An electric guitar is a guitar that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical impulses. The most common guitar pickup uses the principle of direct electromagnetic induction. The signal generated by an electric guitar is too weak to drive a loudspeaker, so it is amplified before sending it to a loudspeaker. Since the output of an electric guitar is an electric signal, the signal may easily be altered using electronic circuits to add "color" to the sound. Often the signal is modified using effects such as reverb and distortion.
Invented in 1931, the electric guitar became a necessity as jazz guitarists sought to amplify their sound in the big band format. Early proponents of the electric guitar on record included: Les Paul, Lonnie Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, T-Bone Walker, and Charlie Christian. During the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar became the most important instrument in pop music. It has evolved into a stringed musical instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles. It served as a major component in the development of electric blues, rock and roll, rock music, and many other genres of music.
Electric guitar design and construction varies greatly as to the shape of the body, and configuration of the neck, bridge, and pickups. Guitars have a fixed bridge or a spring-loaded hinged bridge that lets players bend notes or chords up or down in pitch, or perform a vibrato. The sound of a guitar can be modified by new playing techniques such as string bending, tapping, hammering on, using audio feedback, or slide guitar playing. There are several types of electric guitar, including the solid body guitar, various types of hollow body guitars, the seven-string guitar, which typically adds a low "B" string below the low "E", and the twelve string electric guitar, which has six pairs of strings.
Popular music and rock groups often use the electric guitar in two roles: as a rhythm guitar which provides the chord sequence or "progression" and sets out the "beat" (as part of a rhythm section), and a lead guitar, which is used to perform melody lines, melodic instrumental fill passages, and guitar solos.
Many experiments at electrically amplifying the vibrations of a string instrument date back to the early part of the twentieth century. Patents from the 1910s show telephone transmitters adapted and placed inside violins and banjos to amplify the sound. Hobbyists in the 1920s used carbon button microphones attached to the bridge, however these detected vibration from the bridge on top of the instrument, resulting in a weak signal.〔 With numerous people experimenting with electrical instruments in the 1920s and early 1930s, there are many claimants to have been the first to invent an electric guitar.
Electric guitars were originally designed by guitar makers and instrument manufacturers. Some of the earliest electric guitars adapted hollow bodied acoustic instruments and used tungsten pickups. The first electrically amplified guitar was designed in 1931 by George Beauchamp, General Manager at National Guitar Corporation with Paul Barth who was Vice President. The maple body prototype for the one piece cast aluminum "Frying Pan" was built by Harry Watson, factory superintendent of National Guitar Corporation.〔 Commercial production began in late summer of 1932 by the Ro-Pat-In Corporation (Electro-Patent-Instrument Company Los Angeles),〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Guitar E – berichte und fotos )〕 a partnership of Beauchamp, Adolph Rickenbacker (originally Rickenbacher), and Paul Barth. By 1934 the company was renamed Rickenbacker Electro Stringed Instrument Company.
The need for the amplified guitar became apparent during the big band era as orchestras increased in size, particularly when guitars had to compete with large brass sections. The first electric guitars used in jazz were hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies with electromagnetic transducers. By 1932 an electrically amplified guitar was commercially available. Early electric guitar manufacturers include: Rickenbacker (first called Ro-Pat-In) in 1932, Dobro in 1933, National, AudioVox and Volu-tone in 1934, Vega, Epiphone (Electrophone and Electar), and Gibson in 1935 and many others by 1936.
The solid body electric guitar is made of solid wood, without functionally resonating air spaces. Rickenbacker offered a cast aluminum electric steel guitar, nicknamed "The Frying Pan" or "The Pancake Guitar", developed in 1931 with production beginning in the summer of 1932.
The first solid body "Spanish" standard guitar was offered by Vivi-Tone no later than 1934. This model featured a guitar-shaped body of a single sheet of plywood affixed to a wood frame. Another early, substantially solid Spanish electric guitar, called Electro Spanish, was marketed by the "Rickenbacker" guitar company in 1935 and made of Bakelite. By 1936, the Slingerland company introduced a wooden solid body electric model, the Slingerland Songster 401 (and a lap steel counterpart: the Songster 400).
The earliest documented performance with an electrically amplified guitar was in 1932, by Gage Brewer.〔Wheelwright, Lynn; Carter, Walter (28 April 2010). (). ''Vintage Guitar''. Retrieved 10 July 2014.〕 The Wichita, Kansas-based musician had an Electric Hawaiian A-25 (frypan, lap-steel) and a standard Electric Spanish from George Beauchamp of Los Angeles, California. Brewer publicized his new instruments in an article in the ''Wichita Beacon'' of 2 October 1932 and through performances that month.
The first recordings using the electric guitar were by Hawaiian style players, in 1933. Bob Dunn of Milton Brown's Musical Brownies introduced the electric Hawaiian guitar to Western Swing with his January 1935 Decca recordings, departing almost entirely from Hawaiian musical influence and heading towards jazz and blues. Alvino Rey was an artist who took this instrument to a wide audience in a large orchestral setting and later developed the pedal steel guitar for Gibson. An early proponent of the electric Spanish guitar was jazz guitarist George Barnes who used the instrument in two songs recorded in Chicago on 1 March 1938, "Sweetheart Land" and "It's a Low-Down Dirty Shame". Some incorrectly attribute the first recording to Eddie Durham, but his recording with the Kansas City Five was 15 days later.〔Broadbent, p. 59〕 Durham introduced the instrument to a young Charlie Christian, who made the instrument famous in his brief life and would be a major influence on jazz guitarists for decades thereafter.
Gibson's first production electric guitar, marketed in 1936, was the ES-150 model ("ES" for "Electric Spanish"; and "150" reflecting the $150 price of the instrument, along with matching amplifier). The ES-150 guitar featured a single-coil, hexagonally shaped "bar" pickup, which was designed by Walt Fuller. It became known as the "Charlie Christian" pickup (named for the great jazz guitarist who was among the first to perform with the ES-150 guitar). The ES-150 achieved some popularity, but suffered from unequal loudness across the six strings.
Early proponents of the electric guitar on record include: Alvino Rey (Phil Spitalney Orchestra), Les Paul (Fred Waring Orchestra), Danny Stewart (Andy Iona Orchestra), George Barnes (under many aliases), Lonnie Johnson, Floyd Smith, Big Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, George Van Eps, Charlie Christian (Benny Goodman Orchestra) Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, and Arthur Crudup.
A functionally solid body electric guitar was designed and built in 1940 by Les Paul from an Epiphone acoustic archtop. His "log guitar" (so called because it consisted of a simple 4x4 wood post with a neck attached to it and homemade pickups and hardware, with two detachable Epiphone hollow body halves attached to the sides for appearance only) shares nothing in design or hardware with the solid body Gibson Les Paul introduced in 1952. However, the feedback problem associated with hollow-bodied electric guitars was understood long before Paul's "log" was created in 1940; Gage Brewer's Ro-Pat-In of 1932 had a top so heavily reinforced that it essentially functioned as a solid-body instrument.〔
In 1945, Richard D. Bourgerie made an electric guitar pickup and amplifier for professional guitar player George Barnes. Bourgerie worked through World War II at Howard Radio Company making electronic equipment for the American military. Barnes showed the result to Les Paul, who then arranged for Bourgerie to have one made for him.
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