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40. Signs and Wonders - Guitar


lute-like musical instrument, 1620s, from French guitare, which was altered by Spanish and Provençal forms from Old French guiterre, earlier guiterne, from Latin cithara, from Greek kithara "cithara," a triangular seven-stringed musical instrument related to the lyre, perhaps from Persian sihtar. The name reached English several times, including giterne (early 14c., from Old French), in reference to various stringed, guitar-like instruments; the modern word is also directly from Spanish guitarra (14c.), which ultimately is from the Greek. The Arabic word is perhaps from Spanish or Greek, though often the relationship is said to be the reverse. The modern guitar is one of a large class of instruments used in all countries and ages but particularly popular in Spain and periodically so in France and England. Other 17c, forms of the word in English include guittara, guitarra, gittar, and guitarre.


The note on a guitar string dies the minute

it is plucked. Though it is after all winter

and this controls us like the climate

what read or spoken we will remember.

Lines rising above page and tongue forming

into tiny storm clouds that dispense

letters like rain on long hours falling

until our rooms and corridors burst

with the flood of all that's wrong and what we

never can put right and what leaks away

anyway despite what our best intentions be.

And mixing metaphors of how we began may

double back and find us out of tune

with what we heard and then forgot too soon.

Jeff Guess


Five things about the guitar and its history

The guitar, as we know it today, is perhaps the most popular modern instrument. It is perhaps the versatility, and range of available today that has seen it become the central instrument in the vast majority of popular music. You may be far less familiar with its history, however. It’s far longer, and far more interesting than you might think.Here are five interesting facts about the guitar, which you may not know.

The oldest guitar-like instrument is 3500 years old

Forget ‘50s Telecasters and Les Pauls– this is a truly vintage instrument. It was found in Egypt, and is believed to have belonged to a singer known as Har-Mose. He was employed by Architect to Queen Hatshepsut, and buried, with his instrument, close to his employer.It was constructed of cedar, featured 3 strings and had a plectrum, of sorts, attached by a cord to the neck. *adopts guitar-nerd voice* ‘The guitars were always better, pre-roman invasion…’

The first instruments to bear the name ‘Guitar’ appeared in the 13th century

The name ‘guitar’ has its origins in the Latin word Cithara. It wasn’t until the 1200s that an instrument began to use the name. The Guitarra Moresca (Moorish Guitar) and Guitarra Latina (Latin Guitar). The Spanish Vialo do Mano was perhaps the modern guitar’s closest ancestor, however. Appearing in the 15th century, it usually had 6 strings, and a familiar body shape, resembling a modern acoustic.

Tablature notation dates back to the 14th Century

Whilst in some, slightly snobby musical circles, Tablature (the means of notating guitar parts with each string represented, and fret numbers for each note) is looked down upon a little, as being ‘for those who can’t read real music’, it actually has a history as long as that of traditional notation. Originally used by organists and lute players, the first recorded uses of Tablature occurred in the 1300s.

Before we rock, first we must, erm… ‘Baroque’

The predecessor to the, now common, Classical guitar (also known as the Spanish, or nylon string), was the Baroque guitar. This was smaller bodied, lighter and more ornate than a classical, and still had 5 pairs of gut strings.

Not all classical composers used a piano to compose

Whilst the typical image of a classical composer is one of a musician hunched over a piano, with sheets of manuscript scattered across it, several of the most famous went against this ‘tradition’. Franz Schubert reputedly used a guitar that was strung over his bed (he couldn’t afford a piano), as did Berlioz, as it was his most proficient instrument.


"If music be the food of love, play on."

Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1

"Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,"

Psalm 150:3


Zen Guitar Practice Workout

My daughter is now 20 months old and our second child is on the way. I love spending time with my daughter and I very often do, but as parents know children have a tendency to occupy all your time. When I play guitar, my daughter wants to play guitar also. I bought her a little guitar of her own, but she wants to play on my guitar when I play it. That is just great. :) I don’t mind, but my practice workouts become a little difficult this way. Therefore and for a lot of other reasons I designed the Zen Guitar Practice Workout. Zen is more and more finding its way into the western world along with minimalism and new lifestyle designs. A major benefit for all who are seeking a different and more effective way to self improvement and development. Zen is also very good to apply when it comes to guitar practice. Guitar practice is in itself a form of meditation. You need to stay focused on what you practice and not let your mind wander. It is about concentrating on your fingers, your technique, letting go off tension, recapturing yourself, letting it happen, continually shaping and getting back to the essence of your practice. Zen Guitar Practice is a way to combine the rules of Zen Buddhism and the rules of guitar practice into your workout.

Klaus Crow

©Jeff Guess 2017

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