Though the guitar has been around for a long time in forms dating back to the Persian ud, its early cousin, most players today think of it as an instrument that saw its greatest evolution in the 20th century. The turn of that century was marked with the concert-hall performances of Maestro Andrés Segovia. Blues mythology tells the story of Robert Johnson (who played so movingly it was said he had sold his soul to the devil for the gift). Charlie Christian brought fluid horn-line-inspired electric jazz guitar to the masses. Riding a wave through the 1960s, a decade that changed more than the weather, the brilliant rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix defined the modern conception of what this instrument can do.
The guitar itself is a remarkable instrument. Its six strings give it a musical range of more than half what the much larger and more complex piano can achieve, and the strings can be sounded together, giving the guitar the sense of being a small orchestra. It is more intimate and in some ways more responsive to a player's mood than almost any other instrument. It has both a pure singing soprano as well as a resonant bass — not bad for a musical instrument only three feet long that can weigh less than a good haul after a day of shopping.
More than players of almost any other instrument, guitar players count more self-taught musicians among their ranks. That's because while the guitar is very difficult to play well, it is easy to play simply. Guitarists suffer from the usual string of bad jokes and stereotypes. But at the end of the day, when it comes down to playing a good song, it's the guitar that brings people closer together.