Origins

        Ethimologically, the designation of Guitar comes from the greek vocable Kythara, wich later on, latin people converted into Cithara. A legend says that this name comes from Cyterón, the name of a mountain placed somewhere beetween Beócia and Atica. But there are those who, discording this opinion, defend that it dervies from Cythara, the ancient name of the greek island Cerigo, wich was considered as the paradise of poetry and love, and in wich existed a temple dedicated to Venus.

        But, as this matter does not gather any consensus, there are still those who prefer to believe that the origin of the name Guitar goes back to the middle age, being its invention and building responsability of a spanish mourish that answered by the name of Al-Guitar.

        This way of thinking tells us that the portuguese guitar, such as we know it today, is from arabic origin. But, if it is true, that this theory is supported by inumerable adepts, it is also true that the fact that it lie on a merely verbal assumption wich compares our current instrument to the ancient mourish guitar, or sarracen, associating it to fado.

        It also tells us that this musical form of ours of essencially popular expression (fado) is from arabic origin. So, this theory is generally refuted with two arguments: on one hand, mourish guitar is on the origin of a line of instruments completely different - the mandolins - knowing that, on the other hand, the association of the guitar to fado is a phenomenon much more recent.

        From studies made by several authors and composers - like Pedro Caldeira Cabral and António Portugal, among others - it seems more likely that the current portuguese guitar results from a fusion between two instruments: The European Cistrus, or Citara (used in all the Western Europe during the Renaissance, wich presents an extremely similar form and even, in some cases, the same number of cords and tunnings that the guitar, e may have been intriduced in Portgual in the XVIth century, mainly from Italy and France, propagating south from Coimbra) e the English Guitar (here introduced in the XVIIIth century, in Oporto, quickly diffused later on, north from Coimbra). This may explain the differences in construction, structure and tunning between the Guitar of Coimbra, with origin in Oporto and the Lisbon one.

Portuguese Guitar (Coimbra model)

        The conclusion that one takes from this study is that the evolution of guitar can be expressed by a theory based in the existing coincidences between these two instruments - the Cistrus and the English Guitar - giving the adoption of elements from one and the other and maintaining its practice connected, since the beginning, to the music of oral tradition. Such fact wouldn't have been alien to the displacement of the court to Coimbra, being probable enough that these two ancesters of the guitar have continued to be cultivated among us, even after ministrels season.

        Carlos Paredes adds that even before the Cistrus, in Renaissance, our Guitar will find its origins in the Cítola, instrumente of the Middle Age. And trying to define with more precision that "Musical Instrument that we call today Portuguese Guitar", tells us that "it was invented in England in the second half of the XVIIIth century", arising as "answer to the necessity of obtain from Cistrus a sonority more volumous emotional, acording to the transformations verifyed in musical taste of that time, ponting to Romantism (...) it was given the name of English Guitar".

         But Paredes introduces a new data when he says that, if in appearance, this instrument is little distinguished from Cistrus, "it profundly differed in essencial qualities". Acording to a text from the same composer, this new instrument had the fast and paixionate approval, specially by the youth from several european countrys, namely Portugal, in the cities of Oporto, Coimbra and Lisbon. Abandoned, in the rest of Europe, between the finals of the XVIIIth century and mainly the early years of the XIXth century, survived until now only in Scotland and Portugal, here with the name of Portuguese Guitar, the instrument adapted itself to the expressions of urban popular music, as it is the case of the Lisboa's Fado or the Coimbra's Song.

        It was in virtue of the success that the instrument had between us, that António Mestre da Silva Leite publishes, in 1976, in Oporto, its "Study of Guitar", with sight to facilitate the learning to its innumerable disciples. This workmanship confirms the origin of the guitar from England, where they were constructed by a craftsman namedSimpson, passing then to be copied and to be manufactured in Portugal by Luis Cardoso Soares Sevilhano.

        These factors have contributed for the vast broadcasting of the guitar in the northern city, where it was used as a room instrument, in substitution of then harpsychor and other instruments of the kind. According to Silva Leite, the guitar was "smart enough for public entertainment, preventing the bother invitation of an orchestra ".

        This guitar, that Mário Sampayo Ribeiro believes to have been introduced by the English colony in Oporto, started to play a very important social and musical role, since the beginning of the XVIII century. According to Sampayo Ribeiro, would be already in the ends of this century that the guitar had becomed portuguses and spread out thru all Portugal, from Oporto, starting then to substitute the classic guitar that was, until then, an instrument of great popularity. From that point, the portuguese guitar suffers diverse readjustments, with sight of addapting itself to the roots of the traditional portuguese music.

        It is then that an anonymous constructor of the XIX century, respecting the previous instrument, adapts the heads of the steel guitar to the portuguese guitar and, because it had twelve strings, he saw himself obliged to modify the instrument, redistributing them in six orders of double strings.

        This was, surely, the biggest hashing of all, and the one that contributed more to make the guitar acquire the specificity that we know today, with twelve strings.

        In Coimbra, in the opinion of Armando Simões, the construction of guitars retraces to the ends of the XIX century and first quarter of the XX century , being the first guitars brought by students of Oporto and Lisbon, exactly when the industry of the city already manufactured them. According to this author, the Guitar of Coimbra starts to distinguish itself from the one from Lisbon already in the ends of the XIX century, being an example of this fact the guitar of Augusto Hilário that, although it was constructed in Lisbon, for A. Vieira, it had a longer scale for the same number of points, a narrower flank and started to tune two points below the diapason, losing the brightness of the sound that until presented there, but earning, on the other hand, a more bass, softer noise, well adapted to the Coimbra's music style. Another magnificent instrument that we can find in Coimbra, in the ends of the XIX century, is the guitar of Antero Alte da Veiga, made by Augustus Vieira and with the scroll sculptured by Ventura da Câmara. This, such as other instruments of the same time, until the start of our century, presented another curiosity, having in the sound-board two acoustic orifices.

Manuel Portugal

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