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Why the Guitar’s Shape?

One day, one of our clients asked me, “why is the guitar’s shape like this?” and at that time, I was not able to answer it, and it stuck to my mind. I’ve been working with these instruments most of my life, yet I was not able to answer such fundamental question! So I did a bit of research and asked a renowned luthier from Spain.

La Guitarra

In Spain, “the guitar” is called “La Guitarra”, where “la” pertains to the female gender, likewise “el” is for the male gender. In the old times, the guitar is being used by men, as their partner in making music or use them to serenade the opposite gender.

The translation of “la Guitarra” to English made it a more general term which would be “the guitar”, the identification of the gender is now gone. The term “the guitar” has been used all over the world, thus, not identifying the instrument as a woman.

The Anatomy of an Acoustic Guitar

Since guitar’s shape is a reflection of a woman, the names of the parts of the guitar also came from the human anatomy, there is the head, the neck, and the body. The body also has an upper bout, a waist, and a lower bout. See the photo below:

Anatomy of a Guitar

So, Why the Guitar’s Shape?

A good reason is that the guitars in the old times were made by men, for men, the shape allows them to cradle the guitar similar to a woman’s body.

Now, the shape is kept for a couple of reasons:

  • Tradition. Most Guitar Enthusiasts want to have the “traditional” shape of the instrument. In fact, there are some who does not buy a guitar if there are alterations from her traditional look.
  • Physics. A classical guitar is constantly resisting the string tension of about 60 kilos (about 90 kilos for steel string guitars) 20/7 until she dies. 🙁 It’s quite a job to keep you happy guys! 😉 Nevertheless, the waist of the guitar helps on the resistance to any warping of these tensions.