The electric guitar is one of the world’s most beloved instruments, having had an immense impact on modern music. It’s no surprise then that many musicians choose to play this versatile instrument!
Electric guitarists are renowned for their passionate solos and powerful riffs. If you’re new to the world of electric guitars, take some time to understand some of its key features and how they can shape your playing style!
The origins of the electric guitar
The electric guitar is a widely beloved instrument, often featured in various musical genres such as rock music and jazz music. However, its influence also extends beyond rock music into other genres like pop and jazz music.
The electric guitar’s roots can be traced back to the late 1910s, when researchers began amplifying string vibrations. These experiments relied on induction – a process which uses magnetic fields to transform string vibrations into electrical signals.
Other devices based on this principle include telephone transmitters and telegraph keys. The first attempts to use induction to amplified sound involved carbon button microphones, but they were still unable to produce sound quality suitable for professional music applications.
In the 1930s, George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker found a solution to this dilemma. By combining their talents as musicians and engineers, these two men created the first modern electric guitars that could be commercially successful.
Guitar players experienced a huge advancement with this development, as it allowed them to showcase their rhythmic stylings over other instruments in a band and become the lead instrument – forever altering popular music forever.
Although Beauchamp and Rickenbacker were the primary inventors of the electric guitar, other people made significant contributions as well. One such individual was Paul Tutmarc who created a magnetic pickup design which was ultimately sold to Rickenbacker without his consent.
The first electric guitars
In the late 1920s, the first electric guitars were created. These instruments were intended for playing jazz and blues music and featured pickups that could detect string vibrations. This innovation is seen as a pivotal point in the history of electric guitar design.
Ro-Pat-In Corporation was the first to develop a production solid body electric guitar in 1932, earning it the nickname of “frying pan” due to its unique shape and all metal construction.
Its pickup could sense vibrations of metal strings and send an electrical signal to its magnet and coil. Unfortunately, the prototype of this guitar, designed by Gibson employee Lloyd Loar, wasn’t popular among guitarists due to its hum.
Gibson joined forces with engineer George Beauchamp to develop the Rickenbacher Electro A-22. For years, this model was known by its acronym – Rickenbacker; however, from around 1950 the company began using Rickenbacher instead of Rickenbacker as its official name.
When creating an electric guitar, the most essential step is selecting the ideal wood for the body. Popular choices include alder, ash and basswood for this purpose. Popular neck materials include rosewood, ebony or maple for their rich, satisfying sound. You have various finishes available on both parts to give your electric guitar a distinctive appearance.
The first solid-body electric guitar
Electric guitars have become a staple instrument across various musical genres. Crafted from woods like ash, alder, maple, mahogany and korina, electric guitars feature bridges that transfer string vibrations to their bodies.
Paul Reed Smith created the first solid-body electric guitar in 1941 and it remains among today’s most beloved instruments.
This type of guitar is often considered to be a hybrid between an acoustic and electric instrument. It features a fixed bridge that transfers sound onto the body, along with a pick-up that amplifies sound through magnets.
These guitars tend to be more ergonomic and simpler to play than their hollow-bodied counterparts, producing more consistent tones with a wider range of frequencies that make them suitable for various genres of music.
Furthermore, they boast greater durability compared to their hollow-bodied counterparts, making them perfect for live performance or recording.
The Fender Esquire solid-body electric guitar was released in the mid 1940s, designed by factory manager John Huis and endorsed by guitarist Les Paul.
The first humbucker electric guitar
There are various types of pickups available on the market, such as single coils (like P-90s) and humbuckers. Each has its own distinctive sound that has become popular in various genres of music.
Humbuckers are electric guitar pickups that use two coils instead of one to combat hum, which is commonly heard with single-coils. This gives them a fuller and rounder sound than single coil pickups do.
The humbucker is a staple in many genres of music, from jazz and country to punk rock powerchords. Its wide dynamic range makes it ideal for crushing rhythms and fluid solos while its ability to produce clean tone allows you to craft massive soundscapes that demand attention.
Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Model Humbucker Pickups are ideal for players on a budget who want an authentic-sounding humbucker but won’t break the bank. These pickups feature ceramic magnets and coil winding that produce an expansive tone with no harsh highs or feedback.
Another pickup set that delivers a powerful tone is the Bare Knuckle Juggernaut humbucker set. This set has a cool ‘Bulb’ design cover etch that will make you stand out on stage and let you dominate rhythms or fluid solos with ease.
For guitarists seeking that timeless, full tone, the Gibson ’57 Classic Humbucker is an excellent option. Crafted to the same specifications as its vintage PAF counterparts, these pickups guarantee to deliver that vintage humbucker crunch.
The first pickups
In the 1920s, Gibson developed the first pickups for electric guitars. These were mounted on the body of the instrument and produced a thin, tinny sound. By 1930s, however, Gibson created a pickup that was mounted underneath strings which produced a fuller sound.
Pickups are magnetic transducers that convert string vibrations into an electrical signal for amplification. They form the backbone of an electric guitar, having a major role in setting its tone.
A pickup is typically composed of three components: a coil, bobbin and output wire. The type of magnet used, number of windings in the coil and space between them all determine how it sounds.
By taking into account these details, you can select the ideal pickup for your requirements. There are a range of styles available, such as single-coil and humbucker pickups.
Pickups can be divided into two main groups by their construction: alnico and ceramic. The former is commonly found on guitars and electric basses, while the latter is more frequently seen with acoustic instruments.
George Beauchamp invented the first pickups for electric guitars in 1931. These pickups were adapted from phonograph pickup assemblies, and Beauchamp began testing different combinations of coils and magnets until he achieved success with creating what would later become known as an electromagnetic pickup for guitars. He sold his invention to Rickenbacker Electro who produced the first commercially-produced electric guitar.
The first amplifiers for electric guitars
When amplifying the sound of an electric guitar, there are several options to consider. Acoustic amplifiers, tube amplifiers, and modeling amps can all be utilized for this purpose.
In the 1920s, guitarists began exploring ways to make their instruments louder. While some of these attempts failed, others proved successful.
One of the greatest innovations in electric guitar history was the invention of the pickup. This simple device, still used today, consists of one or more magnets enclosed within a coil of copper wire.
Around 1931, George Beauchamp and Adolf Rickenbacker invented the first pickup for an electric guitar while building their first solid-body instrument. Nicknamed “Frying Pan,” this pickup resembled a frying pan and was used on Hawaiian lap steels (also referred to as Hawaiian guitars).
Another popular guitar pickup type is the humbucker. These sound similar to single-coil pickups in structure, but are designed for wider frequency response.
Amplification is an integral part of any guitarist’s toolbox, and many guitarists prefer using tube amplifiers due to their warmer and more natural sound than other methods. If you’re searching for a new guitar amp, look for one with plenty of features such as tremolo and reverb effect that deliver that classic tube tone.