The Lowdown on How the Guitar Got Its Popularity

Just how did learning to play the guitar get so popular?

The guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments in the world. No matter where you are, or the genre you prefer, the guitar is everywhere in the music you hear. But then, just how did this wooden stringed box become so popular? has tons of information.

A Quick History

First up, here’s a quick history because everyone loves a history class!

The name ‘guitar’ comes from the ancient Sanskrit word ‘tar,’ meaning string. It’s also derived from the Old Persian word ‘chartar,’ or ‘four strings.’ This is because the earliest guitars only had four strings – these were particularly popular in Europe during the Renaissance. The five-stringed version appeared a little later in Italy, tuned at A/D/G/B/E.

Italy was also responsible for adding the sixth string, which appeared in the 17th century. From the 18th century onwards, these were considered the standard, although they were still much smaller than what we consider to be the ‘standard’ today.

Spanish guitar maker Antonio Torres is responsible for the size, shape, and performance of modern guitars – his improvements increased the volume and refined the tone of the guitar. His work is still considered the gold standard.

Steel strings were added in the 20th century, followed by the electric guitar in the late 1920s (although it didn’t’ become popular until 1936), which exploded with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s.

Why the Guitar Is So Popular

There are tons of reasons why the guitar has become so popular since the mid-20th century. Firstly, it’s one of the most lightweight and portable of all instruments, so you can take it anywhere such as in a car, on a plane, on a hike – the world is your oyster. Can you imagine carrying a double bass to a campfire? Nope, neither can we.

Another reason for the guitar’s enduring popularity is that you don’t need a mouth to play it. This sounds odd, but when you think about it – guitarists can accompany themselves with vocals, while wind and brass players can’t as they have a mouth full of an instrument. You can also play an entire chord on a guitar, which you can’t do with woodwind or brass instruments.

Another thing to note about guitars is that they’re actually kind of easy to play and learn. While getting really good at any musical instrument takes time, practice, and dedication, getting to a reasonable level of skill on the guitar is pretty straightforward, and doesn’t require the level of precision, technique or training that some other instruments do (like training your lip muscles to play the trumpet).

The final, and probably the most important reason why the guitar is so popular, is its versatility. You can use a guitar for everything! While several instruments are only ever really used in certain genres, say classical or jazz, the guitar can be used in literally any type of music you can think of, from hip-hop to rock, metal, blues, jazz, and pop.

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