Guitar History with TheBuddha: Part 2

So, you might remember that time I got a little bit inebriated (well, for some definition of ‘little’) and decided that I’d share some history of the guitar with you? No? Well, I do. Here’s a link to refresh your memory.

In that entry, I told you about how the guitar’s classified as a chordophone and what that actually means. In my defense, it seemed like a pretty good place to start.

Today, we’re going to trek back through history and examine some more about the instrument we all know and love.

Before Ye Olden Days

Sometime, shortly after we climbed down from the trees, we discovered banging on stuff. Chances are, we used it for communication before we used it for entertainment. But, we’d eventually discover the joy of smashing things into each other and creating a rhythm.

While this was fine, in and of itself, someone probably grunted to another one that this banging could use some accompaniment. Presumably, they used their voices in a series of ooks and eeks and had a merry time while Ook banged away on a rock with elephant tusks.

I don’t actually know (and neither does anyone else) but that seems like as good a story as any. It’s also my story, so I’ll tell it any damned way I want.

Still, banging and ooking wasn’t really as appealing as people hoped and they hadn’t yet invented the art of a bitchin’ solo. But, give ’em time… It’s coming!

It seems that pretty much every culture developed the idea of placing a string between two anchor points and plucking on it. It seems that they all decided that shortening the length between the strings was a good idea, so they invented various ways to change the pitch and eventually to adjust the pitch while playing.

The earliest iconography of someone playing a guitar-like instrument comes from the Hittites and is estimated to be 3,500 years old. I like to believe that this depiction was created just to mark the grand discovery of the bitchin’ solo, but I’m not actually a historian.

Seriously, I ain’t even kidding. Check out this picture:

See? I told you. Bitchin’ solo. Mark it done.

Go ahead, check out that snazzy picture. The dude’s playing a bitchin’ solo and the other dude is saying, “Behold, yon sweetness that is thine bitchinest solo” (except in whatever language they spoke in Asia-Minor). I bet they elected that little dude emperor or something even more awesome than that.

That jamming dude wasn’t even the only one. Sometime around that same period, another dude was jamming along with ’em. This is a clay tablet from Babylonia and tell me this dude isn’t playing a bitchin’ solo.

Look at that face and hair! (It’s not Lenny Kravitz.)

He isn’t even playing something simple. He’s cranking out something like diminished 7th arpeggios. Look at that hair! Right after he got done working out how to do a bitchin’ solo, he invented head banging.

Historians give no account of this, but I’m guessing he then went on to invent the power slide and stage diving. Look that little dude! He ain’t scared of anything. And, why should he be? He just introduced his people to the new discovery of bitchin’ solos.

Seriously… Hear me out. It’s good logic.

You don’t think they took the time to carve their asses in stone just for playing Wonderwall, do you? Of course not! It’s a lot of work and effort to carve things into stone or to make clay plaques. We hadn’t even figured out indoor plumbing yet but we took the time to acknowledge these two guitarists and carve their depictions into the annals of history.

I don’t care what the actual experts say, you don’t just go carving images willy-nilly, unless they were spectacular. Shit, they probably had to dodge dinosaurs while carving those – so obviously those two people were significant.

And, what’s more significant than a bitchin’ guitar solo?

Nothing. Nothing is more significant than that.

That’s long before ye olden days, that’s like ye ancient days. They hadn’t even invented galleries to put minstrels in. The Greeks, with their fancy-smancy scales named for their different regions, hadn’t even figured out civilization yet. But, they would – and we’ll get to that as we go through the history of the guitar with TheBuddha.

See? Who said this site wasn’t educational! We’re damned informative here! I’m pretty sure Ook really existed and those dudes were playing bitchin’ solos. Why the hell else would someone take the time to mark the occasion, unless it was a significant moment in history? It’s really the only logical conclusion that one can reach!

Well, I think I’ll continue this series when I’m in the mood to tell you more about how the guitar became the instrument we all know and love. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. My current thinking is to work my way up to today’s guitars and see if it’s possible to make the process of learning history interesting. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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