and Electric Guitar, A History of the Electric and Acoustic Guitar
How can we know
for certain how the guitar originated, particularly if you think how
large a family of stringed instruments has contributed to the development
of our beautiful GUITAR of today?
In our brief
outline we need to look at three types of guitar:
1. The Acoustic Guitar
which encompasses the Classical guitar, the Spanish guitar, the Folk
guitar and the Resonating guitar (aka Dobro).
which encompasses the electro-acoustic and the amplified guitar, which
is amplified either by microphone or by piezo sensors.
electric bass guitar.
Ignoring very early stringed instruments, we find the instrument closest
to the guitar of today to be the 4-string Vihuela, which appeared around
1500 AD. The lute had been developed by then, and the two instruments
were often in competition with each other. The demands of polyphonic
music hastened the development of the larger 6-string guitar, tuned
identically to the instrument of today.
Until quite recently the acoustic guitar has evolved in response to
various cultural, fashionable, and regional fads. The best-known high-quality
makes, like C.F.Martin guitars, and, more recently, Ovation, have influenced
the design and development of the guitar of today.
We believe that the 12-string guitar has an exciting future. However,
some manufacturers have yet to be persuaded.
The widespread development of electricity and electronics in the early
part of the 20th century naturally caused people to try amplifying the
sound of the guitar electronically.
After several unsuccessful attempts, notably those of Lloyd Loar, who
was an engineer at Gibson, Adolf Rickenbacker made the first important
steps in the creation of an electric guitar in 1931. Rickenbacker (known
as Rickenbacher in Switzerland) was a Swiss who had emigrated to California.
It took the genius of Clarence Leo Fender (1909-1991) to show the courage,
tenacity and vision necessary to bring to life the solid-body electric
guitar. The guitars of today have departed little from the characteristic
shapes and forms laid down more than 50 years ago by Fender and his
associates. In 1950 he launched the Broadcaster, but needed to rename
it because Gretsch used a similar name for his drum sets. Later the
same design was adopted by numerous manufacturers, including G &
L guitars (Léo Fender!!) and Roger Sadowsky, Freenote Music,
Tom Anderson, Aria, and many others. The most extensively copied guitar
to date, however, remains the Les Paul Gibson model.
of new materials and technologies, such as rare earths for magnetic
pickups, carbon and composites for the body, neck, and fingerboard,
which can give an instrument a very specific tone-quality, has brought
about continued development of the guitar. A player needs to choose
his instrument with the utmost care. Guitars and electric basses are
no longer all made of wood. Fortunately some manufacturers have listened
to the call from experienced musicians for guitars made with great precision
and care from exquisite woods. The instruments made by Gilles Duvoisin
of Duvoisin Guitars illustrate this fact.
is for a 7-string guitar. We shall have to see if this configuration
will one day become the norm. Some other modern instruments with MIDI
technology, modulation, and facilities to make them programmable, do
not have much left in common with the traditional guitar, but are nevertheless
appreciated by some players.
Because the double bass lacked real volume, the electric bass was developed.
Once again Leo Fender contributed to its evolution, by linking it squarely
to the electric guitar. The first solid-body-case electric bass was
sold by Fender in 1951, and called the Fender Precision.
Some brilliant musicians have contributed to the way the instruments
evolved in answer to specific needs. For example, Marcus Miller, in
association with Fender and Roger Sadowsky, developed a sound adapted
to the slap. In addition, the great Jaco Pastorius created the fretless
bass. We shall not extend our account to include such sub-species as
the headless bass, or the three-bodied, or the aluminium bass. You will
find below the key dates in the development of the electric bass guitar:
and marketing of the first electric precision bass by Leo Fender
1953 The Gibson
company launches the Gibson electric Bass. (a model looking like a bass
but with a telescopic metal rod, allowing it to be played vertically)
of the Höfner 500/1 bass, sometimes called the violin bass, well
known because of its adoption in 1961 by Paul McCartney, bass player
of The Beatles.
1957 First 6-string
bass, Danelectro UB-1 (more like a guitar tuned an octave down)
EB-2 Bass, adopted in 1963 by Bill Wyman, bass player of The Rolling
granted to Fender for his Humbuckers pickups
1962 EB-3 Bass
Gibson adopted by Jack Bruce, bass player of Cream; later he used the
4001S, used among others by Paul McCartney
1966 First fretless
electric bass, Ampeg AUB-1
1970 First electric
bass made with Plexiglas by Ampeg; Ampeg Dan Armstrong
1971 First Electric
Bass Alembic adopted in 1972 by Stanley Clarke, precursor of the fusion
style with Chick Corea
1978 The fretless
bass becomes more democratic with Jaco Pastorius
Bass Music Man StingRay by Leo Fender and his associates. Instrument
adopted by numerous musicians, such as Pino Palladino for recordings
with Paul Young, Elton John etc.
1989 Birth of
the Electric Bass Fodera Jackson Contrabass. Fodera is the brand adopted
by the "slap man" Victor Wooten.
Electric Bass Ken Smith BT Custom VI