A Brief History of The Electric Guitar

17 Nov 2014

An electric guitar is played the same way as an acoustic except that it uses a pickup to convert the vibrations of the strings into electrical impulses that can be amplified and otherwise manipulated.  

A pickup is a magnet wrapped in fine copper wire.  When the metal strings vibrate above the magnet, the resulting flux in the magnetic field creates a current that is sent to the amplifier.

What we would recognize as the first true electric guitar was invented in 1931 for musicians who needed help being heard amongst the other instrumentation in jazz bands and blues combos.  The first documented performance using an electrically amplified guitar was by Gage Brewer in Wichita, Kansas, in October 1932.



Electric guitars are passive—that is, they don’t possess or use any electrical power of their own.  They require an amplifier to boost the weak signal generated by the pickups so they can be heard.

Electric guitars can be made as solid bodies because the pickup takes the place of the internal chamber and soundboard found on an acoustic guitar.  Electrics can also be made as semi-hollow bodies (also known as semi-acoustics) that combine the tonal attributes of both acoustic and electric designs.

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