The History of the Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar has changed a lot over the years, and it’s fascinating to see how it has evolved. From its early beginnings to the guitars we have today, there have been many improvements in design, materials, and sound. 

In this article, we’ll take a trip through time and explore the journey of the acoustic guitar’s transformation.

Let’s dive in and uncover the fascinating story of the acoustic guitar’s evolution!

The History of the Acoustic Guitar

The history of the acoustic guitar has been a topic of many discussions. People have different theories about who invented it and where it came from.

Some believe that the Europeans played a significant role in its development during the Middle Ages. Others think that the Arabic instrument called the “Oud” had a big influence on the evolution of stringed instruments, including the acoustic guitar.

According to these historians, the Oud was brought to Spain after the Moorish conquest in the 9th century and is believed to have descended from an earlier instrument called the tanbur.

The acoustic guitar belongs to a family of musical instruments known as Chordophones, which produce sound when the strings are vibrated. One instrument that played a significant role in its development is the tanbur, a term used to describe different types of Chordophones like Lyres, Zithers, Lutes, Harps, and Musical Bowls. These instruments laid the foundation for the evolution of the acoustic guitar.

Acoustic Guitar in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the acoustic guitar continued to evolve, influenced by instruments like the Oud, Lute, Vihuela, Cittern, and Mandolin.

The Oud

The Oud, introduced to Spain after the Moorish conquest in the 9th century, is considered a precursor to the lute. It played a vital role in the evolution of the acoustic guitar and helped bridge cultural differences between the West and the East during that time.

The Lute

The lute, a popular instrument that emerged after the Oud, had a curved back and multiple courses of strings. It was strummed with a quill feather, and its history can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire.

The Vihuela

The Vihuela, a stringed instrument with a fretboard and neck, produced sound through three variants: Vihuela de Mano (played with fingers), Vihuela de Peñola (played with a plectrum), and Vihuela de Arco (played with a bow).

The Cittern

Cittern, also known as the Cithern, shares similarities with the modern mandolin and classical guitars. It has a pear-shaped body and a flat back, and its design was inspired by the citole. Today, it is known as the Lutherzither or the Waldzither.

The Mandolin

The mandolin, credited to the Vinaccia family led by Gaetano Vinaccia, is considered one of the acoustic guitar’s predecessors. It has four strings and shares features with Renaissance period instruments and the Medieval Lute. The mandolin’s production coincided with the remodeling of traditional stringed instruments to resemble the modern guitar’s shape.

When Was the Modern Acoustic Guitar Invented?

history of the guitar

The modern acoustic guitar, as we know it today, took shape in 1850 when Spanish guitar manufacturer Antonio Torres Jurado developed its prototype. He made significant improvements in the size, design, and proportions of the body and neck.

Later, in the late 18th century, Francisco Sanguino introduced fan bracing, further enhancing the acoustic guitar’s sound quality. The credit for popularizing the six-string acoustic guitar globally goes to German immigrant Christian Frederick Martin, who introduced steel-made strings, replacing the traditional sheep intestine strings.

This marked the invention of the modern-day acoustic guitar, designed to accommodate banjo players and offer greater comfort to players with a cleverly designed hollow inner structure.

Modern Acoustic Guitar Types

Modern acoustic guitars come in various shapes and sizes, and they can be divided into six prominent types.

Dreadnought Guitar

The dreadnought guitar, created by C. F. Martin, is the oldest standard acoustic guitar with a common body shape found in the market. It was named after the HMS Dreadnought battleship due to its large size and bold sound.

Parlor Guitar

Parlor guitars, popularized in recent years, have small and sleek bodies, making them suitable for individuals with a smaller body frame. They are favored by folk artists for their ability to produce soft, melodic tunes and intimate sound quality.

Jumbo Guitar

Jumbo guitars are larger and are called “big boys” of acoustic guitars. Introduced by Gibson with the iconic J-200 model in 1937, they have been used by renowned musicians like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.

Also, we have an article about the differences between Dreadnought and Jumbo guitars – you can take a look.  

Auditorium Guitar

Auditorium guitars share similarities with dreadnought guitars but have a wider waist, resulting in a distinct tonal difference. They generate a smooth sound with lighter string gauges and are frequently used by musicians like Eric Clapton.

Grand Auditorium Guitar

Grand auditorium guitars are bigger versions of auditorium guitars, and they have a special cut on the body near the neck. Taylor Guitars is the brand that introduced these guitars, and they are known for producing incredible sound quality. You can hear the amazing sound of these guitars in performances by artists like Taylor Swift.

Classical Guitar

Classical guitars are special because of their unique design and the soft, smooth sound they make with their nylon strings. When you play a classical guitar, it feels like you’re transported to a medieval European orchestra. These guitars are perfect if you enjoy playing with your fingers, creating beautiful melodies and intricate patterns.

If you want to know more about classical guitar, you can check out our article: What is the difference between classical and acoustic guitar?

Semi-Acoustic/Electric Guitar

Semi-acoustic electric guitars, popular before the 1960s, have hollow bodies like acoustic guitars but require amplification to produce sound. They offer a dynamically responsive and warm tone, preferred by guitar legends like BB King and Chuck Berry for their blues-inclined and vibrant sound.


The acoustic guitar’s history is a captivating journey filled with cultural influences, instrument evolution, and the creativity of inventors. Today, we enjoy a variety of acoustic guitar types, each with unique qualities and sound. Let’s celebrate the rich legacy and joy the acoustic guitar brings to our lives as we continue to explore the world of music.

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