Get ready for your next pub quiz night with this list of fun and amazing facts about guitar!
Have ever wondered what the world’s most popular guitar is, how much the most expensive guitar went for at auction, where the instrument originated, or even the record for most air guitar windmills in one minute?
Well, probably not the windmill thing, but you’ll find the answers to all of these questions and many more in this mammoth list of guitar trivia! If you’re after interesting facts and information about guitar, then let’s dive in…
Facts About Guitar
1. The Word Guitar Has Ancient Greek Origins
Let’s start things off with a little history lesson, shall we? Where did the word actually come from?
The English word ‘guitar‘ was adopted from the Spanish ‘guitarra‘ during the 17th century. In turn, ‘guitarra’ is thought to have been altered from the Ancient Greek ‘kithara‘. Kithara appears four times in the Bible and is generally translated into English as ‘harp’.
However, some experts believe that the origins of the word ‘kithara’ could date as far back as the Persian Empire from the word ‘Sihtar‘. So, a pretty darned old word, then!
2. The Earliest Known Guitar Is From Ancient Egypt
So, the word came from Persia, but where did the instrument originate? Historians believe that the oldest recorded guitar-like musical instruments came from Ancient Egypt around 1450 BC.
This 3-stringed ancestor of the guitar was uncovered in the Valley of Kings inside the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut. It was buried next to a performer named Har-Mose who is believed to have entertained the royal court with the instrument.
The instrument is constructed from cedar and features a leather soundboard. A plectrum is held over the neck by a horse-hair cord.
If you are ever in Egypt, this piece of ancient history can be viewed today at the Archaeological Museum in Cairo.
3. The First Electric Guitar Was Invented In 1937
Up until the early 20th century the acoustic guitar was all that musicians had to play with. However, it was generally felt that these instruments were simply too quiet to be heard in many situations.
So, in the early 1930s inventor, G.D. Beauchamp and electrical engineer Adolph Rickenbacker teamed up to develop the world’s very first electric guitar – named the Rickenbacker Frying Pan.
For the first time in its history, the guitar was now able to hold its own in a band situation, revolutionizing the sound of popular guitar music!
4. The World’s Best Selling Guitars Are Fenders
Online retailer Reverb revealed that their best-selling electric guitar for 2021 is the Fender Player Telecaster, followed by the Fender Player Stratocaster, and then the PRS Silver Sky.
The number one most popular bass guitar is the Fender Player P-Bass. At number 2 is the Squier Affinity P-Bass, which is followed up by Fender’s Player Jazz Bass.
As far as acoustic guitars are concerned, the affordable Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy sold the most units over the year. It is followed up by the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany and then the Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster.
You can browse Reverb’s full list of popular guitars here.
5. The Most Expensive Guitar EVER Sold For $6 Million
The most expensive guitar ever sold is currently a Martin 1959 D-18 acoustic. When the hammer finally came down, it exchanged hands for an incredible $6,000,000 USD at auction in June 2020.
Why so expensive? It was previously owned by none other than Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain! Famously used during the band’s seminal MTV Unplugged performance in 1993.
Check out The Top 37 Most Expensive Guitars Ever Sold At Auction to find out more about this guitar, plus 36 others that sold for incredible amounts of money.
6. The World’s Largest Playable Guitar Is 43.5ft Long
At 12 times larger than the original, this fully playable Gibson 1967 Flying V is the biggest guitar in the world. Built as part of a science project in Texas, USA, this monster axe is 43.5 feet (13.26m) long and 16 feet (4.88m) wide.
It weighs around 2,244 pounds (1018kg) which is roughly equivalent to an American bison, so, good luck slinging this one over your shoulder…
The guitar was acquired by the National Guitar Museum and is currently being shown around the world as part of a touring exhibit.
7. The World’s Largest Guitar Amp Is Over 8ft Tall
The world’s largest functioning guitar amp is a 600% scale replica of a Fender Princeton and measures a colossal 10ft long (3m) and 8ft (2.5m) tall!
It was built by a team from Full Sail University in June 2017 and took a month to complete. The project was undertaken as a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the institution in Florida, USA.
The amp can reach volumes of 110 decibels at a one-meter distance. At that level, you would suffer permanent hearing damage after just one minute of exposure!
8. The World’s Smallest Playable Guitar Is 10 Microns Long
I say ‘playable’, but at just 10 microns (or micrometers) in length, I doubt anyone would be able to get much of a tune out of this scientific achievement! In fact, you won’t even be able to see the thing.
For those who don’t know what a micron is (so, me, before I read into this guitar!), a micron is 1/1,000,000th of a meter (or 1/304,800th of a foot). To put that in perspective, at 10 microns this guitar is around the diameter of a human red blood cell!
The guitar was carved out of crystalline silicon by researchers at Cornell University in 1997. Each string is 50 nanometers wide (one billionth of a meter!) and can only be plucked by specialist scientific equipment. The sound produced would be inaudible to the human ear.
9. The Record For The Longest Time Playing Guitar Non-Stop Is 114 Hours 20 Minutes
Simply staying awake for 114 hours would be an incredible feat by itself, but how about playing guitar non-stop for 4.75 days?!
Well, that is exactly what Irishman Dave Browne achieved in 2011 at Dublin’s famous Temple Bar pub. According to the Guinness Book of World Records rules, he was allowed a 30-second break between songs, plus a 40-minute break every 8 hours.
In total, he managed to play 1372 different pieces of music (which had to be at least 2 minutes long), which is around 12 songs every hour. At one point he was loaned a rare Stevie Ray Vaughan Fender Stratocaster that he got to play for a few hours.
10. The World’s Largest Pedalboard Contains 319 Pedals
In July 2019 YouTuber Rob Scanlon and music retailer Sweetwater teamed up to set the world record for the largest guitar pedalboard.
Featuring an incredible 319 pedals, over 500 feet of cabling, and 34 separate pedalboards and power supplies, this rig would cost you an estimated $90,000 USD to replicate!
Check out the video below to hear what 319 simultaneous pedals sounds like – the result is terrifying!
11. People Have MARRIED Their Guitars
We all love our instruments, but possibly the most out-there fact in this list is that some people have taken the bizarre step of legally marrying their guitars.
In 1995, Chris Black from London, UK married his Fender Stratocaster after his wife joked that he spent so much time with the instrument that he might as well marry it.
In 2018, a Nigerian man called Harri Best wed his acoustic guitar at a ceremony in Lagos.
12. Leo Fender Couldn’t Actually PLAY Guitar!
Despite creating some of the most legendary guitars in the world, the founder of Fender, Music Man, and G&L Guitars couldn’t actually play guitar!
Although he has some experience with piano and saxophone, the legendary inventor allegedly didn’t even know how to tune a guitar!
As a result of his inexperience, he had to bring in musicians to test the prototypes of all of his guitar designs. Worked out pretty well though, right?
Quick Guitar Trivia
A few more bonus guitar facts in case you’re still hungry for more!
Facts About Electric Guitars
Here are some interesting facts about electric guitars to share with your fellow musicians!
- The most expensive non-vintage guitar is a diamond and gold encrusted Gibson SG modified by Shum Jewelry of Hong Kong. It has been valued at $2 million USD.
- Fender developed a 7-string guitar in the 1980s but never released it.
- The first Fender guitar was built in 1949. It was the prototype for Fender’s first two production guitars – the Esquire and the Broadcaster.
- The first Fender Stratocaster (serial 0100) was built in April 1954.
- The name ‘Stratocaster’ came from Fender’s marketing wizard Don Randall, who was a big aviation fan. He wanted guitarists to feel like they had been ‘put into the stratosphere’.
- The Gibson ES-345 that Marty McFly plays in Back To The Future wasn’t released until 3 years later! Talk about breaking an embargo…
Facts About Acoustic Guitars
- Before nylon strings, guitars used strings made from animal intestines – yuck! Nowadays, most guitars are fairly vegan-friendly.
- There is an acoustic guitar-shaped forest in Argentina, planted by a farmer in tribute to his late wife and only visible from above!
- Fender manufactures 90,000 guitar strings every single day! At 20,000 miles of strings per year, that is almost enough to circle the entire planet.
- Playing guitar makes you feel happier by releasing the ‘feel-good’ hormone in your body – dopamine.
- An air guitar was once sold on eBay for $5.50 after the seller claimed it was used at a Bon Jovi gig.
- The first synthetic guitar pick was developed in 1922 by the D’Andrea company.
- The guitar is the second most popular instrument in the world after the piano.
Facts About Guitar Players
- Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis once traded a guitar signed by the Rolling Stones for $10 worth of drugs.
- John Lennon purposely detuned his 4th string slightly so that he could recognize his parts in Beatles songs.
- The Fender Precision Bass is so called because, unlike a double bass, it has metal frets to precisely indicate each note.
- Les Paul (who helped design the first Gibson Les Paul) is the only person to ever be inducted into both the Inventors Halls of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- Jimi Hendrix played a right-handed guitar upside down as left-handed instruments were difficult to come by.
Guitar World Records
Here are a few guitar records that you can try to beat!
- The most guitar strings changed in one hour is 183 by Australian Glenn Haworth.
- The coldest gig ever played was at –30? Celsius in Siberia in 2012.
- The longest guitar solo ever is 24 hours and 55 minutes by Texan musician David DiDonato.
- The most people simultaneously playing air guitar is 3,722 at an Australian festival in 2020.
- The loudest gig ever recorded is 136db. This was recorded at a KISS gig in Canada in 2009.
- The longest marathon session on Guitar Hero is a whopping 72 hours and 17 minutes. Set in 2012 by Patrick Young.
- The most people to simultaneously play electric guitar is 368. The Indian ensemble played ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ to promote unity and peace.
- The most people to simultaneously play guitar is 7,423 in 2019. Thousands of guitarists paid homage to Jimi Hendrix at the Thanks Jimi Festival in Poland by jamming ‘Hey Joe’ at the same time.
- The record for balancing a guitar on your chin (wait, what?) is 75 minutes and 4 seconds. Set by Steve Rawlings from the UK in 2020.
- The fastest guitar player is officially John Taylor from the USA. He was able to perfectly play Flight of The Bumblebee at an astonishing 620bpm.
- The most air guitar windmills performed in one minute is 165.
- The longest marathon bass session is 60 hours, set by Mark Edwards from the UK in 2021.
If you’d like some bonus guitar facts for beginners, check out this post showing 19 incredible benefits of playing guitar.
Hungry for more trivia or guitar information? Here are some other articles you’ll love!