Guru Guitars Newsletter
Guru say, "Build your own'll  have fun."

For this months newsletter I pulled a snippet off of Paul Guy's website that I thought was interesting.  There is much more to this article.  If you are interested you can visit his site.  He has some cool stuff going on there as well.



A Brief History of the Guitar

by Paul Guy

     The guitar is an ancient and noble instrument, whose history can be traced back over 4000 years. Many theories have been advanced about the instrument's ancestry. It has often been claimed that the guitar is a development of the lute, or even of the ancient Greek kithara. Research done by Dr. Michael Kasha in the 1960's showed these claims to be without merit. He showed that the lute is a result of a separate line of development, sharing common ancestors with the guitar, but having had no influence on its evolution. The influence in the opposite direction is undeniable, however - the guitar's immediate forefathers were a major influence on the development of the fretted lute from the fretless oud which the Moors brought with them to to Spain.

     The sole "evidence" for the kithara theory is the similarity between the greek word "kithara" and the Spanish word "quitarra". It is hard to imagine how the guitar could have evolved from the kithara, which was a completely different type of instrument - namely a square-framed lap harp, or "lyre". (Right)

     It would also be passing strange if a square-framed seven-string lap harp had given its name to the early Spanish 4-string "quitarra". Dr. Kasha turns the question around and asks where the Greeks got the name "kithara", and points out that the earliest Greek kitharas had only 4 strings when they were introduced from abroad. He surmises that the Greeks hellenified the old Persian name for a 4-stringed instrument, "chartar". (See below.)

The Ancestors

The earliest stringed instruments known to archaeologists are bowl harps and tanburs. Since prehistory people have made bowl harps using tortoise shells and calabashes as resonators, with a bent stick for a neck and one or more gut or silk strings. The world's museums contain many such "harps" from the ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian civilizations. Around 2500 - 2000 CE more advanced harps, such as the opulently carved 11-stringed instrument with gold decoration found in Queen Shub-Ad's tomb, started to appear.

"Queen Shub-Ad's harp"

(from the Royal Cemetery in Ur)

A tanbur is defined as "a long-necked stringed instrument with a small egg- or pear-shaped body, with an arched or round back, usually with a soundboard of wood or hide, and a long, straight neck". The tanbur probably developed from the bowl harp as the neck was straightened out to allow the string/s to be pressed down to create more notes. Tomb paintings and stone carvings in Egypt testify to the fact that harps and tanburs (together with flutes and percussion instruments) were being played in ensemble 3500 - 4000 years ago.

Egyptian wall painting, Thebes, 1420 BCE

Archaeologists have also found many similar relics in the ruins of the ancient Persian and Mesopotamian cultures. Many of these instruments have survived into modern times in almost unchanged form, as witness the folk instruments of the region like the Turkish saz, Balkan tamburitsa, Iranian setar, Afghan panchtar and Greek bouzouki.

The oldest preserved guitar-like instrument

At 3500 years old, this is the ultimate vintage guitar! It belonged to the Egyptian singer Har-Mose. He was buried with his tanbur close to the tomb of his employer, Sen-Mut, architect to Queen Hatshepsut, who was crowned in 1503 BCE. Sen-Mut (who, it is suspected, was far more than just chief minister and architect to the queen) built Hatshepsuts beautiful mortuary temple, which stands on the banks of the Nile to this day.

Har-Moses instrument had three strings and a plectrum suspended from the neck by a cord. The soundbox was made of beautifully polished cedar and had a rawhide "soundboard". It can be seen today at the Archaeological Museum in Cairo.

What is a guitar, anyway?

     To distinguish guitars from other members of the tanbur family, we need to define what a guitar is. Dr. Kasha defines a guitar as having "a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides" .  The oldest known iconographical representation of an instrument displaying all the essential features of a guitar is a stone carving at Alaca Huyuk in Turkey, of a 3300 year old Hittite "guitar" with "a long fretted neck, flat top, probably flat back, and with strikingly incurved sides".








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Triplets and Sextuplets

(Sheet Music PDF)

by The Guru


     This is a simple lesson in theory and a little more intense in practice.  It takes time to develop a smooth clean feel when playing a lot of notes in a small space so take your time and do it right.    

     A triplet is a group of three notes having the time value of two notes of the same kind.  A sextuplet is a group of six notes having the time value of four notes of the same kind.  The simplest way to understand is to look at how a quarter note is divided.

     So far I've shown you how a quarter note can be divided into two eighth notes or four sixteenth notes Fig.1.  A triplet is created by playing 3 eighth notes in the space of a quarter note instead of two.  Fig.2. 

     The same concept applies to the sextuplets.  Instead of the ratio being 2 to 3 it is 4 to 6, which is simply double.  A sextuplet is created by playing 6 notes of equal value in the space of a quarter note Fig.3.  Normally there are 4 sixteenth notes in that space but by playing six you create a sextuplet.

     This is only one application of triplets and sextuplets.  Any length of time can be divided into triplets and sextuplets.  Figures 4 shows quarter note triplets.  Here, in the space that two quarter notes normally take up (a half note) there are three.  This is a bit more difficult to feel in my opinion but once you can feel triplets its just a matter of time before they all feel the same.  Figure 5 is a sextuplet in the space of one whole note (normally 4 quarter notes).  You can see that they are really the same thing just labeled differently.  That takes me to the next point.

     The last figure is sixteenth note triplets.  In this case each eighth note is filled with 3 sixteenth notes.  Technically it's the same as Fig 3 except that you accent the beginning of each triplet.  An easy way to build up to sextuplet speed is to play scales using triplets and a metronome.  Once you are comfortable playing eighth note triplets, speed up the metronome little by little until they are faster.  Then you can back the metronome off to half of where you were playing the triplets and simply put two triplets into a quarter note as in Fig 6. to get the sextuplets.  Compare Figures 3 and 6.  There are the same number of sixteenth notes in each beat.  Have fun.


Do you have a question about the lesson in this column?  If so, email


     If you would like to contribute a lesson to the column send an email of the lesson to  It needs to be clean, professional, short and sweet with all necessary diagrams attached.  I'll review everyone's offering and pick the one I want in the column.  If you are picked you'll receive a gift from Guru Guitars!











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