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Thread: Misunderstood or Misused Guitar Definition

  1. #1
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    Default Misunderstood or Misused Guitar Definition

    At one time I was of the view that Ukes and Guitars were two completely separate things, I believe that that view is shared by the ‘average’ man or woman ‘on the street’. Now I really wonder whether that’s completely wrong, I’ve discovered varieties of Guitar that range in size and have four rather than six strings too. Guitar tuning has a variety of standards too.

    Now I wonder what a Guitar actually is. It seems to me that the term Guitar is misused or misunderstood as it relates to both a wide family of instruments as well as the common aucustic six string ‘guitar’. As such isn’t the Uke simply a small or moderately sized Guitar with four strings and one of the two (most) common Uke tunings?

    What do others think and what’s in the Guitar family?
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 11-06-2018 at 01:06 AM.

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    The basic difference to most people, I think is twofold, re entrant tuning & designed for accompaniment/chords, whereas, I think, the guitar was primarily a solo instrument from the start.

    Lines, shape, & sizes have been merging over the years though, so they both just belong to the 'plucked string' family of instruments really, especially as manufacturers have introduced the 'guitarlele', as against the 'piccolo' guitar.

    EDIT: My ukes perform the role of a mini guitar, I suppose, as they nearly all have a low G string, are linear, & I prefer to pick/play melodies as against chords for accompanying singing.
    Last edited by Croaky Keith; 11-06-2018 at 01:23 AM.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

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    Yeah, definitely a blurry one this - especially when you realise the uke is tuned very similarly to a renaissance guitar! I tend to lump "fretted stringed instruments" into one bucket and no doubt mortally offend all mandolin, banjo, bass, guitar, uke, etc., players in the process...

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    Thanks Keith and Jim. There certainly seem to be many more four string guitars than I was one aware of and I’m almost inclined to think that guitars were originally all four string instruments - aren’t six string guitars then a development of the original which stole the (Guitar) name.

    This Wikipedia post is helpful but I suspect there is much more to understand / be aware of. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four-string_guitar . To me it seems that we are all, in some shape or form of the instrument, essentially Guitar players.

    I’m not sure about the crossover from guitar to banjo, both can have four strings and are fretted but guitars are essentially wooden and have a sound cavity.

    I’ve heard of the Uke being described as a ‘gateway’ instrument to the World of Guitars. To my mind the Uke is already within that World and it’s just the tuning that varies, but what do others think and why?
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 11-06-2018 at 05:35 AM.

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    There is history,traditionally told by the dominate and perception that can really vary from truth to confusion. I tend toward the later.
    So my take is here in the US there are Hawaiian Ukuleles were primarily sopranos, taropatch 8 strings, and concerts 4, but before that there were parlor, linear tuned guitars with 4 gut or silk strings, nylon later. Baritones came into popularity with the Vega and Arthur Godfrey. I'm assuming that Tenors, that now dominate the market came in to popularity some time between Sopranos and Baritones.
    I have all of them but a Taropatch. I use Sopranos and concerts in re entrant tuning for Hawaiian, tin pan-alley, and "happy" songs, for the mournful and protest I switch to a Baritone with standard tuning. Also built a flipper that is Baritone on one side and short scale Bass on the other that is "a work in progress".

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    There is quite a big difference between guitar & banjo, namely the skin head as against the sound board.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongeuke View Post
    There is history,traditionally told by the dominate and perception that can really vary from truth to confusion. I tend toward the later.
    So my take is here in the US there are Hawaiian Ukuleles were primarily sopranos, taropatch 8 strings, and concerts 4, but before that there were parlor, linear tuned guitars with 4 gut or silk strings, nylon later. Baritones came into popularity with the Vega and Arthur Godfrey. I'm assuming that Tenors, that now dominate the market came in to popularity some time between Sopranos and Baritones.
    With history I too tend towards what you describe at the later choice, sometimes perception gives the truth but the dominate is almost always biased or distorted.

    The four string Tenor Guitar with a scale length of 23 inches and developed by Martin and Gibson appeared in the 1920’s. Then we have Baritone Ukes developed by Favilla in the 1940s and later Martin, scale length of circa 20 inches. I believe that the South American Cuatro is a similar size to the Baritone. As far as I can tell the Tenor Uke, with its 17 inch scale, followed the Concert size in the 1930’s - a progression to gain more volume and more depth of sound.

    Apparently the current ‘classical’ six string design came in around the late 1700’s with earlier guitars having four and then five courses of strings - reported dates are a bit variable. The Parlour Guitars that I found oginate in the late 1800’s and had six strings, not sure of their scale length. Until recently I was unaware that Guitars, Classical acoustic type ones, were available in different sizes.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 11-07-2018 at 12:41 AM.

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    I played guitar for almost 50 years, which made taking up the uke five years ago very easy. So my gateway was guitar to uke, and haven't touched my guitars. Re-entrant tuning is one of the things I like so much about a uke, if I want a linear sound, I'll just play the guitar. I surf eBay looking at ukes and many listings from China say in their description "small guitar" or such.


    8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

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    Quote Originally Posted by Croaky Keith View Post
    There is quite a big difference between guitar & banjo, namely the skin head as against the sound board.
    I refer you to my earlier comment of...

    no doubt offend all... banjo... players

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    Quote Originally Posted by kohanmike View Post
    I played guitar for almost 50 years, which made taking up the uke five years ago very easy. So my gateway was guitar to uke, and haven't touched my guitars.
    The Classical six string Guitar is no doubt a very capable and wonderful instrument, well for those who can manage its size and features. However it seems to me that the original Guitars were four course or string instruments and that we have simply made things more complex over the centuries. Sometimes simple is better, you can’t do the more complex things that extra strings provide but those strings aren’t there to confuse or get in the way either.

    I’m of the view that simple things, that can readily be used well, are generally much more use to the world than more complex things. Complex things might give better results but they only do so in the hands of a relatively small number of people.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 11-07-2018 at 04:39 AM.

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