Electric Guitar History
The Electric Guitar Evolves

Electric guitar history definitely began with the Frying Pan. However, many other companies picked up on the idea and Rickenbacker had a great deal of competition. Most of the electric guitars of that time were acoustics fitted with magnetic pickups.

The allure of the volume was definitely appealing but there was a major problem with the earliest guitars. An acoustic guitar is designed to be very resonant. This design causes a quite of feedback when the guitar is amplified and was definitely detrimental to the music of the time. There had to be a solution. (Today, of course, we MetalHeads know that feedback can be a good thing.)

The First "Modern" Electric Guitar...

Gibson ES 150

Gibson ES 150

The electric "Spanish" style guitar was the first of the modern style guitars produced. In 1933 LLoyd Loar, an acoustical engineer for Gibson, created ViviTone. ViviTone was an independent subdivision of Gibson and was dedicated to marketing the Spanish style guitar. Unfortunately, the design of the guitar was poor and the market was too small at the time to sustain the company, which failed within a year. Gibson, however, was convinced that the Spanish style guitar was the future of the instrument and once again electric guitar history was made, this time in the form of the Gibson ES 150.

Alvino Rey

Alvino Rey
In 1935 Gibson commissioned Alvino Rey, a prominant slide guitarist of the era to assist in the development of a new guitar pickup. The pickup was initially incorporated on a lap steel model in late 1935, but shortly thereafter was introduced onto a standard f-hole archtop guitar and designated the ES-150. The first ES 150 shipped from Kalamzoo, on May 20, 1936.

Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian
The ES 150 was an instant success. Guitar players from every musical style flocked to the new guitar. One of the most prominent players of the time, Charlie Christian, began to use the guitar as a Jazz soloist in ways that only horn players had been previously able to do. Christian's work revolutionized the way musicians thought about and used the guitar. Charlie's playing was another milestone in electric guitar history. To this day, the ES 150 is still known as the "Charlie Christian model".

But Still There Were Problems...

Even though the ES 150 was a huge success, it had some less than ideal characteristics. It was still a hollow bodied guitar, after all, and suffered from the same major problem that the other electric guitars of the day did. The hollow body vibrations could be picked up and amplified and, in addition, there were problems with feedback, distortion, and undesirable overtones.

As a side note, the reason this occurs is that the resonant vibrations of the guitar's body are transmitted to the pickups causing them to vibrate as well. This tends to cause secondary currents and electric fields to be generated by the strings that essentially "clash". This "clash" is transmitted back to the pickups causing the effects mentioned above and resulting in the ear splitting howl we know and love(NOT) as feedback. Having your guitar start howling like a Banshee during a cool solo tends to ruin a good tune. The next necessary step in electric guitar history was to find a way eliminate these problems.

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