About three to four years ago, one of my students asked me, “Who invented the electric guitar and what is the history behind this?” I could only answer the name “George Beauchamp“, but the history of the guitar was a bit unclear to me.
So, I could not answer the question in detail. Like me, most of the guitar instructors and students don’t know the history of the electric guitar. Plus, they have a misconception about electrical guitar inventors.
To clear the misconception and ambiguity of guitar invention history, I have decided to write a short article about electric guitar invention and inventor history. In this article, there will be several sorts of discussions regarding the topics.
My first discussion is about the history of the guitar:
The concept of guitar took birth around 3,000 years ago. At that time, it was called “the cithara,” a Sanskrit word. Later the term evolved into a Spanish word “Guitarra”. Guitarra became “guitar.”
Like this historical word evolution, the instrument had also gone through advancement. For example, the prototype of the guitar showed up in ancient Egypt. It was used by an Egyptian singer named Har-mose.
A Spanish king later brought the prototype in Europe between the sixth to the ninth century. At that time, the instrument had started to snatch the eyes of music experts. They tended to develop the idea and succeeded in inventing “Baroque Guitar”.
It was the father of present classical guitar. From that invention, the revolution of the acoustic guitar started. People began to adopt the instrument in their recreation, entertainment, and party.
But the appeal of the instrument started to degrade for some loopholes. Lack of flexibility is one of the firm reasons. So, Antonio Torres Jurado came to solve the problem.
In the 1800 century, he started to build some updated acoustic guitars. The sound and flexibility of his guitars were tremendous. That successful entry had changed the idea of guitar playing.
Musicians were grabbing the new idea quickly. As a result, they started to form a group of the musical community. In that community, the traditional musical instruments like drums, and others were merged with an acoustic guitar.
When all the instruments were playing simultaneously, the sound of the guitar became silent. They could not make a perfect balance of their music. This sort of situation influenced many musicians to experiment on louder guitar sounds.
For example, some musicians tried the carbon button microphone over the guitar bridge. But they could not amplify the sound as they expected. This experiment persisted until the beginning of 1930.
The invention of electric guitar:
In 1930, the world of music had witnessed a revolution of the electric guitar. George Beauchamp coined it. A US-based musician who successfully able to amplify the sound of the guitar.
This revolutionary invention did not only happen for George Beauchamp. There was another person behind the scene, and he was none other than Adolph Rickenbacker. Adolph Rickenbacker was an electrical engineer.
The pair Beauchamp and Adolph later took the idea into the next level. Before writing about the next level idea, I want to write about the struggling period of George Beauchamp shortly.
George Beauchamp started his test with a Hawaiian guitar. In research, Mr Richard Smith (a historian) said that; Hawaiian lap steel guitars were the first pioneer in developing the idea of an immediate guitar pickup.
So, based on the historical point of view, it is clear that George tried to understand the physics of Hawaiian guitar. Then he went to Adolph for a better idea. When Mr. Adolph cleared the concept of amplifying a guitar sound, he understood that the things were getting critical, and struggle would be more robust than he thought.
Because the device he thought was heavier. Therefore, George and Adolph joined together to create a proper electric guitar. Since both of them were music enthusiasts, they tried heart and soul to bring a better invention.
Finally, their effort was enlightened with an electromagnetic device. The device could convert the strings vibration into a sweet sound. We call that device now the pickups. Later, the legendary guitarist Les Paul invented a solid electric guitar body. From that time, the idea of the electric guitar has started to evolve.
And that’s the answer to electric guitar invention. Since the article is all about electric guitar invention, here I have attached a picture of the first electric guitar with some details.
Frying pan 1932:
This guitar was the proper output of George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker experiment. They joined to create this prototype for the future generation. So, what was inside this first electric guitar?
Well, the guitar body was made from cast aluminum with a set of neck joints. To make the right combination with the body and sound, Creators used aluminum in the fretboard and bridge part. These combinations of aluminum later bloomed nicely through the magnet pickups. At that time, magnet pickups sound smooth and precise. And all the musicians wanted this to amplify their guitar sound.
Now let’s talk about a common misconception:
At the beginning of my article, I said that I would clear the misunderstanding and ambiguity on guitar invention, right? So, the previous discussion removed the uncertainty of the guitar inventor, and this discussion will make the common misconception.
So, the major misconception of guitar invention is; Les paul is the inventor of the electric guitar. This is the wrong information. Mr. Les Paul developed the idea of George and Adolph’s electric guitar theory.
To conclude the writing, it’s better to say that; every guitar player should know the history of guitar invention and the struggle of an ancestor. This sort of knowledge will not only motivate them to improve their playing skills but also increase awareness about the guitar. From that saying, now I can say that I will share this article with all my students to learn about the history of electric guitar invention.