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guitar, musical instrument related to the lute, modern guitars normally having six strings that are plucked with the fingers or strummed with a pick. Earlier versions had pairs of strings like the lute. The guitar usually has a flat back, sides that curve inward to form a waist, and a fretted neck. Other forms of the guitar include the 12-stringed guitar; the steel guitar, played with a metal bar to produce a sliding tone; the electric guitar; and the 4-stringed bass guitar, which, like the electric guitar, is a fixture of rock music and is electronically amplified.
The traditional classical, as opposed to electric guitar, appeared as early as the 12th cent. in Spain, the country with which it is particularly associated. It was very popular there in the 16th cent., when much music was written for it. The composer Fernando Sor (1778–1839) was a brilliant guitarist who wrote many important works for that instrument. In the late 19th cent. there was revived interest in the guitar, aroused largely by the playing of Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909), one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Andrés Segovia was one of the foremost contemporary classical guitarists; he did much to stimulate interest in the instrument and its repertory, especially in 16th-century music.
See H. Turnbull, The Guitar from the Renaissance to the Present (1974); J. Tyler, The Early Guitar (1980); T. Wheeler, American Guitars (1982).
a plucked stringed instrument. It consists of a body with a narrow waist and flat soundboards, the upper one with a circular sound hole in its center; a neck holding a fretted finger board; and a head with tuning pegs. Originally, gut strings were used, but later those made of metal and nylon gained acceptance.
A guitar with four courses of paired strings was well known in 13th-century Spain. In the 17th century, a guitar with five courses, known as the Spanish guitar, gained acceptance in Italy and other European countries and in America. In Europe the instrument became very popular in the middle of the 18th century. At this time the guitar with five courses of strings began to be replaced by one with six single strings, which was tuned by fourths and thirds. In Russia, and to some extent in Poland, a seven-stringed guitar tuned by thirds (known as the Russian guitar) gained currency. Guitars with more strings were also produced. (Bass strings were added.)
Used mainly to provide accompaniment for singing, the instrument is also employed in chamber groups and solo work. It has become a folk instrument in several countries. N. Paganini wrote for the guitar, as did several outstanding 20th-century composers, including M. de Falla and H. Villa-Lobos. Prominent foreign guitarists are M. Giuliani (Italy); F. Sor, F. Tarrega, and A. Segovia (Spain); and M. L. Anido (Argentina). A. O. Sikhra, M. T. Vysotskii, M. D. Sokolovskii, and A. M. Ivanov-Kramskoi are outstanding Russian guitarists. The solo concert performances of guitar virtuosos are very successful.
Special guitar instruments that appeared in the 20th century are the Hawaiian and orchestral, or jazz, guitars. The Hawaiian guitar is held flat in the lap, and the sound is produced through use of a special plectrum and by pressing the strings against the fingerboard with a metal bar. The orchestral, or jazz, guitar has f holes, as does a violin, and it is also played with a plectrum.
REFERENCESIvanov, M. Russkaia semistrunnaia gitara. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Vol’man, B. Gitara v Rossii. Leningrad, 1961.
Vol’man, B. Gitara i gitaristy. Leningrad, 1968.
Buek, F. Die Gitarre und ihre Meister, 3rd ed. Berlin .
Pujol, E. La guitarra y su historia. Buenos Aires .
Powrozniak, J. Gitara od A do Z. [Kraków, 1966.]
B. L. VOL’MAN