Music Technology – A Brief History of the Electric Guitar

For the A2 music technology exam you are going to need to know a lot of information about the history and development of various music technologies. Below is enough information to give you all 16 marks if a relevant question comes up on the development of the electric guitar but remember your response will need to be well written.

1920s – The first attempts at an amplified instrument came in the development of electrical amplification by the radio industry.

1924 – One of the earliest innovators was Lloyd Loar, an engineer at Gibson Guitar Company. Loar developed an electric pickup for the viola and the string bass.

1928 – The first commercially advertised electric guitar, made by the Stromberg-Voisinet company which utilized a similar pickup to Loar’s, with vibrations being picked up from the soundboard.

1932 – The first electromagnet pick up which registered string vibration from the strings themselves. The first commercially successful model, the so-called “Frying Pan,” was developed and marketed by George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker.

1939 – The first artist to develop a playing style unique to this instrument was Charlie Christian

1950 – Les Paul, who was already a well-known acoustic guitarist, built a guitar on a four-by-four piece of pine and nicknamed it “The Log.”

1950 – Leo Fender, a former radio repairman, introduced a mass-produced solid-body guitar

1952 – Gibson introduced a model endorsed by Les Paul himself. The solid-body guitars didn’t have the feedback problems that characterized hollow-body electric guitars, and they had greater sustain.

1950’s and 1960’s – rock stars secured Gibson and Paul’s designs, as well as Fender’s famous Stratocaster, a permanent place in American culture.

1960’s and 1970’s – The introduction of effects and more powerful amplification

Key artists include:

Jimi Hendricks – Was a prominent artist during the late 1960s and early 1970s. His use of the electric guitar included massive use of distortion and delay effects. Purple Haze is one of his most popular songs.

Jimi Paige – Lead guitarist, producer and composer for Led Zeppelin and contributed to their success in the 1970s

The Edge – Lead guitar for the band U2 (1980s) Successful albums include The Joshua Tree and War

Possible Question for the Electric Guitar:

  1. In which ways did Jimmy Hendricks use of the electric guitar affect modern popular music?
  2. Describe the development of the electric guitar from the early 1950s
  3. Describe the components that make up the inner workings of an electric guitar
  4. Describe the history and development of guitar effects and how they have influences modern popular music