Whether you want to learn more about guitar or you’re preparing for your next music-themed trivia night, here are 50 interesting facts about guitars. From history to statistics to famous guitarists and more! Learn about this amazing instrument and have all of your guitar questions answered with this mighty list of 50 facts about guitars!
History of guitar
- The guitar originated in the 1500s in Spain and was called a vihuela. This instrument typically only had 4 double strings.
- Classical musicians started writing music for the guitar in the 19th century when the popularity of the guitar exploded.
- While the guitar is only a few hundred years old, people have been playing similar instruments, such as the lute, tanbur, and oud, for thousands of years.
- Until 1948, classical guitar strings were made from sheep and cow intestines. After WWII, nylon strings started being produced and quickly gained popularity.
- The word guitar most likely stems from “kithara”, which was a small guitar-like instrument in ancient Greece that eventually morphed into guitar-like instruments over time.
- Guitar was not used in mainstream music outside of Spain until the 1900s. However, it was a popular classical and flamenco instrument in Spain from the 1800s.
- Guitars really started to transform in the United States in the late 1800s. Americans modified the traditional Spanish-style classical guitar to make it stronger and more durable.
- In the early 1900s, a German immigrant to the US named Christian Fredrick Martin designed the first steel string guitar. He went on to start a music store that eventually became C.F. Martin and co.
- In the mid-1920s, the first guitar pickup was used to amplify an acoustic guitar. And in 1931, Rickenbacher released the “electric frying pan”. The first electric guitar.
10. The first mass-produced electric guitars were the Fender Esquire and the Fender Telecaster in 1952. They were a huge success and changed the music industry forever.
- The most expensive guitar ever sold was Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D18 E which sold at an auction in 2020 for $6 million.
- 45% of Fender’s sales each year go to beginner guitarists, 90% of whom give up within the first year. However, the remaining 10% are estimated to spend around $10,000 on guitar gear over their lifetime.
- The Covid-19 pandemic was great for the guitar industry. Most guitar sellers grew their sales by up to 20% in 2020, likely due to more people being stuck at home with more time on their hands.
- In fact, in the last 2 years alone, over 16 million Americans have started learning guitar!
- Electric guitar sales make up 70% of the US market, while acoustic and classical guitars make up the remaining 30%.
- Online guitar sales are on the rise. As with most products nowadays, retailers are switching to online sales as more and more consumers switch to buying online. For example, Sweetwater.com grew over 50% in 2020 as its online sales increased rapidly.
- Around 60% of all guitars sold in the US in 2022 were either Gibson or Fender (this figure also included Epiphone and Squire, which the companies own).
- Most guitar companies have switched to manufacturing the bulk of their products abroad, but Martin, Gibson, Rickenbacker, and PRS still produce most of their stock on US soil.
- TC Electronic and Strymon were the leading effects pedals manufacturers in 2022.
- Electric guitar starter packs such as the Fender Squire Stratocaster or Fender Acoustic Guitar Kit were very popular in 2020, 2021, and 2022. And it’s no surprise since they offer beginners everything they need at an affordable price.
- While only 10% of people are left-handed, there have been several famous left-handed guitarists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Paul Mccartney, Tony Iommi, Kurt Cobain, and Albert King.
- Speaking of Jimi Hendrix, did you know that instead of using standard barre chords, he used his thumb to fret the low E string? He was an entirely self-taught guitarist who developed unique techniques.
- A third fun Hendrix fact: Jimi Hendrix played a right-hand guitar upside down as there were not a lot of left-handed instruments.
- Eddie Van Halen was one of the first guitarists to use the two-handed tapping method, in which he would use his picking hand to tap and pull off the fretboard, allowing him to shred faster.
- Keith Richards used a distortion pedal for the first time when recording “Satisfaction” in 1962. This led to the widespread popularity of effects pedals.
- Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens tragically died in a plane crash in 1959. Holly decided to charter the plane because the conditions on the tour bus were subpar, as it didn’t have heating and it was the middle of winter.
27. Elvis didn’t write any of the over 600 songs he recorded.
28. Duane Alman died in 1971 in a motorcycle accident. The song “Free Bird” by Lynard Skynard is dedicated to him.
29. John Lennon would tune his D string slightly flat so that he could recognize his guitar parts in the Beatles
30. Malcolm Young was a sewing machine worker at a bra factory before forming ACDC.
31. Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sold a guitar signed by the Rolling Stones for just $10 worth of heroin.
32. A Fender Stratocaster is carved onto Jimi Hendrix’s tombstone.
33. B.B. King named his famous guitar “Lucile”, because two men got into a fight in a nightclub he was playing over a woman named Lucille. The nightclub caught on fire during the fight, and B.B. King ran back into the burning building to get his guitar, almost dying in the process. He almost exclusively played this guitar over his entire career.
Guitar world records
- The largest guitar amp in the world is over 10 feet long and 8 feet tall. This amp is 110 decibels at a 1-meter distance.
- A fully playable 45 foot 2,200 pound Gibson Flying V was built for a science project in Texas. It can now be seen at the National Guitar Museum in New York City.
36. The world’s smallest playable guitar is only 10 microns long, so although technically playable, you won’t even be able to see it in the first place, as it is as small as a single red blood cell.
37. Dave Browne set the record for the longest guitar-playing time. He played non-stop for 114 hours, 6 minutes, and 30 seconds.
38. The largest pedalboard in the world has 319 pedals, created by Sweetwater Sound and Rob Scallon.
39. The Guinness World Record for the most guitar strings changed in one hour is 226. Thomas Silkman set this record in 2018.
40. The most valuable non-vintage guitar is adorned with 401 carats of diamonds and 18k white gold. This guitar, created by Aaron Shum, is valued at 2,000,000 USD.
Photo from Guinness world records
Random guitar facts
- Leo Fender, the founder of Fender Guitars, could never actually play guitar!
- Fender produces enough guitar strings each day to circle the earth – around 90,000 strings, which would stretch over 20,000 miles.
- The Stratocaster was named the “Stratocaster” because Don Randall, who was a sales executive of Fender and a private pilot, said he wanted guitarists “to feel like they have been put into the stratosphere”.
- Christ Black, a British man, formally married his 1960 Stratocaster in 2001.
- Most guitars are made in Asian countries such as China and Indonesia. But, most high-quality guitars are made in Japan and North America.
- Someone once bought an air guitar on eBay. The seller claimed the air guitar was used at a Bon Jovi concert.
- Guitar is the second most popular instrument, behind piano.
- There’s a guitar-shaped forest in the Pampas region of Argentina. This forest is the work of Pedro Martin Ureta and his children, and it is made up of over 7,000 cypress and eucalyptus trees.
- The guitar that Marty McFly plays in Back to the Future wasn’t introduced until 1958, although the scene was set in 1955.