Electric guitar history is the story of the creation of one of the most popular instruments in music history. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the guitar had already proven itself to be a noteworthy instrument. Originally considered to be basically a folk instrument, the guitar had been established by formidable players such as Andres Segovia as a serious performance instrument.overdrive
The guitar was originally used as an accompanying instrument mostly used for rhythm or melodic accompaniment. In the ’20′s and ’30′s, however, the guitar was overpowered by the brass sections popular in Swing, Big Band and Jazz music. The acoustic guitar simply could not compete with the volume levels of the other instruments. Not even the addition of steel strings was sufficient to prevent the guitar from being drowned out by the other instruments.
In early 1930, George Beauchamp, a Hawaiian guitar player and Adolph Rickenbacker, an electronics engineer, met at the Dopyra Brothers guitar manufacturer in Los Angeles, California. Together, they eventually developed the schematic for a revolutionary idea: an electronic guitar. The premise was simple: by fitting the guitar with two magnets, a magnetic field was created which could pick up the vibrations from a string and transfer it to a resonating wire coil. In 1937 Beauchamp along with Paul Barth finally succeeded in creating a working guitar pickup.
The guitar was now successfully amplified but there was still a huge problem. The allure of the volume was definitely appealing but there was a major problem with the earliest guitars. An acoustic guitar is designed to be very resonant. This design causes quite a bit of feedback when the guitar is amplified and was definitely detrimental to the music of the time. There had to be a solution.
The solution came in the late ’40s. Les Paul, a prominent Jazz musician and inventor, was convinced that a solid body guitar was the answer to the resonance problems. In order to prove that his idea was the solution, another piece of guitar history came into being. Paul created what he dubbed « The Log », which was essentially a 4X4 piece of pinewood fitted with two pickups. Spectators were less than enamored of the « Log’s » looks so Paul glued two cutaway halves of an acoustic guitar body to it to make it look like a guitar. In 1946, Paul took his new guitar to Gibson but Gibson was not enthusiastic about the idea of a solid bodied guitar because previous attempts to produce and market a solid body guitar had failed. At this point, Leo Fender stepped up to the plate.
In 1949, Fender released a production version of an electric guitar called the Esquire. The Esquire was eventually renamed the Telecaster and one of the most iconic instruments in electric guitar history was born. It eventually became very popular with rock musicians. The Telecaster’s « trebly » sound made it an excellent choice for the emerging rock and roll musical style and established it as the first true rock and roll guitar.
Fender’s success with the Telecaster caused Gibson to re-assess the situation. Gibson took a second look at Les Paul’s solid body design and in 1952 decided to build a solid body guitar that would become the industry standard. Both Gibson and Fender continued to make electric guitar history by creating some of the most iconic instruments in the industry. Fender introduced the Stratocaster while Gibson introduced the SG, the Explorer and the Flying V. The modern electric guitar was born.
Today there are many different brands of electric guitar on the market and more electric guitar models than you can shake a stick at. In addition, as Rock, Blues, Jazz and other forms of music evolved, electric guitars have evolved to enhance the changing styles as have amplifiers and effects equipment. From its humble beginnings in medieval times, the guitar has become one of the most important and influential instruments of all time.