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The guitar is a unique invention—an invention that transforms matter into pure emotions.

The acoustic guitar as we know it today, encompassing both the classical "Spanish" guitar and the folk guitar, is a relatively recent instrument. However, its origins are very ancient.




  1. History

1.1 The Ancestors of the Guitar

It is likely that the origin of the first ancestor of plucked string instruments was the hunting bow. Cave paintings of musical bows dating back 15,000 years have been found in France. Descendants of these musical bows are still used today in Africa (calabash) and Brazil (berimbau).

In antiquity, paintings attest to the use of a three-stringed instrument with a cedar body and a neck during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt more than 3,500 years ago. A three-stringed instrument with a rounded body is also found in Mesopotamia under the name "tanbur" and later in the Persian Empire, where "three strings" is referred to as "sih tar" in Persian!

© icm-musique.fr 

Since Egypt and the Middle East were crossroads of civilizations, this string instrument later appeared in various forms in the Arab world with the Moors' oud in the 10th century and in Europe with the Carolingians' lute, which introduced frets on the neck. During the Middle Ages, the lute was popular and coexisted with the vihuela, which appeared in Spain from the 15th century and distinguished itself from the lute by its curved shape. The word "quitarre" is mentioned in the "Roman de la Rose" in the 13th century. All these instruments had three, four, or five double strings, and sometimes more.

The guitar began to take on its modern shape during the Renaissance under the name "guitarra," which likely comes from the Latin word "cithara," itself derived from the Sanskrit "tar," meaning "string." The guitarra was still smaller than today's guitar but had six single strings. In its Baroque form in the 18th century, it could have nine or ten strings.


© icm-musique.fr 


1.2 The Modern Guitar

The guitar took its modern form with the Spanish luthier Antonio Torres in the mid-19th century, becoming larger and more voluminous. Torres is considered the father of the classical guitar.

The folk guitar emerged in the 19th century in the United States with Christian Martin, a German immigrant who replaced gut strings with steel strings and introduced a flat, X-braced soundboard to withstand the additional tension of the strings. The folk guitar further evolved in the early 20th century in the United States with Orville Gibson. It was also in the United States that the electric guitar was created by Gibson, Les Paul, and Leo Fender between 1930 and 1950.


  1. Innovations in the 20th and 21st Centuries

The modern acoustic guitar has been the subject of innovations since the establishment of the patent system, particularly in terms of structures and materials. Some innovations are quite astonishing.

The body of a modern acoustic guitar initially consists of a soundboard with an opening, a back, sides that form the lateral edges and join the back and the soundboard, and internal reinforcement bars. This body extends into a neck with a head at its end, to which the six strings are attached at one end and fastened to the bridge on the soundboard at the other. Inserted in the neck and running along its entire length is an adjustment rod, called a "truss rod," which allows the curvature of the neck to be adjusted to modify the action (height) of the strings relative to the neck.


2.1 Structure and Materials

The guitar must be lightweight and hollow to serve as a resonance chamber for the sounds created by the vibrating strings. The first guitars were made of wood, a noble material par excellence. Naturally, experiments have been conducted with the guitar's structure and new materials.

In terms of structure, the body has been modified to make it more resistant and ideally lighter. In US 2007/277664, several reinforcements are replaced by a circular element in composite material around the soundboard opening, a stress concentration point, making the guitar lighter and easier to manufacture. In US7612271, tubular reinforcements in carbon or glass fibers are used. The soundboard can be made by molding a short-fiber composite (US 4429608) or by molding a multidirectional long-fiber composite (US 5333527, US 6664452). In EP 1156475, the soundboard is a sandwich structure in carbon fiber composite with a wood core, attempting to replicate the sound of a traditional solid wood soundboard. In US 2023/326433, the soundboard is a sandwich structure in carbon fiber composite with a honeycomb core.

There have also been attempts to modify the neck structure, such as in US 2004/003700, which proposes reinforcing the neck with carbon tubes extending along the truss rod.

The Chinese guitar LAVA is made entirely of injected carbon, with a monobloc body and a hollow neck with ribs (CN206991744U, WO 2019/109796).


2.2 Innovative Travel Guitars

Although the acoustic guitar is relatively easy to transport, it can sometimes be too bulky for traveling musicians, especially on long-distance flights. Therefore, modular guitars have appeared more recently.


Dismantlable Guitars...

US 4573391 and US 6188005 propose a guitar that can be completely disassembled into a curved polymer or composite back, a perforated soundboard, a neck, and a head for transport in a suitcase. The guitar also includes an inflatable bag to be placed in the back, serving as a resonance chamber.

US6025548 and US7705224 propose a dismantlable guitar with a soundboard that can be removed, designed to store the detachable neck and a head/bridge assembly carrying the strings. The guitar is assembled into its final form with mechanical fittings (snap-in, bolts).

More recently, the French company MOGI (WO2022268796) designed a travel guitar whose back and neck detach from a body consisting of the soundboard with a bridge and sides. This guitar features several innovations, including a one-piece carbon soundboard and sides, which provide rigidity and help restore the sound of an ordinary guitar after assembly. The guitar assembly is simplified thanks to the snap-in back on the perimeter of the sides and the simplified securing of the neck to the body. The body fits into a backpack with a compartment for the neck, and the hollow space in the body can be used to store travel items for minimal total bulk.

The Japanese YAMAHA (EP2725573) and the Chinese DONNER (USD999815S), along with a few others (e.g., the American TRAVELER GUITAR, the Japanese SABA (WO2017169780)), have developed a completely different concept of a dismantlable guitar: the central part of the body is a solid wooden block extended by the neck to form an elongated one-piece body that carries the strings.

In YAMAHA's model, one side detaches, and the other folds with an innovative mechanism. In DONNER's "Hush-1" model, both sides are detachable. In SABA's model, both sides fold against the neck, creating a narrow shape of less than a meter with minimal volume for transport. The one-piece body solution has the advantage that it is not necessary to adjust the strings with each guitar assembly. DONNER and SABA have further innovated by moving the string tension keys from the head of the neck to the end of the body, reducing the length of the disassembled guitar by eliminating the head. However, in these models, the resonance chamber is lost, so the guitar includes an integrated preamp and must be connected to an external amplifier to reproduce the sound of an acoustic guitar.


...And Folding Guitars

Folding guitars with a neck that folds over the front of the body have been imagined. The need for quick and rigid securing of the neck to the body in the folded position has led to the development of specific innovations. US 2007/289427 introduces a locking mechanism in an internal reinforcement of the body at the neck. VOYAGE AIR (US 8203058) patented a neck rotation mechanism with pivot and slide and a centering device.

The "Snapaxe" guitar by English company SNAPDRAGON (GB 2499775) also features detachable sides from the wooden body. An innovation includes a neck that pivots at its proximal end parallel to the main plane of the body to fold against it in minimal volume.

The guitar, a millennia-old instrument unique for its portability, range, polyphonic chords, ability to accompany singing and other instruments, and fragility, continues to evolve and adapt to the peculiarities of the times. It will once again be the star of music festivals, in France this summer on June 21, and around the world.


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