Saturday, January 16, 2010

The History of the Modern Guitar - From the Flintstones' Bedrock Cafe to Rock and Roll?

By Rob Winters

History of the Guitar

The human race has always had a love for music hardwired into our circuits. Ancient humans discovered long ago that magical sounds pleasing to the ears could be made from vibrating strings. The earliest record of stringed instruments takes us back to as early as the days of King David, (the Jewish king), in the BC era of ancient Israel.

Stringed instruments such as the lute or mandolin were used by traveling early musicians called "minstrels" as early the 14th century in Europe, and they would entertain the crowds by playing their unique compositions in the community market places. Later other musical instruments were invented that combined and made up our earliest orchestras.

Even in modern times we are still interested in these early forms of the stringed instruments. Rock star "Sting" has recently released a CD compilation of 16th century lute music. American band REM has often featured a mandolin in their music performances. The Rod Stewart hit, "Maggie May" also featured the unique classical sound of the mandolin. The mandolin is also still a common sound in today's country music genre.

Every culture on earth has a version of the forerunner of the modern guitar. African and Far Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures have several versions of stringed musical instruments, some with only three strings. Here in America, the banjo has become very popular in country and folk music. The guitar was used here in the US back in the early days of our history and in the Western Cowboy culture long before it became popular for jazz, blues, and then eventually becoming the featured instrument of every rock and roll band.

Western rock music has also blended the Sitar, a stringed instrument originating from the Middle East, first heard in a pop song performed by The Beatles with Norwegian Wood. And we cannot forget to acknowledge the huge contribution that the music of Spain and Latin America has made to classical guitar music.

Many of the most loved compositions in classical music have been written for a stringed orchestra or string ensemble. The violin, viola and cello continue to work very well together in string musical instrument pieces. The double fretless bass is very versatile and can be found in jazz bands, orchestras and in bluegrass rockabilly bands.

A popular string instrument often used in rock, country and folk music is the violin or "fiddle". The fiddle is known as the traditional iconic symbol of Irish, jigs and reels. Jazz artists such as Darryl Way and Jean Luc Ponty are very accomplished violinists and performers. The radical guitarist Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, has even used a violin bow with his electric guitar in a sort of "Violin meets Guitar" experimental sound.
Modern stringed instruments can be ordered from the factories with custom fitted electric pickups to amplify the sound, to fit in with any style of music. Violins or Fiddles, are now made as an electric guitar with the ability to synthesis sounds and use special effects to create very unique results in some popular rock and county music songs.

Keyboard instruments such as the piano, clavichord, and harpsichord are actually considered stringed musical instruments as well because they have strings, which are struck by hammers. Some even consider the piano, a percussion instrument. Today the Electronic Piano Keyboard has become synthesized and can produce sounds sampled and digitally reproduced in small compact keyboards with weighted keys and other features that closely duplicate the sound of traditional large Grand Pianos. Full stringed orchestra sounds can be selected to blend with other wind and percussion instrument sounds to produce a full concert hall orchestra sound with this one amazing little instrument. These are often referred to as "Workstations".

All of the modern versions of the Guitar and other old world stringed instruments, are still used today in a range of sounds that are quite awesome to listen to, and to perform with as a musician. Fiddle music for instance...can cause your foot to start tapping, and a good guitar player may cause involuntary hand clapping. Add percussion to this mix and you may feel the urge to get up and dance. On the other hand... a softly flowing cello solo may cause you to "tear up" as featured in the new movie..."The Soloist".

Whether your favorite Guitar Music is composed along with other stringed instruments, or is being synthesised through computer based software, or in analog form and unplugged, All of our personal music favorites, still can express many things much better than we as humans can say in mere words alone. The Soundtracks of many movies have proven to entertain audiences with very little spoken dialog such as the western: "The Good Bad and the Ugly", but with a very compelling music dialog... We get the message!

Yeah... I can hear that unmistakable tune in my head right now as well! All that being said...there is still nothing quite as sweet as the traditional sound of a live orchestra of violins, cellos, stringed bass, and a Grand piano in a concert hall filled with avid fans of great instrumental music.

So... with today's overwhelming popularity of the Guitar and all of the awesome music it has created... hopefully we will always remember it's ancient, and old world beginnings. If you are interested in learning more about todays guitars and the changes that have been made then checkout some of these videos and reviews at the Guitar World Store

Rob Winters is a 30 year log home builder and restoration pro, having built handcrafted log homes in Alaska, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Missouri, and Georgia. He is currently working to teach and educate potential log home owners on quality and cost effective methods of building their own log home or vacation cabin through seminars, and his recent book. His goal is to help those who want to avoid a large mortgage, and are willing to build most of their Cabin themselves.

He was also an expert guitar musician, and songwriter. He and his wife are also very active and passionate about marriage relationship mentoring for those who are have marriage problems. He and his wife Denise have been married for 33 years.

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1 comment:

  1. Please take a moment to watch my documentary film POWER AND CONTROL: LSD IN THE 60'S.
    It features a new interview with Ram Dass about the Harvard days...

    Plus, an actual participant in Tim Leary's Miracle of Good Friday Experiment....btw..when I interviewed him..he was the DEAN & President of the Divinity school where Leary recruited the original participants!

    Lots more, CIA & LSD with Marty Lee, Groucho Marx's LSD trip with Paul Krassner....Free Speech Movement and ACID.

    I have posted the entire film at this link on youtube..please share