The Origins of the Acoustic Guitar: A Brief History

The acoustic guitar has a history that can be traced back to the Arabic oud or Roman cithara. Variations in the instrument indicate a sense of creativity that transcends different cultures. The acoustic guitar has multiple origin stories in published histories and books.

The Role of Christian Frederick Martin

Christian Frederick Martin was a German immigrant to the United States Guitars who is known to have created the acoustic guitar. Strings at that time were made from the sheep’s intestines. Martin, however, decided to create a guitar with steel strings for banjo players to play the then-popular country music without discomfort.

He is said to have crafted a brand new type of guitar with a cleverly designed inner structure. The purpose of this design was to withstand the tension of steel strings. Martin is recognized as one of the best early makers while his company is still blooming in Pennsylvania.

Development of the Acoustic Guitar in the United States (18th Century)

In the late 1840s, James Ashborn, an Englishman, established a guitar factory in Connecticut using modern methods from the industrial revolution. For over fifteen years, his factory produced 1000 well-designed, practically identical guitars every year. The instruments were later marketed through the music stores in New York City.

Other guitars created during this period were light in weight and produced warm tones. They were all responsive to fingerpicking.

The Contemporary Acoustic Guitar (19th Century)

Most acoustic guitars were used in parlor music learned from teaching manuals and written manuscripts in the United States. Drawings and photographs from the 19th century portray women usually from the middle-or upper-class parlor setting. Guitars were also seen in the minstrel shows of the mid-19th century.

Some fundamental changes in America furthered the guitar’s democratization. The chaos following the Civil War transformed Southern life. Industrialization was leading to urbanization. As a result, travel salesman and general stores became active in small towns. By the end of the century, the postal system made it possible to mail order guitars.

Evolution of Musical Tastes

In the 20th century, the acoustic guitar adapted to ragtime and jazz in the towns. Moreover, the Hawaiian-style guitar music spread throughout the United States. Southern music has been a part of their music culture ever since. The guitar gradually took the pace of Banjo and became the most favorite instrument of musicians from home to stage.

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