The 'classical' guitar is typically a Spanish-derived, six-stringed instrument played using a plectrum or the finger-nails, with frets set into the fingerboard. Popular music tends to use amplification for both six-stringed instruments and the four-string bass guitar. The guitar family gradually supplanted the lute which had come to prominence during the Renaissance.

The guitar is a type of chordophone, traditionally constructed from wood and strung with either gut, nylon or steel strings and distinguished from other chordophones by its construction and tuning. The modern guitar was preceded by the gittern, the vihuela, the four-course Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument.