Electric guitar

Electric guitar
Gibson Les Paul 54 Custom.jpg
1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom electric guitar
String instrument
Other namesGuitar, electric guitar, solid-body guitar
ClassificationString instrument (fingered or picked or strummed)
Hornbostel–Sachs classification321.322
(Composite chordophone)
Playing range
Range guitar.svg
(a standard tuned guitar)

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

The electric signal can be electronically altered to change the timbre of the sound. Often, the signal is modified using effects such as reverb, distortion and "overdrive"; the latter is considered to be a key element of electric blues guitar music and rock guitar playing.

Invented in 1931, the electric guitar was adopted by jazz guitar players, who wanted to play single-note guitar solos in large big band ensembles. Early proponents of the electric guitar on record include 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 popular music.[1] It has evolved into an instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles in genres ranging from pop and rock to country music, blues and jazz. It served as a major component in the development of electric blues, rock and roll, rock music, heavy metal music and many other genres of music.

Electric guitar design and construction varies greatly in the shape of the body and the configuration of the neck, bridge, and pickups. Guitars may have a fixed bridge or a spring-loaded hinged bridge, which lets players "bend" the pitch of notes or chords up or down, or perform vibrato effects. The sound of an electric guitar can be modified by new playing techniques such as string bending, tapping, and 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 six-string guitar (the most common type), which is usually tuned E, B, G, D, A, E, from highest to lowest strings; the seven-string guitar, which typically adds a low B string below the low E; and the twelve-string guitar, which has six pairs of strings.

In pop and rock music, the electric guitar is often used in two roles: as a rhythm guitar, which plays the chord sequences or progressions, and riffs, and sets the beat (as part of a rhythm section); and as a lead guitar, which provides instrumental melody lines, melodic instrumental fill passages, and solos. In a small group, such as a power trio, one guitarist switches between both roles. In large rock and metal bands, there is often a rhythm guitarist and a lead guitarist.


Many experiments at electrically amplifying the vibrations of a string instrument were made dating back to the early part of the 20th century. Patents from the 1910s show telephone transmitters were 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.[2] 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.

The "Frying Pan", 1932

Electric guitars were originally designed by acoustic guitar makers and instrument manufacturers. The demand for amplified guitars began during the big band era; as orchestras increased in size, guitar players soon realized the necessity in guitar amplification & electrification.[3] The first electric guitars used in jazz were hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies with electromagnetic transducers. Early electric guitar manufacturers include Rickenbacker 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 first electrically amplified stringed instrument to be marketed commercially was designed in 1931 by George Beauchamp, the general manager of the National Guitar Corporation, with Paul Barth, who was vice president.[4] The maple body prototype for the one-piece cast aluminium "frying pan" was built by Harry Watson, factory superintendent of the National Guitar Corporation.[4] Commercial production began in late summer of 1932 by the Ro-Pat-In Corporation (Electro-Patent-Instrument Company), in Los Angeles,[5][6] a partnership of Beauchamp, Adolph Rickenbacker (originally Rickenbacher), and Paul Barth.[7] In 1934, the company was renamed the Rickenbacker Electro Stringed Instrument Company. In that year Beauchamp applied for a United States patent for an Electrical Stringed Musical Instrument and the patent was later issued in 1937.[8][9][10][11]

Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts, 1935

By early-mid 1935, Electro String Instrument Corporation had achieved mainstream success with the A-22 "Frying Pan" steel guitar, and set out to capture a new audience through its release of the Electro-Spanish Model B and the Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts, which was the first full 25" scale electric guitar ever produced.[12][8][9][10][11]

The Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts was revolutionary for its time, providing players a full 25" scale, with easy access to 17 frets free of the body.[13] Unlike other lap-steel electrified instruments produced during the time, the Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts was designed to play standing vertical, upright with a strap.[13] The Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts was also the first instrument to feature a hand-operated vibrato as a standard appointment,[13] a device called the "Vibrola," invented by Doc Kauffman.[13] [14] It is estimated that fewer than 50 Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts were constructed between 1933 and 1937; fewer than 10 are known to survive today.[8][9][10][11]

Fender Stratocaster has one of the most often emulated electric guitar shapes[15][16]

The solid-body electric guitar is made of solid wood, without functionally resonating air spaces. 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 the 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).

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.

A functioning solid-body electric guitar was designed and built in 1940 by Les Paul from an Epiphone acoustic archtop. His "log guitar" —— a wood post with a neck attached and two hollow-body halves attached to the sides for appearance only — shares nothing in common for design or hardware with the solid-body Gibson Les Paul later introduced in 1952.

The feedback associated with amplified 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.[2] 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.

Early proponents of the electric guitar on record include Alvino Rey (Phil Spitalney Orchestra), Les Paul (Fred Waring Orchestra), George Barnes (under many aliases), Eddie Durham, 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. According to jazz historian James Lincoln Collier, Floyd Smith can be credited as the first person to rig up an amplified guitar. According to Collier, "Floyd's Guitar Blues" may be the first important use of the electric guitar on record.[17]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: E-Gitarre
azərbaycanca: Elektrogitara
беларуская: Электрагітара
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Электрагітара
Boarisch: E-Gitarren
Cymraeg: Gitâr drydan
Deutsch: E-Gitarre
Esperanto: Elektra gitaro
한국어: 전기 기타
հայերեն: Էլեկտրակիթառ
Bahasa Indonesia: Gitar listrik
íslenska: Rafmagnsgítar
Lingua Franca Nova: Gitar eletrical
македонски: Електрична гитара
Bahasa Melayu: Gitar elektrik
မြန်မာဘာသာ: လျှပ်စစ်ဂစ်တာ
Nederlands: Elektrische gitaar
norsk nynorsk: Elektrisk gitar
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Elektrogitara
português: Guitarra elétrica
Simple English: Electric guitar
slovenčina: Elektrická gitara
slovenščina: Električna kitara
српски / srpski: Електрична гитара
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Električna gitara
svenska: Elgitarr
татарча/tatarça: Электр гитарасы
Türkçe: Elektro gitar
українська: Електрогітара
Tiếng Việt: Guitar điện
吴语: 电吉他
粵語: 電結他
中文: 电吉他