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Electric guitar

An electric guitar is a type of guitar with a solid body that, unlike most stringed instruments, does not rely on the acoustic properties of its own materials to amplify the vibrating of its strings. Instead, an electric guitar has electromagnetic "pickups" that convert the vibration of the steel strings into electrical current, which are then fed to an amplifier. Because it does not need to be naturally loud, the body of an electric guitar can be virtually any shape.

The electric guitar is used extensively in many popular styles of music, including blues, rock and roll, country music, pop music and jazz.


Electric guitars were originally designed by luthiers and acoustic guitar manufacturers. Some of the earliest electric guitars used Tungsten pickups and were manufactured in the 1930s by Rickenbacker. A similar model with a less expensive magnet, the log, was made popular by Epiphone later. The popularity of the guitar began with the Big Band Era, the amplified instruments being necessary to compete with the loud volumes of the large brass sections common to jazz orchestras of the thirties and forties. The version of the instrument that is most well known today, the solid body electric guitar, was invented either by the instrument company Gibson in collaboration with the musician and inventor Les Paul (who invented his first solid body electric guitar as early as 1941) or by the electrician and amplifier maker Leo Fender[?], who also invented the electric bass. Gibson, like many luthiers, had experimented with pickups on acoustic guitars already, but it was in the 1950s that the Gibson Les Paul, the instrument that would become their trademark, was introduced to the market and established their dominance of the industry. Les Paul has claimed that credit for the invention belongs to him. However in the late 1940s, Leo Fender's company introduced The Fender Broadcaster[?] which was renamed the Fender Telecaster[?] for trademark reasons. It would be unfair not to also note that some people suggest that Paul Bigsby[?] was pursuing similar development paths at the same time. In 1954 Fender introduced the Stratocaster, or Strat, which had become by the late sixties the most widely played guitar on the market. Today, the design of electric guitars by most companies still echoes one of those two classic designs, the Les Paul and the Stratocaster.

Types of electric guitar

Most electric guitars are fitted with six strings and are usually tuned from low to high E - A - D - G - B - E, the same as an acoustic guitar, although some modern guitarists tune their guitars lower to produce a heavier sound. Seven-string models exist, most of which add a low B string below the E, and were made popular by Steve Vai and modern day nu metal bands. Jimmy Page, an innovator of Hard Rock, made famous custom Gibson electric guitars with two necks - essentially two instruments in one. These are commonly known as double (or, less commonly, twin) neck guitars. The purpose is to obtain different ranges of sound from each instrument - typical combinations seen are six-string & four-string (i.e. bass guitar) or, more commonly, a six-string & twelve-string[?]. English prog rock bands such as Genesis took this trend to its zenith using custom made instruments produced by the Shergold[?] company.

Some electric guitars have a tremolo arm or whammy bar; a lever attached to the bridge and can slacken or elongate the strings temporarily, changing the pitch or creating a vibrato. Eddie Van Halen often uses this feature to embellish his playing, as heard in Van Halen's "Eruption". Technologically, an important innovator in this field was Floyd Rose, who introduced one of the first tremolos which allowed the guitar to stay in tune even after heavy use of the tremolo.

A "MIDI guitar" is an electric guitar fitted with sensors for sound and note articulation. It is used to transform string vibrations into MIDI messages to control a synthesizer or other electronic musical instrument.

Electric guitar sound and effects

Because what is heard when someone plays an electric guitar is not the sound of the strings vibrating in the air, as is the case with acoustic stringed instruments, the sound of the electric guitar is largely dependent on the electical signal path it passes through. By the late 1960s, it became common practice to exploit this dependence to alter the sound of the instrument. The most dramatic innovation was increasing the amplifier gain of the preamplifier[?] in order to overdrive the input of the Guitar amps power amplifier, clipping the electronic signal and distorting the sound in a musical way. Such distortion sounds pleasing because it emphasizes odd order harmonics which are considered pleasing to the ear.

Beginning in the 1960s, the tonal palette of the electric guitar was further modified by introducing an effects box in its signal path. Traditionally built in a small metal chassis with an on/off footswitch, such stomp boxes have become as much a part of the instrument for many electric guitarists as the electric guitar itself. Typical effects include vibrato, fuzz, Wah-wah and flanging, compression/sustain[?], delay/echo[?], and phase shift[?]. Some important innovators of this aspect of the electric guitar include guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Edward Van Halen[?], David Gilmour, Thurston Moore and Daniel Ash[?], and technicians like Roger Mayer[?] and Eddie Kramer[?].

By the 1980s and 1990s, digital effects could largely replace the analog effects used before. These new digital effects attempted to model the sound produced by analog effects, to varying degrees of quality. Although there are some obvious advantages to digital effects, many guitarists still use analog effects for their (real or perceived) superior quality.

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