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Archive for November, 2011

drawn from How it All Began: The Origin of the Guitar by Derek Cockrum, & Stalking the Oldest 6 String Guitar by Thomas Heck

The guitar actually has a mixed heritage, but the origins of the modern instrument can be traced back to Spain. In fact, the word “guitar” is derived from the Spanish word “guitarra.” Knowing the origins of the guitar, as well as its extensive history, can help players develop a deeper respect for the instrument. In addition, knowing how the guitar has evolved helps players understand the construction of the modern guitar.

It is generally assumed that the string instruments emerged about 4000 BC from the hunting bow and the sound it produces while shooting. Around 2000 BC the Babylonians frequently made such string instruments, not only in a simple harp or lyre form, but even with a solid wooden neck and a primitive sound box of stretched animal skins. Just like the bow, the strings ware made of woven plant fibres or animal materials.

Assyrian/Babylonian musicians playing lyre-type instruments

Sometime around 40 AD, the Romans made their entrance into Spain, or Hispania as it was called. With the Romans came a musical instrument known as a cithara.

4 different types of Cithara used by the Ancient Greeks

The cithara was a type of lyre, but it was typically played by professional musicians. It had a wooden sounding box made of two tables connected by ribs. Above the box was a tuning bar, and the strings were stretched from the tuning bar to a tail piece on the box. Notes were played by strumming strings with one hand, while using the other hand to deaden the unwanted strings.


In the 8th century AD, the Moors entered Hispania from the south. The Moors brought an instrument called an oud.The pear-shaped body of the oud was flat on the front, and bowl-shaped on the back, and it usually had more than one sounding hole. At that time, the most common oud had only four strings, and the neck was not fretted. Tuning was accomplished by turning the keys on the pegboard. Both the oud and the cithara were played with a pick, although the oud could also be played by slide and vibrato.

Oud

Eventually, the cithara and the oud were combined into two instruments: the Moorish guitar and the Latin guitar. The Moorish guitar retained the rounded back, multiple sound holes and wide fingerboard of the oud.

Moorish Guitar

The Latin guitar, on the other hand, had a more narrow neck, a flat back and one sound hole. Despite having only four strings, the Latin guitar of the 11th century is clearly the predecessor of the modern guitar.

Latin Guitar

The earliest six-string guitar is dated 1779, and is commonly believed to have been made by Gaetano Vinaccia, a member of the family of Italian luthiers, or stringed instrument builders, who developed the mandolin.

Vinaccia - 1st 6 string circa 1779

By the mid-1800s, the guitar had taken on its familiar shape, and bracing inside the guitar had been changed to the modern fan style. The guitar’s evolution continued nearly one hundred years later with the invention of the electric guitar. Here are a few examples showing its early evolution.

circa 1800

circa 1806

circa 1820

circa 1830

circa 1845

Knowing the history of the guitar increases a player’s ability to appreciate the details of the instrument. Players have little difficulty identifying the features handed down from both the oud and the cithara, or in appreciating why that particular combination of features was used. A deeper appreciation of the guitar leads to a deeper respect, which shines through when the instrument is played.

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Ed Sott - Luna's forum moderator

Luna is very grateful to her advocates and Ed Sott, who volunteers to moderate our Luna forum and keep it running smoothly, has certainly proven his loyalty over the years. Ed has sent us a mini bio of his musical journey….so it is my pleasure to introduce Ed to the rest of our Luna Tribe.

In Ed’s own words:

As a child back in the early 70’s my family spent a good deal of time traveling both in the states and abroad. It was within this time period that I fell in love with music and that my personal musical journey began.

I can remember at the age of 4 going to the local hall in Wantage, Oxfordshire, UK with my dad and spinning records, reel to reel,
8-tracks, and cassettes at a disco which he threw for the locals in the district.  I can remember playing the music, singing and dancing, and seeing how much joy people got from music, as I too shared in that same joy.

I  came to the understanding at an early age that music, and the arts; dance, poetry, painting, acting, writing, drawing, and reading, could take me to realms that I never dreamed possible.

In the 80s I spent time learning all I could about how music developed. Listening to the radio, and singing along with artists of various genres.  This led to my personal decision that I, too, could do this.  I began to teach myself not only the theory behind musical composition, but also how to play keyboard and piano. While this further developed my love of sound, it was in the 80s that I realized that my hearing was failing me.

When I was born I had a perforated eardrum in my left ear.  Back then there was no corrective surgical procedure and over the course of 12 years I totally lost my hearing in that ear.  I also discovered that I was tone deaf in my right ear. This progressive loss of hearing, however, never stymied me.  Instead I learned to develop a deeper appreciation of music by learning to actually “feel the vibrations” and interpret the sound accordingly.

In the 90’s, I continued to sing along with the radio, and now and then played the keyboard.  However, playing music for me diminished and I began to focus more on writing novels, plays, poetry, and lyrics.

It was around 2008 when I bought my first Luna guitar….the Luna Gypsy Muse.  It was love at first sight and thus began my return to music fully. I couldn’t, at this time, play much more than a few simple melodies. Some of my friends taught me some basics after which I went off on my own with a total new determination.  ” I was gonna play guitar if it killed me”.

Three years later I now have a band, own 17 Luna instruments as well as several others, teach people how to appreciate and play music, and my band mate and myself are playing and writing musical compositions. My favorite style of playing is rhythm backed with melody. I love finger-styling and experimenting with new concepts and ideas.

My love for Luna Guitars also brought me close to Luna Guitars Company, and I volunteered to assist in running the Luna Forum Page.  I’ve made many friends in Luna Guitars and feel blessed to be a part of the Luna Tribe.

Please drop by the forum and introduce yourself.

Edward Sott (Senior Moderator Luna Guitars Forum),

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