Are you a big fan of guitar music, or just want to know a bit more about the instrument? Either way, keep reading for 10 interesting facts you might not be aware of. Guitars have been around for years now, and they might be one of the most popular types of instruments today especially in chart music. While electronic dance tracks have grown in popularity, nothing has come close to the cultural impact and popularity of the guitar on the music industry in the last half a century or so. You might think you know everything there is to know about guitars now, but do you really? Let’s have a look…
1. It’s older than you might think
While the word “guitar” didn’t start to be used until a lot later, the first guitar-like instrument dates back to between 5000 and 3500 years ago. Some experts think the guitar evolved from instruments like the Sitara in ancient India. However, not everyone accepts this history—as there’s some argument that the oldest guitars were actually in ancient Egypt. The reality is that guitar-like instruments probably existed in both locations completely independently and weren’t influenced by each other. Some other experts also claim guitars originate from Persia, or modern-day Iran. The oldest image of a guitar-like instrument is a 3300-year-old stone carving.
While there are obviously no actual guitars or similar instruments around today that were made back then, the oldest guitar that’s still in one piece is the 500-year-old Warwick Gittern. It’s believed to be around 500 years old and may have belonged to Henry 8th.
2. There are lots of different string variants
While the most common guitar today has 6 strings, this wasn’t always the case. Nor is it the only type of guitar around. Bass guitars only have 4 strings, while there’s also a 12-stringed variant. You’ve probably seen some metal-strung guitars already, but not all of them are like this. Guitar manufacturer Ibanez have also started adding 7 and 8 stringed guitars to their production lines.
3. It’s not the most popular instrument to learn
This might be surprising since it’s probably the most well-known instrument in popular music and many have considered it the coolest for decades. However, new people choosing to play an instrument for the first time don’t tend to go for guitars straight away. The classic guitar is more popular than the electric guitar—but these are both beaten by recorders, the piano and the keyboard. As such an affordable and easy to learn instrument, the recorder is perhaps not surprising, but the piano has one of the highest costs associated with getting into, so this might be a bit more surprising.
4. You can get really big and really small guitars
You might think you’ve seen a few small guitars, but you probably haven’t seen as small as they can really get. The smallest guitar ever was 10 millionths of a meter long. That means you’d need a microscope to see it. This mini-guitar was made at Cornell University.
The biggest every guitar came in at 13 meters long. That’s about 43 feet. As you can imagine, this mega guitar was heavy, too. It weighed over 1000kg. As a fully-functional guitar, it was still able to play a tune.
5. Who owns the first Stratocaster is a mystery
While the Stratocaster with the #0001 serial number might be the most famous, it’s not actually the first guitar of this type. The original and first-made Stratocaster had serial number #0100 and there’s a lot more mystery surrounding who owns it. The guitar was built in 1954
It was sold in a vintage guitar store in Tennessee by George Gruhn for $250,000 in 2014. Other than him, nobody really knows who owns it.
6. There’s a quad guitar
You might have seen a few double guitars, but there’s even a quad guitar. Mexican guitarist Michael Angelo Batio has made the double guitar famous and is considered one of the fastest guitarists ever. He also has his own specially made quad guitar. It has four necks with either 6 or 7 strings on each. This guitar was once stolen in El Paso and Michael had to buy it back in the UK when he found it years later.
7. At-home learning became popular in the 19th century
While learning music had already been popular, people first started getting into learning as a hobby and pastime in America in the 19th century. That’s when it became a bit more affordable to do so. You could see this as the start of the wave of popularity guitars surfed over the next century or so.
8. There are 14 components in a guitar
A typical guitar has 14 different parts. Do you think you can name them all? What parts of a guitar are there? Let’s have a look:
A guitar is made up of a saddle, bridge and sides, along with a back. There are also turning pegs, as well as the fretboard (which is also known as the neck or fingerboard). There’s the “nut”, along with the fret, strings and soundboard. The soundboard might also be known as the top or body depending on where you are or who you ask. As well as these parts, there’s also the upper and lower bouts, rosette and sound hole. And that’s just for a standard guitar! Other variants do have other parts. Some might have more, some might have fewer.
9. Written music might be older than you think
While traditional sheet music may date back longer, simple tablature music that became popular alongside guitar use also dates back to the 14th century. Many people see these tabs as a modern way of learning, but they aren’t. More primitive forms of music language go back even further.
10. A man married a guitar
That’s right! While this might not be recognised by law, someone has indeed married their own guitar. The marriage took place in the UK in 2001.
Hopefully now you know a bit more about the famous guitar and some of the variants associated with it, as well as a bit of history.