Who Invented The Acoustic Guitar? 

The acoustic guitar is an instrument that may seem like it has been around forever, but this is not the case.
Who invented the acoustic guitar

While it’s true that some version of the stringed instrument has been around since the dark ages, the acoustic guitar as we know it has only been around for about 180 years.

So, who invented the acoustic guitar? The modern-day acoustic guitar was created by a man named Christian Frederick Martin in the year 1843. However, one person can’t take all the credit, since the evolution of the guitar, in general, has gone on for centuries. 

This article will go over the history of the guitar over the last few centuries, as well as take a look into the lives of the innovative men responsible for the latest guitar models and some of the artists that turned the tide for guitar music as a whole. 

What Is An Acoustic Guitar? 

An acoustic guitar is a string instrument used for making music by plucking or strumming the strings. It has a hollowed-out body and six steel strings and does not require electric amplification. The structure of an acoustic guitar was intentionally designed to withstand the tension of steel strings. 

An acoustic guitar is often easily mistaken for a classical guitar, but the latter has been around much longer. The acoustic guitar’s steel strings replaced the nylon strings of the classical guitar, creating a much brighter and sharper sound. 

Who Was C.F Martin? 

Christian Frederick Martin is the founder of C.F Martin & Co, which has been around since 1833. Born January 31st, 1796, in Markneukirchen, Germany, Martin moved to the US in 1833, where he opened his guitar shop. Martin ran his business out of New York City for five years before moving to Pennsylvania in 1838, where it is today.

Martin was credited with creating the first steel-stringed guitar and inventing x-bracing. His brand has since become one of the most recognizable in the world, with many famous artists using Martin guitars for their music. Today, almost 200 years later, C.F Martin & CO is still family-owned, with Martin’s great great great grandson operating as CEO. 

The History Of The Acoustic Guitar 

While the version of the acoustic guitar that we know today didn’t come around until the 18th century, guitars, or at least stringed instruments, have been around since as early as 1450 BC.  Before the acoustic guitar was invented, several versions of the classical guitar were available worldwide. Before that, instruments such as the lute and the oud were popular. 

Early guitars 

Classical guitars, especially the baroque and vihuela, were among the most popular instruments for musicians in the 16th and 17th centuries. Classical guitars could have 3 or 4 strings, depending on who made them, and the strings were made from some form of animal intestines. The sound was much softer and carried less far than an acoustic guitar. 

In 1776, a man named Gaetano Vinaccia from Naples, Italy was credited with developing what is known as the early romantic guitar, the very first 6-stringed guitar. However, there is no solid historical evidence for this fact. By the 1790s, 6-stringed guitars were gaining popularity. So, in the interest of finding out more about the origins around who invented the acoustic guitar, let’s go to Spain.

Changing the game

In the 1850s, a man named Antonio de Torres Jurado, a Spanish luthier, is said to have completely changed the game for guitars. Antonio’s story is a sad one, which involves his wife and two of his three daughters dying before he even turned 30. Like many musicians, we can guess his grief drove him to his work. 

Antonio created guitars much broader and thinner than previous guitar models, and his fan bracing gave his guitars their unique sound. His design is still used for many classic guitar models today.

The guitars made by Antonio de Torres Jurado are split into two periods: number one in Sevilla from 1852—1870 and number two years 1871—1893 in Almería. Antonio’s guitars were so superior to his peers that he completely changed how guitars were built. The impact happened first in Spain and then in the rest of the world. While his guitars are not very loud by modern standards, they have a pristine, balanced, solid, and rounded tone that can project well. 

Antonio’s guitar designs were copied many, many times. Many expert fakes have been made since he never signed his guitars and only numbered the ones from his second creative period. 

Despite the general pattern of modern classical guitars originating with Antonio, some differences exist between his classical guitars and today’s modern instrument. Where Antonio’s guitars were strung with gut, basses of silk threads, and overwound with silver, today’s classical guitars are all strung with nylon. All of Antonio’s guitars had soundboards made of European spruce, whereas western red cedar is now frequently used.

The face of classical guitar music

The classical guitar gained even more traction in the 1900s when Andrés Segovia Torres came on the scene. Born in 1893, Andrés played his first public performance at just 16 years old and was touring by age 20. 

Andrés is considered a monumental figure in gaining respectability for guitars as legitimate, respectable concert instruments. He showed the world that guitars could be powerfully evocative and capable of a depth of interpretation. While the public previously viewed the guitar as a simple parlor instrument, Andrés brought layers of emotion and dignity. 

Andrés’ generation and many after him found him inspiring and worthy of admiration and respect. He passed away in 1983, and in 1995  the Segovia Museum “Fundación Andrés Segovia”  was established in Linares, his birthplace. The museum erected a bronze statue in his honor that was unveiled in May of 1984. 

The acoustic guitar 

Nearly 200 years after creating it, C.F. Martin’s acoustic guitar, now known as a flat-top guitar, remains the most popular form of acoustic guitar. 

Martin was the first to replace the old-fashioned fan-bracing with x-bracing, which helped the guitar handle the extra stress of the modern steel strings. This would have been problematic with Antonio de Torres Jurado’s classical guitar. 

The flat-top’s tight steel strings also require a guitarist to adjust their playing style, often using picks more often. 

This inherently changed the type of music played on these instruments. With classical guitars, melodies are clear-cut, graceful, and soft. With steel strings and picks, guitarists create much more vibrant and chord-driven music. Using picks also prompted the development of the pickguard, which is now often seen on most flat-top guitars. 

Final Thoughts 

Over the last few centuries, we’ve seen music and instruments change drastically in many ways. As previously stated, the evolution of the guitar can not necessarily be credited to just one person. The men we’ve covered throughout history did not know each other and did not even live in the same era, but they all shared a great passion for music and the innovation of their instruments.

The acoustic guitar is now a fundamental instrument in street music, homes, and bars and has a special place in the hearts of country music lovers everywhere. However, there is a wide range of genre that uses this instrument. Despite not being the latest model, the acoustic guitar still has a place in the music industry and likely always will. 

Stringed instruments have a long history of continuously evolving and changing. In the grand scheme of things, the acoustic guitar is still relatively young. Innovations for guitars, such as cutaways, acoustic pick-ups, torrefaction, and more, will continue. Give it another few hundred years, and who knows what will come about?

Guitar Tricks Free Trial

Most awesome guitar accessories!

Please check out our friends at Thalia Capos, who are committed to bringing you the very best guitar accessories on earth! Hands down the coolest products and designs we’ve seen online.

Leave a Comment