As music fanatics, we find appreciation for all instruments – the piano, saxophone, drums, violin, you name it. But the month of April celebrates International Guitar Month, so we strummed through a few interesting guitar facts and are highlighting some of the best guitarists who have made history.
Early versions of the guitar date back to over 4,000 years ago. There are images of Egyptian wall paintings that depict people playing instruments, one particularly similar to a guitar. The word “guitar” is derived from ‘tar’, an ancient Sanskrit word meaning ‘string’. The evolution of guitars is evident through its most prominent feature, its strings. String pairings have evolved from 2 to 6 (totaling up to 12 strings!) though these days, most guitars have six strings and are made of Nylon; that’s very different from the original sheep intestines that were originally used!
Someone who knows all about the six-string guitar is legendary jazz guitarist, John Scofield. Scofield, who’s commonly referred to as “Sco”, has heavily influenced the unique sounds of jazz-rock for nearly five decades. The GRAMMY-award winning musician has recorded over 30 albums, featuring jazz-funk and R&B, with the likes of Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Eddie Harris, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau, Mavis Staples, Government Mule, and Phil Lesh, just to name a few. Sco is such a celebrated musician that the Japanese guitar brand, Ibanez, has collaborated with him to produce his own line of electric guitars. The brand exclaims that, “With one of these Ibanez John Scofield guitars in your hands, you’ll have no problem reaching your highest level of musical potential.” Sco is among the likes of many musicians who’ve teamed up with guitar manufacturers to create custom lines, including Steve Vai and Paul Stanley who also have lines with Ibanez, Billy Gibbons and Guns N’ Roses’ Slash with Gibson, Vinnie Moore with Dean, and John Mayer with PRS Guitars.
If anyone should be recognized for their fascinating relationship with guitars, it’s Cheap Tricks’ lead guitarist, Rick Nielsen. Nielsen’s guitar collection is seriously impressive; he’s owned over 2,000 guitars! In 1981, Nielsen’s guitar obsession reached new heights as he introduced what is one of the most bizarre versions of the guitar; a guitar with five necks, the Hamer Five-Neck. How does such an interesting concept come into fruition? The rocker explains that he used to stack guitars on top of one another at his shows; He would play one guitar then toss it and play the next one that was hanging underneath, amassing as many as five guitars. The famed five neck guitar is now displayed in Nielsen’s restaurant Piece Brewery in Chicago.
Jazz musician and composer Futureman, has been jamming on the music scene since the 70s. His career first began in a band with his brothers, titled ‘The Wooten Brothers’ and the six-time GRAMMY winner now performs with the groundbreaking group ‘Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’. Futureman’s rich music history features one of the most interesting guitar inventions to date, the “drumitar”. As one can assume, the drumitar is a part drum and part guitar. This new approach to “hand drumming” inspired Futureman to create even more instruments; two versions of the keyboard, the “Royel” and the “Dorothy Graye”. A multi-instrumental musician in his own right, Futureman is a revolutionary music pioneer.
The lengthy list of extraordinary guitar inventions is inspiring for any music creative. The intricacies of creating these new instruments hasn’t stopped musicians in the past and certainly won’t put an end to the dreams of music geniuses to come. The instrument’s unique evolution proves that music, as a whole, is ever-evolving.