The guitar is now the most popular instrument for adults to learn and the second four children. Why do so many people want to learn to play the guitar? What makes it so popular?
“Guitars hit the stores now, they unbox them, and they’re gone,” Mr. Listug said.
- Guitar History: How the Guitar has Evolved
- History of the Shape of Guitars
- Shape of the Guitar From Prehistory Through the Middle Ages
- Shape From the 15th Century to Present Day
- The Modern Guitars
- The main reasons for the popularity of Guitars
- Is Guitar Worth Learning?
- 1. Guitar is Incredibly Versatile
- 2. The Guitar Is Great For Writing Songs
- 3. Guitars Are Cheap
- 4. Some Of the Most Famous Music Artists Play Guitar
- 5. Guitar Players Are Cool
- 6. So Many Guitar Books
- 7. Guitars Are Portable
- 8. People want to play their favourite songs
- 9. People want to sing and play at the same time
- 10. Playing the guitar to play with or impress their friends and family
- 11. People think it’s easy
- 12. Guitar music is so diverse
- Is Guitar Losing Popularity?
- FAQ for Why the Guitar is so Popular
- What is the guitar’s origin?
- How did the guitar change since its inception?
- How does the guitar make people feel?
- What are some of the many types of guitars?
- How is the guitar used in different music genres?
- What the most popular types of guitars today?
- How did the guitar become so popular?
- What makes the guitar so popular?
- Where do people typically play the guitar?
- How long does it take to learn how to play a guitar?
Guitar History: How the Guitar has Evolved
YouTube stars of today shred the guitar with innovative, mind-blowing riffs and licks that are changing music forever. Many don’t realize that the guitar – or some version of it – has existed since the dawn of time.
The exact origin of the guitar is still a mystery. The word “guitar” probably comes from the ancient Greek word κιθÎ¬ρα ( kithara ). Mythology attributes Hermes with creating the first kithara from a tortoise shell, but many likenesses of Apollo show him with this instrument.
This instrument had a wooden soundboard and box-shaped body, or resonator. Two hollow arms, connected by a crossbar, extended from the resonator. The instrument originally had three strings running from the crossbar to its lower end, passing over a bridge on the soundboard; later versions had as many as 12 strings.
The ancient musician typically played the strings with a plectrum, which is an early version of the modern pick. The player would use his or her left-hand fingers to dampen unwanted strings and, at times, stop the strings or produce harmony with their left hand. Solo musicians would sometimes pluck the strings with the fingers of both hands. Holding a kithara is similar to holding a guitar, and musicians would often use the early equivalent of a guitar strap with an over-the-shoulder band.
History of the Shape of Guitars
Shape of the Guitar From Prehistory Through the Middle Ages
The history of the guitar generally goes back to two instruments, the oud and the lute, which predate written history.
Many say that a man known as Lamech, who was Noah’s grandfather and the sixth grandson of Adam and Eve, designed the Arab precursor to the guitar. Lamech was apparently inspired to design the shape of the instrument, known as an oud, after hanging the body of his dead son from a tree. The Moors brought the oud with them when they invaded Southern Spain in 711 AD.
Shape From the 15th Century to Present Day
The lute came in a variety of shapes and sizes, but generally had a curved back. The instrument passed from the Egyptians to the Greeks and then onto the Romans, who took it to Europe.
The first ancient pictorial record of a lute-like stringed instrument first appeared in 3500 to 3200 BCE in Southern Mesopotamia – Iraq, which is now Nasiriyah City. The image depicts a female crouching on a boat; the position of her hands on the instrument indicates she is playing an instrument.
Long- and short-necked varieties of lutes continued to appear in pictorial records throughout Mesopotamian and Egyptian history. Metropolitan Museums of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and the British Museum display many examples of these pictorial records on clay tablets and papyrus paper.
The lute had evolved significantly by the end of the Renaissance – many lutes had up to 20 or 30 strings – but the lute-like shape of the instrument was fading in popularity. By the 15 th and 16 th centuries, musicians in Spain began to favor instruments featuring the familiar curved shape we now associate with guitars.
These guitars, known as Baroque guitars, effectively replaced the lute as the go-to stringed instrument for musicians from about 1600 to 1750. Further refinements, such as five courses of gut strings and moveable frets, made these instruments easier to play.
The vihuela, which has incurving sides that give its body an hourglass shape, became popular in Spain, Portugal and Italy during that time too. Mariachi groups still use a version of the vihuela today.
The evolution of Spanish guitars settled by the 1790s; they had the standard body type and six courses of strings that resembles the modern guitar, but were smaller. Spanish musician and guitar maker Antonio de Torres Jurado changed all that in the mid-1800s, when he created the style of guitar that gave rise to all guitars to follow. Many people consider him as “ one of the single most important inventors in the history of guitar.”
His guitars featured a broadened body, thinned belly and increased curve at the waist. He also replaced wooden tuning pegs with a machined heads. His innovative approach to body design and fan bracing, which is that system of wooden struts inside the instrument, gave his classical guitars their distinctive, rich voice.
Influential Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia established Torres’ classic guitar as a concert instrument. The talented guitarist also penned complex musical compositions that we now identify as “classical guitar” music.
At about this same time, Europeans brought a steel-stringed version of the Spanish instrument when they immigrated to America. There, the modern guitar took on a new shape and a new place in history, with the invention of the flat top, archtop and modern electric guitar.
The Modern Guitars
The flat top acoustic guitar remains the most popular form of acoustic guitar, nearly two centuries after its invention. German-born American guitar maker, Christian Frederick Martin, created the flat top. Martin replaced the old-fashioned fan bracing with X-bracing to help the guitar body handle the extra stress of modern steel strings, which had posed a problem for the old Torres-style guitars.
The tight steel strings of the flat top also required the guitarists to change their playing style and use picks more often, which fundamentally changed the type of music played on these instruments. Melodies on classical guitars are precise and delicate, for example, while steel strings and picks created bright, chord-driven music. The common use of picks also triggered the evolution of the pickguard, now seen below the sound hole on most flat top guitars.
Many attribute Orville Gibson with the creation of the archtop guitar. This guitar features F-holes, arched top and back, and adjustable bridge, which increases the instruments tone and volume. Gibson created guitars that had bodies similar to cellos, which helped the instruments produce a louder sound. Jazz and country musicians quickly embraced these guitars; big bands and swing bands also used flat tops.
George Beauchamp and his partner Adolph Rickenbacker won the first patent for the electric guitar in 1931. Many other inventors and guitar makers were working on electric versions of these old instruments at about the same time. Les Paul pioneered the solid body guitar made by Gibson Guitars, for example, and Leo Fender invented the Fender Telecaster in 1951. Together, the Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul and Gibson SGs helped the guitars of yesteryear evolve into the solid-body electric guitars still used today.
The main reasons for the popularity of Guitars
Remember college dorms? Didn’t it feel like that at every social gathering there was always that guy/gal who was playing the guitar? And they always seemed to have a small crowd? What gives? Does everybody play the guitar? Why on Earth is guitar so popular of an instrument?
Guitar is one of the most popular instruments because it is versatile, as it can play melody and rhythm, so it is often a choice for modern rock, folk, or indie bands. With just one instrument you can have a band.
Because of the characteristics of the guitar, it is now even more popular simply because most bands that we listen to use the guitar. However there are some other compelling reasons why the guitar has made it into the mainstream to the extent that it has.
Is Guitar Worth Learning?
There are so many reasons why the guitar is so popular but I will list a few of the most important reasons. Maybe by the end of this you will realize how great a choice the guitar is even though it is so popular.
If you’re like me, you might think…well, it’s no fun to play if it’s such a popular instrument–there’s more to the story, there are actually many reasons why it’s worth playing even though it’s so popular: Check out my article here to learn why guitar is worth learning even though it is one of the most played instruments.
1. Guitar is Incredibly Versatile
In a traditional orchestra every instrument plays a part in creating a beautiful symphony. The trumpets add energy, while the clarinets add to the mood, while the flutes fill out the soundscape. The trombones add support and the a percussion section keeps rhythm for the entire orchestra.
All of these instruments play a part in making sure the song sounds the way the composer intended it. While all of these instruments are amazing and beautiful in their own right it’s rare that you hear music with just that one of these instrument unless you are really into that instrument. What I mean, is that most bands you hear on the radio usually don’t just play the trumpet, or the flute, or the clarinet, or the violin all by themselves.
Guitars are a little different because they can make melodies when you pluck the guitar one or two notes at the same time. Guitars can even create harmonies with itself because of its six strings. Harmony is the basis of creating complex and interesting melodies. In comparison, no matter how good at the trumpet you are you can never harmonize with yourself.
Besides melodic capability, if you strum or use a plectrum (pick) with the guitar you can create distinct sounds, which combined together, can make a rhythm.
In fact there is a term often used for a guitar in a band called the rhythm guitar where the principal responsibility of that guitar is to add and keep the rhythm of the song. The guitarists plays chords in tight rhythms with the bass and drums which fill out the soundscape and keeps the rhythm of the song.
That is distinct, and amazing. Guitar can keep rhythm and play melody.
This is the reason why the guitar so popular for so many bands. Rather than paying 10 musicians you can pay a couple guitarists to fulfill several of the same needs in a composition.
One last reason why the guitar is so versatile, is that you can play low and high notes at the same time. This is true for the piano, of course, but the guitar is constructed in such a way that you can put all these notes together seamlessly, creating complex chords that span octaves in ways the piano can’t.
2. The Guitar Is Great For Writing Songs
As you read from the previous section the guitar is a fantastically versatile instrument. Because of this it is ideal for composing music.
When you’re trying to come up with a chord progression it’s hard to do this if you’re playing instrument that can’t play chords, like the trombone. Guitar and piano are some of the best instruments for creating songs because they can actually play multiple notes at the same time.
Chord progressions are fundamental to making a song, as the song structure is what adds variety and interest to the song.
The chord progression is like the foundation of the song, and on top of that you can add melody with either vocals or the guitar itself by plucking individual strings.
If you’re ambitious you can makeup tunes and melodies and sing while playing chords at the same time and instantly you become a singer-songwriter one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols in the music industry for the last hundred years.
In summary, the guitar is ideal for composing due to its versatility.
3. Guitars Are Cheap
Trust me, I’m not advocating that you should get the cheapest guitar if you want to learn and enjoy the guitar. however, you can find a used electric guitar or acoustic guitar that is a decent quality for under $150 that would suit a beginner.
Of course, these aren’t the cheapest instruments you can find, but in reality, that is not very much money to get such a such a powerful instrument. Good luck finding a good quality piano for that price for example.
4. Some Of the Most Famous Music Artists Play Guitar
I could make a list pages long of famous artists that play guitar. Here are just a few:
- Taylor Swift
- John Mayer
- Jimi Hendrix
- Van Halen
- Nora Jones
- Steve Vai
I’m not trying to compare Jimi Hendrix to Taylor Swift. Many guitarists would think that sacrilege and that those two people don’t belong in the same bulleted list. However, the point is that everybody more or less recognizes these names. And guitar has been pivotal to many of these players’ success.
That’s just some of the lead players that play guitar but there are thousands of bands that we all know and love that feature the guitar as a main instrument.
As influential bands began using the guitar in earnest a halo effect developed where more bands wanted to play guitar because they saw other successful bands play the guitar and soon that compounded over the years until we have what we have today where a huge percentage of bands have the guitar in their music.
5. Guitar Players Are Cool
So… I’m not saying guitar players are automatically cool–there’s cool people and then there’s not cool people. Same with guitar players. However, there is a perception!
Whether or not a guitar player is actually a cool person, there remains the fact that over the years as we have been exposed to so much great music from so many great guitarists, there’s now a kind of mysticism around the guitar for those who can’t play.
So, this mysticism creates kind of a persona that if you play guitar it’s just cool! You don’t even have to be very good (among guitarists), just the fact that you play guitar has a perception that it’s cool. Drummers have a similar perception.
This is a perception that not every instrument has. For example, most people don’t think French horn players are cool. I for one think French horn players are super cool, but I know not everyone shares my same sentiment.
Is the guitar better than the french horn? Of course not–but the merciless social perception stands.
There’s probably a thousand reasons why it’s cool to play guitar. Why is doing some things considered nerdy while another thing is considered socially acceptable? Why were video games nerdy in 90s, but now they are a part of normal culture now? Who really knows all the reasons.
In any case, while guitar players are idolized to different degree every year they still remain in the cool category and probably will for years to come.
6. So Many Guitar Books
One thing that perpetuates the popularity of guitar is its own popularity itself. Over the years as guitar skills have been sought after by so many people there are now thousands of different resources that exist.
Resources including books, entire YouTube channels, an abundance of guitar teachers in every city, and more. This means that it is easier to learn guitar than other instrument because there are so many resources.
I’m not saying the guitar is an easy instrument to learn, far from it. However, I am saying that it’s easier to start playing guitar then some obscure instruments just because there are so many available resources (many of them free) and the resources have to compete with each other and so the best has risen to the top over the years.
Stop for a second and compare the learning experience for someone who’s playing the harp. You’ll see that there are plenty of resources for the harp but not nearly as many as there are for guitar.
In my opinion, though, this can make guitar even more difficult to learn because it seems like there are so many resources, it’s really hard to choose from them and find something you’re satisfied with.
7. Guitars Are Portable
One advantage the guitar has over the piano, the harp, the cello, and even the tuba, is that the guitar is very portable. You can still take your guitar as a carry-on item in many flights even today.
For street performers, this makes the guitar extremely appealing–which over the years performers have had to find other ways to differentiate themselves–but in the 70s and 80s where the guitar’s popularity soared, the guitar’s shape and size made it an easy instrument to pack around for a roaming band.
8. People want to play their favourite songs
A lot of popular music and songs have a guitar in it. And even if it doesn’t have a guitar in it, you can often play a guitar version of a song.
Because people see their favourite artists playing the guitar, whether it’s acoustic, pop or rock. They are inspired to learn themselves. The rise in popularity of covers being played on YouTube have definitely been contributing factor in people want to play the guitar themselves.
Once people have mastered the main chords, a lot of songs are based around similar chord progressions. People find themselves being able to play along to their favourite songs quite quickly.
9. People want to sing and play at the same time
For a lot of instruments, it’s difficult to sing and play at the same time. Now it’s not always easy to sing and play at the same time on the guitar either. But due to the popularity of singer-songwriters, they do make it seem very effortless. With some practice of your own, you can master it as well.
You will need to be able to play the guitar comfortably enough to count and coordinate your hands. While your brain figures out how to sing as well. The more practice, the easier it will get!
There is definitely a romantic view of open mics, singer-songwriters that have inspired many to pick up the guitar to play. It does make the perfect instrument for it. Something very attractive about a girl or a guy playing guitar and singing at the same time.
10. Playing the guitar to play with or impress their friends and family
As you would expect because the guitar is so popular.
Most people know a few other people who also play the guitar. Perhaps they want to play with them, to have fun. Connect with them on a musical level. For some people, they want to impress their friends and family with their guitar playing.
Whatever it is, playing guitar in front of or with other people can be a lot of fun! Just make sure you find supportive friends and audience to start with to boost your confidence.
11. People think it’s easy
The guitar is very popular for people who have never played an instrument before. For some reason, the guitar comes off as being relatively easy to play compared to other instruments. This really varies person to person. And there is definitely a learning curve in the very beginning. However, once you’ve mastered the basics and got your b
rain coordinated with your two hands. It becomes a lot easier depending on what you want to play!
12. Guitar music is so diverse
Beyond guitar music being present in so much popular music. It is also in so many different genres of music. The great thing is that you can start playing the guitar and diversify based on your interest.
People who want to learn the guitar from the very beginning can have a vast different interest in music. But they are learning the same fundamentals in the beginning.
Once you know how to improve on the guitar and learn the techniques. You can build on those fundamentals in a different type of music that you want to play.
The guitar is quite a young instrument, and there is still a lot to develop in the guitar world. Compare 90 years of the guitar to 50
0 years of classical music. And yet it’s already so diverse and interesting! Develop your own style of guitar playing by experimenting and working towards what you enjoy.
Is Guitar Losing Popularity?
Now, I just finished telling you 6 reasons why the guitar is so popular. It is true that the guitar is still one of the most popular instruments–however, it is true that guitar sales have been declining over the years. One blog (ReverbNation) blames the popularity of electronic music as much of pop music uses electronic music nowadays.
This is true even for guitar’s popularity in Google search history, the guitar in popularity has declined slowly over the years.
Will it disappear? No–the guitar is the foundation and backbone for much of the music we listen today, even if there is no guitar in it, and thus guitar will likely remain as one of the most popular instruments for years to come.
FAQ for Why the Guitar is so Popular
What is the guitar’s origin?
The guitar’s origin is a mystery. There are many stories that have been passed down to us, but no one knows the true story. One of the most popular theories is that it originated in Mesopotamia.
How did the guitar change since its inception?
The guitar has gone through a lot of changes since its inception.
The first guitars were made out of wood, had four strings, and were played with a plectrum. The first electric guitars came in the 1920s and featured two pickups and a volume knob. In the 1950s, Fender released their first solid-body electric guitar called the Telecaster. The most recent change to the guitar was in 2009 when Gibson released their first Les Paul model with computer-designed electronics called EMG pickups.
The guitar is an instrument that has been passed down through generations of musicians who have continuously modified it to suit their needs and preferences.
How does the guitar make people feel?
The guitar has been a symbol of peace, love, and freedom. It’s the go-to instrument for many musicians to express their feelings with music.
The guitar is an instrument that can make people feel many things. It can make them feel joy, sadness, anger, or even loneliness. It can also evoke different emotions in people depending on the song that is being played.
What are some of the many types of guitars?
There are many types of guitars. Some of the most popular ones include acoustic, electric, acoustic-electric, bass guitar, and classical guitar.
How is the guitar used in different music genres?
The guitar is a very versatile instrument that can be used in many different music genres. It’s also the most popular stringed instrument in the world.
What the most popular types of guitars today?
The most popular type of guitars today are electric guitars. They are highly versatile and can be used in a variety of genres. Acoustic guitars are still popular, but they have to compete with the ease and convenience of electric guitars.
The most popular type of acoustic guitar is the classical guitar. It’s a smaller-scale instrument that has a wide range of uses, from folk music to jazz to classical music. It’s also quite versatile and can be used for any genre or style, including rock, blues, country, bluegrass, and more.
How did the guitar become so popular?
The guitar has been around for centuries, but it has only been in recent years that it became a popular instrument.
The guitar is an instrument that is easy to learn and can be played by anyone regardless of their skill level. It is also a versatile instrument with many uses.
The guitar’s popularity has grown because it can be used as an accessory for dance, to accompany singing and as a solo instrument. It can also be used in many different genres of music from blues to classical music.
What makes the guitar so popular?
The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. It has been around for centuries and has seen many different shapes and sizes.
One of the main reasons why it is so popular is because of its versatility. It can be used in a variety of ways depending on what you want to do with it.
The guitar can be used as a percussion instrument, an instrument to accompany vocals, or even as a solo instrument.
Where do people typically play the guitar?
People typically play the guitar in their homes.
The most common place to find a guitar is in the living room.
The second most common place is the bedroom, followed by the garage and finally, outside.
How long does it take to learn how to play a guitar?
It is not easy to learn how to play a guitar. It is a complex instrument that requires a lot of practice. However, if you have the patience to stick with it, you will eventually be able to play.
This may take months or even years depending on the level of expertise you wish to achieve. There are different ways in which you can learn how to play guitar: from watching videos online, reading books and magazines, taking private lessons with a teacher and self-teaching through YouTube tutorials.
It takes time for beginners who have never played before but it also takes time for advanced players as well since they need to constantly improve their skillset so that they can keep up with the ever-changing music industry.