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The Guitar

Updated on December 23, 2010

The guitar is a stringed musical instrument resembling the lute. The guitar has a flat back and front and curved sides, and it is played by plucking the strings with the fingers of the right hand. The fingers of the left hand regulate the pitch of the strings by pressing them along the instrument's fretted neck or fingerboard. The most familiar type of guitar is the Spanish guitar, which is used by flamenco and concert performers. Originally the Spanish guitar had four or five pairs of gut strings, but it is now usually strung with six individual strands tuned to E, A, D, G, B, and E. The range of the instrument is about four octaves, up from the second E below middle C.

The guitar was probably introduced into Spain by the Moors in the 12th or 13th century. However, similar instruments are known to have existed as early as 1000 B.C. among the ancient Hittites. The form of guitar called Spanish was developed in Spain in the middle of the 16th century. Among the composers who have written music for the guitar are Paganini, Sor, Weber, Falla, and Villa-Lobos. Andres Segovia is considered the outstanding contemporary guitar recitalist. Before it became a concert instrument in the 19th and 20th centuries, the guitar was widely used to accompany singing. It is still popular for this purpose. A recently developed type of guitar is the Hawaiian guitar, which has wire strings and a sliding metal bar to control the pitch of the strings. The electric guitar, which is equipped with an electric amplifier to increase the volume of the tone, was introduced in about 1936.


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