A long and mighty history, owing itself to a lineage of equally mighty individuals, has brought the first electric guitar out of the treetops of imagination and into the walking flesh of our lives. The Electric Guitar has survived and thrived through ongoing periods of natural selection, hybridism, and fruitful bouts of geographical distribution; creating what we have today; seen as the pinnacle of modern technologies.
Now, let this humble story on the development of the electric guitar stand as a testament to the true origin of our beloved instrument. May it ne’er find itself cast under the dross of stagnant history, may it ne’er cease to inspire. May we carry forth into the unseen future the continued growth of the wondrous and ever-evolving electric guitar.
1931: The Rickenbacker “Frying Pan”
The “frying pan” was the first electric guitar ever produced. The instrument was created in 1931 by George Beauchamp, and subsequently manufactured by Rickenbacker Electro. The instrument earned its name because its shape resembles a frying pan: it has a flat, circular body, and the neck represents the “handle.” It was a lap steel guitar designed to cash in on the popularity of Hawaiian music during the 1930s. Beauchamp and machinist Adolph Rickenbacker began selling the Frying Pan in 1932; however, Beauchamp was not awarded a patent for his idea until 1937, a fact that allowed other guitar companies to produce electric guitars during the same period.
1935: The Rickenbacker “Electro String”
This electric guitar was called the Bakelite Spanish
1941: Les Paul “Log”
The Les Paul “Log” was created by Les Paul after persuading Epiphone to let him use their workshop on Sundays. A Gibson pickup was mounted onto a 4″ x 4″ block of solid maple wood with the string, to avoid the feedback problems that acoustic/electric guitar had at the time. For the sake of appearance, he attached the body of an Epiphone hollow-body guitar, sawn lengthwise with The Log in the middle. This solved his two main problems: feedback, as the acoustic body no longer resonated with the amplified sound, and sustain, as the energy of the strings was not dissipated in generating sound through the
In the 1940s, Paul Bigsby, best known as the creator of the “Bigsby Vibrato”, was a foreman in a machine shop owned by Albert Crocker of the Crocker Motorcycle Company. Bigsby’s love of motorcycles and country-western music led to a friendship with country-western singer Merle Travis. The seeds of Bigsby’s subsequent career with his signature vibrato design were most likely planted the day Travis asked him if he could fix a Kaufman vibrato unit. He did more than fix it. Bigsby created a whole new system. The creation had something that would subsequently prove very important in the development of solidbody electric guitars — all six tuners on one side of the headstock as opposed to the three-a-side headstocks popular at the time (and, of course, still popular on many electric solid bodies).
1948: Fender Broadcaster (Telecaster)
Once Leo Fender had parted ways with his partner “Doc” Kauffman, he set out to create a
1952: Gibson Les Paul
The Les Paul model was the result of a design collaboration between Gibson
1954: Fender Stratocaster
The Fender Stratocaster, often referred to as “Strat”, is a model of electric
1979: Van Halen “Frankenstrat”
The Frankenstrat was Eddie’s attempt to combine a Gibson and Fender. It was made from an ash Stratocaster body with a routing that Eddie made to fit in a Gibson PAF humbucking bridge pickup, with a single coil neck pickup. The neck pickup was simply for decoration and was never actually wired with the humbucker, due to Eddie’s inability to wire the switch properly. It had a maple neck, chrome hardware, and red, black, and white stripes. Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstrat” guitar marked the beginning of guitars made for the hyperfast, technical playing. Van Halen pioneered employing higher output pickups, state of the art floating tremolo units, and sleeker, more profiled necks and bodes to play faster on. Virtually every major manufacturer raced to come out with models based on Eddie’s original guitar.
1982: Jackson Randy Rhoads
The Jackson Randy Rhoads was the electric guitar that was originally commissioned by guitarist Randy Rhoads, and is now produced by Jackson Guitars. Originally, this guitar was to be called The Original SIN. His second Flying V, which was black with a silver pickguard and string-thru body bridge, was going to be called the Concorde. Randy re-designed these newer ‘Concordes’ or production models with a longer “horn” because he felt too many people were relating his white Pinstripe V to a Flying V; he wanted to produce a guitar that bore more resemblance to a shark’s fin. His V’s both had maple bodies with maple thru body necks. The SIN had a standard blocked vintage-style tremolo. The vibrato is of very high quality; and the pickups are designed to capture the treble more efficiently than a normal guitar.
1994: Ibanez 7-String
The 7-string, solid-body guitar was originally developed in the early 90s by Steve Vai with Ibanez guitars. The seven-string guitar became prominent when the band Korn featured Ibanez Universe guitars on their 1994 debut album, capitalizing on the massive low end produced by the 7th string (typically a low A). This period marked a highwater point in the popularity of the seven-string guitar, as manufacturers jumped on the seven string bandwagon that they had previously steered clear of including such “traditional” brands as Fender subsidiary Squier and Gibson subsidiary Epiphone, and manufacturers who had been producing sevens expanded their offerings. Today the 7-string still rumbles and shreds on with artists like Muse, Dream Theater, and Suicide Silence.
Guitar Hero Controller
Tommy Emmanuel is one of the world’s most accomplished fingerstyle guitarists. With jaw-dropping technique and mesmerizing stage presence, he has set the standard for acoustic guitar performance.
In his new book Fingerstyle Guitar Milestones, he breaks down his acoustic guitar technique and teaches it to you, pick by pick! Itis perfect for the early intermediate player who wants to develop thumb and finger independence for ultimate fingerstyle guitar technique.