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The Electric Guitar
The electric guitar was created during the explosion of 20th century innovations in music. It is the driving force behind rock 'n' roll music. And though the electric guitar physically resembels the acoustic or Spanish guitar the similarity ends there.
What is the difference?
- The acoustic guitar has a hollow body that functions like an echo chamber, resonating with the sound the strings make when plucked. The only way to increase the volume of an acoustic guitar is to attached a microphone that is plugged into an amplifier.
- The electric guitar when played, the string vibrations do not echo in a hollow chamber, instead the sound are translated into electrical impulses by a magnetised device called a "pickup".
Where does the sound of the electric guitar comes from?
Electric guitars have added elements. Just like an acoustic guitar, shortening or lengthening a string will give you a variety of pitches or notes. But without a hollow body that resonates, where does the sound come from?
- The sound comes from electric pickups, wire-wrapped magnets that act like tiny microphones placed under each string.
- The vibrations of the string cause the magnet in a pickup resonate or more accurately to "modulate" a tiny magnetic field.
- That signal is picked up by the pickup and turned into a small electrical current.
- In turn, that current is conducted from the pickup from the pickup to an external amplifier by the electrical cord that has one end plugged into the guitar and the other into an amplifier.
How loud the note is and whether it's distorted or thick and bass-y or thin and treble-y is all determined by volume, tone and effects controls on both the guitar and the amplifier.
- Electric guitars have narrow necks to make it esier for the player to reach around the neck and the body is cut away to allow high notes to be played easily.
Electric guitars are designed to produced special effects. Many guitarist use effects to alter the sound of their instruments. These are plugged in between the guitar and the amplifier. They change the sound by altering the signal from pick-ups.
Most units have a footswitch to turn the effect on and off. There may also be other controls to vary the level or speed of the effect. On some units the harder the pedal is pressed, the more intense the effect becomes.
- Early electric guitars has a 'tremolo arm" - a lever which could be sued to alter the pitch of notes as they were being played.
- Wah Wah pedal - a pedal operated by foot pedals, guitarist can control a vaiety of unusual sounds. It creates a "wailing" sound by alternately boosting and cutting the treble and bass.
- A multi -effects unit has several different effects built into one box. Single effects or combination of effects can be selected by pressing the foot switches.
The electric guitar is a versatile instrument and the player can obtain many different sounds. Most instruments have two or three pick-ups designed to produce different combinations. The player can select a single one or any combination of them.
Thr First Electric Guitars
- The first solid body electric guitar was made by Rickenbacker in 1931. To amplify the sound it used a simple pick-up made from two large magnets. Later along with other manufacturers. Rickenbaker began to make guitars with twelve strings.
- Leo Fender began to experiment with smaller pick-ups. By 1948 he had produced the Fender Broadcaster. This was later re-named the Fender Telecaster, to avoid confusion with another product of the same name.
- At around the same time, Les Paul was also experimenting with amplified guitars. Later he joined forces with a guitar manufacturer, Gibson, producing a range of Gibson Les Paul guitars, many of which of which are still popular today.
Different Types of Electric Guitars
There are lots of different typres of electric guitar. Over the years, guitar manufacturers have experimented with guitar designs, trying to produce intruments which are distinctive to look at as well as to play. Here are some of the most popular designs made.Gibson Flying V solid electric - In an attempt to modernize their designs in the 1950s, Gibson came up with the Flying V. it is still made today.
- Hofner Violin Guitar- In the 1960s another manufacturer, Holfner, produced a guitar in the shape of a violin.
- Vox Phantom twelve-string - Like Gibson, other manufacturers were trying to bring their designs up to date by changing the shape of the guitars
- Kramer Baretta solid electric - Some guitar-makers have experimented with producing a distinctive sound. Kramer electric guitars are particularly popular with heavy metal guitarists.