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Modern Guitar Innovations – 1850 – Torres

The guitar in "Young woman playing a guitar" is not a modern design.Recently while reading an online guitar magazine, I saw an ad for a guitar which claimed it was the result of an amazing innovative design. Although the guitar did in fact have one fairly innovative feature, I began thinking about the history of the guitar and the innovative features that got us to today’s guitar models.

This then, is a first in a series on guitar innovation. Guitars, lutes and other stringed instruments similar to guitars existed long before the point I am starting this series. For example, the guitar in the painting (see image to left) is both recognizable as a guitar and yet is clearly not a “modern” guitar. I am choosing a somewhat arbitrary place in time but one that makes sense. It is the beginning of the “modern” guitar and the time frame is the mid-nineteenth century.

The Modern Guitar Takes Shape

This guitar is a descendant of designs made by Torres in the 19th Century.Visit a museum or read a book about the history of the guitar and you will see early instruments that you can identify as guitar-like yet clearly are not modern instruments. Guitars that we can identify as “modern” evolved in the late 19th century due to the experimentation of Torres. The size and shape of the Torres guitar, though perhaps slightly smaller than some of today’s classical guitars, is recognizable as a “modern” guitar and not a renaissance instrument. Among his innovations are making the top thinner, using fan bracing and making the top and back slightly arched. The size and shape were widely adapted and Martin 00 sized guitars are similar in size and shape.

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