Oct 26, 2020
I love this image of Stevie Ray Vaughan with his acoustic guitar. The history and sound of the guitar will be forever linked with its country of origin; Spain.
This image clearly reflects that Spanish connection in the fashion and dress accompanying the guitar. Many artists have portrayed the guitarist in one pose or another from Vermeer to Picasso. This image to me speaks to the tradition and respect for the guitars amazing origins. These stringed instruments stretch back thousands of years with the earliest precursors to the modern guitar evidenced in the early 1100’s. At that time Troubadours freely traveled the Andalusia peninsula from Southern France, Spain, and Catalonia and into parts of Italy. They sang songs, played solos, and accompanied actors, storytellers, poets and jugglers.
Finally around 1850 the form and structure of the modern guitar came forth. Some of the most important developments were established by the Spanish master builders. The most important guitar maker was probably Antonio Torres Jurado. He increased the size of the guitar body, altered its proportions and invented the breakthrough fan braced pattern. Bracing which refers to the internal pattern of wood reinforcements used to secure the guitars top and back and prevent the instrument from collapsing under tension is an important factor in how the guitar sounds. The bracing improves the volume, tone and projection of the instrument greatly. Amazingly this essential development is largely unchanged today.
Today the guitars are divided into two broad categories: Acoustic and electric guitars. The need to be heard became even more important for guitar players when they began playing with larger ensembles. They wanted to play single lines like the other instruments and wanted to be heard. The musical inventors of the 1930’s in America knew they had to go electronic. The electrified guitar continued its journey toward the development of the solid body guitar. It resisted feedback and provided the power needed to develop its unique voice.
It's interesting to see the influence of the Spanish guitar even reflected in the name of the early electric guitar models. Initially the new electric guitars bore the name ES for Electric Spanish guitars. Some makers continue to use these initials today.
There are several notable types of guitars that remain popular. Acoustic, Renaissance and Baroque guitars, Classical, Flat Top, Arch top, Resonator or Dobros, 12-string Guitars, Acoustic Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, 7 string and 8 string guitars and more.
The guitar is undoubtedly one of the most popular instruments today. And its popularity is well founded. It's very portable. You can take it anywhere. It's flexible in tone and timber and suitable for many styles of music. It's polyphonic. You can play melody lines and you can play chords. Or both at the same time! They're inexpensive to buy and there is a wide range of sounds and qualities that you can choose from. The guitar is very accessible and easy to learn. With a little bit of practice a student can get right to the music and with a little more practice, get good fast. Not only can you play the guitar but you can sing along as well.
Looking at Stevie Ray, it’s as if he represents all guitar players. Portraying the singing Troubadour, strumming his guitar and singing his song. He still brings joy and happiness to all those who hear him.