Who REALLY Invented the Electric Guitar?
Have you got your facts streight about your electric guitar? if not, you’ve better catch up on these eight facts I bet you probably did not know.
We all associate the electric guitar with rockers like Slash, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour and the like, and probably assume that this is why the electric guitar was invented, but that is not exactly the truth.
Who really invented the electric guitar, why and who really took it in and used it before it became such an iconic instrument…? find out in this great article below.
Bob Dylan plays a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar for the first time on stage as he performs at the Newport Folk Festival with guitarist Mike Bloomfield on July 25, 1965 in Newport, Rhode Island. Photo by Alice Ochs/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
On July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival and plugged in his electric guitar for what many consider to be the first time. The folk artist turned in his flannel shirt for a black leather jacket and launched into a sneering, distortion-filled electric guitar set. 50 years later after his legendary performance, here are eight electric guitar-related facts to consider the next time you plug in:
1. Most people misunderstand who invented the electric guitar.
The idea of using electricity to create louder string instruments already existed by the end of the 19th century, according to the Smithsonian. Les Paul is often credited with inventing the electric guitar and did pioneer the solid-body electric guitar; however, musician George Beauchamp and electric engineer Adolph Rickenbacker were the first to actually achieve the modern electrically amplified guitar with good sound quality. After plenty of experimentation, the two finally invented an electromagnetic device that amplified the vibrations of the guitar strings at a good quality. In 1931, they introduced the Rickenbacker Electro A-22, or what they called the “Frying Pan,” which earned its nickname because of its circular body and long neck.
2. One of the first electric guitars only involved an acoustic guitar and a block of wood.
In 1940, Les Paul mounted strings on solid block of pine to minimize body vibrations on an electric guitar called “The Log.” He made it by literally putting a 4×4 block of wood in the middle of a wooden acoustic guitar. Although it was not the first electric guitar ever invented, it was one of the newest electrified instruments to the music scene.
The Log, a 4×4 piece of lumber with a bridge, guitar neck and pickup attached, is featured in the Les Paul exhibit, “Les Paul: The Wizard of Waukesha” in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on June 8, 2013. Photo by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
3. The science behind the electric guitar: electromagnetism.
Playing guitar is really a science. Here’s why: electric guitars are steeped in electromagnetism, a physical force that governs electrically charged particles. If you look closely at where guitarist strums, you might notice two or three Twinkie-shaped strips. Those are pickups, and instead of gooey filling, they’re packed with six magnets wrapped in ultrathin copper wire. The pickup emits an invisible and stable magnetic field, which is disrupted by the vibrations of a plucked guitar string. Thanks to Faraday’s Law of Induction, when particles in a magnetic field move, they generate electricity. This juice is carried by the pickups into an amplifier, which boosts the small electric current and sends it to the loudspeaker, making the electric sound.
But how is this electricity translated into different notes? Well, a guitar string’s sound is determined by its rate of vibration or frequency. A deep-sounding A string vibrates slower than a high-pitched B string. So when an A-string plays its disturbs the pickup’s magnetic field at a slower rate (or frequency) than a B string. The electric current generated by the pickup adopts this frequency too, creating different electric notes for the amplifier.
The other four items on the list are…:
4. Rockers were not the first musicians to champion the electric guitar in the instrument’s early years.
5. For many musicians, a guitar’s look is as important as its sound.
6. Dylan boycotted the Newport folk festival for 37 years after protesters booed his electric sound.
7. The Fender Stratocaster that Dylan plugged in at the festival is the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction.
8. You can make an electric guitar yourself from an acoustic guitar and a vinyl record player.