electric guitars - a beautiful guitar in sunburst color


The electric guitar is by far one of the most popular musical instruments in the world, but how did they come about and who actually invented it?

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An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals.

The Guitar Vibrations

The vibration occurs when a guitar layer strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which is relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

The Electric Signal

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.

Electric guitar design and construction varies greatly in the shape of the body and the configuration of the neck, bridge, and pickups.

Modify The Sound

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.





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 vibrations from the bridge on top of the instrument, resulting in a weak signal.

With numerous people experimenting with electrical musical instruments in the 1920s and early 1930s, there are many claimants to have been the first to invent an electric guitar.



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 and electrification.

The first electric guitars used in jazz were hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies with electromagnetic transducers.

Early electric guitar manufacturers include the:

  • Rickenbacker in 1932
  • Dobro in 1933
  • The National
  • AudioVox
  • Volu-tone in 1934
  • Vega
  • Epiphone (Electrophone and Electar)
  • Gibson in 1935 and many others by the year 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.

The maple body prototype for the one-piece cast aluminium “frying pan” was built by Harry Watson, factory superintendent of the National Guitar Corporation.

Commercial production began in late summer of 1932 by the Ro-Pat-In Corporation (Electro-Patent-Instrument Company), in Los Angeles, a partnership of Beauchamp, Adolph Rickenbacker (originally Rickenbacher), and Paul Barth.

In 1934, the company was renamed the RickenbackerElectro 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.

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.



The electric guitar was initially invented in 1931 by Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp, 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.

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.



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.



    This was launched in 1954 by Fender, the Fender Stratocaster is the most enduring and widely recognized model of electric guitar available. The Stratocaster (often known simply as a “strat” is a diverse guitar, and has been used to great effect in a huge variety of genres (country, rock, pop, folk, soul, blues, and R&B).This type of guitar also generally has a tremolo. Because the guitar has been used in so many genres, it’s hard to associate to really describe a definitive Stratocaster tone. However, the guitar is generally considered to have a mid-range “quack”.The Stratocaster, though used in a variety of genres, is best suited to playing the blues. The guitar sounds great clean and under low levels of gain, and its classic mid-range honk gives it a lyrical and cutting voice incredibly well suited to playing the blues.


    The Super Strat, though modelled after the Stratocaster, is a very different guitar. Basically, the only similarity this guitar really has to its namesake is the body style.The pickups generally used in Super Strats are of a higher output, which makes them more suited for metal and hard rock.The Super Strats also usually packed with tremolos (by Floyd Rose), these allow the musician to have a great range of movement, significantly a lot more than your usual Fender Stratocaster Tremolo. You get all of this and still get much better tuning integrity. This allows the player to use it longer without the electric guitar getting out of tune.They also don’t really have the same mid-range honk as a genuine strat, due to the fact that they generally utilize at least one humbucking pickup (more on this later). Because this body style commonly comes packed with high-output pickups, the Super Strat is best suited to rock and heavy metal.



    The Fender Telecaster, the successor to the first electric guitar that was mass-produced, defines the sound of country music. If you’re looking to get an idea of the stereotypical Telecaster tone, definitely check out pre-1980s country.Though, while the guitar is generally associated with country, the Telecaster is actually a pretty versatile instrument. When EQ’d properly, which admittedly can be a challenge with many Telecasters, this type of guitar has a strident mid-range and a glassy (though prominent) high-end response.The Telecaster is especially well-suited to country, but it’s actually a great fit for any genre with the exception of harder varieties of rock. It has a very clear, though sometimes nasal, voice.Though, this bold and cutting voice does somewhat limit its usefulness as a rhythm instrument.


  1. OFFSET:
    The offset body style includes three main instruments: the Jaguar, the Mustang, and the Jazzmaster.While there are definite differences between them, offset guitars all generally have a “jangly” sound – a bright and clear with a subtle mid and low-end response. These guitars are also well suited to rhythm work depending on their tone knobs are adjusted.The jangly tone produced by many offset guitars has made them the axe of choice for a huge variety of alternative musicians. The clarity you get with these three guitars makes them a good fit for genres that use a lot of effects (this is also true with the Telecaster). This is why offset guitars are so common in shoe-gaze and other alternative genres.



  1. LES PAUL:
    Most commonly associated with classic rock, the Les Paul lives up to its reputation as a rock ‘n’ roll machine. However, the guitar is actually capable of a lot more.Something many don’t recognize about the Les Paul is that in the right situations it actually has a gorgeous clean tone. The Les Paul can honestly cover just about every genre with the exception of country.The guitar has been used in jazz, metal, R&B, countless varieties of rock, and even punk. The guitar is a definite workhorse, and if you’re looking for a humbucker equipped guitar you definitely can’t go wrong with a Les Paul.The Les Paul body style actually encompasses a few different designs: solid, solid-arched, and solid-chambered. Solid Les Pauls are made from a solid piece of wood, with some having a significantly arched top and a maple cap and some lacking a curved top and the maple cap.Chambered Les Pauls are arched, but the inside of the body is chambered, so there are a few cavities underneath the top. The tonal differences between the three are minimal at best, though chambered Les Pauls are significantly lighter than solid Les Pauls.


    While the SG and Flying V are visually distinctive from one another, the guitars are both solid-body electric guitars traditionally equipped with two humbuckers.They also usually have a similar response and feel. The main difference between the two is that many find the Flying V body style to be uncomfortable and awkward, though while that may be the case the Flying V does have significantly better upper neck access.Tonally, these guitars are very similar. They both have that characteristic Gibson tone, which makes them a good fit for rock and metal. Depending on the pickups, they can cover just as much ground as the Les Paul (though they may not be quite as traditional as the Les Paul in some situations).Like the Les Paul, both the Flying V and SG can produce great results in just about any genre with the exception of country.




  1. ALDER: alder is lightweight with soft tight pores. It also has a large swirling grain pattern to it. These larger rings and sections add to its strength and the complexity of the tones. Unlike Basswood, which tends to soften any highs, Alder retains many more, but also gives room for the lows. You have a wider scope of tones, which leads to the perception of a little fewer mids than Basswood.


  1. BASSWOOD: Is an inexpensive tonewood, which is easy to work within the factory, easy to cut, sand and finish. Basswood is softwood with tight grains and will tend to dampen sharp highs and soften them. Helping level out the thin tinny sound associated with knife-edged tremolo contacts. The softness of Basswood also stimulates a weaker low end. It’s light in weight, but not because of large pores. Rather it’s low in mass overall. Deep, breathy sub-lows aren’t resonated in Basswood.


  1. MAHOGANY: Mahogany, mainly used in the acoustic world, for back and sides. It is the most commonly used hardwood because it’s relatively economical, durable, attractive, easy to work with and resonant. Mahogany became popular in guitars because it is attractive and cheaper to get than rosewood. Mahogany lends more of a parlour kind of tone to the guitar.


  1. SWAMP ASH: Ash is available in two types: Northern (hard) or Southern (soft). Hard Ash is popular because of its bright tone and long sustaining qualities. Many 50’s era Fender guitars were built with Soft Ash (aka Swamp Ash) because it has a much warmer feel than hard ash. Both variations have open grain, meaning a good amount of prep has to be done at the factory to ensure the grain is filled, either with lacquer or coloured fillers, to ensure a smooth surface for clearing.
  2. WALNUT: Walnut’s tone is slightly warmer than maple, although it still has good sustain. Walnut looks great with oil finishes and is comparatively heavy, but still lighter than maple.


  1. KOA: Koa comes from Hawaii, which automatically means that it is in short supply. It comes in a variety of rich golden colours, from light to dark, and often with very strong grain markings, which look stunning. Koa makes a very balanced sounding guitar. Much of the warmth of rosewood and much of the brightness of Mahogany. The highs don’t jump out like glass breaking.


  1. MAPLE: Hugely popular wood for necks and fretboards. Easily identifiable because of its bright tone, characteristic grain patterns and moderate weight. Its tonal characteristics include good sustain with plenty of bites. It is about as dense as hard ash but is much easier to finish due to its tight grain, very durable. Hard Maple is tough on factory tools so it’s generally used for slimmer guitars. It really shouts with bright highs and strong upper midrange.


  1. ROSEWOOD: This wood has a beautiful rich variety of brown and purple colours. It makes a warm rich sounding guitar with great resonance and volume. However, Brazilian rosewood is no longer available in commercial quality or quantity. As a result, it now sells for sizeable prices.To most, Brazilian has better clarity in the bottom and an almost bell-like tone in the trebles. Indian rosewood has become the generic substitute for Brazilian rosewood.Generally speaking, this wood is not as attractive as Brazilian and It has a noticeably purple colour and the grain markings are coarser.Making a solid guitar out of Rosewood would be too heavy and cost-prohibitive in most cases. This is because wood is rare and expensive. Plus its porous nature requires a good deal of “pore fill” (and subsequent labour) before lacquer can be applied.Although, Rosewood is a very hard wood (harder than Maple) its porous nature gives it a warmer tone in general.




Electric guitar pickups (and electric bass pickups) can be divided into three main categories: single-coil, humbucker, and P90.

SINGLE COIL: Single coil pickups use a single magnet. A good example of a single-coil pickup are the pickups on a Standard Fender Stratocaster (though they’re used on countless guitars, not just those from Fender!).Single coil pickups don’t have one easy to define tone because they’re so widely used, but as a general rule, they’re considered to be brighter than humbuckers or P90s. The genres that use single-coil pickups famously include country and surf, though they sound great in almost any genre.They’re only weakness is that they don’t handle high levels of distortion (like what you’d hear in hard rock and metal) as well as humbuckers.


HUMBUCKER: Humbuckers are essentially two single-coil pickups working together. Single coil pickups are subject to 60-cycle hum, a phenomenon where background electrical noise is transferred to your amp along with your strings’ vibrations. Humbuckers were designed to “buck” hum, hence the name.Humbuckers have a warm tone in comparison to single-coil pickups, which is why they’re the pickup of choice for jazz. However, due to their higher output, they outperform single-coil pickups in genres where high levels of distortion are required. The only genres humbuckers don’t do well are country and surf, but beyond that, they perform well in any circumstance.


P90: Last but not least, P90s. P90 pickups are the happy medium between single-coil and humbucker pickups. They have a higher output than single-coil pickups, but they don’t have the output of humbuckers.


Their tone has a bit more depth than your standard single-coil, but not to the extent of humbuckers. P90 pickups are best suited to blues and rock (but not hard rock), though they’re still relatively versatile.



The C Chord:
Place your index finger on the second string at the first fret, your middle finger on the fourth string at the second fret, and your ring finger on the fifth string at the third fret. Leave the first and second strings open, then strum the bottom five strings and you’ll hear the C Chord.

The D Chord:
Place your index finger on the third string at the second fret, your middle finger on the first string at the second fret, and your ring finger on the second string at the third fret. Leave the fourth string open, and strum the bottom four strings.

The G Chord:
Place your middle finger on the fifth string at the second fret, your ring finger on the sixth string at the third fret, and your pinky finger on the first string at the third fret. Leave strings two, three, and four open, then strum all strings. That’s the G Chord.

The E Minor Chord:
Place your middle finger on the fifth string at the second fret and your ring finger on the fourth string at the second fret. Leave strings one, two, three, and six open, then strum all strings. That’s the E-minor Chord!



  • Electric guitars are products of the 20th century and the wide expanse of electro-magnetic inventions.
  • First electric guitars were introduced in the 1930s. They used an amplifier to manipulate the shape of guitar tones.
  • BB King changed the landscape of modern rock music with his incredible guitar playing style in 1949.
  • Electric guitars can have a hollow, semi-hollow and solid body. They don’t rely on chamber acoustic to produce tones, and the presence of hollow body can cause feedback and unintentional vibrations of the strings.
  • The first electrically amplified guitar was discovered in 1931.
  • Electric guitars had one of the most profound impacts on the music history of the modern world. It enabled the creation of many new genres and changed the look and sound of many old genres. Today, electric guitar or electric bass guitar is an integral part of almost every popular band on the planet.
  • Electric guitars are today used as a primary instrument in countless music genres, including rock, pop, blues, jazz, metal, punk, reggae, R & B, and many others.
  • First fully electrical guitar was created in 1940.
  • Gibson made his first electric guitar (ES-150) in 1936. Stratocaster made his first electric guitar in 1954.
  • Electric guitars types are – Solid-body, chambered bodies, Semi-acoustic, Full hollow-body, and Electric Acoustic.
  • There are also many string bridge and neck variants, including one string, Four-string, Seven strings, Eight string, Nine string, Ten string, Twelve-string, and double-neck guitar.




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