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 anelectric 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 musicians sought to amplify their sound in the big band format. During the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar became the most important instrument in popmusic. 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 rock and roll and many other genres of music.
Various 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 transmittersadapted 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 inventan electric guitar.
Electric guitars were originally designed by guitar makers and instrument manufacturers. Guitar innovator Les Paul experimented with microphones attached to guitars. 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 atNational 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), a partnership of Beauchamp, AdolphRickenbacker (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 withelectromagnetic 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, withoutfunctionally 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. An example of this model, featuring a guitar-shaped body of a single sheet of plywood affixed to awood 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 earliest documented performance with an electrically amplified guitar was in 1932, by Gage Brewer. The Wichita, Kansas-based musician...
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