence as Spain's national instrument.
There were few guitar makers in Portugal during this period. Of these, only the names of José Pedeira Coelho and Miguel Ancho have come down to us. The Vieyra guitar is another guitar made by a Portuguese maker (fig.13).

Italy, despite the slight regression in the popularity of the guitar in the eighteenth century, retained its position as guitar center of Europe by virtue of its contributions to the development of the instrument. Italians composers wrote a substantial number of works and, like the guitarists and even guitar makers, traveled widely, bringing to bear on various other countries the influence of their achievements.

Of the many Italian composers who wrote for the guitar, the most celebrated was Luigi Boccherini (1746-1805). He traveled extensively, like many of his contemporaries, performing as cellist with the famous violonist Manfredini. These two musicians were invited to Madrid where the King's brother, the Infante Don Luis, engaged Boccherini as composer and performer. Later, Boccherini fulfilled similar functions for the King of Prussia. After this period, Boccherini learned to play the guitar and was invited to write guitar parts. In 1799, Boccherini composed a Symphony Concertante for guitar, violin, oboe, cello and bass. But the majority of Boccherini's guitar works are gathered in manuscript form.

The strides made in Italy towards the improvement of the guitar had an impact on the instrument throughout other parts of the world, for this century signalled the spread of the instrument in the New World, particularly in South America. Argentina had already produced a number of guitarists. Among them were Manuel Macial and Antonio Guerrero, who became quite famous.

The Italian craftmen's achievements alone would have earned for their country a lasting place in guitar history. It was through their initiative that the important shift of emphasis - from the elaborately decorative to the more functional and classic style - was effected in guitar construction.

Six-string guitar

Decidedly, the most important factor in the development of the guitar was the addition of the sixth string. It was without doubt an innovation that belongs to the eighteenth century, just as the five-string guitar was a product of the sixteenth. The Italian origin of the six-string guitar is favored by many arguments:

1) The Italian chitarra battente (fig.6-7) of the late seventeenth of early eighteenth century had an arrangment of six courses of two strings each.
2) A 1732 publication by J.F.B.K. Majer gives the tuning for a six-string guitar.
3) The first six-string German guitar made by Otto, was constructed accordingly to the Italian method.

The precise date, for when the six double strings were replaced by six single strings, is not known. But it is safe to assume that, the six single-string arrangment goes back to the middle of the eighteenth century. Toward the end of the century, the guitar with six single strings overshadowed all other types.

The six-string guitar had become the norm. The rosette gave way to an open hole, while the neck was lenghtened and fitted with a raised fingerboard extending to the sound hole. Nineteen fixed metal frets eventually became standard. The bridge was raised, the body enlarged, and fan-strutting introduced beneath the table to support higher tension strings. Treble strings were made of gut (superseded by more durable nylon after World War II), bass strings from metal wound on silk (or, more recently, nylon floss). Tablature became obsolete, guitar music being universally written in the treble clef, sounding an octave lower than written. [Sparks, Paul, 1997]

Unusual guitars

The seventeenth century was a period during which the guitar went through a number of structural changes. New and unusual instruments were being fashioned, innovations tried, some of which lasted well into the nineteenth century.
The desire for better sound moved many luthiers to experiment with varying shapes for the instrument. Also, there was at this time a great love for strangeness and novelty for their own sake. Probably the most spectacular guitars developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were the closely related lyre-guitar and harp-guitar and harpolyre.

Harpolyre: (www.harpguitars.net)

Patented by Salomon in 1829, it was clearly designed to be played as a very intricate adaptable harp guitar with many necks. The middle 6-string neck is tuned exactly like a standard guitar. The neck at left contains 7 bass "harp" strings, tuned chromatically from A (an octave lower than the main neck's 5th string) up to Eb (adjacent to the neck's low E). The right neck contains 8 treble "harp" strings, tuned diatonically in the key of C, starting with the C matching the first fret of the 2nd string on the main neck, up to C an octave above. The outer neck frets are only there to allow for full, accurate chromatic pitch changing of the "harp strings" with a capo.

Harp-lutes: (www.harpguitars.net)

All appear to have been made in the 1798-1830 period, generally in London (the Levien in Paris). Edward Light was the original and most prolific inventor (his instruments being built by the shop of Barry), with competition from Clementi, Harley, Wheatstone, Ventura, and finally, Levien in Paris.

Edward Light was the original and most prolific inventor (his instruments being built by the shop of Barry), with competition from Clementi, Harley, Wheatstone, Ventura, and finally, Levien in Paris
Fretted Harp Guitars. In rare instances, most notably Salomon’s harpolyre, there are instruments that are clearly meant to be tuned and played as harp guitars, but are provided with a full set of frets under all strings. In this case, the frets are not intended for left hand fingering, but as a series of "nuts," behind which a capo (a device which clamps the strings to the fingerboard) is attached to change the pitch of an entire harp string bank.


A guitar with an extended soundbox was build in England. The extension is simply a long rectangular protrusion with its own sound hole. This was probably an attempt to improve the sound of the instrument by increasing the resonance of the soundbox.

Many of these innovations were discarded as soon as they were proven impratical, but three variations on the basic guitar found a certain degree of acceptance.

First was the bass guitar, which consisted of a standard guitar with extra bass strings numbering two to six. These were strung either by having the neck curved to accomodate an extra tuning head by adding a second neck without frets.
The other two accepted types of guitar - the terzguitar and the quartguitar - were closely related to each other. The former was smaller than the modern guitar and was tuned a minor third higher: G-C-F-Bb-D-G. The latter was even smaller and was tuned a fourth higher than the modern guitar: A-D-G-C-E-A. Many composers, among them Giuliani and Diabelli, wrote for these instruments. The bass guitar, the terzguitar and the quartguitar did not survive beyond the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The Nineteenth Century

The various trends taken by the guitar in the preceding centuries can, in retrospect, be viewed as so many roads and byways that led to one destination - the six single- string guitar. It was not until the nineteenth century that the instrument was to reach the peak of its development. The acceptance of the six single string guitar became universal, spreading not only to every part of Europe but to the American continent as well.

Changes in social conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution contributed to a growing knowledge of the instrument. Improved means of transportation enabled concert artists to travel more widely than before. Railways were spreading throughout the continent, and extended concert tours gave many guitarists unprecedented opportunities to perform before large audiences. This was the era of great guitar virtuosi whose worldwide concertizing helped lay a firm foundation for the instrument's remarkable popularity in the twentieth century.

In the first half of the century, the renewed enthusiasm for the instrument was centered in Vienna. By this time, Vienna had become a great musical center attracting many musicians from all over Europe. Guitarists were among those who came and their many performances gave the guitar the needed impetus for recognition as a serious medium for artistic expression.

Probably the first important guitarist to settle in Vienna was Simon Molitor (1766-1848). Molitor's numerous compositions include guitar solos and chamber music with guitar parts. Among these are trios for violin or flute, viola and guitar. Such instrumentation were integral parts of the rich Viennese musical life of this period.
Another performer, Leonhard von Call (1769-1815), wrote a great deal of music for guitar which became popular, and a method for the guitar.

Mauro Giuliani

Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829), an Italian, is one of the most important exponents of the guitar and its music of the nineteenth century. Following an extended stay in Vienna, after 1807 he had a great influence as performer. He initiated the trend toward extensive concert tours for guitarists, thus spreading the guitar's acceptance as a serious instrument throughout Europe. In Vienna, Mauro Giuliani's influence on musical life was profound. He initiated concerts of guitar and orchestra. He frequently performed with some of the most important musical figures of his time because of his outstanding technical and musical accomplishments.

Giuliani's associates included Karl Seidler, Spohr, Loder and Anton Diabelli. Though Diabelli (1781-1858) was both a pianist and a guitarist, of greater importance was the fact that he was a music publisher. It was in this capacity that his association with Giuliani proved particularly profitable. He issued many guitar compositions, including those of Giuliani, and his efforts to promote guitar music had a significant effect on the increased popularity of the instrument. Giuliani's daughter Emilia was at one time credited with the discovery of harmonics on the guitar.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) played and wrote music for the guitar. Too poor to own a piano, he used the guitar while composing. He wrote many beautiful songs with guitar accompaniment but his most important contribution to guitar literature, however, was the Quartet for flute, guitar, viola and cello.

Many other Italian guitarists followed Giuliani's example by concertizing and publishing their music in Vienna. One of the most important was Luigi Legnani (1790-1877). He developped a technique and virtuosity that were eventually to surpass Giuliani's.
Legnani's interest included guitar construction. Many of his suggestions led to valuable improvements on the instrument. As a composer he was prolific. His works numbered up to opus 250 and included a concerto, duos, trios, variations, Thirty-six Cappricios and a Scherzo.

Matteo Bavilaqua, another noted Italian guitarist, published several works including guitar solos and compositions for guitar and piano, guitar and flute, etc.

Of the Bohemian guitarists, Wenzeslaus Matiegka (1773-1830) was the most important. His music for guitar both solo and for chamber ensemble includes over thirty compositions.

Among the German guitarists was Leonhard Schulz who was a player of large stature.

Fernando Sor

The leading exponents of the "expressionist" school were the Spaniards Sor and Aguado, and the Italians Carulli, Carcassi, and Giuliani. The outstanding figure in the group, Fernando Sor, was the greatest guitarist of the romantic era. Son of a Catalan merchant, he was born in Barcelona in 1778 and received a musical education at the choir school of the nearby monastery of Montserrat.
At eighteen, Sor wrote an opera, Telemachus on Calypso's Isle which was produced in Barcelona in 1797.
Sor was called into the army during the confused period of French occupation. When the French withdrew, defeated by Wellington and the Spanish guerilla armies, Sor had no choice but to leave with them. After 1812, he lived in Paris for the most part, where he gived concerts charming all Parisians.
He made his London debut in 1815 where he was the first and only guitarist invited to perform with the London Philharmonic Society. In 1817, he appeared as soloist in his own Concertante for Spanish Guitar and Strings. During the 1820's he went to Germany and then to Russia. He produced three of his ballets in Moscow. At the death of Czar Alexander I in 1825, Sor composed a funeral march at the request of the new Czar Nicholas I. After his return to France, he worked indefatigably as a teacher and composer.

His compositions range to more than 250 or 300 works ranging from salon pieces to complete operas. His best-known major scores were ballets - Cendrillon and Gil Blas. Thanks to his dance instincts, he was at his best composing waltzes, minuets, galops, boleros, and so on. For a French encyclopedia he wrote the first authoritative study of such Spanish dances as the bolero, seguidilla, murciana and sevillana. In a more classical vein he wrote sonatas, fantasias, and sets of variations on themes by Mozart, Hummel and Paisiello.

But Sor's crowning achievement is his Méthode pour la guitare of 1830 - easily the most remarkable book on guitar technique ever written. It represents the fruit of forty years experience.

Challenged by the developments in guitar technique and the demands for finer instruments, more and more luthiers sought to keep pace with the changing requirements and to produce instruments that would satisfy them.
Johann Georg Staufer (1778-1853) was an outstanding guitar maker established in Vienna. Besides being credited with the invention of the guitarre d'amour, he also gained a reputation for fine guitars.

Johann Gottfried Scherzer (1843-1870) took over the Staufer workshop. Experimenting extensively to improve the guitar's tone and taking advantage of his contacts with physicists to achieve his aim, he became one of the first guitar makers to have approached his work scientifically, producing as a result fine quality concert guitars.

Russian performers

The invention of the seven-string Russian guitar has been attibuted to Andreas O. Sichra (1772-1861). His seventy-five compositions for seven-string guitar became the nucleus of a rich literature for this instrument. He wrote an excellent method for the guitar.
Sichra teaching methods and principles produced many of Russia's fine guitarists: Simeon N. Aksenow (1773-1853) who is among those credited with developing the use of harmonics; W. I. Swinzow who was one of the first seven-string virtuosi to perform in large public auditorium.

The preeminence of the seven-string guitar in Russia by no means excluded the six-string type from the country's musical life. Marcus D. Sokolowski (1818-1883) was one of those who mastered the six-string guitar after having started his musical carreer as a violonist and cellist.

One of Russia's finest musicians contributed to the history of the guitar. Nicolas P. Makarow (1810-1890) chronicled his personal impressions of the personalities and musical abilities of the many famous guitarists he had heard throughout Europe. In 1856, he organized in Brussels a competition for the best guitar composition and the best made guitar. The first and second prizes for composition were won by Napoléon Coste and Johann Mertz respectively. The first prize for the best made guitar went to Johann Scherzer of Vienna, the second prize to Ivan F. Archusen of Russia.

In 1823, the celebrated Fench ballerina Madame Hullin Sor, wife of Fernando Sor, came to Moscow to perform several ballets to music written by her husband. Sor visited Russia himself and, in memory of his Russian visit, he composed a guitar duet entitled Souvenir de Russie.

Italian Maestro

The proficiency and excellence of the Italian guitar players were such that their influence was felt not only in all Europe and the Americas as well.

Fernando Carulli was born in Naples in 1770 and died in Paris in 1841. At first cellist, he later dedicated himself exclusively to the guitar and became one of Italy's most accomplished virtuosi on this instrument. In Paris, he made a name for himself playing salon recitals, writing his three hundred and sixty compositions, and a method which is still available. He devised a guitar with four extra bass strings (the decacorde). His recitals helped make Paris a formidable center of guitar activity.

His successor Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853) expanded Carulli's technique with a Complete Method for the guitar which became the most widely used study guide of the nineteenth century. Carcassi had come to Paris with successfull recitals in Germany, Italy and England behind him. He was a great virtuose and, with time, his manner of playing replaced Carulli's in popularity.

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) is best remembered as violin virtuoso but he was too a formidable virtuoso on the guitar. He wrote almost as much music for guitar as for violin: virtually everything he published during his lifetime contains at least one guitar part. The number of his compositions consists of one hundred forty small solo pieces, a number of sonatas for violin and guitar, quartets for violin, viola, cello and guitar, trios for guitar and two bowed strings. Paganini's interest in the guitar brought him in contact with many of the most important figures in the guitar world, among whom were Zani de Ferranti and Legnani.

Zani de Ferranti (1800-1878) has been described as one of the greatest guitar virtuosi of the time. Hector Berlioz refered to him in his treatise on orchestration. Zani de Ferranti traveled more extensively than most performers of the day. He went finally to America and had the distinction of being one of the earliest acknowledged guitar virtuosi to tour the United States. He contributed several solo compositions to the repertoire. These works include fantasias, nocturnes and various other pieces.

In about the same years, a significant figure appeared in the person of Napoleon Coste (1806-1883). Establishing himself in Paris in 1830 where he associated with important guitarists like Aguado, Sor, Carcassi and Carulli, he performed until 1863 when an accident incapacitated his right hand. His musical compositions number about fifty and he was one of the first guitarists to attempt a transcription of seventeenth century music in modern notation. Indeed, his most important contribution lay in the impetus he gaved to the rebirth of interest in baroque guitar music.

The intense activity in the area of performance was matched by the efforts of instrument makers to produce not only more but better guitars. Among the many important guitar makers of the time, several of the best were member of the Fabricatore family. Gennaro Fabricatore worked in the first half of the nineteenth century and his style led a step closer to the modern form of the guitar thast was to be developed later in the century. In Paris, the luthier René François Lacôte becamed one of the most prominent guitar makers of the century.

While the most salient aspect of the nineteenth century was the great number of traveling virtuosi, the use of the guitar in chamber music also became more pronounced at this time. Among the composers who produced such works were Johann Bayer, Joseph Küffner, Johann Kapeller and Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856). Mertz used an eight-string guitar and later a ten-string type.

Wherever the guitar became popular, it attracted the attention of prominent composers who then composed for it. Von Weber (1786-1826) composed for it. Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was known to have turned often to it as an aid while composing, he wrote guitar accompaniments.

Perhaps a salient development in the nineteenth century was one of that might be termed the Renaissance of the guitar in England. Early in the evolution of the guitar, this country had played a role; one, however, which it did not maintain. When London became, in the nineteenth century, a musical center equal in importance to Paris, Vienna and St-Petersburgh, it attracted a large number of guitarists who came to perform and gave the English a wide exposure to the guitar music, thus reviving and intensifying the people's interest in the instrument. Predictably, luthiers thrived in England at this time.

Guitarists of Spain

Spain produced many outstanding virtuosi at this time and it is unquestionable that guitar music flourished in nineteenth century Spain. Yet, the Spanish guitar virtuosi and the Spanish exponents of the instrument achieved their great success outside their native country. Fernando Sor exemplified these emigrant guitarists.

Dionisio Aguado (1784-1849) was an important virtuoso and composer. He was an important pedagogue and his Metodo para guitarra is still considered one of the best methods written in the nineteenth century. It has been translated into other langages and reprinted several times. He initiated the use of a stand to support the instrument while playing it in a sitting position.

Julian Arcas (1832-1882) was another Spanish guitar virtuoso. After touring Spain, he traveled to England and performed at the Brighton Pavilion before members of the Royal Family. His playing was highly praised. He returned to Spain, continued to concertize and has been professor at the Royal Conservatory. No less than eighty of his compositions has been published.

Francisco Tarrega

Probably the most important contribution to pedagogy and guitar technique from Spain is embodied in the works of Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909). These included his compositions which rank among the best in the late nineteenth century.

Tarrega received his first guitar instruction at the age of eight. This was followed by studies at the Conservatory of Music in Madrid where he later taught guitar. He also taught in the Conservatory of Barcelona and made over 100 transcriptions of works by Bach, Handel, Mozart and Schubert. In addition, he wrote many compositions of his own: preludes, studies,waltzes, that exhibit the increased complexity of harmony and technique made possible by his new approach to guitar playing.
This new approach involved a major change: the holding of the right hand perpendicularly to the strings instead of being hold obliquely to them.

Tarrega's technique made more convenient the use of the so-called "supported stroke" or "hammer stroke". At any rate, Tarrega's accomplishments were definite and significant aids toward the formulation of modern guitar technique. They helped revitalize the popularity of the guitar, which had declined in previous years. Suddenly, there was a new generation of composers who could interpret Spain to the outside world in its own idiom: Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), Enrique Granados (1967-1916), and Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). All of them admired the guitar as aficionados, but only Albéniz grew up playing the guitar as well as the piano. Albéniz went on to become one of the great pianists of the century but he wrote for the keyboard as thought it were a guitar. Many of his works are eminently well suited to guitar transcriptions.

After Tarrega's death in 1909, his work was carried on by a circle of gifted pupils, including Emilio Pujol, Miguel Llobet, Daniel Fortea, and Alberto Obregón.

Luthier Antonio Torres

Paralleling Tarrega's achievements were developments in guitar construction. Just as his approach to guitar playing laid the foundation for more advanced practice, so the work of the celebrated guitar maker Antonio Torres Jurado (1817-1892) led directly to the basic form of the guitar in which it is now known (fig.14). He placed great emphasis on the importance of the top soundboard in the production of tone, and he perfected and was using  fan bracing under the soundboard to enrich the sound.  He developed fan bracing underneath the top and made it standard. However, Pages (the builder Sor and Aguado recommended) was using fanbracing since the 1790's. Panormo used fan bracing in the Spanish style since the 1820's. He used the string lenght to 65 cm, the measure still in use today but guitars in 1800-1810 were 650 scale also. He happened to make 650, but Stauffer was making 647, Lacote made some 650, etc. - depending on the size of the player's hands! It is a "standard" because everyone copies what Torres did. He standardized a pattern of tied bridge almost identical to that found on all classical guitars today  but the tie bridge originated with Baroque guitars, and was standard on all Spanish guitars throughout the entire 19th century. 

Torres innovations resulted in the foundation of a true Spanish school of guitar making whose membership eventually included the most important luthiers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. One of these was the Ramirez family.

Other builders

Fernando Sor mentions several builders in his "Method for the Spanish Guitar" English Translation of 1836, published by Tecla Editions:

"Mr. J. Panormo made some guitars under my direction, as well as Mr. Schroeder at Petersburgh.... In the goodness of the body or box, the Neapolitan guitars in general long surpassed, in my opinion, those of France and Germany; but that is not the case at present, and if I wanted an instrument, I would procure it from M. Joseph Martinez of Malaga, or from M. Lacote, a French maker, the only person who, besides his talents, has proved to me that he possesses the quality of not being inflexible to reasoning... The guitars which I have always given the preference are those of Alonzo of Madrid, Pages and Benediz of Cadiz, Joseph and Manuel Martinez of Malaga, or Rada, successor and scholar of the latter, and those of M. Lacote of Paris. I do not say that others do not exist; but never having tried them, I cannot decide on that of which I have no knowledge."

In the 19th century, nearly every builder made a different guitar shape, size, and style. Torres picked a combination of existing designs for his guitars - based on requirements given to him by Julian Arcas. Tarrega liked the sound of his teacher Arcas' Torres guitar also - a much smaller, sweeter-sounding guitar than the modern classical today.


Increasing popularity of the guitar on the American continent

The guitar was known in the New World as early as the sixteenth century when the Spanish colonizers sold vihuelas to the Aztec Indians. The coming of Spanish and Portuguese artists undoubtedly did much to encourage this instrument's popularity and, in South America particularly, their activities led not only to the promotion of the guitar but also to its entrenchment in the folk music of many countries.
These developments resulted in an increasing number of known guitarists and guitar makers in South America and North America.

The rising popularity of the guitar created a greater demand for instruments. Later in the 19th century, the increased demand was met by using machines and factory methods in addition to the traditional handcraft.

To some extent, the events of the nineteenth century - the changes in the instrument, the greater opportunities for performers to travel, the wider distribution of the instrument - may be regarded as natural and predictable parts of an evolutionary process. The age old practice of making instruments entirely by hand has been replaced for the first time by machinery capable of mass production.
Many of these changes the events that were to take place in the twentieth century.

The Twentieth Century

Our century has been and continues to be witness to an unprecedented surge in the acceptance of the guitar as an instrument for serious artistic expression. At no other time in the history of the guitar has it been so welcome in the concert stage.

There are two basic reasons for the tremendous popularity of the guitar today. The first and more obvious one is rooted in phenomena that belong exclusively to the twentieth century. The revolutionary technological progress and the development of mass media communications and faster, more efficient modes of transportation are its more notable aspects. Radio, television, the recording industry, communications satellites, jet travel et al have contributed to speedy global exposure of the instrument. Musicians are now able to concertize all over the world in the course of one concert season. They are able to reach huge audiences - not only those actually present at a performance but those who view television, listen to broadcasts and to phonographs recordings, and millions of those using the Net with computers. More people are, therefore, drawn into the circle of participants whether as composers, performers or listeners; more opportunities are created to arouse interest of the guitar.

The second reason, though less dramatic, is not less significant. It is an extension, a natural consequence of the developments that have taken place in past centuries.
It will be recalled that by the end of the nineteenth century, guitar technique had been brought by Tarrega to the point where it was truly fine art, ready for the next step into what we know as modern technique. The great guitar makers, most notably Torres, had developed an instrument which, with slight variations, retains to this day the classic form of the guitar. These crucial events simply had to lead to the full realization of the guitar's potential of the twentieth century.

Tarrega had many outstanding pupils but by far the most important was Miguel Llobet (1878-1937). Llobet concertized throughout Spain. He appeared in Paris, England, the United States, South America, Berlin, Vienna, in short, almost all the important cities of Western World. Llobet was acknowledged a master and a supreme virtuoso of the guitar.

He taught a considerable number of outstanding present day guitarists. Of these, Maria Luisa Anido (1907-) and José Rey de la Torre of Cuba.

The giant of the twentieth century is Andres Segovia (1893-1987) a close friend of Miguel Llobet. Segovia felt compelled to teach himself the guitar. The technique he eventually developed was an improvement on Tarrega's and one of its most important aspects in precision in all matters particularly in regards to the right hand. Each year, for over half a century, he has concertized throughout the world and he has to his credit innumerable radio and television performances. He has recorded pratically his entire repertoire.

Segovia's involvement with the guitar went beyond performance.

He has inspired contemporary composers to write for the instrument. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed the first guitar concerto in the twentieth century (1939).

Also at the instigation of Segovia, Manuel Ponce of Mexico, Joaquim Rodrigo of Spain and Alexander Tansman of Poland have written for the guitar.

Segovia has directly taught generations of guitarists. Alirio Diaz was Segovia's outstanding pupil and has become one of the world's leading players being particularly successfull at interpreting Latin American music.
Segovia's fellow Spaniard Narciso Yepes (1927-1997) was another player, with impeccable technique. He gave his first public concert at the age of twenty and has become a player with international reputation.

Players of international stature have come from other countries too as Karl Scheit, Konrad Ragossnig.

The interests of two English players, Julian Bream (1933-) and John Williams (1941-) are wideranging than those of Segovia and his other pupils.

Julian Bream

Julian Bream learned by listening to the radio and by watching other players. His formal training at the Royal College of Music was in piano, cello and composition. Bream's first London concert took place at the Wigmore Hall in 1951. Since then he has led the life of a busy and successfull musician, dividing his time between his country, the recording studio, and concert hall. His musical tastes are varied and his fame as a lute player is as great as his reputation as a guitarist. His repertoire on the guitar ranges from the Bach Chaconne to works by contemporary composers. He has done a great deal toward promoting contemporary music on the guitar.

John Williams

Born in Australia in 1941, John Williams began learning the guitar from his father, founder of the Spanish Guitar Centre in London. In 1952, he was introduced to Segovia who took him on as a pupil. On Segovia's advice he entered the Academia Musicale Chigiana at Siena. Back in England, he studied piano and musical theory from 1956 to 1959. His London debut at the Wigmore Hall took place in 1958 and it will not be long before his name becomes a byword in England and abroad.
Today, John Williams is one of the most skilled classical guitar players with an outstanding fluent technique. His repertoire varies from transcriptions of early lute music to works of South American composers and contemporaries. His music has taken a non-classical turn. He has ventured in Jazz Music playing works of Bach, Scarlatti, Villa-Lobos and Albéniz; and into the electric guitar and pop fields.

Duo playing was made popular by the team of Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti; since then the number of duos has grown, and with it the amount of music written for them.

Eliot Fisk

A native of Philadelphia, Eliot Fisk earned his M.M.A. degree from Yale University, where he studied with harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. Immediately after graduation, he was asked to found the Guitar Department at the Yale School of Music. In 1974 he was introduced to his idol, Andres Segovia, who coached him privately for several years. In addition to his performing career, Eliot Fisk has a deep commitment to teaching. He is Professor of Guitar at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, where is class includes talented young guitarists from dozen different countries. Mr. Fisk also conducts numerous master classes and residencies throughout the world. A born risk-taker and restless, widly imaginative virtuoso, Eliot Fisk has brought an entirely new dimension to classical guitar performance. He has also created a large body of guitar music through commissions of contemporary composers as well as his own transcriptions of works by Bach, D. Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Granados, Albeniz and others. A highly visible recitalist and soloist with orchestras, he performs frequently in various chamber music combinations as well.

David Russell

Born in Scotland, David Russell moved early to Minorca where he became interested to guitar. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and won the Julian Bream Guitar Prize. He won the Andrés Segovia Competition, and Francisco Tárrega Competition. In 2003, he was given the Medal of Honour of the Conservatory of the Balearics. He toured in cities as New York, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Amsterdam

Liona Boyd

Liona boyd was born in London, England but moved to Canada when she was 8. She graduated from the University of Toronto in Performance and won, the same year,  the Canadian National Music Competition. In 1972-1974, she studied with Alexandre Lagoya. She started at the New York Carnegie Hall in 1975 and performed thousands of concerts in dozens of countries around the world. She is a five-time winner of the Guitar Player Magazine poll for best classical guitarist.

Further developments in guitar construction

The monumental achievements of the Spanish school are perpetuated in the guitars of Santos, Hernandez and José Ramirez de Calaretta. A prominent German luthier of the twentieth century was Hermann Hauser, whose fine instruments are used by many of today's concert guitarists.

The traditions of the past in guitar construction have been respected and altered in the interests of better instruments. Technology and innovation are responsible for the adoption of nylon strings to replace the old ones made of gut. This has particularly revolutionized guitar playing. Because the new strings are much stronger. require less frequent tuning and produce better sound, they are more practical and more desirable.

At present, the internationalization of the guitar is complete. The instrument is taugh throughout the world. After World War II, the guitar became incredibly popular in Japan and the country has produced a great number of guitarists, teachers and guitar makers.
Almost everywhere magazines dealing with the guitar are published and available.
International journals on guitar now exist and prints articles on guitar activities throughout the world: The Classical Guitar Magazine, published in England, and The Guitar Review, published in New York, have a worldwide circulation and are also published on Internet.
Guitar Societies have grown everywhere.

The burgeoning of societies, associations and organizations devoted to some facet or other of guitar activities bears further witness to the universal interest in the instrument. These organizations present young guitarists in recitals, encourage study, dedicate themselves to a great variety of aims having to do with the propagation of matters pertinent to the guitar. Number of guitar recitals have multiplied as competitions held on both national and international levels.


Grunfeld, Frederic V.: "The Art and Times of the Guitar", Collier MacMillan Publishers, London 1969.

Sparks, Paul: "Guitar performance in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries", Performance Practice Review Vol.10 No.1, 1997,: 71-79.

Tyler James: "The guitar and its performance from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries", Performance Practice Review Vol.10 No.1, 1997,: 61-70.

Bacon, Tony and Day, Paul: "The Ultimate Guitar Book", Dorling Kindersley Limited, London 1991.

"What is a Harp Guitar: http://www.harpguitars.net/history/org/hgorg.htm

"Organology: HarpGuitar "Relatives"http://www.harpguitars.net/history/org/org-fretted_hgs.htm

"The Guitar Foundation of America : http://www.guitarfoundation.org/


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