History of the electric guitar
Before the development of the very first electric guitar in the 1930s, the acoustic guitar was the only available guitar. The soft melodic tone of the acoustic guitar made it hard to hear when it was played alongside the now larger brass sections in musical groups.
During the 1930s, the first electric guitar was created. Since then it has significantly affected the direction of 20th century music. The electric guitar still had critics, but the ability to play with more creativity and individual style won people over.
First pick-up guitar
Lloyd Loar devised and created the first magnetic pick-up in 1924 while working as an inventor and engineer at the Gibson guitar company. He figured out that he was able to convert the vibrations of guitar strings into electrical signals. These electrical signals could then be amplified through a typical speaker system. This first pick-up design was crude, but it would slowly be refined into the pick-up design we see today.
First electric guitar
Adolph Rickenbacker, George Beauchamp and Paul Barth founded the Electro String Company in 1931. The Electro String Company developed the first electric guitars that we marketed to the general public. These guitars were made from cast aluminium and were played on a person's lap using a steel slide much like todays steel guitar. Because of their unusual material, they were affectionately called "Frying Pans".
The Gibson guitar company saw the success of the frying pan guitars and were prompted to also build their first electric guitar, the ES-150. This guitar is a legend today.
First solid-body electric guitar
Electric guitars quickly became popular but suffered a flaw in their construction. The body of the guitar would vibrate due to the amplified sounds from the speakers. This created what we know as feedback. A remedy was found by building an electric guitar with a solid body that would not vibrate. Like most innovations, this caused a lot of controversy.
Les Paul created a guitar call The Log in the 1940s. It was called this as it was made from a simple 4x4 wood post with a neck attached to it and home-made pick-ups and hardware. Around the same time, engineer Paul Bigsby and guitarist Merle Travis developed a solid-body electric guitar that closely resembled the solid-body electric guitars available today.
First mass produced electric guitar
The Fender Broadcaster was the first mass produced electric guitar created by Leo Fender in 1950. As the name Broadcaster was already being used by another company, this guitar was quickly renamed to the infamous Telecaster. Leo followed this guitar up with the most well known guitar of all time, the Stratocaster.
The success of Leo and the Fender company lead other guitars makers to follow. The Gibson guitar company teamed up with Les Paul to create the famous Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.
More Affordable Electric Guitars
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, famous brand electric guitars made by Fender and Gibson we to expensive for average people to buy. Cheap imitations flooded the market but were sub-standard in sound and harder to play. In the 1980's the Japanese started to manufacture electric guitars that were the same quality as the expensive American models but at more affordable prices.
The new Japanese guitars prompted Fender and the other leading guitar makers to produce cheaper versions of their classic models. This allowed electric guitars to be as affordable and accessible as they are today.
The Gibson and Fender guitar makers are still producing some of their well-known, "top of the line" guitars. Other quality guitar makers such as BC Rich, ESP and Peavey ensure that the market stays competitive and forces constant innovation in designs, shapes, materials and technologies to make better sounding eclectic guitars.
The competitive market and constant innovation has also meant that some modern guitars have the ability to sound like other types of guitars or even sound like other types of instruments.