Why Was The First Electric Guitar Made?

Electric Guitar

The developments in technology have taken everything we use to new heights of sophistication, a far cry from the simpler times. Much as we love the rustic charm of an acoustic guitar, this very instrument hasn’t been left out of modernization. Electric guitars replaced them a long time back. But ever wondered, why the need arose to do that? Well, actually the reasons are pretty straight forward. As we know, acoustic guitars make sounds by the resonance of the vibrating strings that is produced within the hollow space of the guitar. And while the sound is amplified considerably, it is still not enough to be played alongside other louder musical instruments such as drums. The sound just plain drowns out. So at the time back in 1920’s, the time when Jazz music was gaining immense popularity, an acoustic guitar did not stand up to the challenge. This was the simple reason behind the invention of the electrical guitar.

The Story Begins …

The crown of honor goes to two main people in this respect, a passionate musician George Beauchamp and an equally passionate electrical engineer Adolph Rickenbacker. Although many people attempted to modernize the guitars before them. Jazz musicians, for instance, tried attaching various kinds of components to the hollow wooden guitars in an attempt to amplify the sound much further but with no success. The results were less than satisfactory and nobody could come with a viable, amplifiable design.

Breakthrough Comes

Beauchamp had the opportunity to meet up with Rickenbacker, an innovator by nature and an expert in his field. Together, they agreed to work on an electricity-enabled guitar model. A huge amount of experimentation ensued, but it ended in the successful development of an electromagnetic model that showed unmatched clarity for electrically amplified string vibrations. The way it worked was by converting the string vibrations into electric signals by way of electromagnets. These signals were then amplified and played on speakers.

Later in 1931, the same technology was used on another design created by Harry Watson. This was an aluminum lap steel guitar that was named “Frying Pan” because of its small size and shape, and became the first prototype of commercially manufactured electric guitars. This was the bitter-sweet switch from the acoustic guitars towards an era of electrically enhanced guitars.

The Age of Electrical Guitars

Today electric guitars are available in a huge variety. And essentially, they are an advanced form of acoustic guitars, but because if the sheer difference in the technologies that are involved in their make, the two instruments are actually pretty different. The sounds and the music varieties they produce, are very different. While the acoustic guitar is entirely depending on the resonance of vibrations of the strings for its sound mechanism, the wood that is used in the making also has a very profound effect on the quality of the sound. The sound that is created by the combination of steel and wood or nylon and wood, are very natural and mellow.

While the resonance still plays a part in creating the sound in an electric guitar, it has a sort of “synthetic” mechanism, and hence the sound quality is very typical of the electromagnetic technology. Besides the material used in the making of an electric guitar is completely irrelevant as far as the sound quality of the guitar is concerned. The material just provides a structure that houses the actual mechanism.

So if you’re ready to make your switch to electric guitar, you would be dizzied by the sheer variety available in the market. But it is a good idea to check for authentic brands, their specifications and reviews online before you go for a purchase. There are many providers that you can check out online for their electric guitar range such as Sadek Music Centre, Melody House, and Musician’s Warehouse.


This guest post was submitted by Allen Walker.  4 Part Music do not accept responsibility for any external links from this post. 

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