To Sum up ….here are a few pivotal points in the development of the concert (or classic) guitar.
(1) Until approximately 1800A.D., everything to do with guitar playing and manufacture was in a state of flux. Tunings varied from country to country – different makers favored different numbers of strings. Then around the turn of the century the industry – or what there was of an industry, somehow got together and agreed to stay with the six-stringed instrument tuned to E A D G B E. This much needed standardization brought everyone in line to concentrate upon the biggest problem of all – if any one thing had prevented the guitar from joining the hallowed circles of so-called legit instruments, this was it ……
HOW DOES A PLAYER COPE WITH MUSIC THAT FALLS EVENLY ACROSS BOTH TREBLE AND BASS CLEF, UPON A SINGLE-HANDED FRETBOARD?
For three centuries this seemingly insurmountable obstacle had made all but the best players dependent upon tablature (simplified number based notation) – and tablature, like any unorthodox system prevents its users from joining the main stream of musical action where one must learn to sink or swim with our funny old dots ‘n’ spots approach.
Pianists of course face the same ‘two clef’ problem, but with two hands available to cover the range, everything falls into place comfortably – left hand – bass clef, right hand – treble. The guitar can produce a tremendous range of colors and pitches, but they must all be covered with the scope of four fingers – not ten.
Eventually, a solution was found ….
MAKE THE GUITAR A TRANSPOSING INSTRUMENT
Graphically display its sounds one octave higher than they sound; thereby moving everything up onto the one stave and eliminating the need to read bass clef.
Overnight the players lost their reading hang-ups. The ability to read efficiently brought the players and instrument into the world of the professional composer- from there on in, pushed by Sor, Aguado and a handful of other great writer-players, it was “Up, Up and Away.”
(2) 1850 – Torres
(3) 1880 – Tarrega
(4) 1930 – Segovia shaping new audiences via radio and records
(5) The early 1950’s saw the arrival of nylon strings. In the past guitars had been strung with gut and a performer could never be sure that their stings would see them through a concert or assignment without breaking. Nylon proved to be a success. Here at last was the long-sought after solution to a troubling problem and this new product, when adapted to the old and beautiful instrument, not only brought out all of the latter’s latent potential, but could also be relied upon to retain its strength, vibrancy and tone throughout the longest and most strenuous of performances. Today, all classical and flamenco guitar – except those belonging to antiquarians or to musicians who deliberately strive to recreate the guitar music of yesteryear in its original form – are strung with nylon monofilament for the first three strings. For the deeper note, the bass strings, the strings are made of nylon thread cores wound around with silver, brass or bronze alloys.
So, there stands the classic or concert guitar as we know it today.
Origins Of “Non-Classical” Guitar – Part 1 ===============================================
Many areas of latter day music can be traced back to one source – a unique off-shoot that separated from the mainstream of guitar development and found its voice in Hawaii circa 1870.
Here is a partial list of techniques, musical devices and developments that come first or secondhand from this off-shoot chain ……
*The rise to power of the steel-string guitar (in country, folk and jazz),
*The slide or steel technique,
*The variety of tunings associated with slide or steel playing that have become part of country, bluegrass and folk music,
*The national or Dobro resonator amplified instrument,
*The eventual electrification of the Hawaiian guitar in 1932, (this preceded the standard electric guitar by some five years),
*The steel guitar sounds which added to the orchestral coloration of Western Swing bands that so dominated the musical tastes of American South-West from 1930-1960,floyd rose
*These same colorations reshaped the sound of everything that put Nashville up front as a music center,
*The modern pedal steel guitar,
*The Chromatic slide-slipping into harmonic changes that became so much a part of the style of Charlie Christian and the Jazz masters who developed his findings.
The historical beginnings of the Polynesian styles are rather obscure, but it is known that European guitar music had been heard in the islands as early as 1782, just a few years after the discoveries of Captain Cook.
By 1830 the rapidly expanding Hawaiian cattle and leather industries necessitated the importation of “vaquerous”, cowboys from Southern California and Mexico, and with them came the gut-string guitar. Fortunately they did not bring their European classical attitudes, but used the instrument to accompany their cowboy (or ‘paniolo’) songs. Their ready acceptance into island life helped to focus attention upon the guitar as an ideal adjunct to the existing Polynesian singing styles.