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Guitar – Meaning and Symbolism

Whether you’re into acoustic, rock, or pop music, you probably already know that a lot of songs wouldn’t sound the same without the iconic guitar tunes playing in the background. The Beatles’ Yesterday, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven are from different genres but they have one thing in common – they probably wouldn’t be as good as they are without the guitar melody.

Curious about how guitars eventually came to be known as one of the most popular instruments in the world? Read on to learn more about their history, what they symbolize, and what it could mean if you saw one in your dream.

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Guitars in History

While a lot of the history of guitars is quite unclear, historical accounts prove that stringed instruments have always played a huge part in various cultures. It is believed that guitars originated in Spain in the 16th century and that their name was derived from guitara latina – an ancient instrument with four strings. The earliest versions of the guitar looked similar because they were narrow and deeper.

One of the late predecessors of guitars was the vihuela, a stringed instrument with an hourglass-shaped body and a hole in the front. In the 1970s, the first versions of the guitar were standardized with four strings, looking remarkably similar to the modern guitar. In the 1800s, a Spanish musician named Antonio de Torres Jurado created a type of guitar that paved the way to the design of today’s guitars.

His design featured a broader body, a machined head with wooden pegs for tuning, and a bigger curve at the waist. His design also became distinct because the body of his guitars produced a heavy and thick sound. Andres Segovia, a popular Spanish guitarist, took Torres’s creation and used it in one of his concerts. This cemented the guitar’s reputation as an instrument for professional musicians like him.

It was only a matter of time before guitars were widely used in pop and folk music. It has also been used in jazz music, usually played by soloists. In today’s music, the sound of the guitars is usually amplified. Most bands also play more than one guitar – they have one each for rhythm, bass, and a lead guitar, which all add depth to songs in various genres and countries.

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Types of Guitars

The exponential growth of the popularity of guitars led to the creation of different types that serve different purposes. If you’re looking to learn how to play the guitar, it’s a good idea to understand the different types so you can choose which one to focus on. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  1. Acoustic guitar – This type of guitar features a wooden, hollow body that tends to amplify the sound of the strings. Most of them have 6 strings but there are also some variations with as many as 12 strings. They sound extremely similar but the 12-string one sounds more like a harp. This type is perfect for you if you’re a beginner but if you like distortion-heavy sounds then you might eventually need an upgrade.
  2. Electric guitar – Unlike acoustic guitars, electric guitars have solid bodies, so they produce a faint sound when they’re not plugged into an amplifier. They are also made of wood, and they usually have 6 or 12 strings. If you’d like to be able to play powerful sounds, then an electric guitar is your best bet.
  3. Bass guitar – Bass guitars produce powerfully deep and heavy sounds. Unlike the previously mentioned types of guitars, a bass string usually has 4 thick strings only. If you’re not really into playing solos, you’d enjoy playing bass guitar with a drummer because their sounds complement each other. It’s a perfect accompaniment instrument for those who are dreaming of joining a band one day.

Guitar Symbolism in Art and Dreams

Now that you know more about guitars, you’re probably wondering what they symbolize. Here are some of the things that are commonly associated with guitars:

Old guitarist Picasso
The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso. PD-US.
  • Hope amidst Hardship – In Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece called The Old Guitarist, the artist expresses a deep state of melancholy with his choice of colors. Since the guitar was the only element that had a different color in the painting, people interpreted it as the man’s only hope for survival. People believed that he painted the man leaning on the guitar to give the impression that he’s seeking reprieve from his situation through the music he’s playing.
  • Isolation and Survival – Other interpretations of the same painting think that the guitar symbolizes the isolation that artists often have to endure. Ironically, white art and music bring people together, the thought of not being able to do so becomes a burden that artists have to overcome. Some experts also say that it was Picasso’s critique of a cruel society and a representation of his low standard of living during the Blue Period.
  • Contentment and Peace – If you dream of yourself playing the guitar, it could be a sign that you’re finally satisfied and at peace with your life. However, if someone else is playing the guitar in your dream and you’re listening to them, it could mean that you feel completely satisfied and happy with having that person around you.
  • Fear and Longing – If you dream about trying to play the guitar and embarrassing yourself because it sounded bad, your subconscious might be telling you that you’re feeling nervous or scared about something. You might want to face your fears head-on so you can move on. However, if you dream of yourself crying while you’re listening to the guitar play, it might mean that you’re missing someone terribly dear to you.
  • Anger or Rage – If you intentionally break a guitar in your dream, it might mean that you are angry about something in real life. Did you recently argue with someone? Are you bottling up negative feelings for a loved one or a friend? This could be a message to resolve your issues with them once and for all.
  • Lack of Passion – Dreamt of yourself learning to play the guitar? Sadly, it’s not a good sign – it could mean that you’re lacking passion in your relationship, or you haven’t found the inspiration you need. If you have a partner, you might want to find some ways to spice it up in the bedroom.
Meaning symbolism of guitar

Wrapping Up

What a guitar means completely depends on what the context is. If you saw or heard a guitar in a dream then it would be a good idea to try to remember what the general atmosphere and feeling was. If it seems light and fun, then there’s nothing to worry about. But if it makes you feel sad or heavy, now’s the time to understand the source of what you’re feeling and to find a solution for it.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.