A Brief History of the Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitars have a long and rich history. After all, music is a common language and has been around for centuries. So it only stands to reason that acoustic guitars and acoustic archtops have been around almost as long!

One of the earliest depictions of a guitar-like instrument was found on a plaque excavated from Babylonia dated sometime around 1850 B.C. There is also evidence that an instrument similar to an acoustic guitar was played in ancient Egypt and also in ancient Rome. These early guitars were the foundation for the guitars we know and love nowadays, including acoustic archtops.

Then in the Middle Ages, there were guitars made with three, four and five strings. There was the Guitarra Latina. This type of guitar had sides that curved and came to Spain from elsewhere in Europe. Then there was the Guitarra Morisca, which was brought to Spain by the Moors. This type of guitar had an oval soundbox and several sound holes on its soundboard. This was known as an oud, which was very popular in North Africa during this time period.

Many people are familiar with a lute, which came about after the Moors brought the oud to Europe. It was then altered and eventually became the lute.

By the time the 15th century rolled around, four double-string guitars were popular and by the 16th century, a fifth double-string was also popular.

In the 17th century, the country that was best-known for its guitar making was Italy. About a century later, the Spaniards started making guitars, and thanks to the improved communication and transportation of the 19th century, the guitar became more and more popular.

Antonio de Torres developed the acoustic guitar in 1859. He made the Spanish guitar, which many people are also familiar with. He made many other changes to the guitar at the time, and that is what evolved into the acoustic guitar.

The popular steel string guitar originated in America during the early 20th century. From there, two popular types came about: the flat top guitar and the archtop guitar. And from there, we got acoustic archtops!

Andres Segovia, who was a Spanish guitarist, was one of the driving forces behind the guitar’s popularity as a concert instrument. Acoustic archtops are generally used in folk and jazz music, although you will hear acoustic archtops in some other types of music as well.

Are you interested in learning more about acoustic archtops? Call Fine Archtops at 612-366-7120 or browse our site to learn more about our Archtop Luthiers.