The primary purpose behind the invention of the electric guitar was instrumentalists’ need for louder sound. Inventors crudely modified amplified acoustic guitars by attaching wires, magnets, and other “pickup” attachments to them.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the history of the invention of the electric guitar and how it became what we know and love today.
Why was the electric guitar created?
The electric guitar was invented in 1932 and became popular among jazz guitarists who wanted to perform single-note guitar solos in big bands.
These jazz guitarists wanted to be heard over other instruments in the band such as saxophones and horns.
The acoustic guitar was popular among early blues musicians, but with the invention of new amplification techniques, they were able to harness electricity and experiment with slightly modifying their acoustic guitars into electric guitars.
Who invented the electric guitar?
The electric guitar was invented by George Beauchamp in 1931.
George Beauchamp was a guitarist and lap steel player who founded the Ro-Pat-In Company (later renamed Rickenbacker) with Paul Barth in 1931.
They initially manufactured metal-bodied Hawaiian guitars, but later began making instruments of their own design including lap slides, electric basses, and solid body electric guitars.
Why was the electric guitar so important?
During the last half-century, the electric guitar has been considered by many to be the most essential and popular instrument in American music.
Certainly, its arrival revolutionized American musical technology and has influenced current musical styles.
The electric guitar allowed musicians to create new sounds, experiment with improvisation techniques, and take their music to a whole new level.
The electric guitar was often used in western swing bands of the 1930s where it would be traditionally employed as a solo rhythm instrument that filled out the band’s sound.
It was also used early on by pioneering country artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills.
Why was the electric guitar so popular?
The invention of amplification enabled all manner of stringed instruments to be heard in ensembles, but it was the electrified guitar that became popular among professional musicians and amateurs alike.
It also ushered in modern music genres like blues, country, folk, jazz, rock, and pop.
Who uses the electric guitar?
The electric guitar has been widely used in rock music genres such as blues, jazz, country, classical music, and even folk for solo compositions.
It has also been a primary instrument in countless pop songs throughout history.
In jazz circles, jazz guitarists like Charlie Christian were developing the sound of jazz guitar more than a decade before the electric guitar was first recorded.
Early on, jazz musicians like Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson had begun experimenting with amplification techniques to create new sounds for their instruments.
However, it would be guitarist Les Paul who developed the solid-body electric guitar more than a decade after the acoustic version was invented by Antonio Torres in 1887.
Who popularized the electric guitar?
The earliest commercial recordings of the electric guitar were made in 1938 by George Warren Barnes.
The most popular electric guitarists, however, were not known for their virtuosity or lengthy careers.
Instead, they became famous for their unique sounds and lack of mainstream popularity.
Gibson’s ES-150 model was released in 1936 and quickly became the first commercially available “electric Spanish styled” guitar.
It was played by jazz legend Charlie Christian who was largely responsible for making it popular.
Charlie Christian began playing the electric guitar in Benny Goodman’s band in 1936 and gave its popularity a serious boost.
Later, Les Paul designed his own prototype of the solid body “Les Paul” model with Gibson in 1940.
It was also played by countless musicians over the next six decades.
What made the electric guitar so successful?
The solid-body electric guitar was a huge commercial success for several reasons including its ease of use, durability, and player comfort.
Since its smooth surface provided less resistance to airflow than an acoustic guitar, it allowed musicians to play faster and more easily without creating much sound.
And, since the body was less resonant than an acoustic guitar it did not need to be amplified.
Although electronic amplification was developed in the late 1910s, it would not come into popular use until the 1940s.
Guitarists could plug their instruments directly into an amplifier or speaker system for greater volume and sound control.
Since the electric guitar was developed just as amplifiers became widely available, it quickly became a necessity for musicians who wanted to be heard in large venues.
Electric guitars also had greater durability than acoustic guitars and could withstand more wear and tear from travel and performing without needing repairs or replacement.
How did Les Paul invent the electric guitar?
The solid-body electric guitar is popularly considered the invention of guitarist and inventor Les Paul.
However, his design was actually influenced by two earlier engineering attempts that also involved guitarist Les Paul.
In 1941, Gibson’s first solid-body guitar, dubbed “The Log,” would be a precursor to the classic design used today.
It was made from a single slab of pine with strings anchored at the end.
A year later, Les Paul would create another prototype for Gibson that was even closer to the design used today.
It had an x-shaped frame with six steel strings running along with it.
However, neither design gained much traction at the time and both were eventually forgotten.
It was not until 1952 that Gibson debuted the Les Paul design which would soon become one of the most popular guitars in history.
It is said that Les Paul used his mom’s candlestick telephone to string it by twisting the wire around each peg in order to quickly restring his guitar.
He is also credited with creating the solid-body electric guitar tuning pegs, which have remained largely unchanged for six decades.
The electric guitar was invented in the 1930s following the release of the first commercial acoustic guitar in 1887.
It was popularized by Charlie Christian and other jazz musicians during the swing era but did not become widely used until amplifier technology became widely available in the 1940s.
It was then that it became a necessity for players who wanted to be heard above a loud band and was later popularly considered to be the invention of guitarist and inventor Les Paul.
Although some credit his design as being influenced by earlier attempts by other guitarists, the first commercially successful electric guitar would not be unveiled until 1952.