happiness is guitar shaped

picasso guitar pedestal and sheet musicIt doesnt take a Picasso to draw our attention to the shared attributes of acoustic guitar bodies and those of the human female. The classic Spanish acoustic guitar has a body with an hour glass figure and a hole in the middle. The flat-top version developed in the US is not dissimilar but tends to have slightly more generous hips. How did such a form evolve?. Was this deemed a sonically optimum delivery system? Or was it the shape itself that pleased early luthiers?


Above is a drawing based on a 3300 year old stone carving at Alaca Huyuk in Turkey. It has a number of holes in its top, but the drawn in waist is already in evidence.

stradgtr1680This Italian 17th century guitar looks a lot more like our modern instruments but has a longer, more slender form. There is one fairly large hole, but it seems to have some sort of carved wooden grille in its mouth.

panormo1832This early 19th century model is getting closer but is still quite small and narrow waisted. The single hole is now wide and open.

torres1859This guitar, made in 1859 by Antonio Torres is an example of the final stage in classical guitar evolution. He increased the size of the body, altered its proportions, and introduced a revolutionary “fan” top bracing pattern. This improved the volume, tone and projection of the instrument. The hole is much the same as that in the previous picture, but seems smaller because the instrument is bulkier. This was very quickly adopted as the standard design by luthiers everywhere. 150 years on, nothing much has changed.

I cant help noticing that while changing tastes have seen the fashionable female form evolve from the Rubenesque, voluptuous  figures of the 17th century to the tall, slender, almost anorexic models of today, guitars have taken an almost exact opposite route. In search of a bigger, sweeter, warmer sound, guitars have steadily put on weight!

Is there a moral to be drawn here? Not really. But what seems inescapable is that from earliest times, guitar makers have had women on their minds.

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