The rock guitarist and singer Joan Jett is quoted as saying, "My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am." If you are a guitarist, then that may really resonate with you. February 11 is National Guitar Day, and the library is here to help you celebrate it now and every day with books, scores, sound recordings, and videos.
The guitar is a member of the lute family, and the instrument as we know it today has it roots in Renaissance Spain. At that time, the instruments may have had either flat backs (like we see today) or rounded backs (like that of the lute). In the 16th century, guitars had only four courses of strings but by the 17th century they sometimes appeared with the six courses of strings that are common today.
The big change in guitars happened after the Baroque period, where guitars that looked like the one pictured above changed into the modern variety we are familiar with now. Six individual strings became the norm instead of the more typical double stringed approach. A open soundhole replaced the intricately decorated rose (as in the Baroque model seen above), and in general decorative flourishes disappeared. The pegs holding the strings that allow for tuning became mechanical instead of simple wood. Frets (the bars that are placed perpendicular to the strings on the neck of the instrument) changed from movable gut frets to fixed metal frets. These and other changes made an instrument like the one shown below.
Changes did not stop with the modern six-string acoustic guitar. The biggest change came with the advent of amplified electric guitars in the 1930s. At first, these guitars were hollow bodied instruments like the modern acoustic guitar, but by 1950 the first solid-body electric guitar was available commercially. Separate devices known as pedals allowed the players to change the sounds of the guitar, and some commonly known pedals are the wah-wah and the fuzz. A major innovator of the instrument was Les Paul, who you can hear in this video from 1951.
Whatever genre of music you enjoy, you're sure to find guitarists who will play it. The instrument lends itself to so many styles in all its variations! Whether you are a performer or someone who appreciates the music, happy Guitar Day!
Books About Guitars and Guitarists
Instrumentals: Best of the Capitol Years, Leo Kottke
Blue Lightning, Yngwie Malmsteen