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History of the Electric Guitar

Skyler Clark

Salt Lake City Community College Intro to Music 1010-011 D. Jack Dunn Thursdays, 7:00pm Term Paper B


Skyler Clark Intro to Music 1010-011 D. Jack Dunn Term Paper B

History of the Electric Guitar: A Loud Impact The electric guitar has been long in development, with new techniques features and tweaks being added even to this day. The basic function of the guitar however, and the idea behind it, has not changed. The instrument was invented to enable louder sounds and bigger performances in larger venues, and is still being used for these purposes as well as others at the present time. The guitars exposure to the public, new innovations, and influential people helped develop the instrument into what it is today. Development and experimentation with electric guitars and pickups have been investigated since earlier parts of the twentieth century. Patents for sound amplification date as far back as 1910, showing evidence of common devices such as telephone transmitters adapted and placed inside instruments to amplify sound (Wiki, 2013). Amplified guitars later came into high demand during the Big Band era when guitars had to compete with ever increasingly large brass sections. Unfortunately, as many different individuals experimented with instruments and sound amplification, there can be no name given as the inventor of the electric guitar. If any one man were to be named as the inventor of the guitar however, it would be George Beauchamp. Beauchamp, general manager of the National Guitar Corporation at the time, designed an electrically amplified guitar in 1931, the production for which began in the summer of 1932 under the label Ro-Pat-In, a partnership with Adolph


Rickenbacker. Ro-Pat-In, later re-dubbed Rickenbacker Electro Stringed Company receives the credit for producing the first commercial electric guitar. Originally electric guitars were more commonly used in niche genres, such as Hawaiian, which was also the genre in which the guitar was first recorded. The e-guitar was later adapted to western swing music, opening the floodgates for the instrument to be carried into jazz and blues playing. This new innovative guitar gained exposure from many different venues, and artists, among them George Barnes, who contributed greatly to the guitar becoming widely accepted and well know with his two songs recorded in 1938 Sweetheart Land and Its a Low-Down Dirty Shame. The real exposure came however, through later rock legends the likes of Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry (Berry, 2011), who increased the electric guitars popularity using the instruments superior crisp sounds, and their own ostentatious performing styles. The social changes brought to pass through the guitars existence are also of note. The stage was set, and social standards pushed to their limits by contemporary artists of the day. Though the antiestablishment efforts seem harmless and innocent to us today, the younger generation used the examples given by these early rock stars as spring-boards to propel them towards greater changes in social structure. By the 1960-70s the generations that had been primed for change, effectually exploded, dropping almost every semblance of the past social attitudes. What was proper and expected changed drastically, leaving no boundary unchallenged, no moral unscathed, and no law unbroken; Key artists such as Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan leading the charge (Millard, 2004). Music can indeed be a catalyst for change, and the electric guitar has been one of the greatest to date.

HISTORY OF THE ELECTRIC GUITAR Another factor to play an influential role on the electric guitar and rock music on the wholewhich the guitar became widely used to produce-was sound-effects. From twang to distortion electronics were, and are used to adjust the guitars sound to the preference of the artist, making the guitar extremely versatile and allowing greater creativity than that of almost any instrument. Jim Marshall, (Millard, 2004) being one of the foremost players in the effects game, was also one of the first to develop different methods of sound alteration, and his name is still used as a popular brand today. The electric guitar has had a great impact on modern music today, rivaling

even the original guitar and the piano as instruments of import. The development, Figure 1: (Wylde, 2008) influences and innovations that all guided the journey of the electric guitar will continue to light the way as the instrument progresses into a new future with ever increasing styles and musical possibilities. This instrument with controversies, a colorful history, a bright future, and undisputable style, is here to stay. Through much adaptation, imagination, and inventive engineering, the electric guitar has become possibly the most important and influential instrument of the last century in music in western civilization, and maybe even the world.


Berry, C. (2011, April 11). Roll Over Beethoven. Retrieved from Bloom, B. (2007). The Invention of the Electric Guitar. Retrieved from Millard, A. (2004). The Electric Guitar. Balitmore: John Hopkins University Press. Wiki. (2013, March 31). Electric Guitar. Retrieved from WordPress. (2011, April Post). The Electric Guitar. Retrieved from Wylde, Z. (2008, January 9). Marshall. Retrieved from